Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

FTC Labels This Online Business Opportunity a Scam

Monday, August 21st, 2017

FTC Takes Aim at Alleged Work at Home Scams

Small businesses have been moving to the web for quite some time now. However, not all the online opportunities available are legitimate. In fact, one promising people thousands of dollars working from home has been slapped with a temporary restraining order by a federal court.

Alleged Work at Home Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested the action alleging defendants named in  the action lured people into buying an online system by making false promises. The FTC claims the company operated under several brand names including Work At Home EDU, Work at Home Institute and others. The company claimed people could make hundreds of dollars hourly without any experience or skills.

It’s further alleged the defendants used what’s called “native” advertising essentially placing their promotional content beside more information pieces.  It was a strategy designed to lure consumers who were searching the Internet for legitimate at home work opportunities.

In one situation, a link was placed for Work At Home EDU beside a Forbes.com article.

Bobby J. Robinson, Michael Sirois, Bob Robinson LLC, Mega Export 2005 Inc., Mega Export USA Inc. and Netcore Solutions LLC have been charged with violating the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule and the FTC Act.

The FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule requires businesses to make disclosures so consumers can gauge how credible an offer is. The Rule also makes it mandatory for these offers to substantiate earnings claims.  The next step is an evidentiary hearing on August 24.

FTC Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “FTC Labels This Online Business Opportunity a Scam” was first published on Small Business Trends

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20 Cash Handling Best Practices Your Business Should Follow

Monday, August 21st, 2017

20 Cash Handling Best Practices Your Business Should Follow

Small businesses that deal in cash like food trucks and salons need to protect themselves against errors involving cash and theft. Here’s 20 cash handling best practices your business should follow so everything runs smoothly.

Cash Handling Best Practices

Eliminate Slush Funds

Cashiers in small retail stores are often expected to make up for shortages from their own pockets. This can lead to an employee slush fund to pool resources. It’s generally a bad idea that can hide the real reason the drawer goes short. If you use one of these, get rid of it.

Be Strict About Differences

A few dollars short here and there might not seem like a big deal at first in a small diner  that has a good lunch crowd. However, ignore discrepancies and you might be glossing over a bigger issue. Recording all losses and overages helps to uncover anything deliberate.

Standardize a Process

Everyone needs to be on the same page when staff is handling cash on your small fleet of food trucks. Putting together a one-size-fits-all set of rules takes the guesswork out of handling cash for employees that work autonomously.   

Know the IRS Obligations

You need to know what the government expects as far as cash transactions go.  There’s no way around performing your due diligence. For example, large cash payments over $10,000 need to be handled a certain way. If you’re in doubt, check with the IRS or your accountant.

Have a Petty Cash Account

Having some petty cash on hand to make change for customers in your laundromat makes for a great competitive advantage. Opening a business checking account to fund one keeps your bookkeeping above board.

Issue Invoices

It’s not a problem when regular clients want to pay in cash at your nail salon. You only need to issue them an invoice.

Don’t Mix Up Accounts

All the cash your business handles needs be recorded and stored separately and proper bookkeeping procedures need to be followed. For example, never take some customer cash payments to replenish petty cash.

Have a Schedule for Handling Cash

If you run a small retail outlet in the local mall, your days might be hectic. Depositing, counting and balancing your cash should follow a strict schedule. Work that routine around your busy times of day.

Have Upper Limits

Avoiding theft and lost monies is also about keeping a limit on how much you keep in the registers and on hand. Keeping this simple means having an upper ceiling on how much you have on site. 

Invest in Cash Technology

Smart safes make the job of handling cash more efficient. These track cash transactions and can even schedule pickups.  Counterfeit detection technology is another must have for cash businesses like smaller restaurants.

Limit the Employees Who Handle Cash

Effective cash management starts with assigning the responsibilities to supervisors. They should be responsible for reviewing transactions and other duties like recording receipts.

Don’t Share Cash Drawers

Mistakes happen in restaurants and retail stores  when people share a common cash drawer. It might be convenient in a restaurant to have a waiter cover someone who is on break, but there’s a lack of accountability there. Everyone should have their own assigned  cash drawer.

Don’t Round Numbers Off

It’s called dollars and cents for a reason. David S. Peters is an expert on the subject in the restaurant world. He says rounding off the nightly deposit by leaving coins out can only lead to accounting headaches down the road. Don’t try and save time by avoiding loose change.  

Use Accounting Technology

Using the latest technology can help you manage the cash for your hardware store.  Don’t assume the big names in accounting software only cater to the big box stores in your field. For example, QuickBooks makes setting up a petty cash account easy.

Tweak the Process Continually

You should always have an eye to improving your cash handling systems. That includes changing the responsibilities you assign to employees as you see fit.

Concentrate on Counting

You might even be a sole proprietor on a busy food truck. If you’re handling cash transactions, you need to concentrate. If you get interrupted, always start over again from the beginning when counting.

Always be Consistent

When you‘re counting the money yourself, you need to do it the same way everytime to avoid mistakes. Coins first and then bills going from lowest to highest denominations is one template.

Use a Deposit Template

Texas A&M University suggests a best practice for preparing a cash deposit. Only one currency per bundle with all the bills facing up. Don’t use paperclips. A rubber band is the best way to hold bills together.

Keep Duties Separate

Checks and balances are important when your small business is handling lots of cash. The people who handle the money should be different than those responsible for book keeping.

Count in Private

Security is always a number one concern for a small business that owns vending machines. Only count money when you’re away from the public or employees. If you store your cash in a safe, change the combination regularly.

Cash Register Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “20 Cash Handling Best Practices Your Business Should Follow” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Warning! Increased Immigration Enforcement Puts Your Business at Risk

Monday, August 21st, 2017

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Warning! Increased Immigration Enforcement Puts Your Business at Risk

Increased immigration enforcement is now a hallmark of the administration in Washington. In the first 100 days following the Trump inauguration, immigration arrests by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increased by almost 40 percent compared to 2016. In addition, the administration is adding 10,000 new agents to ICE.

With stepped-up enforcement like this, employers should prepare for a surge in ICE audits and immigration investigations.

Now is a good time to double check policies to ensure your company is complying with I-9 recordkeeping requirements. It’s also more important than ever to stay up to date on changes in immigration employment law.

If you don’t, the impact could be major. Even seemingly minor recordkeeping errors could have expensive consequences including fines, business disruption or worse.

Here are three things you should do to protect your business:

1. Use the New I-9 Form Starting September 18

Are you aware that all employers are required to have employees complete and sign I-9 forms upon hire? It’s been the law for decades. It’s a requirement whether employees were born in the United States.

Here’s what’s changed. On July 17, 2017, a new I-9 form was issued. It is mandatory for all employers to use the new Form I-9 beginning September 18, 2017, or face possible fines for using an outdated form.

On September 18, you will need to start using the I-9 form with a revision date of 7/17/2017.

So how do you stay up to date to ensure you’re using the correct I-9 forms in your onboarding process? An easy way is to use the HRdirect I-9 and W-4 Smart App.

2. Do a Compliance Self-Audit

Despite best intentions, it’s all too easy for companies to get tripped up on their I-9 recordkeeping for current and past employees — with expensive consequences.

Fines doubled in the past year. Fines for recordkeeping infractions are now at $2,156 per violation. Fines jump to $4,313 for those who knowingly hiring undocumented workers. In the case of repeated offenses, penalties can exceed $20,000 and even include imprisonment.

By conducting an I-9 self-audit, you can act early enough to minimize or avoid serious consequences. An I-9 self-audit helps your company:

  • identify and fix mistakes,
  • eliminate records your company is no longer required to keep, and
  • ensure you are not inadvertently employing an undocumented worker.

The time to do an I-9 self-audit is before ICE is at your front door requesting records.

ComplyRight has a useful guide on how to conduct a self-audit. Get the free I-9 self-audit guide here.

3. Prepare in Advance for How to Respond to ICE Audits

Federal ICE investigators have the right to show up at a business unannounced with a Notice of Inspection to audit I-9 forms for current employees. Employers in sanctuary cities, and those in industries such as landscaping, hospitality and restaurants, may come under added scrutiny. It doesn’t matter how small the business — yours could be randomly chosen.

Even though ICE has the right to conduct an audit, there are things employers can do to limit the scope of any such action:

  • Keep I-9 documentation in one place, separate from other employee records.
  • Limit the records you provide to only what is required.
  • Do not consent to any search of nonpublic areas without a legal search warrant.
  • Don’t be pressured into waiving your permitted notice time. Usually businesses are entitled to three days’ notice.

Also, designate one employee to coordinate the company’s response to ICE audits. That employee should be thoroughly trained in advance, including when to seek legal advice.

By following best practices like these, an ICE audit can be kept to a minor business nuisance, rather than a major disruption with steep fines and other penalties.

In today’s environment, it’s more important than ever to take the right steps, like the three actions above. ComplyRight specializes in helping businesses of all sizes navigate the complexities of immigration employment compliance, and has many resources on its site that can help.

Image: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

This article, “Warning! Increased Immigration Enforcement Puts Your Business at Risk” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Monday, August 21st, 2017

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Craigslist is a huge digital classified service  ads with everything from personal to real estate ads. For some small businesses, Craigslist may be the only service used for hiring their employees. And for others, it is only one of the hiring tools they use.

When looking at the job ads in Craigslist, you quickly realize they run the gamut. Openings in accounting, biotech, customer service, general labor, transport and web development are just some of the jobs being offered. The size of the companies also range from large enterprises to small businesses and individuals.

What is Craigslist and Why Should You Place an Ad For Your Small Business?

Originally established by founder Craig Newmark between 1995 and 1996 as a way to connect with people with local events in the San Francisco area, the platform publishes more than 80 million new classified advertisements each month, gets more than 50 billion page views over that same period, and has a user base of over 60 million people each month in the US alone.

The biggest reason you should use Craigslist is the exposure and the price. While the number of views is impressive, the price for this type of exposure is affordable.

How Much Does it Cost?

All craigslist postings are free, except for some job postings and a few categories. The fee for job ads, which can range from $7 to $75, is based on location, .

The other categories in which fees are charged are: brokered apartment rentals in the New York City area; car and truck sales by-dealer in the US, and Vancouver BC; furniture by-dealer in the US and Vancouver; and therapeutic services in the US with different rates.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

To get started, first go to craigslist.org and create an account. This will make it easy to manage current and future job postings.

Go to your home page to  begin. Then select “New Posting In,” select the city in which you will recruiting and click Go.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

You are then led again to the log-in page. If you haven’t created an account, you can do so now.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

You will then be asked to select the city again with a reminder of limiting each posting to a single area and category, once per 48 hours.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

The next page lists categories. Select “job offered’ and click continue.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

On the new page select the category. In this case Cleveland, Ohio is chosen, and Craigslist charges $25. Click Continue when you are done.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

The next page will ask for the posting title for your job as well as other details. Take your time and fill out the information with as much detail as possible so you can get candidates that truly understand your needs. When it comes to contact information, select the Craigslist mail relay. This will ensure you don’t get spammed, and it will protect your identity until you find out more about the applicant. Click Continue and go to the next page.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Here you will see a map with the information you provided. If it is correct, click Continue.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

You can add up to 24 images as part of your ad. After you upload them, click done with images.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Before you click “Publish”, you can edit the post, images and location. The page also has the price and when the ad will expire. Once you approve all of the information, click Publish.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

The next page lets you know you will be receiving an email to finalize the ad. The email will have links to publish, edit, verify your email address, or even delete your ad.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Go to your email and open the link. It will look something like this.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

When you click the link, it will send you to another page with payment information so you can finalize your transaction. Click “Purchase” and you are done. When your payment information is accepted, your post is fully submitted.

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

How to Post a Job on Craigslist

Ten to 20 minutes after you submit a paid job posting, it will appear on index pages and in search results. The ad will stay on Craigslist for 30 days.

The Best Tip for Posting an Ad on Craigslist

When you post an ad for a job on Craigslist, you will get an overwhelming number of candidates. The best way to weed out the most qualified applicants is to create an auto-responder that sends them to a Google document or recruiting software, if possible.

Using Google Docs, you can create a pre-interview questionnaire. This will highlight the most qualified candidates, so you won’t be answering hundreds or even thousands of emails.

Craigslist Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Post a Job on Craigslist” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Spate of Struggling Brands Highlights the Need to Keep Evolving Your Small Business

Monday, August 21st, 2017

So far in 2017, more than 300 retailers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including RadioShack, Payless and The Limited. And other brands like General Mills are also struggling to remain relevant with consumers.

This isn’t exactly surprising. The retail industry has been reeling for years as some brands have been unable to adapt to major competition from online stores like Amazon.  A recent study found that 74 percent of small business websites have no ecommerce element to allow customers to make purchases online.

But as General Mills’ problems demonstrates, business struggles in 2017 aren’t just about the competition between online and traditional retail. Some businesses have to consider other changing trends, like the increasing importance of healthy food items. Brands like Campbell’s Soup have already learned that failing to adapt to this trend can lead to falling profits.

Evolving Your Small Business

Overall, there’s no magic solution for keeping your small business relevant as the world and your customers change around you. Whether failure to adopt the latest technologies or to change your product to meet modern tastes is at fault, it doesn’t matter. The only option is for companies to continually monitor and evaluate trends. This allows them to make small adjustments over time to keep up with consumer preferences. Businesses that fail to do so can’t hope to survive for very long.

Radio Shack Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Spate of Struggling Brands Highlights the Need to Keep Evolving Your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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24 Ways Amazon Alexa Skills Can Help Your Small Business Today

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Amazon Alexa for Small Businesses

Amazon’s Alexa has become the premiere platform consumers are using for this interaction. But businesses are also using it to improve their day to day operations and deliver better customer service.

Amazon Alexa for Small Businesses

Amazon is increasing the market share by making it easier to create skills for Alexa, which now stand at more than 15,000. These skills are created by developers and businesses, just like apps, to interact with Alexa to carry out a wide range of functions.

With so many skills, finding the best ones can be a job in itself. So it kind makes sense to start here so you can find what you are looking for. Skill Finder was created by Amazon to tell you about the newest and top skills in the Alexa catalog.

Finding Alexa Skills for These Tasks on Amazon

You can tell Alexa to list categories and find skills within them to suit your particular needs.

Here are 25 skills you can use with Alexa to make your business more efficient by just using your voice to perform tasks.

Email Management

Managing emails can be time consuming. The Astrobot skill lets you manage your Gmail or Office 365 email from your Amazon Echo. With this skill, Alexa can read, reply and manage your emails, as well as help you prioritize new ones.

Additional functions include delete, archive, quick replies and more.

Website Monitoring

With the Vigil website monitoring skill, you can ask Alexa to report on the status of your websites. As more small businesses add more sites, knowing they are up and running at all times will ensure your customers can access your services.

When a site is down, Vigil automatically sends a push notification so you can fix the problem.

Managing Schedules

Staying on top of your schedule when you have one too many things to do can get overwhelming. FreeBusy Scheduling Assistant uses Alexa to coordinate meetings so you never miss your appointments. You can check the availability of individuals using contacts and syncing with Microsoft Outlook and Office 365, Google Calendar, and iCloud.

Making Calls With Just a Name

The RingByName skill is a business phone service for making calls to any telephone number or extension using the person’s name. Alexa calls your phone number and connects to the number or person you want to talk to, including names in stored contacts.

Alexa is not used as a speakerphone, it just launches calls.

Finding Services

As a small business owner, you never know when you might need a plumber, electrician, handymen or any other service. The Intently.co skill brings together more than 1 million service providers. All you have to do is ask Alexa for a plumber, and it will connect you with qualified service providers in your location within minutes.

Managing Invoices

The Accounts Receivable Factoring skill uses Alexa to calculate factoring fees and tell you the amount you will get for your invoices. All you have to do is tell Alexa how much your invoice is for and what your factoring rate is.

The skill uses DSA Factors, which offers factoring rates between 2-5 percent.

Collecting Online Store Information

Shopify Alexa provides information on inventory, orders, and store performance summaries. As part of the Shopify ecosystem, this skill makes a wide range of data available at your fingertips by just saying what you need.

This includes, orders and sales reporting, list of products that need to be fulfilled, summary of best-selling products, breakdown of store visitors and much more.

Providing Reminders

The combination of Alexa and Remember The Milk, a proven reminder app is a marriage made in digital heaven. Using this skill, you can hear what is due on a particular date. You can also add tasks for meetings, pay invoices and other tasks you might forget because of your busy schedule.

You can also give tasks to the contacts on RememberTheMilk, such as reminding one of your employees to deliver something.

Tracking Packages

Whether you are sending or receiving packages, the Mail Haven Track Packages skill can track them. You will be able to ask Alexa the status of all undelivered packages, including the last update on the package to determine if it is in transit or already delivered.

You will need to connect to a Mail Haven account for the service.

Keeping Track of Business Travel

Small business owners usually make their own travel arrangements. The Expedia for Alexa skill provides information about the entire itinerary, make reservations and reminds you what to pack. This includes details about your upcoming trips, check your flight status, book you a rental car, and even check your loyalty points.

Amazon Alexa for Small Businesses

Managing Conferences

Audio and video conferences play a great role in today’s collaborative workforce environment. The Conference Manager skill from Vonage interfaces with Google Calendar to detect your next conference and dial it for you. By simply saying “start my call” to Alexa, it will extract the conference information, dial the bridge number, meeting number, participant code and make the call.

The platform supports WebEx, Goto Meeting, BlueJeans and Vonage Business conferencing solutions.

Connecting With Wunderlist

Wunderlist is popular task manager app, and Task Master is a skill linking it directly to the app. Once it is linked, you can access lists to add tasks, find out what is due, view your inbox and more.

Editing Documents

Being able to quickly revise a document without a computer can come in handy. With Edit Docs, you can edit or add to Google documents using Alexa. This includes for presentation, sheet, and document.

You have to have a Gmail account with Google Drive linked with Alexa to make this skill work. And you can start editing by telling Alexa to “open edit docs.”

Staying in Touch With Your Team

Where Edit Docs lets you make changes to documents without a computer, SoftServe’s VoiceMyBot does the same for staying in touch with your team. With a simple command to Alexa, this skill lets you listen to a user feed or a notification feed.

You can listen to recent messages and check on the status of projects.

Tracking Your Time

If you are a freelancer or contracted to work on a project, keeping track of the time you put in is important. With Work Time Tracker you can track tasks for work projects or units and also stop. You can then ask Alexa to give you the sum of all tracked work units, total time and reset all tracked work units.

Providing Business Intelligence

As small businesses increase their presence digitally, being able to monitor sales, unit sales, and best or worst sales with reports provides valuable information for making informed decisions. With SalesTalk, which combines customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) you can use Alexa to ask for these reports.

Managing HR

Described as a social all-in-one HR software that covers “Hire” to “Retire,” WebHR allows you to manage your workforce. The platform is the first fully automated HR tool in the cloud. And with Alexa, users can ask for who is present, absent, number of active employees as well as personal information, such as whose birthday it is today.

Keeping up With Google Analytics

Having a website for ecommerce means using analytics to measure different metrics. Unofficial Google Analytics links with your Google analytics account and lets you get the information by asking Alexa.

You can ask for the number of page views for a single day, between two dates and more.

Tracking Your Fleet

The Rhino Fleet Tracking skill can be used to ask for the locations of your vehicles and drivers. The questions can get more specific, such a drivers name, type of vehicle, who is at the office and more.

You have to sign in with your Rhino Fleet Tracking email and password to link Alexa.

Calculating Business Taxes

This is a skill every small business can use. Quickly and accurately calculating the total price, including sales tax by just asking Alexa can save you a lot of time. Sales Tax Calculator can do the job when you don’t have a calculator around, or you are tired of entering numbers all day.

Providing Digital Marketing Tips

Digital marketing can get complicated for a small business. Authentic Digital Marketing Tips provides actionable tips with daily advice from Authentic, a digital agency specializing in delivering valuable experiences.

Sending SMS Texts

Created by Convessa, Mastermind uses Alexa so you can send and read SMS text messages, make and answer phone calls, caller ID, find your phone, get notifications and launch apps on your mobile device and television.

This skill can be used for business and personal communications.

Using Slack With Alexa

Slack is a collaboration tool used by businesses of all sizes. The Alexa skill from PromptWorks called Chat Bot for Slack is not created, affiliated with, or supported by Slack Technologies, Inc. However, you can link Alexa to your Slack account and post messages to communicate with your team.

Adding Events to Google Calendar

QuickEvents optimizes Google Calendar by letting you use Alexa to add events. This skill first checks for conflicting event, which it then follows by asking for a confirmation before adding an event.

If you don’t provide all the information it needs, Alexa will ask you for it, such as “For what day should I schedule the event?” and “At what time should I schedule the event?”

What is the Downside of Using Alexa?

Amazon is doing all the right things to create a platform in which developers can easily create skills. This of course has led to a dramatic rise of available skills for consumers and businesses. The downside of using Alexa for businesses at this very moment is the technology is going through some growing pains. And for businesses, they can ill afford to have system in place that can be prone mistakes, no matter how few they are.

However, as Alexa gets smarter and the infrastructure behind it improves, it will be as ubiquitous as a PC, smartphone or another office equipment.

Alexa in the Office Photo via Shutterstock
Alexa Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “24 Ways Amazon Alexa Skills Can Help Your Small Business Today” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What Can This Brooklyn Mompreneur Teach You in Your Startup Journey?

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Annie Bruce has created a small business selling a really unique type of item — unicorn horns. The Brooklyn mom first started selling her creations on Etsy as a way to make money while still spending time with her daughter. But it soon blossomed into a full retail and ecommerce business, Brooklyn Owl, selling unicorn horns and other unicorn themed products for kids.

Small Business Startup Tips

But Bruce’s story isn’t just about unicorns. It also provides some important lessons that other small business startups can learn from. Here are five key takeaways.

Draw Inspiration from Everyday Life

Bruce got the inspiration for her product line from her daughter, a big fan of unicorns. When you observe the world around you and consider the needs and wants of specific people, you can be sure to create products that have a lot of potential.

Have More Than Money as a Goal

Since Bruce started the business with the goal of spending more time with family, she wasn’t solely focused on the bottom line. This allowed her the freedom to really be creative and grow only as it made sense.

Choose an Opportunity that Suits Your Talents

When identifying a new business opportunity, it makes sense for you to choose one that utilizes your existing talents. Bruce was able to sew and handcraft items. So this business aligned with her skills perfectly.

Be Open to Multiple Opportunities

There isn’t one right way to start a business. Bruce started hers on Etsy but was also open to starting a physical retail store. She still keeps the Etsy store open though, since different customers have different preferences.

Create a Unique Experience for Customers

A visit to Brooklyn Owl isn’t just about picking out a product and heading out the door. Bruce and her team have created a whole experience so that the visit is just as magical as the unicorn themed products.

Image: Brooklyn Owl

This article, “What Can This Brooklyn Mompreneur Teach You in Your Startup Journey?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Small Business Marketers May Rethink Snapchat Despite AR Dancing Hot Dog

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Is the Dancing Hot Dog on Snapchat its Savior?

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel reportedly touted his company’s purported success Thursday during the company’s second-ever investor call by highlighting, among other things, the “dancing hot dog.”

The rest of the company’s numbers, like overall growth and earnings, is rather bleak, according to Gizmodo, perhaps a telling reason why Spiegel felt it necessary to cite the dancing hot dog.

Dancing Hot Dog on Snapchat

The boogieing symbol of Americana, donning headphones and accompanied by mustard and ketchup, is a relatively new feature for the social media platform. Spiegel said it has been used or viewed more than 1.5 billion times inside the app.

The artificial hot dog is part of the business’s growing augmented reality features, which overlays virtual objects over the real life environment. (Think Pok?mon Go, where fictional creatures appear next to a park bench, for example, while looking through a computerized screen).

$SNAP says this dancing hot dog has been viewed 1.5B+ times. pic.twitter.com/E9mSyGkSkr

— Squawk on the Street (@SquawkStreet) August 11, 2017

“Our dancing hot dog is likely the world’s very first augmented reality superstar,” Spiegel said during a webcast with investors, Gizmodo reports.

While the company’s statistics aren’t very promising, it still has 166 million daily users, as of May 2017, according to TechCrunch. Many investors at the time sold their stock with haste after hearing of the slow growth, which was only up 6 million users from the previous quarter.

After the most recent reports of meager earnings, the stock hit its lowest points since the company went public in March, The Washington Post reports. Spiegel’s personal net worth has dropped due to his innately major stake in the company, going from roughly $4 billion around the time of the IPO (initial public offering) to roughly $3 billion early afternoon Friday, according to Forbes.

A fair amount of investors and analysts were initially cold on Snapchat’s IPO, arguing that its valuation was too high.

Snapchat did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Image: Gray Background Photo via Shutterstock
Image: Oscar Mayer and Texas Motor Speedway

This article, “Small Business Marketers May Rethink Snapchat Despite AR Dancing Hot Dog” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Comment Threads on Instagram Could Bring More Engagement for Your Brand

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Instagram Comment Threads Organize Conversations

Facebook owns Instagram, so the addition of Facebook-like features shouldn’t come as a surprise. Comment threads are the latest such addition, and is aimed at boosting conversation on Instagram by organizing comments into threads.

Instagram Comment Threads

On Facebook, the feature encourages users to engage with a particular post. The more they engage, the more attention the post grabs for its channel, brand or business.

For small businesses looking to increase their social media presence on Instagram, comment threads can increase the participation level of customers and visitors and keep track of it too.

In the official Instagram post introducing the new feature, the company explains “Comment threads help you keep track of conversations and make it easy to respond to a specific thread. This update will make your feed an even better place to share interests, get inspired and connect with others.”

By just hitting reply under any comment, the response will be automatically grouped in a thread. And by making comments more readable, it is easier for users to reply on a post they like.

The update is rolling out through Instagram version 24 on iOS and Android in the App Store and Google Play. But global availability is going to take place in the coming weeks.

Instagram Grows With Upgrades

In April of 2017, Instagram reached 700 million monthly users. This growth is being driven with timely upgrades of the platform. With the most popular one being Stories, a feature made famous by Snapchat. And unlike Snapchat which is having a hard time attracting users currently, Instagram has 250 million people using the feature every day.

Instagram has also moved to the forefront as a tool for influencer marketing. This kind of marketing alone is now a million dollar industry on the channel  For small businesses, influencer marketing can be a great way to engage consumers. And depending on the influencer, hiring them may by affordable.

Local influencers with 5, 10, 15, 20 thousand or more followers are very accessible for small businesses.

Image: Instagram

This article, “Comment Threads on Instagram Could Bring More Engagement for Your Brand” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What is a Brand Ambassador?

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

What is a Brand Ambassador?

What is a Brand Ambassador?

A brand ambassador is a person who promotes a small businesses’ goods and services.  They increase sales for small businesses by boosting brand awareness. They can either be people you hire, people you recruit or people who sign on voluntarily.

What Kinds are Available?

There are several different kinds of brand ambassadors that you can choose from.  Some small business owners prefer to be their own brand ambassadors while others hire professionals. More and more they are becoming unpaid customers and other connections like bloggers. These people are happy to spread the word after trying the product.

What, Exactly, Do They Do?

A brand ambassador’s job looks simple but there’s more to it than meets the eye.  Although paid and unpaid brand ambassadors all work to build a good company image by interacting with clients, the paid ones have other responsibilities as well. For example, they are often in charge of developing marketing ideas and gathering useful feedback from clients. These brand ambassadors are employees and attend meetings.

Some unpaid online brand ambassadors post about your goods and services. Some attend trade shows and other events to promote products.

Keep in mind a good brand ambassador will appeal to a specific target market. Some companies make the mistake of trying to select an ambassador who will appeal to as many people as possible. In the end, they wind up losing business because they haven’t narrowed their focus to a particular group.

Where Can Small Businesses Find Brand Ambassadors?

There are several places for small businesses to look for brand ambassadors. They can use students and their connections to promote their goods and services assuming their products are aimed at this demographic. Small businesses can use bloggers and other digital influencers as affiliate marketers. Brands can also use celebrities with massive internet followings — though these kinds of ambassadors tend to be priced out of range of all but big corporations. Finally, small business owners can look for influence marketers who happen to have a smaller but substantial following among their potential target customers.

Companies can also simply hire a brand ambassador like a regular employee but here the key is to identify the right candidate through the interview process with the right expertise and industry connections to do the job effectively.

How Do Small Businesses Measure Brand Ambassador’s Effectiveness?

There are a few ways for a small business to measure how effective one of these brand ambassadors are. Gauging your brand ambassador’s effectiveness is about gauging some key metrics. One of the most important is how many people actually view their posts and engage with their content.

Another is to look at sales numbers before and after your brand ambassador came aboard and determine whether those sales are occurring in the segments of your market your brand ambassador was intended to target.

What are the Advantages to Hiring a Brand Ambassador?

It’s a Great Way to Humanize your Brand

When you pick the right one, a brand ambassador brings a media following and a solid reputation. He or she offers your brand online word of mouth and puts a face to your product or service that drives sales.

They Provide a Larger Social Reach that’s Positive

A recent Hootsuite blog points out what happens if you get number of brand ambassadors working with you to spread a positive message about your brand. If they each have 12,000 followers and you land 12 brand ambassadors, you increase your reach by 144,000 prospects.

What are the Disadvantages?

They Aren’t Always Easy to Controlled

If they’re not an employee, small businesses really don’t have complete control over brand ambassadors. It’s always a leap of faith to place your trust in someone else when it comes to your brand.

They can Become bigger than Your Product

A famous brand ambassador or one that’s got a huge online following can dwarf your brand. This is especially true when they become involved in a scandal.

Ambassador Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is a Brand Ambassador?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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