New Facebook Features Help Businesses Better Manage Their Pages

New Facebook Features Help Businesses Better Manage Their Pages

If you manage a business or brand page onFacebook, you’ll be happy to know there’s a slew of new features that can help make your job easier. Here’s a rundown:

Administrative roles: You can now assign administrative roles to the people who help manage your page. There are five different roles: manager,content creator, moderator, advertiser and insights analyst. To assign roles to your Facebook page’s admins, login to your Facebook account, visit the Page you manage, click Edit Page above the Admin Panel, and click Admin Roles in the left column.

Scheduled posts: You can schedule your updates to post at a future date and time using the Facebook sharing tool (that’s the box you use to create and post a Status Update). Until now, the only way to schedule a post in the future was through a third-party app. But now, simply by clicking the symbol resembling a clock in the bottom row of the sharing tool and selecting a time and date that you’d like it to go live, you can post a Status Update, photo or video up to six months in advance.

Promoted posts: You can pay a fee to promote a post so it will be shown in the news feeds of more of the people who like your Page than you would reach normally. Friends of Facebook members who have interacted with a promoted post will be more likely to see the information in their news feeds. Promoted posts cost $5 or more.

Only pages with 400 or more likes are eligible to promote posts, and similar to scheduling a post to publish on a particular date, promoted posts are initiated from within the sharing tool. To promote a new post, click Promote on the bottom row of the sharing tool, where you’ll be asked to set your budget and confirm a method of payment. To promote a post you’ve already published and is less than three days old, click the Promote dropdown menu in the lower right corner of the post from your Page’s Timeline.

 

Why Your Business Needs to Pay Attention to Consumer Feedback

Why Your Business Needs to Pay Attention to Consumer Feedback

Knowing what customers find important and how they want to interact with a brand is important to any business’s success. A new study encourages brands to take note of what consumers think is necessary in order to improve a product or service and then make the changes that will satisfy shoppers.

Here are five suggestions from the “Conversation Index” released by Bazaarvoice, a Texas-based company best known for its ratings and reviews software. The tips are garnered from the millions of pieces of user-generated content from online reviews:

Brick-and-mortar shoppers still engage online: Since a reported 70 percent of shoppers say they use their smartphones while in your store, find a way to obtain these shoppers’ email addresses. Ask for online feedback from face-to-face customers, and by any means necessary, offer free Wi-Fi at your business locations.

The “Closed” sign becomes extinct: At least half of online shopping takes place after hours, with the iPad being the main culprit in this change of habit. That means you should remain engaged every hour of every day. You need to have customer support, chat, tweets, and Facebook posts available 24/7 if you expect to deliver “overnight results.”

Related: Six Tips for Mobile Marketing to Engage Customers

It’s not all about shopping: Your Facebook Page (and to some degree, even your website) is not the place for the hard sell. Visitors are perfectly content to have you offer them social experiences that lead to loyalty. Build social features into your website that make it easy for visitors to share with others without leaving your realm. By doing so, you’ll find product opinions — contributed to your site and then cross-shared on Facebook through a tool like Facebook Comments — have a higher satisfaction rating from consumers.

Welcome any and all constructive suggestions: The Bazaarvoice study shows that even the most glowing product reviews contain suggestions for improvements, meaning you absolutely have to pay close attention to all feedback. In fact, according to the study, 20 percent of four-star product reviews include recommendations on what consumers feel would turn that item or experience into a five-star product or service.

Pay close attention to consumer Q&As: Besides product reviews, consumer content often contains questions about products. Be sure to answer these questions, then consider updates to your product descriptions, or offer how-to videos to assist future consumers.

 

7 Lessons Every Young Entrepreneur Can Learn From ‘SharkTank’

When ABC’s SharkTank debuted three years ago, I was instantly hooked. But, of course, I wasn’t the only one. It quickly became a favorite among millions across the country and helped garner attention for entrepreneurs and business owners who are tasked with finding the funding to make their dreams a reality every day.

While the TV show SharkTank gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses to a panel of five very successful (and often intimidating) investors, off camera many newbie treps are taking notes. And though dozens of entrepreneurs have landed an investment, even the misses offer a learning experience to young entrepreneurs who may one day pitch their big ideas to a room full of sharks.

Below are some of the lessons I believe every entrepreneur — young and old — can take away from SharkTank:

1. Be passionate. Whether you are pitching to investors, talking to customers or riding the elevator with some moneyed stranger, the passion for your company should be evident. To become successful you better love what you’re doing. Otherwise, it won’t keep you going when times get tough — and you can forget landing funding too.

2. Have hustle. A consistent characteristic in every entrepreneur is the ability to execute. Whether you’re building a product or going after new customers, prove that you can get things done. Don’t approach investors or enter any shark tank until you have shown a knack for creating value and the willingness to go the extra mile.

3. Create a strong team. I’m not saying that solo-founder companies can’t be successful, but I guarantee investors will always prefer a cohesive team consisting of hard-working individuals with complementary skills. If you simply can’t find the right co-founder, then surround yourself with mentors and create an advisory board of knowledgeable and reliable business professionals.

Related: A Good Mentor Will Tell It Like It Is

4. Know your pitch. No matter if you’re on SharkTank, at a cocktail party or sitting in the airport, you never know who you might run into and whether they might become an asset to your business. Always be able to explain what your company does in less than three minutes and confidently answer any questions. For an optimal and memorable pitch, explain the problems you want to solve, how you’re going to solve them, why your team is the best option for solving them and the value you’re bringing to the market.

Related: At College Pitch Contests, Giant Companies Are Listening

5. Make your product a must have. If you think about the most successful companies, many of them created products and services that people “needed to have.” Every entrepreneur should aim for this. On SharkTank, it’s a frequent sticking point because unless you’re Apple, it’s extremely hard to build a big business based on something that’s only “nice to have.”

6. Have many plans. I’ve never been a huge advocate for creating massive business plans because once you get started, things will inevitably change — rendering your fancy 50-page business plan a useless stack of papers. However, I do recommend crafting an executive summary, business outline, market analysis, financial projections, investor presentation and a marketing plan. On SharkTank, I’ve never seen an entrepreneur whip out a business plan, but you can usually tell who came prepared.

7. Think big. One reason why internet companies have exploded in the last few years is, they have easier models to scale than other businesses. Leveraging the internet and mobile devices not only requires less capital, but also the ability to reach billions of potential customers in an instant. If you’re building a more traditional business, be mindful of the additional fixed and variable expenses, how your cost structure will manage scaling up and the ability to keep operating margins strong and profitable.

 

5 Myths About Being An Entrepreneur

If you’re looking for a feel good post about why you should quit your secure 9 to 5 job and become an entrepreneur, this is not the post for you. Being an entrepreneur is great and I wouldn’t trade it for a desk job, but there are some things aspiring (or existing) entrepreneurs should know.

#1 You’re going to be insanely successful. You are not the next Mark Zuckerberg. Sorry, you’re not and I’m not. If you have the idea that you’re going to sit down and create the next Facebook and be worth billions of dollars in seven to 10 years, it’s not going to happen. Am I saying it’s not good to dream big? No. I’m saying there is only one Facebook and only one Mark Zuckerberg in this world.

#2 Entrepreneurs have a very flexible work schedule. They can work three to four hours a day and have plenty of time to goof off. I know I’m not alone when I say that entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of ending our workday abruptly at 5pm. When you own your own company or work for someone who does, you have to put in the extra hours and the extra effort to make things happen. If you aren’t ready to work some pretty long days, you probably aren’t cut out for being an entrepreneur.

#3 Entrepreneurs can take off when they want — after all, you’re the boss, right? Remember all those times you used to be able to party on random nights of the week or just take off for a weekend with your friends? Not if you want to keep your business afloat the first year (or two, three, four, etc). Now I’m not saying you won’t ever get time off, but most entrepreneurs live, eat and breathe their businesses and a lot of times partying gets pushed to the wayside. What’s more important: Doing keg stands with college buddies or generating income so you can pay bills the next couple months?

#4 Working from home means you’ll have more time for your relationship, your pets, taking care of your home, etc. Wrong. Because you work from home, it’s like you live in this constant state of never finishing anything. You start cleaning the dishes and then think of a great idea or feature for your company. Instead of taking your significant other out to a nice meal, you ask to get drive thru so you can get back to work quicker. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked over at my dog and it looks like he’s crossing his legs because he needs to go outside (and I love my dog to death!).

#5 Everyone wants to have your job. I’m guessing it’s because people genuinely don’t love their jobs, but they think you have this perfect setup where you get to work and play all day long. I always hear things like “At least you don’t have to deal with a commute” or “I have so many worthless meetings and calls, you’re lucky”. Do you want to trade the last three days I worked 18 hours and had to go above and beyond to appease clients? No, no you don’t.

For all the starving entrepreneurs out there, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all doing things we love and enjoy, and that’s what matters. I may not be building the next Facebook, but I am excited about controlling my own destiny and knowing the harder I work, the more results I see.

 

Want To Be A Successful Entrepreneur? Get A Job (Opinion)

It’s college graduation time, and amidst the partying, thousands of those leaving school are contemplating their entrepreneurial dreams. What should school-leaving, would-be entrepreneurs do next?

President Obama wants to them start businesses. His motivation is simple. As the Small Business Administration has said: “With youth unemployment twice the national average in many communities, particularly communities of color and veterans, the Obama administration recognizes a need to promote and better support the efforts of young people to create jobs for themselves and others.”

Among the many policies and programs the current administration has put forward, the one that might provide the greatest incentive for recent college graduates to start companies is the plan to limit student loan payments to 10 percent of a person’s income. By cutting the amount of money entrepreneurs need to generate to cover their personal expenses this plan would make more marginal new business ideas viable.

While this program would certainly spur more young people to become entrepreneurs, it isn’t a good idea.

Related: 10 Things Colleges Don’t Tell Young Entrepreneurs at Graduation

The performance of businesses started by recent college graduates is relatively poor. Successful entrepreneurship requires knowledge of many aspects of business best learned on the job — seeing what customers need, understanding how to manage people, knowing how to sell, and so on. Thus it is not surprising that all measures of start-up performance examined by researchers — whether sales, profitability or survival — increase with the amount of work experience entrepreneurs have, particularly in the industry in which their company is competing.

Financing a new business is also very difficult right out of school. Few new businesses receive capital from anyone other than their founders, so entrepreneurs’ savings are crucial to new business capitalization. The most recently released Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances data show that the median net worth of a household headed by someone under 35 was $11,800, as compared to $120,300 for all households. Further, external sources of capital, including banks, credit card companies, finance companies, favor older borrowers with longer credit histories. Because new college graduates typically have little savings, their businesses are often undercapitalized. And research shows that undercapitalization reduces the success chances of new companies.

Related: Harvard Grads’ Startup Rewards Gym Rats, Penalizes Couch Potatoes

Lacking in human and financial capital, young people face much lower odds of entrepreneurial success than their older counterparts. These low odds mean that pushing young people to start businesses is costly. The majority of new businesses fail within six years, as numerous studies show. Chances are good that young entrepreneurs will need to get jobs after they try their hand at entrepreneurship.

But having started a business makes a person worse off in the job market. As Rui Baptista of the Technical University of Lisbon and colleagues explain: “The labor market imposes a penalty for business ownership experience.” Trying one’s hand at self-employment makes getting a job harder, as a 2004 paper by Donald Bruce of the University of Tennessee and Herbert Schuetze of the University of Victoria shows. What’s more, each year of self-employment reduces later wages by between 5 and 8 percent, research by Ulrick Kaiser and Nikolaj Mallchow-Moller indicates.

Contrary to the popular opinion that college graduates with entrepreneurial dreams should start businesses right away, research shows it’s better to build up financial and human capital first. The Obama administration ought to consider these findings when designing youth entrepreneurship programs.

 

How To Know When It’s Time To Quit Your Day Job

Sick of working on your business when you’re not at your 9 to 5? I bet you are. Though you would likely love to quit your day job to focus on your business fulltime, the question of ‘when’ is often puzzling to young entrepreneurs. After all, if you leave prematurely, you may run out of cash quicker than you might think. And let’s not forget about that precious health insurance that you’d be giving up if you quit.

Still, your end goal won’t always be elusive. Here are five considerations that will help you make the right decision at the right time:

Your responsibilities. Are you single with a simple, cheap lifestyle? If so, you’re better equipped to take more chances and leave your full-time work earlier. And if push comes to shove, you might be able to move back in with Mom and Dad or sell your car if you have to.

By contrast, if you have a spouse and children, a mortgage or other hefty debts, you might think twice about putting in your notice. For those with major responsibilities, your options can be limited. In this case, plan on having at least six months of living costs saved so that your dreams don’t destroy theirs.

No matter what, the lower your debt the better positioned you are to handle downturns. With a car payment, a mortgage and credit-card or student-loan debt, you may be better off as a part-time entrepreneur until some of that debt — if not all of it — has been paid off.

Your job. Are you a waiter or cab driver, or a middle manager in a fast-changing industry? There’s always work for a waiter so you can move into and out of that job.

But that middle manager position is really an alternate career. Before you walk away, you should be certain that your business has enough traction to make losing that career opportunity worthwhile. You also may need to work as a waiter or a cab driver if you need extra money along the way. Either way, leave without regrets, even if your business doesn’t pan out the way you expect it to.

Your risk profile. If you leave your job, will you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about the future? If the business hits the rocks will you fight to save it or have something strong on the rocks instead? Are you willing to fail and start over again? Even the most ardent entrepreneurs have those moments of doubt. If starting your own business without the back-up of a salary means living in a constant state of extreme stress, think it through.

But if you’re one to ride rollercoasters in the first car with your hands up in the air, then jump in. Most entrepreneurs love the thrill of the unknown and enjoy pitting their capabilities against the market. If you fit this profile, you’ll feel more alive than ever once you’re working full time on your own terms.

Your support system. Working for yourself can be lonely and challenging. Make sure you have friends and mentors to draw on for support and advice. If you’re used to having people at work to chat with when you need a break, find some people you can call for a short chat when you need a break with your own business. You may also want to share office space with another entrepreneur or two, to save money, share resources and bounce ideas around with.

Your business. Is the business already generating revenue? Will working on it fulltime increase revenues beyond what it’s generating now? Could you live on the business income for a while — possibly supplemented by savings? Do you need to invest more money in the business or just more time? If you expect your revenues to rise once you put in more time — and you have enough to sustain yourself and your dependents without the income from a job — go for it.

 

Looking For a Business Concept? Think Big

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This much seems true: Entrepreneurs who start businesses that are in line with their field of expertise, such as startups that follow in the professions of corporate jobs their owners once held, are 40 percent more likely to make it, according to the book Race and Entrepreneurial Success.

But how do you narrow that down and find a niche that no one else has? One way to go is to think big. We’re not talking just about dreaming big; we’re suggesting that businesses that take into account America’s historic weight gain might have an edge. The average American is 24 pounds heavier than in 1960 (so much so, in fact, that a University of Illinois study finds that the extra pounds have actually weighed on our fuel consumption because cars take extra gas to push all that … well, you know).

And so, we recently came across a great niche business that is clearly thinking big: Dos Pistolassurfboards in Santa Cruz, Calif., makes boards especially “for surfers who weigh 160 pounds and over.”

Sounds simple, but it’s genius. You gotta think that most male surfers in their 20s and beyond weigh more than 160 pounds. But the surf industry is teen-driven. For a few decades now, board “shaping” has been geared toward high-performance, light-on-their-feet surfers. The thin, hard-to-float boards became so pervasive that easy-to-cruise longboards have made a serious comeback. The problem is that longboards sacrafice performance in the name of buoyancy. Unless they order custom-shaped “sticks,” big guys who wanted to rip were out of luck.

Dos Pistolas is a classic niche leader that looked at a problem (big guys wanting high-performance boards) and came up with a simple solution.

As they say in surf culture, go big.

 

Tech Tools for Keeping a Digital Eye on Employees

Tech Tools for Keeping a Digital Eye on Employees

From protecting your company from theft to ensuring your workplace is free of harassment, there are many reasons business owners might want to monitor the digital footprints of their employees. But doing it right — legally and ethically — should be a top priority.

Technology can support policies to ensure appropriate use of your assets and protect your business. Here are several tools to consider.

Create a technology policy: Get help crafting a technology-use policy with online tools such as the customizable forms offered by the ePolicy Institute. The firm’s form kit ($99 one-time fee) can help you outline your rules for using and tracking email and instant messaging, Web surfing and blogging and software downloading on company devices. It also offers a template for creating social media policies ($49). Make sure your policies also cover employees’ use of their own devices while at work and when accessing company data.

Tracking use of computers and smartphones: A slew of products are available for tracking activity on company devices. Be sure to use reputable, reliable and secure software, and avoid anything smacking of spyware or malware.

SpectorSoft makes products that can record everything that occurs on company devices and provide reports about suspect activity (from $99 for one basic license to $2,875 for a 25-person office). Administrators can direct the software to monitor specific people and give particular managers the right to set policy and review collected data, all of which is encrypted while moving across your systems and when sitting in storage.

Monitoring social media usage: An array of companies has emerged that aim to help companies monitor employee activity on blogs and sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and to enforce their policies. For instance, SocialLogix can assess the level of social media use — or abuse — at your company (one-time fee starting at $2,000), uncover what employees are doing and saying, and alert you to potential problems (about $10 per user per month).

Other companies that monitor social media activity include Actiance and Socialware.

Blocking websites: Many companies use secure Web gateways or Web filters to monitor employee use of the Web, block malware-laced sites and keep employees from accessing sites in categories of concern — from news to porn to gambling.

Among the most popular providers of such tools is Websense (about $50 per user). Other well-regarded providers include Blue Coat Systems and McAfee. Some monitoring programs also offer Web filtering.

 

When Employees Become the Competition

Curbing Your Crew from Competing With You

While traveling in Pennsylvania recently, I stopped off in Pittsburgh to visit Nick Vacco, a serial entrepreneur.

Vacco’s 13-year-old company, Detail King, is an auto-detailer training company. Vacco got his start in college when he ran an auto-detailing business out of the trunk of his car.

While touring his training facility, I overheard a student from Tampa, Fla., ask Vacco how to get past a concern she has about hiring and training employees, sensing that some will turn around and run their own auto-detailing business in direct competition with hers.

It’s a good question, and Nick had a number of thoughts on it worth sharing:

Paranoia will destroy ya: Don’t assume that a job applicant wants anything more than just a job. Otherwise, you’re operating from a position of paranoia, Vacco says, and you can’t run a business from a standpoint of fear. Besides, if you insist on hiring people with no ambition, good luck with that. It’ll be reflected in every task they do.

Related: Noncompete Expired, a Serial Entrepreneur Seeks Repeat Success

Use a noncompete agreement: You could ask new hires to sign a noncompete agreement, and if your state enforces such agreements, you can make signing one a nonnegotiable condition for working at your business. But check with a lawyer first, because holding an employee to it can be a balancing act between an employer’s right to protect her own interests and a worker’s right to set up his own shop.

Listen carefully during the interview: You want to hire the right people — people ready to get down to work, not people looking to start their own business. Ask prospective employees where they see themselves in three years. If they say they want to start their own business in your vertical, it should give you pause. But if they say they want to be working for your company with more responsibility and money, then you may want to seriously consider handing them a time card.

Competition isn’t always a bad thing: Competition pushes us to do better, Vacco says. And in this socially-charged marketplace where consumers are constantly sharing their views and opinions of the businesses they interact with, you have the opportunity to gain critical insight into what it is your competition is doing well, and not so well, just by listening. Take that information and use it to differentiate your business and do a better job

 

3 Insurance Gambles That Put Your Business at Risk

3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Insuring Their Business

Much like sunscreen, business insurance is one of those things you don’t realize how important it is until you’ve been burned: A lot of entrepreneurs don’t have it, and those who do, may not be fully covered.

While large corporations have staffers specifically trained to be sure the business is protected adequately, small business owners are often not aware of the risks their business faces.

“Smaller businesses tend not to get the right amount of coverage,” says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group that aims to educate the public about insurance. “They will get too little or not the right coverage.”

Here, three of the most common mistakes to avoid when deciding on business insurance.

1. You view insurance as one-size-fits-all. Think again. There are four basic types of insurance that all businesses need, according to Worters. Property insurance protects the building that your business is housed in and the inventory, raw materials and computers that you own. Liability insurance protects you against lawsuits. Business vehicle insurance covers any autos owned by the business. Finally, in every state except Texas, a business with employees must have workers compensation insurance should an employee be injured on the job.

Related: Do You Need a Full-Timer, Contractor or Outsourced Help?

In addition, every industry has its own specific risks and your business may require a specialized policy. “You need to get an agent that understands your line of business,” says Worters, noting that you should talk to an agent before just signing up with one. Ask a local business group or association for a recommendation.

2. You think you’re covered by another policy. “The biggest mistake [business owners] make is they assume they don’t need coverage,” says Ted Devine, CEO of Dallas-based Insureon, an online small-business insurance agency. He says business owners often falsely believe their company is covered by their client’s policy or they’re no longer at risk when a client leaves. Not true, according to Devine. A client can come back and sue you years after an event or transaction occurs, he warns.

And don’t think your homeowner’s policy will bail you out, either. Even if you have a home-based business, a homeowner’s policy won’t protect it should you get into any legal issues with employees or business litigation. Whether the homeowners’ policy will protect your business property in your home depends on the policy, says Devine.

Related: Does Your Home Business Need Insurance?

3. You think you’re invincible. Worters says many businesses don’t even consider what is called either business income or business interruption insurance. If a natural disaster hits, for example, and your business closes, your revenue can be immediately shut off for an undetermined amount of time, and that can really threaten the life of your business.