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2016

Needless to say, Facebook is one of the top social media sites out there and as such, is likely quite important for your business. That then begs the question: Have you refreshed your Facebook page recently (or worse, do you even have one)? If not, you need to really consider giving your Facebook a refresh because it very well may be the most essential social media platform in your small business toolbox.

 

Just look at the numbers:

  • Facebook has more monthly users
  • That monthly number now tops 1.1 billion
  • And that is nearly an entire billion more than Twitter or LinkedIn, which host 310 million and 255 million active users per month, respectively.

 

So yes, in this social media world, Facebook is that important. How then do you make your Facebook page relevant, how do you make it stand out?

 

Here’s how:

 

Make it personal: As a small business owner, you already know that one of our real advantages is that we can be, generally speaking, more friendly and approachable than our corporate cousins. Indeed, merely by being the semantic opposite of “big business,” we small businesses are granted a certain level of trustworthiness by consumers.

 

And frankly, that friendliness should be reflected in our Facebook as well. You have to think of it as an extension of your approachable, friendly brand. 

When looking at your business’s Facebook page, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few key questions:

 

  • Does this look like a page that will make people want to interact, or do we seem too robotic?
  • Is the information easy to navigate?
  • Is our page visually eye-catching?
  • Is it updated often enough?

 

It is important to choose a custom URL, a recognizable profile photo, and a relevant, aesthetically appealing cover photo across the top of your page. Most importantly, remember to include your location, hours of operation, and a catchy, brief paragraph about your business in the ‘About’ section (this sounds obvious enough, but you would be surprised by how many new small businesses neglect this step). These are the key ingredients for establishing a well-liked page.

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Getting your page ‘liked’ is only the first step; the second step is to make sure that your followers are consistently interacting with your business and coming back for more. The best way to do this is to post regularly, daily if possible (see below). It is also vital to like and reply to comments as that creates the all-important “engagement”.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You can also consider hosting a Live Stream video session that your followers can watch live, or later if they missed it. This new Facebook Live feature helps you interact in real time with your fans and puts a friendly, relatable face to your business’s name – again, one of the most significant distinctions between your small business and some other big business.

 

Make sure your page gets seen: With so many users and pages on Facebook, you need to make sure that yours stands out. Doing so is actually pretty easy. As mentioned, your main Facebook duty is to post daily updates that are noticeable and engaging. This is actually the fun part.

 

Here are a few suggestions for making quality Facebook posts:

  • Advertise your sales, specials, or new products
  • Use photos and videos – these are considered to be the most engaging type of Facebook content
  • Post surveys or polls – people love sharing their opinions
  • Announce contests, giveaways, and events

 

As long as your posts are entertaining and welcoming, people are sure to hit ‘like’ and continue to see what your small business has to offer. Gaining likes and comments are important in nurturing a personable brand, and these interactions oftentimes appear on the commenter’s friends’ Newsfeeds, a la “Jane Doe commented on Small Business’s photo”. This is essentially the Internet version of word-of-mouth advertising, which of course is the best advertising there is.

 

If you would like your posts to reach an even wider audience, you can always pay to ‘Boost’ your posts, or even your entire page. The span of your page’s reach will depend on how much you decide to pay, but it can be as cheap as just a couple bucks. And of course, it looks good to have a lot of likes (even if you have to pay for a few of them).

 

Finally, after you have made some progress with your Facebook page, you should check out the ‘Insights’ tab at the top of your page. You will be presented with graphs and charts that measure your posts’ performance over the past day, week, or 28 days. This tool will help you make decisions about what works for your small business.

 

Good luck, and happy Facebooking!

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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

How important is LinkedIn to your professional and/or small business success? Consider this: when someone Googles you, oftentimes the first thing they find is your LinkedIn profile. Try it and find out.

 

If you haven’t thought about LinkedIn for a while, you should. For some of us, using LinkedIn is second nature but for most that’s not the case. But the fact is, a solid LinkedIn page is vital to establishing one’s professional identity.

 

So here are a few tips and tricks to make sure that people like what they see on your LinkedIn:

 

1. Begin with the basics: You want to paint the most vivid picture of yourself as a professional that you possibly can. For starters, that means there should be no blank spaces to be found on your profile.

More specifically:

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  • Include all relevant contact information – email address, all social media pages, your business’s website, your personal website, etc.
  • Create a custom headline. Your headline is what shows up to the right of your profile photo; in other words, it is likely to be the second thing people will see (your profile picture comes first) when they click on your name. Share who you are and what you’re about in a pithy, catchy way.
  • Create a custom URL with your name in it. This builds your personal brand and helps connections find you with ease.

 

2. Beef up your profile: You want your LinkedIn profile to be robust and interesting. It is especially important that the first paragraph outlines exactly what you want people to know about you as it’s what people will see and read first (and what Google sees first). Your summary and work experiences should be crisp, free of error, and display a balance of personality and professionalism.

 

Make sure to add a relevant and attractive background photo, education information, and foreign language skills. It also really helps to use different types of media - PDFs, videos, links, etc. This makes your page much more visual and dynamic.

 

Be sure to add in any new and important skills to your page – the ones that best represent your most important strengths and assets. Don’t be shy about mentioning these skills repetitively throughout your profile; they are keywords that stand out to employers, connections, and customers alike. As you likely know, your connections will also be able to endorse you for those skills, at your request or by their own volition. Having a collection of skill endorsements on your profile looks impressive and will help your page get more views.

 

3. Keep it personal: Remember that your LinkedIn profile is a tool to build personalized human-to-human professional connections; it is not a formal resume. This may feel like a fine line to walk, as you certainly do want to showcase your skills and achievements in a professional manner but you also want to make sure that your personality shines through:

    • Write in the first person, NOT third person. This helps keep things both casual and professional.
    • Mention hobbies, family, etc. – things that keep you busy and happy outside of work.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

4. Do not underestimate your profile photo: Your profile picture is one of the first things people see when they’re on your page (as is the case when walking into a room) and constitutes 19% of the total time recruiters spend looking at your page. Furthermore, your page is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a profile picture.

 

Make sure the photo is of you and you only (no friends, no logos) and that you are in front of a solid background. Also make sure that you’re not wearing sunglasses or anything else that distracts too much, that the photo resolution is clear and sharp, and, of course, that the photo is flattering. Smile. And here’s a great tip: If you aren’t looking straight at the camera, then make sure you are only slightly turned to the right – that is, toward the information on your profile. This is a psychological trick to direct people’s gaze toward your page instead of away.

 

5. Branch out: Once your profile is polished, then you can start adding new connections and branching out. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to you and your small business, make new contacts, and continue to stay active and network. It all goes towards making you and your small business more well-known.

 

LinkedIn is one of the easiest, most useful, and effective tools at your disposal to help grow your small business – if you take advantage of it.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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

Instagram_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

In August, Instagram introduced Stories, its own version of one of Snapchat’s most popular features. Users create Stories by selecting a series of images that are displayed montage style, and can be augmented with text or graphics. Stories exist for only 24 hours. Instagram has recently moved the Stories feature so it can now be found in the Explore tab.

 

Since their launch, Stories have proven to be one of Instagram’s most popular features. Nearly 100 million users watch Stories daily, representing a third of Instagram’s user base. In an effort to attract even more views, Instagram is reportedly experimenting with adding Live Video functionality to Stories.

 

Creating compelling Instagram stories

Nearly half of the top 200 companies on the Fortune 500 are active on Instagram. The brands that have been most successful on the platform include Nike, Red Bull, and Mercedes Benz. They all share a similar storytelling strategy: rather than focus directly on their products and services, these brands create stories focused on the lifestyle their fans admire. Nike’s Stories include athletic accomplishments, while Red Bull features more extreme adventures. The Mercedes Benz feed features Stories illustrating the thrills that come with driving a luxury car through winding European mountain roads.

 

This strategy is definitely scalable for small businesses. While your company may not have Red Bull’s budget to host and cover cliff diving events, it’s more than possible to create Stories based on actual events happening in and around your community that appeal to your target market.

 

Instagram_PQ.jpgPromoting sales and product launches

The ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories makes them the ideal vehicle to promote flash sales and other promotional events. The retailer J. Crew had great success using Stories to promote their new Jane in Pink sunglasses. During a limited-time sale, the J. Crew team posted Stories featuring models wearing the sunglasses as they went about their day.  Sales of the glasses immediately spiked and remained strong even after the Story was gone from view.

 

But it’s important for small businesses to understand how much work goes into running a flash sale successfully. Creating the Instagram Story is only a part of this campaign. Any small business with an e-commerce platform must ensure their website, particularly the shopping cart functionality, is working flawlessly in advance of launch. Stories’ position on the Explore tab means your content can be seen by many people in addition to your normal follower base. You want to be prepared in case your offer resonates with these additional viewers.

 

Cross promotion is key

To realize full value from your Instagram Stories, you want to make sure to promote them across Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms you utilize. You may also want to feature the imagery used in Instagram Stories on your website. Messaging apps are powerful tools to use to drive customers to flash sales being hosted on Instagram. Make sure the path to purchase is extremely clear for these users.

 

 

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

So, you’ve finally reached your goal of 5,000 or 10,000 followers (or however many it may be) on social media – fantastic! Congrats. That’s a big deal. But it’s also not enough. Sure, having several thousand followers looks great for your small business, but that number can’t actually do you much good if few of those followers are actually looking at your posts.

 

Luckily for you, there are solutions. Strengthening your follower engagement may seem like a tricky task. You can’t exactly force someone to engage with you on social media, however like most things in this digital world there is an algorithmic method to the madness.

All you need to know are these two key ingredients:

 

1. Increase your visibility

 

Increasing your visibility is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a matter of becoming more visible to the human eye while scrolling through any given social media news feed. Remember, most social media users follow hundreds – even thousands – of other accounts. You need to make sure that your small business doesn’t get lost among the pixels.

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Generally speaking, the most effective means of increasing your social media visibility is simply to never underestimate the value of good content. Don’t get lazy. Post regularly, of course, but it’s more important to make sure that your posts are consistently eye-catching and engaging.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Here are some of the best tips on how to make that happen:

 

  • Include links in your posts. According to Forbes, Tweets with links get retweeted more than those without.
  • Use relevant hashtags that you think other users are likely to search for. Posts with hashtags get double the engagement.
    • P.S. hashtags are not Twitter exclusive! Take advantage of them on all of your social media platforms.
  • Use images in your posts. The human eye is naturally attracted to pictures and colors, so using images is sure to increase your visibility on any given social media platform. There is research to back this up.
  • Ask for retweets or shares. Data suggests that the phrase “please retweet” can actually generate up to 4 times as many retweets.
  • Vary your posts. Your followers might scroll right past you if your posts become clockwork, predictable and homogenous. Don’t be afraid to post a pithy inspirational quote that is harmonious with your brand and purpose – these are always popular retweets for others.
  • Don’t be afraid to repostthings that you’ve already shared. Apparently, the “lifespan” of any given Tweet is only around 18 minutes, so posting it multiple times is sure to reach as many users as possible and increase your overall visibility.

 

2. Personally interact with your followers

 

Having good visibility on social media platforms will give you maximum results when supplemented with regularly reaching out to, and personally interacting with, your followers.

 

Don’t worry, it’s easy:

  • Make sure your tone is friendly. Nobody is interested in talking to a robot.
  • Reply to tweetsand comments that come your way. People like to feel special and listened to. Make sure to tag them with their @username.
  • Reply to questions and complaints. Nowadays, quick and excellent customer service can be easy and is expected.
  • Ask rhetorical questions. Even if you are not talking to any one follower specifically, phrases like “how many of you folks have wished there was an easier way to…” will invite lots of engagement.
  • Ask your followers sincerely about certain things they would like to see your small business do, or maybe how they would do things differently. Your followers will appreciate the humility and enjoy the opportunity to share their thoughts – even better, you will receive valuable feedback that you can use.
  • Thank people for following you. And if you would like, feel free to follow them back.
  • Get creative. Start contests that require people to retweet or tag you. For example, offer discounts to the first 50 retweets.

 

The great thing about social media is that you have the freedom to completely do things your own way. Be visible, interact, and put your best foot forward. Your business will be all the better for it – and you can be sure people will be sharing about how much they love it!

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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

I have social media good news and bad news for you today.

 

The good news is that it seems as though most of us small business owners have finally mastered the art of Facebook and Twitter. That’s necessary and great.

 

The bad news is that you’re not done.

 

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to hear is that you need to figure out yet another social media platform. Sometimes it may seem like the latest and greatest in social media keeps bombarding us and piling up like so many unread emails.

 

However, if you have been paying attention you know that aside from the holy trinity that is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there is a new kid on the block – Instagram.

 

Instagram is a social networking app that allows you to share photos and videos from a smartphone and is a great way to tap into a younger demographic. Instagram is similar to Facebook and Twitter in that you will create a profile and have a newsfeed. Your Instagram poSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngsts will be displayed on your profile, people who follow you will see your posts in their feed and you will see their posts in yours.

 

If you can use Facebook or Twitter, then you can absolutely use Instagram.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Here’s how to started:

 

1.  Sign up for an Instagram account.

 

2. Choose a recognizable username and profile photo, and make your “bio” pithy and snappy: Don’t forget that we are living in the age of the short attention span. In which case, your Instagram bio should not have a corporate feel, full of detailed description of your business with bullet points and sub-clauses galore. Instead, a catchy sentence or two, an unambiguous username, and a profile photo that speaks for itself are the foundational building blocks of any high-traffic Instagram page.

 

3. As always with social media, provide engaging content: In the Instagram world, “providing engaging content” roughly translates to:

    • Post regularly, if not daily.
    • Add captions to all photos in a tone that best represents your brand. Feel free to use all the hashtags you want, as they are equally as effective for networking as they are on Twitter.
    • Provide a rich variety of posts – photos and videos. (Pro-tip: Download the Boomerang app to create short, looping GIFs, and download Layout to create photo collages. Instagram is the parent company of both apps, so the GIFs and collages are quite compatible).
    • Make your posts aesthetically pleasing. Don’t go too crazy with filters and don’t post poor quality or blurry photos.

 

4. Interact with followers and customers: According to a study from Elite Daily, 62% of Millennials say that brand engagement on social media makes them more loyal customers. And because Millennials make up a huge portion of total Instagram users, this statistic matters.

 

Here are a few ways to personalize and foster that online brand-customer relationship:

  • Reply to comments on your posts, and make sure to tag usernames – otherwise, those users won’t be notified of your response.
  • Create a fun and welcoming cyber-atmosphere by inviting customers to be engaged with your Instagram page. This could mean starting a hashtag for customers to use, or asking your Instagram followers to participate in fun polls about their favorite products.
  • Respond to customer complaints and to customer praise.

 

5. Have fun with it: Get creative and don’t be afraid to think outside the box:

    • Give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at how things run in-house. Who doesn’t want to be VIP?
    • Incentivize engagement by holding contests – e.g., “post a photo at our restaurant with the hashtag #hashtag, and we’ll pick our favorite. Winner gets a $10 gift card!”
    • Have too much leftover food at the end of the day? Post about it on Instagram and offer a discount to the customer who gets there first.

 

Darwin has long since proved that it is not the strongest species that survive, but the ones that can best adapt to external change.

On your mark, get set, evolve!

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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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