Small business owners have found a powerful tool in social media, as they can now start and sustain conversations with current and prospective clientele easier and for less money. However, entrepreneurs need to ensure their social media activities are focused on driving customer engagement.
Let's take a look at some of the basic social media best practices shared among all platforms.
Timing and delivery
Inc. Magazine, an industry publication, suggests small business owners focus their efforts on being consistent. Rather than being highly active two days of the week and staying silent the rest of the time, companies need to take a daily approach to social media. Entrepreneurs will also want to be particularly active in their local environments rather than trying to reach customers located far away, the website explained.
According to the news provider, replies to posts from customers should be replied to swiftly. This is a critical point - not responding in a timely fashion, or simply ignoring a comment, can be extremely detrimental to a brand's image. This is especially true when customers post something negative, as small business owners need to ensure that they are addressing complaints on social media.
Inc. Magazine also noted that each social media platform should be filled with highly personalized content and interactive posts. Social postings should always be tailored to the unique preferences and behaviors of the businesses target market, rather than trying to be too inclusive. As for interactive posts, the website recommends using tools such as polls to get conversations started, and potentially hosting question and answer sessions with followers regularly.
Analysis and improvement
Small Business Trends, a website devoted to entrepreneurial tips and news, affirms that analytics should be used from the start of any social media campaign. According to the site, entrepreneurs should focus on understanding their key demographics, which types of posts are yielding valuable traffic and conversations, and how social-based referrals are impacting the bottom line. All of this data is relatively easy to acquire and analyze as each social media platform has a built in analytics tool which should be used to guide all campaigns going forward.
Do not hesitate to harness the power of social media - get moving today!
More Americans than ever before work from home due to the rising digital era of commerce and business.
Last summer, Gallup, a research and polling organization, reported the rate of U.S. telecommuters increased significantly between 2014 and 2015 to reach 37 percent of the workforce. A rapidly growing portion of the workforce works entirely from home whether they are self-employed or part of a company's staff.
If you work from home, there are tax and insurance implications that you must know to cover yourself.
GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, a consultancy firm, points out that compared to 2005, 103 percent more employed workers primarily worked at home in 2014. Additionally, the company states 2.8 percent of the total American workforce, or roughly 3.7 million professionals, do so at least half of the time. Of course, self-employed individuals are the most common group that telecommutes. This means that a growing number of individuals need to understand how to handle the tax and insurance matters involved.
Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax law specialist in Pennsylvania, published an article in GPSolo magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting attorneys, regarding the potential need for increased insurance coverage beyond your homeowners insurance when operating out of a home office. A home office requires increasing business equipment coverage through a rider, and liability coverage is necessary in case any employees get hurt on the premises. Speak to your independent agent to ensure you have the right coverage. In that same vein, if businesses begin to allow their employees to operate from a home office, they must also understand the liability insurance implications of such a move.
Phillips Erb noted you will also want to understand any and all zoning laws that might potentially make your home office illegal. Commercial and residential zoning tend to be fairly distinct and segregated, so research the rules for your home proactively. In terms of tax implications, make sure you take advantage of the Internal Revenue Service's home office deduction by reviewing the page dedicated to explaining eligibility requirements.
If you run your business from your home office or have employee staff members who function remotely, make sure you focus on sustained productivity, which can be difficult, especially when first leaving the office. Monitoring and communication will be the most important matters when managing individuals in remote offices, and your own productivity should be kept in check when you start operating from home.
Social media has become one of the most important tools of all when it comes to building and maintaining customer relationships. Business owners need to have a strategy in place to manage activities on social networks. Social media management platforms can help drive success on social sites. Let’s look at key considerations to keep in mind before implementing such tools.
Should you use one?
This is a relatively easy question to answer, but one that is nonetheless important. If you only have a presence on one site, purchasing the software is likely unnecessary, as each social media website has its own unique management tools included with the account.
If you have more than one social media account – you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, for instance –definitely consider using a management platform. When you have several, it can be difficult to manage and coordinate campaigns without one of these platforms.
Which platforms are most popular?
If you decide to leverage a social media management platform, consider one of the following options, which have the most users:
Social Media Today, an online publication devoted to social media news, lists several core advantages of leveraging a social media management tool, including the benefit of more-efficient and accurate handling of customer engagement across accounts. The site notes 42% of consumers now demand a response within 60 minutes of interacting with a company through social media. This would be nearly impossible without a management tool.
What's more, if you have several people assigned to managing social media accounts, one of these platforms can help to keep everyone on the same page, Social Media Today notes. The website explains that these platforms offer a means to gather business intelligence, and it’s the intelligence component that is certainly an important benefit. A management tool will provide deeper insights into posts, conversations, interactions and other activity.
With social media gaining in importance, the time is now to consider adopting one of these management platforms.
Workers' compensation is one of the more costly issues businesses in the United States face today. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a government entity devoted to workplace wellness, reports that employers spend roughly $1 billion each week nationally on injuries and compensation. That totals up to a significant amount: $52 billion annually.
Here are four ways your business can proactively prevent workplace injuries:
1. Alleviating bodily strain
The American Industrial Hygiene Association, a nonprofit organization committed to education and support of hygienists, suggests focusing on the most common injuries ─back problems, eye strain, joint pain and neck stiffness ─through more ergonomically correct workplace management. This might include spending more on ergonomic chairs, ensuring that all employees are comfortable at their desks, and adjusting light levels in the office and of computers to be softer on eyes.
2. Boost knowledge, awareness
The Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit insurance research organization, recommends that companies enhance their workplace safety training regimens to better prevent injuries. Knowledge and awareness are two of the greatest weapons against workplace injuries that lead to compensation claims. Make sure your training carefully aligns with the specific risks and threats your staff faces on the job.
3. Use the 'ABC' method
The Minnesota Department of Health, the state's medical governance agency, argues the 'ABC' method can be highly effective in preventing workplace injuries, with that acronym standing for 'Administration,' 'Building Barriers,' and 'Communication.' Essentially, the entity states that leaders must take an intelligent and administrative approach to injury prevention. This can be done by implementing tangible controls that lower risks and constantly communicating with staff to see how the programs are playing out in practice.
4. Launch an employee wellness program
The Society for Human Resource Management, a professional organization for human resources professionals, notes that wellness programs have been used to not only reduce the cost of health care and rate of absence among workers, but also to cut down on injuries and disability payments. Wellness programs are among the most affordable, engaging and consistently effective approaches to improving worker health and preventing serious, costly injuries and illnesses.
Find a strategy that works best for your company’s needs and objectives. And make sure you communicate with managers and workers to ensure your injury prevention strategies are well-received.
Accounting software has made a positive and transformative impact for small businesses ─ especially those that did not traditionally possess the funds necessary to staff a department of accounting professionals.
As a small business owner, it’s worth your while to consider whether your small business should be using an accounting software solution. Please keep in mind that there are things an accountant can provide that software cannot. However, if you decide to use a software solution, consider the following information to help find the one for you.
Entrepreneur magazine, a publication devoted to small-business owners, explains that accounting software can help companies to step into the modern era of operational management, notably when it comes to having a workforce that resides outside of the office. Because the technology improves access to accounting information, such as payroll and other workforce-related financial matters, it boosts the flexibility of management for your company.
According to the news provider, these solutions can also dramatically reduce the number of errors in recordkeeping, as well as the time it takes to complete accounting tasks. Because many small-business owners will end up having to take care of their company's finances rather than having a professional on hand, these benefits might be the most important of all.
Which one should you use?
Options are abundant, and here are a few accounting solutions that can be particularly effective for small businesses:
Winter can be a risk to the continuity of business operations. Small business owners should be ensuring that their assets and operations are protected against the elements of the season. A strong handle on risk management can help to maintain stability during this season.
Here are three wintertime risk management tips for small business owners:
1. Deter threats to the physical workspace
The biggest risks typically are frozen pipes and flooding during winter months.
2. Mind the building's exterior
Another major risk ─especially for smaller retailers ─ is the prospect of icy sidewalks and parking lots that cause slips and injuries to your employees or customers. If someone falls due to hazardous conditions on the sidewalks and parking lots around your business, you can be held liable for taking care of their medical bills.
The New York Times explained that some cities will penalize companies even if no one does fall. In New York City, the newspaper points out, the sanitation department handed out 10,000 tickets last winter to those who did not clear up sidewalks in front of their buildings, with fines ranging between $100 and $350. Make sure these pathways are clear and safe at all times.
3. Have a contingency plan for operations
Small businesses might already have a telecommuting policy in place to best serve the demands of the modern workforce, but wintertime needs to be a point of focus for this policy. Companies should also have a plan in case a major winter storm or other event makes travel to and from the physical workplace unsafe for employees. If you do not have a remote work or telecommuting policy in place and reside in one of the nation's northern regions, your company might miss several days of worker productivity. This is especially true for companies outside the retail sector.
Make sure that you have a reliable method to communicate with all staff members efficiently when a storm is in the forecast. Allowing workers to work from home can allow operations to continue on regardless of weather conditions at the office.
Be safe this winter, and ensure you plan ahead to keep your business thriving well into spring!
LinkedIn pages are critically important for businesses and professionals alike.
To get the most out of your customer, colleague and personal networks, you have to ensure your LinkedIn pages are aligned with best practices. This will vary depending on whether you are an individual employee or a company's owner.
Here are five things your LinkedIn page might be missing for each group:
LinkedIn for organizations
Here are the five lesser-used things you should have on your LinkedIn company page:
These steps can help a business, but what about professional pages?
LinkedIn for professionals
Along with making sure your profile is up to date and complete, here are five things you need to add to your LinkedIn page today:
Business owners know the value of insights, intelligence and knowledge related to their industries, target markets and day-to-day operations. However, many leaders won't have quite as much time as they would like to read magazines, newspapers and the like. Luckily, if you are one of these individuals, you can take advantage of the ever-expanding realm of podcasts.
Here are the 10 top podcasts for various interests:
1. Entrepreneur On Fire
The Huffington Post ranked this podcast as one of the best for business owners interested in learning about how they can make the most out of their budgets, as well as general management tips.
2. The Clark Howard Show
Entrepreneurs also need to be experts in personal finance. To be keen in these matters, the Clark Howard Show is a great choice.
3. HR Happy Hour
Talent management service provider Capterra named HR Happy Hour as one the best human resources podcasts active on the airwaves today. Learning how to best manage talent is critical for business owners.
4. Intelligence Squared
Innovation is one of the more important aspects of business ownership today. Business magazine Forbes asserted Intelligence Squared will actually transform the ways in which leaders approach innovation and creative thinking.
5. TED Radio Hour
Hosted by nonprofit media membership organization National Public Radio, the TED Radio Hour presents a range of ideas that can help business leaders think outside of the box and discover new methods to improve their companies.
6. Marketing Over Coffee
Unbounce, a provider of web-based advertising services, ranked Marketing Over Coffee as the best marketing podcast online today. This podcast can help business managers and owners craft stronger marketing strategies.
7. Improving Customer Experience
Spoken Communications - a communications technology provider - recognized The Improving Customer Experience Podcast asamong the best for customer relationship management tips and tricks.
8. HBR Ideacast
Spoken Communications also recognized HBR Ideacast, which is hosted by acclaimed publication Harvard Business Review, as great for all types of business advice.
If you need a little humor on your commute or during the day, digital media website Mashable suggested tuning into Nerdist, which is a good-old-fashioned comedy podcast.
10. RMA Podcast
The Risk Management Association, a financial services industry trade association, hosts a podcast regularly updated with new content that can be an exceptional resource to help business leaders learn how to mitigate threats and minimize losses.
When screening potential employees, it's important to not overlook important accessible information. Even if a background check and drug test all check out, key information that raises red flags may slip through the cracks. To more effectively cover your bases, you may want to analyze their online presence, particularly as it pertain to social media.
The number of employers who use outlets like Facebook and Twitter for screening has exploded over the last 10 years. For example, in 2011, only 11% of businesses used social media for background purposes.
Today, the rate has soared to 60%, according to polling data from online job search engine CareerBuilder.
"Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter," said Rosemary Haefner, chief of human resources at CareerBuilder. "And with more and more people using social media, it's not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well."
49% found info that made them think twice
Frequently, social media has clued employers into details that they may not have known otherwise. Nearly 50% of hiring managers who use social media to screen hires say they've decided against extending job offers after learning of something unsavory, the poll found, including the use of illegal drugs, discriminatory comments as well as inappropriate photographs and/or video clips.
While some may claim that business owners' and hiring managers' using social media in the hiring process is an invasion of privacy, others say it plays a crucial role that may be the difference between making a good or bad recruitment decision.
"Employers can minimize the legal risks and maximize the business benefits of social media if the screening is part of the reference or background check that is made before extending an offer or after extending a conditional offer," said Jonathan Segal, an employment practices attorney and contributing editor at HR Magazine.
In some cases, you may find information that substantiates why hiring applicants is a smart move. Nearly one-third of employers in the CareerBuilder poll indicated as much, with 44% saying the venue enabled them to confirm candidates had the necessary job qualifications.
Using social media for screening purposes is an effective tool, but it can land you in hot water if you overstep your boundaries. The Society for Human Resource Management has several suggestions that can help you find the right balance.