Archive for May, 2016

How Can Businesses Use Facebook Continuous Live Video?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Facebook continuous live video API

When it comes to social media, Facebook is undeniably king. That’s why businesses bend over backwards to try and engage with users via the social media platform — and it’s also why they’ve been working hard to take advantage of Facebook’s video capabilities.

With the launch of the new Facebook continuous live video API, those capabilities have drastically expanded.

Announced in April, this latest expansion of Facebook Live will enable users to stream 24-hour live coverage of anything and everything — from a window filled with adorable puppies to the backstage goings-on during an awards show.

Facebook Continuous Live Video Growing

A few weeks on, the new Facebook continuous live video API has grown by leaps and bounds. Over 100 broadcasters have already hopped on the bandwagon, and global brands are leveraging these new platform capabilities in order to reach users in new and engaging ways.

Disney has used Live API to hand fans sneak peaks from the red carpet, CSPAN has used it to bring viewers closer to this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Bleacher Report has been using it to answer questions about the NFL Draft.

“We’ve already seen some interesting use cases — for example, it was used by explore.org to power nature cameras — and we’re looking forward to seeing what Live API developers come up with in the future,” Facebook video head Fidji Simo told TechCrunch. “We expect developers and publishers to get creative with this new capability.”

That being said, there are plenty of ways that smaller businesses can get creative with the new Facebook continuous live video API.

According to Simo, restaurants can utilize Facebook Live in order to walk diners through a typical service, cottage manufacturers can showcase their processes and B2B companies can stage live tutorials. Weather-driven industries like ski resorts or surf shops can even host a continuous stream of local weather conditions so that customers from across the globe know when it’s time to come in.

Better yet, businesses can then directly interact with those viewers in order to generate leads and forge stronger consumer relationships.

“Live video on Facebook is truly interactive ,as broadcasters engage with their commenters and respond to their suggestions and questions,” Simo said. “In fact, from initial data, we’ve seen that people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.”

Continuous streaming isn’t the only new addition Facebook is making to its Live API. The social media giant will also enable businesses to post videos that are only visible to users based in particular locations that are relevant to that business.

Businesses can also select a video to expire after a certain amount of time in order to generate a sense of urgency around their continuous stream — and Facebook has introduced an age-gate that ensures underage users cannot view certain videos. That will prove a huge benefit for alcohol brands or local bars looking to leverage Facebook’s Continuous Video Live API capabilities.

“We’ve been humbled by all the amazing and creative ways that people have used Facebook Continuous Live Video so far, and we’re committed to creating the best experience for everyone who wants to create, watch and interact with live videos on Facebook,” Simo said. “We’ll keep working to bring you the best ways to broadcast, interact with, and discover live video. Stay tuned.”

Image: Facebook

This article, “How Can Businesses Use Facebook Continuous Live Video?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Website Content: Your Biggest Sales Driver

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

quality website content drives sales

If you have a small business or startup, you’re probably an all-in-one shipper, customer representative, and web developer. While you want a flashy website with video, audio, and all sorts of other material, marketing research finds quality website content drives sales and is the biggest factor affecting online traffic.

Quality Website Content Drives Sales

Ninety-two percent of marketers report that content creation is either “very” or “somewhat” effective for search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing love high-quality content. In fact, their newest algorithms direct web surfers to the most relevant, high-quality websites. Superior, frequently updated content equals higher rankings on search engines.

Posting relevant information in the form of blogs, articles, or whitepapers can help develop closer customer relationships. The relevant information you’re providing gives them your perspective as an industry expert. Customers may be more willing to do business with you because you’re a thought leader who provides valuable content.

Knowing Your Audience

Before we begin any conversation on the types of content to put on your webpage, know your audience. You can have all the content in the world, but if you’re missing your target audience, it’s not going to have the desired results.

First, determine who your high-value customers are. This can help you find a persona for your website and determine how to target an audience. For example, if research shows that your target customers are 20-something millennials, retirement villages in Florida aren’t going to be relevant. You may have to design your site with a minimalist aesthetic and post about the latest technological trends.

Types of Quality Website Content That Drives Sales

Once we establish a target audience, then we can talk about types of content:

  • Think of each blog as an opportunity to provide your audience with relevant information and a way to subtly work in your sales pitch. They also provide an excellent opportunity to boost organic search rankings.
  • Products and services. When discussing your product or service on your site, provide enough information to generate interest. Then, insert a clear, compelling CTA.
  • Show the audience your business is growing. Share interesting content, and then position your business in the subject matter. It’s an opportunity to look like the industry expert and insert your sales pitch.
  • Social media. Do you want a successful social media presence? Then have interesting, fresh content with a mix of entertaining and serious material. This content then becomes sharable content, and those shares boost brand awareness.

Simple Tips for Good Web Copy

  • Web surfers are usually impatient. Give them just enough to satisfy them, and then provide a clear directive (such as a contact form) if they want to know more.
  • Let your content create a smooth transition from the conversation you’re having with the customer to the CTA.
  • Don’t misspell or use bad grammar. This hurts your credibility.
  • Let your content have energetic and descriptive words. Active writing engages your audience.
  • Do your homework. Use analytic tools to research what people want to know more about, and then write on these topics. Cater to your customer with your content.

As a new small business, realize the biggest key to your success online is your content. You don’t need a huge budget to create quality content. High-quality website content drives sales and gives you a great SEO boost. Know your audience, and see that every blog post or news article is just another opportunity to educate and subtly sell to your audience.

 

Writing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Website Content: Your Biggest Sales Driver” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bulgaria Reports BGN 2.35 B Budget Surplus for End-April

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Bulgaria consolidated budget showed a surplus of BGN 2.35 B as of end-April, equivalent to 2.6% of the projected 2016 GDP.

This compared with consolidated budget surplus of BGN 1.07 B, equivalent to 1.2% of GDP at the end of April  2015.

Increased revenues as well as decreased spending in January-April 2016 compared with the equivalent period of last year were the main factors for the improved budget position, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Revenues and grants increased by 7.4% year-on-year, reaching BGN 12.17 B as of 30 April, or 36.9% of the 2016 plan. Tax and non-tax revenues collected in the first four months of the year grew by BGN 1.01 B compared to the equivalent period of 2015, while EU grants decreased by BGN 170 M.

Tax revenues including social security contributions increased by 10.5 % on the year in nominal terms, reaching  BGN 9.19 B as of end-April, or 35.4% B of 2016 plan.

Revenues from indirect taxes rose most, increasing by 14.4% year-on-year to BGN 4.51 B as of 30 April, or 34% of 2016 plan. VAT revenue grew by BGN 394 M, reaching BGN 3 B, or 35.8% of plan.

Revenues from direct taxes totalled BGN 1.89 B for the first four months of 2016, or 40.3% of annual plan, increasing by 9.3% in comparison with the equivalent period of 2015.

Expenditure under Bulgaria’s consolidated budget, including the country’s contribution into the EU budget, totalled BGN 9.82 B as of end-April 2016, or 28.2% of 2016 plan. This compared with expenditure of BGN 10.26 B as of 30 April 2015, the Finance Ministry said.

The government’s fiscal reserve totalled BGN 12.3 B at the end of April 2016, including BGN 11.4 B deposited with Bulgaria’s central bank and commercial banks.

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Bulgaria’s Pironkova Proceeds to Roland Garros Quarter-Finals

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Tsvetana Pironkova on Tuesday became the first Bulgarian female tennis player to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros French Open since Sesil Karantancheva in 2005.

Second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland lost  2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to Pironkova ranked 100 spots below her.

When the match was originally suspended on Sunday evening due to rain, Radwanska was leading 6-2, 3-0. 

On Tuesday, however, Pironkova opened play by winning 10 straight games to win the second set and open up a 4-0 lead in the deciding third set.

Now Pironkova will meet  21st seed Samantha Stosur in the quarter-finals of the French Open  tennis tournament.

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SEECP Countries Meet in Bulgaria to Review Challenges and Opportunites Facing Them

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Regional cooperation, European integration of the Western Balkans and challenges facing Southeast Europe were high on the agenda of a meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries of the region, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said on Tuesday.

The meeting, held in the town of Pravets some 80 km east of Sofia, has brought together the foreign ministers of the countries taking part in the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).

The event was part of the concluding events of the six-month Bulgarian chairmanship of the SEECP which will end on June 30 with a meeting of heads of state and government of the participating countries, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

On Tuesday, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov highlighted the three priority areas of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the SEECP –  energy and transport connectivity; dealing with the migrant inflow; media freedom and freedom of expression, according to the statement.

The adoption of a joint statement to address the challenges posed by migratory pressure was part of those efforts, Mitov added.

Daniel Mitov also noted that Bulgaria supported the expansion of cooperation with European institutions and other international organizations and attaches high importance to attracting European funds to the region.

Bulgaria believes that membership of the European Union is the only perspective

“Our country sees no perspective for the Western Balkans other than EU membership,” Mitov said, according to the statement.

At the annual board meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Daniel Mitov and RCC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic, confirmed their high estimate of the collaboration of the Bulgarian chairmanship of the SEECP and the RCC.

The Bulgarian foreign minister stressed on the importance of parliamentary cooperation within the SEECP and presented Sofia’s candidacy for the seat of the Permanent Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly as a significant development in the context of the Western Balkans’ European integration process.

Goran Svilanovic focused on efforts to implement the Strategy SEE 2020, which aims to improve the living conditions in the countries in South-East Europe.

Daniel Mitov and Goran Svilanovic agreed that political stability, improved infrastructure and energy connectivity, independence of judicial systems and combating corruption in the countries of South-East Europe were essential for attracting fresh investments to the region.

 

 

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Smart Locks Provide Easier Access to Offices of the Future

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

smart locks

Basic security is crucial for any small business. Yet, as non-traditional work patterns become more and more commonplace, the inconvenience of cumbersome and old-fashioned security methods is turning out to be a major hindrance for more forward-thinking business owners.

A solution to that problem seems to have emerged with the launch of the second-generation August Smart Lock.

New And Improved Smart Locks

August has always been an industry leader in smart home security — and so when the company announced the impending release of its new-and-improved August Smart Lock last October, tech-savvy users were left on tenterhooks.

Fast-forward seven months, and the company has finally delivered. According to critics, it’s been well worth the wait.

With integrated support for Apple’s HomeKit, this latest version of the August Smart Lock enables users to lock, unlock and check the status of their home security using Siri voice commands.

The August Smart Lock is also compatible with a range of various third-party HomeKit apps like iDevices, Insteon+ and Lutron. That means you can also use the system to ensure all of the lights in your office automatically shut off whenever the doors are locked.

“We are committed to providing value by partnering with companies such as Apple to deliver the features our customers are asking for, including HomeKit integration and support for Siri voice commands,” said Jason Johnson, CEO of August Home.

August has definitely hit home in providing the most heavily integrated smart lock to date. That being said, there are quite a few rising stars within the smart security sector that definitely merit a second look, too.

To give you a crash course in this up-and-coming market, here are a few of the top smart locks on the market:

Top Smart Locks Available

Kwikset Kevo

The Kwikset Kevo is one of the oldest smart locks on the market, but it’s still one of the best. The Kwikset Kevo is a Bluetooth, touch sensitive deadbolt lock that can be opened using either a fob or an iOS app — so you don’t actually need your iPhone handy in order to get into the office. Users can also send ‘ekeys’ to others via the Kevo app — allowing you to grant access to friends and co-workers from anywhere on the globe.

Lockitron Bolt

The Lockitron Bolt is an affordable and easy-to-install smart lock. Rather than fit over your lock, it completely replaces your deadbolt. The Bolt is quiet, can be accessed and controlled via an accompanying app and is fully connectable using an external WiFi bridge.

Schlage Sense

The Schlage Sense is a secure, single-cylinder deadbolt lock that’s Bluetooth enabled and features a well-designed accompanying iOS app. Unlike most of its competitors, the Schlage Sense has also got a built-in tamper alarm, and allows you to send friends access codes and set up schedules. You will need Apply TV in order to take advantage of all of its remote controls.

RemoteLock 6i

The LockState RemoteLock 6i is an easy-to-use smart lock that’s WiFi enabled and a good fit for shared offices or rental properties. Using its accompanying browser software, you can extend and monitor access remotely — and can also control other WiFi connected devices like thermostats.

Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale is another big industry player, and its Keyless Connected Ready Smart Lock is definitely worth a look. It completely replaces your existing rim cylinder lock, and features a touchscreen , tamper alarm and a three minute lock feature if the wrong code is entered five times in a row. It’s also compatible with Yale’s Smartphone Alarm and CCTV systems — making for a fully-integrated smart home security solution.

Haven

Expected to ship later this fall, Haven is a new breed of smart lock. Unlike its deadbolt competitors, Haven is floor-anchored in order to fortify your door at its strongest points. The Haven is built of military-grade materials, Bluetooth connected and features an FIPS compliant encryption system. The Haven can be controlled via an accompanying app.

QF01SN

If you’re in search of something a bit smaller, The Morning Industry Locks QF01SN Keypad and Remote Deadbolt may prove a smart alternative to a clunky deadbolt system. It does feature a more old-fashioned keypad lock, but it also comes with a key chain fob remote. At a relatively low price, this is a reliable, entry-level smart lock.

Mul-T-Lock ENTR

The Mul-T-Lock ENTR is undeniably the most advanced commercial biometric smart lock on the market. It can be pre-programmed to admit only certain finger prints; however, you can also grant temporary access to others using an accompanying app or PIN code.  A cheaper, non-biometric model is also available for half the price.

Master Lock

Master Lock Bluetooth Smart Padlocks aren’t designed for a front door, but they’re ideal for cabinets, lockers or garages. These are heavy duty Bluetooth padlocks featuring touch control, and can be accessed via an accompanying app that’s available on both iOS and Android. Using the app, you can also gain access to multiple padlocks, share digital keys and grant scheduled guest access.

Sesame

Sesame very well may be the easiest smart lock to install. It fits just about every deadbolt lock on the market, and comes with all of the connectivity tools you would expect from a well-equipped smart lock. What sets Sesame apart is that it will automatically grant entry to anyone who’s been taught a bespoke, secret knock.

At the end of the day, smart locks are still somewhat of an emerging technology. That means it’s always worth doing your homework before taking the plunge and investing in your very own smart security system. But for many small business owners, the features that accompany these products are simply too good to pass up — and like it or not, it looks like the future is definitely here.

Image: August Smart Lock

This article, “Smart Locks Provide Easier Access to Offices of the Future” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Opec: fight club

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Inability to control output suggests the cartel has little purpose

Bulgaria’s Government Debt Edges down in April vs March

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Bulgaria’s government debt totalled EUR 13.34 B in nominal terms at of end-April 2016, the Finance Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Compared with end-March 2016, total government debt was EUR 9.5 M lower at the end of April.

Compared with end-2015, however, total government debt was almost EUR 1.73 B higher in nominal terms at the end of April after the government issued a EUR 1.994 B dual-tranche bond on international capital markets on March 14. 

The bond issue had increased the government’s foreign debt, which totalled EUR 9.85 B as of end-April, compared with 9.86 B a month earlier. Domestic debt totalled EUR 3.49 M at the end of April, unchanged from end-March but lower compared with EUR 3.72 B at the end of 2015.

Government debt-to-GDP ratio was 29.2% at the end of April, as per the updated spring macroeconomic forecast of the Finance Ministry of Finance for 2016. The ratio was a touch lower compared with 29.3% a month earlier but higher than 26.4% at the end of last year.

Eurobonds issued in international capital markets kept their largest share (56.9%) in the structure of Bulgaria’s government debt by instrument, followed by domestic government securities (26.1%) and loans (17.0%), the Finance Ministry said in a monthly debt report.

Government debt payments for the first four months of 2016 totalled BGN 1.23 B (EUR 627 M), of which BGN 920 M principal payments and BGN 310 M interest.

 

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12 Tips for Pinning on Pinterest After the New 2016 Changes

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

pinning on Pinterest

Pinterest has been rolling out a steady stream of updates this year, including changes to its algorithm and affiliate policy. If you use Pinterest as a marketing channel for your business, then you need to be aware of those Pinterest 2016 changes to really make the most of the platform. Here are some tips for pinning on Pinterest in 2016.

Helpful Pinning on Pinterest Tips

Create an Affiliate Strategy

One of the biggest changes that Pinterest recently announced is that the site will again allow users to share affiliate links on the platform. So if you’re a blogger or influencer, you can use Pinterest as a way to increase your affiliate income. And you can now actually share those links directly on Pinterest, instead of just posting links to your website or a landing page that includes your affiliate links.

Connect with Pinterest Influencers

If you’re a small business that wants to increase sales through an affiliate program, this new change also offers a new opportunity for you. You can potentially connect with influencers who are popular on Pinterest with your target audience. The fact that they can share affiliate links directly on the platform could make your affiliate program even more attractive to them.

Take Your Branding into Account

Another change to Pinterest, at least on some of the mobile apps at this point, is how your boards and pins appear on your profile. For example, instead of just showing each of your board names and cover images, profiles on the iOS app now shows each board title over a sort of collage of the images you recently pinned to that board. So since Pinterest users will be able to see more of your actual pins when visiting your profile, it may be worth it to put more care into choosing pins that fit, or at least don’t totally clash, with your style and branding.

Don’t Rely on Repin Counts

On the web version of Pinterest and some mobile apps, the repin counts of each pin also appear differently. So if you’ve noticed much higher engagement numbers on your pins, it’s not because they all went viral overnight. Pinterest has just changed the repin counts to now display the overall engagement numbers for each pin, rather than the engagement each pin has gotten just since you repined it to one of your own boards. So you can no longer use those repin counts under each pin as a measure of engagement.

Utilize Analytics

For that reason, using analytics on Pinterest has become even more important. If you have a Pinterest business account, then you have access to analytics that can show you which of your pins are performing well and which ones are getting lower engagement. You can also use services like Tailwind to measure that engagement. Having that information can help you determine which pins might be worth promoting further or if there are any that you may even want to delete from your boards. It can also help you determine general trends in what’s popular so you can better determine your strategy for pinning on Pinterest going forward.

Keep International Users in Mind

One of Pinterest’s big goals with the recent changes is to appeal more to a wider base of users, including those outside of the U.S. A lot of those changes so far have simply been design and usability tweaks. But if all goes as planned for Pinterest, that means there could potentially be a larger base of international consumers on the platform going forward. So if that fits with your target audience, it could be worthwhile to create pins that are more geared toward international consumers, rather than only focusing on those based in the U.S.

Consider Promoting Popular Pins

Like other social media platforms, algorithm changes for Pinterest can make paying to promote certain posts a more viable option. If your pins aren’t getting as much engagement as you’d like to see, you can pay to boost a pin or two to increase your reach.

Optimize Boards for Search Engines

In addition, getting your posts found on search engines also becomes more important thanks to algorithmic changes. So if you don’t already, change the names and descriptions of your board to include some relevant descriptive keywords. The captions of each of your pins should also include some relevant descriptions so people can better find the content that is going to interest them on Pinterest.

Don’t Solely Rely on Group Boards

Pinterest continues to offer the opportunity for pinners to invite other pinners to their boards, creating group boards that can help increase the reach of your pins even further. However, group boards aren’t as powerful now as they once were. You can still use them, especially if you use just a few with just a few different pinners. But don’t rely as heavily on them. And make sure you pin valuable content to your individual boards as well.

Treat Likes More Like Pins

Also in some of the mobile apps, you’ll notice what appears to be a separate board that includes all of the pins you’ve liked on Pinterest. Before, users could still view the pins you liked on Pinterest, but they had to actually click on that part of your profile. Now, it shows up on your profile like the rest of your boards. So make sure that you’re okay with those pins appearing on your actual profile.

Share Genuinely Helpful Content

One thing that hasn’t changed about pinning on Pinterest is that users want to find and save valuable content. So the pins that you share should always be relevant and helpful to members of your target audience. If you take that into account, you’re more likely to get higher engagement on Pinterest. And that higher engagment can lead to even more reach on the platform.

Don’t Rely Completely on Pinterest Traffic

If anything, the Pinterest 2016 changes and changes or any other social platform serve as a reminder that you don’t have full control over how you’re able to reach people using those tools. Pinterest can be an incredibly useful tool for reaching certain audiences. But that doesn’t mean that you should only focus on Pinterest and discount every other marketing channel out there. Pinterest is likely to keep making changes to its platform – some of them will likely help your reach and some might hurt it. So be prepared by not focusing too heavily on any one platform, including Pinterest.

Do you have any additional tips for pinning on Pinterest?  Please share in comments!

Pinterest Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “12 Tips for Pinning on Pinterest After the New 2016 Changes” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Migrant Arrivals by Sea in Europe Top 204,000 in 2016

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

An estimated 204,311 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through May 30, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. The International organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Tuesday. 

This compared with 91,860 migrants and refugees who arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean in the first five months of last year. 

The number of estimated deaths at sea increased by 34%, reaching 2,443 on all known migrant routes in 2016 through May 30, IOM said in a statement. 

“The past eight days marks one of the deadliest periods yet in the migration crisis, which is now in its fourth year,” the organization said in a statement, referring to at least 1,000 estimated deaths over this past week. 

“he increase in numbers of arrivals is attributable, in part, to better weather, and in part to the use of bigger wooden boats that can carry more people than the rubber boats usually used,” Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome, commented in the statement. 

“Smugglers put over 700 migrants in the wooden boats, whereas the rubber ones generally carry only 100 to 120 people. […] One accident can result in hundreds of fatalities.” 

Most of the asylum seekers who entered Europe by sea this year, arrived in Greece (156,364). Italy followed with 46,856 arrivals.

 

 

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