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2016

InboxMgmt_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Small business owners often receive hundreds of emails a day. With so much virtual correspondence, it’s no wonder that a recent McKinsey Global Institute survey found email the second-most time-consuming activity, next to “role-specific tasks.”

 

If business owners react to every ding of their inbox, they’ll get very little done. A cluttered, disorganized inbox will also slow you down. To increase productivity, follow these tips to gain control of your virtual correspondence:

 

1. Check less frequently

Marsha Egan, success strategist and CEO of The Egan Group, Inc., recommends that business owners check email five times a day: Morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and 20 minutes before leaving the office. “This gives you at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted work time between checking email,” she says. “If you can reduce email interruptions, you can recover up to an hour in productivity.”

 

Egan also suggests that business owners close their email browser in between checking email. The growing unread mail count and the dings and flashes that alert us of incoming mail can distract us from the task at hand.

 

InboxMgmt_PQ.jpg2. Follow the five Ds

When managing incoming messages, choose one of the following: Delete, Delegate, Do It, Defer it (to a specified time), or Don’t Delay. “The overriding D is Decide,” says Egan. “When you read an e-mail, make a decision. Take action right now, or defer it.” Egan suggests that business owners create an “Action” folder for emails that need attention.

 

3. Use folders sparingly

You need to save many emails for future reference. Organize these emails into folders or with labels, either by client or by project. Keep the headings broad. If you have one folder with 30 subfolders, will you remember where you filed an email three months from now? Any time spent thinking about folders and labels is time that could have been spent on growing and managing the business.

 

4. Get out of internal email

Many businesses have moved onto internal communications platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Podio, Jive, and Slack. These platforms allow for group- or company-wide chat, direct messaging, video conferencing and other tools. The platforms eliminate problematic email threads and provide a streamlined approach for sharing and project collaboration.

 

5. Write concisely

Write an email that gets an immediate response and you’ll eliminate time-wasting follow-ups. Put the subject of the email—the question or request—in the first sentence. Save the background for later. “About 70 percent of people skim emails,” says Egan. “If you want someone to read your request, put it in the first line.”

 

One sure-fire way to reduce email is to simply pick up the phone. You may be able to schedule a meeting in a 30-second phone call instead of spending several minutes on multiple back-and-forth emails.

 

Tomorrow morning, remember to make a decision regarding all emails, organize wisely, and don’t obsess over the inbox. By following these simple strategies, you can reclaim hours in your day to put toward developing your small business.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Rethink_SocialNetworking_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

When Facebook was launched, it introduced the world to the concept of social networking. At last, people had a way to keep in touch with college buddies and distant friends, largely via status updates that featured photos. Flash forward 10 years, and Facebook isn’t like that anymore. Today, it is the world’s most popular news and entertainment curator. In fact, in 2015, the Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media reported that nearly two-thirds of Facebook users cited the social networking site as the primary place they get their news.

 

Facebook is hardly alone. The legions of social networking sites that have appeared in Facebook’s wake have followed suit, clarifying and redefining their purpose until some platforms now say they’re not social networking sites at all. For the small business owner, it’s vital to understand both the nature of this shift, and how it impacts your digital marketing strategy.

 

Understanding how customers use various social sites is key

It is the way that users engage with a social platform that ultimately defines that sites’ purpose. For example, despite Twitter’s efforts to position itself as a social network, users have found it most valuable for sharing breaking news and links to headlines. Twitter acknowledged this by moving to the News section of the App store in April. Similarly, Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann characterizes his site as a planning tool, noting people pin images for their own reference or enjoyment rather than in an effort to connect with others.

 

Rethink_SocialNetworking_PQ.jpgPeople go to Facebook to be entertained, informed, or, increasingly, to shop, while those personal networking-oriented conversations are taking place in more private venues, such as Snapchat or WhatsApp. The multiplicity of sites means users can accomplish the same goal—say, discovering new products—through a variety of avenues, each with its own distinct appeal. The same engagement ring that shows up in a YouTube video that tugs at the heartstrings can show up in a beautiful artistic Instagram photo or a funny Tumblr gif.

 

Social sites have their own agenda

The longer a user stays engaged with a social media site, the easier it becomes for that site to make money via advertising sales. Facebook’s recent launch of Instant Articles, as well as Live, which enables real time video broadcasting, are both efforts to keep users on Facebook, rather than clicking through to a website or leveraging a separate platform. Almost every major social media site now uses a content algorithm, which prioritizes which posts are seen first in a users’ feed; promoted and sponsored posts enjoy exponentially greater reach than regular posts.

 

Customized content is vital

Small business owners need to know how their customers use a social media site and what type of content performs best on that platform. The days of creating a single piece of content and simply sharing it across all sites are over; each platform requires its own presentation. This type of customization does take time and energy, but it’s worth it. Users will view this tailored content as more authentic and meaningful to them—key factors in attracting and keeping customers for the long term.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

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FacebookArticles_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

With Instant Articles, Facebook gives companies a way to post content directly to the social media network rather than linking to it from their website. Instant Articles load up to 10 times faster than linked content, a change that Facebook said it implemented to dramatically improve the mobile device user experience. During an initial roll out phase, Instant Articles were only available to major media brands; in April 2016, it was announced that the feature is now available to all users. This means small businesses can publish their blog posts or other content that appears on their website via Instant Articles. Here are some of the ways Instant Articles can benefit small businesses:

 

Increase reach

After a year of use, the first sets of stats related to Instant Article performance are becoming available. IGN, a provider of video game and entertainment content, has reportedly seen their Instant Articles reaching 12 percent of their audience, compared to an average of 7 percent reach for traditional linked articles. Facebook says that they’re not prioritizing Instant Articles algorithmically, which means any increase in reach is due to more users reading and sharing the content.

 

FacebookArticles_PQ.jpgMaximize the impact of your website content

Creating articles, graphics, and other rich content that’s relevant and interesting to your customers requires a significant amount of effort. Facebook requires that every piece of content shared via Instant Articles is also hosted on the business’ website, which means every time your Instant Article is shared, a link to your website is shared as well.  WordPress is currently developing a plug-in to enable publishing content to your website and Instant Articles simultaneously; it’s currently in beta-testing stage but is expected to be fully available later this spring. 

 

See an increase in web traffic

Popsugar, a media outlet specializing in entertainment and celebrity news, saw traffic to its mobile website increase 36 percent because of Instant Articles, according to a recent Digiday report. Talk to your web developer before launching Instant Articles to make sure your site is robust enough to handle the increase in visitors seamlessly. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you can capitalize on this surge with additional compelling content, eye catching calls to action and data capture opportunities, such as an invitation to sign up for regular emails.

 

Get richer feedback

Facebook provides companies with information on Instant Article reach and engagement, time spent in each article, how much of each article is read, and engagement with rich media assets like photos and videos. Additionally, Instant Article data is incorporated into Facebook Page and Domain insights, giving business owners the opportunity to review geographic and demographic information about who’s reading their content.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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