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5 Free Tools All Small Businesses Should be Using

"Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful." Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer of Amazon As a small business owner, your ability to be resourceful is one of your greatest assets.  No doubt, since you’re a multi-tasking maniac, you have the challenges of organization, task management, and communication with staff and customers. The world has gone digital, and to help you determine some resourceful ways to capitalize on this, here’s an overview of several free (or nearly free) tools you should be using to grow your business – and help yourself become even more resourceful. Slack Touting itself as “Team Communication for the 21st Century,” Slack is a common workspace for small to medium sized teams.  On Slack, you can create channels, which people can follow, utilize direct messages, and take messages live with either video or voice calls. The free level is respectfully powerful and provides storage of up to 10,000 messages, 5GB file storage, and unlimited users for your team.  Slack runs on your PC, Mac or on your handheld iOS or Android device – all synched and always up-to-date. It’s messaging plus more. Wunderlist For the list maker in all of us, Wunderlist is the perfect tool to keep you organized.  You can create folders to categorize your lists. For example, I keep a business folder, a home folder, and a volunteering folder. Features that I love include: The ability to send an email to Wunderlist and turn it into a to-do item. Sharing lists – I can share lists with colleagues, family or friends. It integrates with Outlook, Slack, and Dropbox. Available for free on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web, Wunderlist works seamlessly across all major devices to keep your life in sync. DropBox If you’re always on the run, and need to be able to access your files from anywhere. Or, if you enjoy peace of mind knowing that your files are living in a “safe place,” you should use some type of cloud-based storage.  The most seamless is Dropbox, acting as part of your file structure, it allows you to barely notice that you’re connecting to an offsite location. You can access all files, videos, photos, and anything you store on your computer from any other Dropbox login, either via browser or the mobile app.  Accidentally drop your laptop and need a new one? No problem.  When you boot up a new computer, install Dropbox and login, your files will automatically map to your computer. Disaster averted. Also, sharing files via Dropbox is very easy.  Invite your colleagues or customers to any folder in your Dropbox, and it'll be as if that folder is saved directly on their computer. HOT!Content™ by Engage121 Building and growing your social presence is expected in this century. One of the best practices to build a following that is engaged is to post interesting and informative content that is relevant to your industry. But where can you get that content? This free daily services provides thought-provoking articles, intriguing images [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Uncategorized|

Facebook Metrics: Keeping Score With Social Media Results

If you’re managing social media for your business, you’ve noticed that there are tons of Facebook metrics to decipher. In the past, measuring the success of marketing campaigns was a bit like watching baseball – not really that interesting if you don’t know how to keep score. Thanks to social media, the game has changed for the better. If you’re not a “numbers” person, this could be overwhelming, but the great news is that once you’ve learned some key terms, and understand what you’re looking at, you’ll love to track your efforts. To measure success, it’s important to periodically stop and look at metrics to confirm that the train is still on the track. Here is an overview of some of the various Facebook activity reports. Facebook Weekly Page Update If you manage a Facebook page for your business you receive a weekly email entitled “Your weekly Page update.”  This summary provides you with some solid basic information, about your general page activity, some of which may be driven from paid ads or promotions you ran.   Page Visits – This is the actual number of times a user has directly visited your Facebook page. Total Weekly Reach – Reach refers to the number of people who have had any exposure to various activity from your page, including seeing shared content, Facebook Ads, or promoted posts. People Engaged – This is how many people clicked, liked, commented, or shared your content. Message Response Rate – This is the actual percentage of messages to which you’ve responded, via the direct message feature on your page. Message Response Time – The average amount of time it takes you to respond to direct messages on your page. The far-right column provides a percentage change for the week; green indicating an increase in activity and red indicating a decrease over last week’s numbers. Facebook Insights An in-depth review of your page performance, including advertising results, can be found across the top of your page; it’s called Insights. This article covers metrics as they are listed at the time of this article, March 2017. Overview – This is an overview of key actions on your page for a selected date range. Promotions – This tab provides statistics on any recent paid promotions, boosts or ads.  To see more ads or to see more detail, near the bottom, you’ll see a prompt that says, “Go to Ads Manager.”  If you click there, you will have access to nearly every fathomable statistic regarding paid Facebook ads. Likes – This view allows you to see total likes, unlikes, net new likes, etc. over any period. Don’t be frustrated by unlikes, unless it’s a staggering number. Organic likes are people who liked your page for any other reason than a Facebook Ad campaign. Reach – The total number of people on whose feed you appeared, for any reason. Facebook explains, “The number of people your posts were served to.” This is a combination of fans and non-fans (potentials). Page [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 March 29th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Social Media Success: Meet Curves Social Media Star – Kelly Keeler

Social Media Success in Action Meet somebody who challenged the status quo – and benefited from the result. Kelly Keeler, the owner of Curves in Morrisburg, Ontario, had grown frustrated with the expensive and ineffective distribution of flyers to bulletin boards, front door ads, ad bags, newspapers, and just about any other form of print media that approached her in this “tough to reach” rural area. When Brian from Engage121 called her in November 2016, she was ready for something entirely new. Curious about the proposition of social media advertising, Kelly started with a small ad - $30 US. People started calling and dropping by, and most importantly, registering! Kelly decided to run another ad, spending another $50. The money was well spent, as she registered 22 new members in her first two months of advertising, “which is FANTASTIC,” Kelly writes. “I have not seen this much traffic in a very long time.” Kelly encourages fellow small business owners to jump in to social media and Facebook ads. “Engage121 helped me take the step into social media advertising.  This is the first thing that has worked for me in a long time. I’m so happy I’m learning how to utilize this service!” Kelly is a veteran franchisee, owning her Curves location for almost 10 years. This dynamo also runs a tanning salon. When not running between her two businesses, you can catch her making beautiful glass art. Join Kelly by getting started with free HOT!Content™, - daily hand-picked, professionally-curated content to build your online social platforms!  If you're already receiving HOT!Content, but would like to learn more about paid social media ads, send us a note, we'd be happy to help you.

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 March 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|

10 Cheap or Free Ways to Market Your Small Business

If you are like most small business operators, looking for cheap or free ways to market your small business is an ongoing chore. Here’s a little motivation to get you thinking.  Small dollar doesn’t always have to equal small results. Know your competition Regardless of how “niche” you are, somebody is your competitor.  If you’re a specialty kids’ education center, there is likely a similar business the street positioned to sell a little differently.  What makes you unique and what do you think isn’t currently being offered to your market? Slight adjustments in packaging, pricing, or business hours, may separate you from the competition. Cross promote with area local businesses Look for other area local businesses and figure out ways that you can benefit from supporting one another.  Do you provide fun events for kids?  Maybe there is a business that is selling fun events for parents – and they could benefit from putting together an “date night” package – drop the kids at one place and enjoy yourselves down the street for one price. Keep in mind, the benefit must work both ways, with both organizations benefitting from the relationship. This can be very successful if you can find businesses nearby who provide a completely different product than you do, but to a very similar target customer. Have a Facebook Page This seems basic, but pageless businesses are more common than you think. Whether you are a substantial local retailer or an independent agent of any kind, your business page should be alive and flying on Facebook. According to AdWeek: 81% of shoppers research products online before purchase 61% read product reviews prior to buying Facebook business pages give you great ways to provide much of this information to prospective customers, often from the mouth of your current customers – which can be very powerful. Post Interesting Info The quirky thing about social media is that an inactive social media presence can be a frightening place.  Having a channel or an account won’t cut it.  You must make that channel active. Otherwise, the pages will feel like abandoned cemeteries. Your social media presence should feel warm, inclusive, and inviting. The other challenge is that you need to post things that are actually interesting to your readers. You cannot only promote your business.  That would be equivalent to a TV channel that only aired commercials. You should post information about your industry, educational content, behind the scenes information, and then include information about your products and services. If you haven’t already taken advantage of our free daily HOT!Content™, tailored by industry, get yours now. Get free HOT!Content for your channels Ask for reviews Since we know that shoppers are conducting more and more online research prior to purchasing, you’ve got to have some good reviews that are prominent online. Next time a customer raves about your business, ask if that person would be willing to write that down as a Facebook or a Yelp review. Use photos We all know [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 March 2nd, 2017|Uncategorized|

Stellar Facebook Pages of Two Small Businesses: What You Can Learn

We love when we spot "customers being super" with social media. So, let’s take a few minutes to celebrate excellent social media efforts of a few who are unique. Plato’s Closet in Chicago https://www.facebook.com/platosclosetchitown/ First up is a Chicago presence of the hip resale franchise. Downright picky about what they’ll purchase to resell, their groovy vibe makes us all want to buy used clothes, especially with their impressive social media presence. A TON OF FANS Three locations in Chicago team up behind one Facebook business page. Together, these stores have garnered over 10,000 fans, an impressive number for any small business. Learn more about how to get more fans here. VIDEO COMMERCIAL When you land at their Facebook page, the first thing you notice is a prominent “Watch Video” button.  Clicking the button launches an educational video that explains how it works to sell your clothes to them. PRODUCT IS FRONT AND CENTER Plato’s Closet in Chicago also does a spectacular job of putting their products on their stream. Why pay for stock photos when you can use photos of items right under your nose? CONTENT MIX The mix of content is interesting, informative and educational.  Their topics include being beautiful & healthy, seasonal trends, and notes from the staff – all topics which they believe their target customer finds interesting.   INSTAGRAM CONNECTION To make their life a little easier, they’ve also linked up their Instagram account to post automatically to their Facebook page -leaving no post unposted! TO DO FOR YOU Continue to work on building fans. (Request a complimentary help session here.) Use your camera to build photography of your product. Simple is acceptable. Mix up your content. If you haven’t subscribed to free HOT!Content™, that sends you daily free content for your industry to share, get it here. Connect other social channels if you can. FASTSIGNS (Rochester, MN) https://www.facebook.com/FASTSIGNS2078/ If clothing sales is not up your alley, check out FASTSIGNS in Rochester, MN, who sells primarily to small businesses. BEHIND THE SCENES These gentlemen make the sign business seem fun.  The first video that I came across was a short 10-second video showing how you can be a little “creative” when making signs for sign spinners.   REVIEWS This business has some very nice Facebook reviews. The wonderful thing about Facebook reviews is that since you can see who posted the review, these reviews present a more authentic feel to your visitors, than reviews that you report about your own business. GET IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA It may be uncomfortable at first, but put your own smiling face in front of that camera. Remember, people ultimately do business with people. Make yourself familiar and welcoming by not being camera-shy. Here is a great example. SHOW OFF YOUR CUSTOMERS Nothing illustrates your success, like the success of your customers.  Who can you show off on your Facebook page? TO DO FOR YOU Think of things that are unique to your business that readers may enjoy knowing. Ask customers for reviews. Get into [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 February 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Two Must-Have Small Business Social Media Strategies

Help yourself by simplifying your small business social media. You signed up to run a business and didn’t realize you’d also be the person in charge of your small business social media strategy. Independent stores of large franchise brands, as well as mom & pop businesses, face this same challenge. When creating your small business social media strategy, there are many ways to approach it. What’s important is that you design a plan to which you can commit and that you can measure.  Understanding your small business social media approach will help you decide later whether you were successful. A simple and easy to measure approach is to manage your social media with one of two key goals: Community Building Business Building Get a complimentary social media help session. Small Business Social Media Strategy:  Community Building Community Building is the creation of a digital presence – a place to be found – a place where your customers and prospective customers can stay up-to-date with what’s going on at your business. In doing this, you create an engaging digital “place,” from which you can cultivate your marketplace – for both customers and prospective customers.  You’re creating, “Hey, the water is warm, get in!” Social media is uniquely positioned to do this, simply because of the nature of it.  It’s a channel of communication that people have come to prefer, in general. It provides a much more immediate and low-friction channel than the previous years of: Writing a letter Making a phone call Sending a carrier pigeon People can ask a question, comment, share, or even review your business, without a lot of effort.  Over the holidays, more than once I wondered about the hours of a nearby business. Rather than going to their webpage, which isn’t quite as “real time” as social media, I went to their Facebook page to ensure that they were open. There are several components to community building. Some include: Being on social media in the first place. Posting regularly. Sharing useful information on your social channels. Targeted advertising – the goal of which is to grow your social community. Responding to posts on your wall, comments, messages, reviews, etc. If you read our blog regularly, you know that we strongly suggest mixing up the type of content that you share on your social pages. This is what creates the “ambiance” of your social presence.  Think about how you respond to people with the following behavior on social media (and we’ll compare that to a business.) Friend A - Every single post is self-promotional. Always trying to get you to do business with him or participate in their current scheme. No one wants that filling up their newsfeed and no one engages with it. Maybe you just ask Facebook to “hide” that post, but maybe it prompts you to “unfollow” them or “unfriend” them completely. Friend B - Posts interesting, informative or entertaining posts, and periodically mixes in a post about what they’re currently working on.  People often share, [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 February 7th, 2017|Uncategorized|

[Interview] Small Business Social: The Frequent Questions

This video is an interview with EVP of Local Social, Brian Q. Smith, and he answers the most common small business social media questions. This interview covers: • Will social media help me grow my business? • What social platform is right for me? • How often should I post and what should I post? • Where do I get content? Transcript first 10 minutes - formatted for easy reading. We have a lot of questions that seem to come up again and again and we thought would be helpful to hop on the phone with our EVP of Local Social, Brian Q. Smith, to give us some of the answers to questions that seem to come up from small business owners and operators. Will social media work for me? Most people running a business feel like they don't have time to commit to more “to do” items. What would you tell them? Social media success essentially means that you are able to build a community of individuals that have mutual interest and are interested and engaged with your product or service. In this day and age, you should think of your social presence (regardless of platform), as your face to the world – your calling card. In fact, it will be one of the first things that people will find when they research you - before they even reach out to you. Roughly eighty-three percent of all online users today will research your social media presence before they communicate with you directly. So social will work for you if you can create a robust presence, which includes a good number of followers, and that those are individuals in your target market, based on geography, age, education, or interests and other demographics. You’ll want those individuals to be engaging, watching your posts, commenting, liking, etc. So social does work, but you have to devote a little bit of time and effort to do it. Which social media platforms will work best for my business? The platform the platforms you want to focus on are the ones that are most appropriate for your target audience. For example, if you own a business in children's services such as educational testing, tutoring childcare, etc., you want to make sure that you focus on social pages that are appropriate for that audience. Likewise, you might be in retail or real estate or health and wellness. You need to think about where your buyers are on social. The “big four” to consider are: • Facebook business page • Twitter • LinkedIn page • Google+ (mostly to support your search engine optimization) Other possible sites include: • Pinterest • Instagram Do I need to have a business Facebook page, or can I just use my personal profile? The Facebook business page was designed to enable you to promote your business, to have a face to your online audience. There are distinctions between a personal Facebook profile and a business Facebook page. Your personal Facebook profile is designed [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 January 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Can I Use My Personal Facebook Profile For My Business?

Business owners and independent sales professionals often ask us, “Can I use my personal Facebook profile for my business?”  Business Facebook pages have functionality that was built specifically to help you grow a fan base and to efficiently and cost-effectively advertise your company. Why to Not Use Your Personal Facebook Profile for Business You need a business page for Facebook.  I know.  It sounds like another thing on the small business person’s never-ending list of “things to do.”  But before we get into some of the drastic differences, maybe not apparent at first glance, let’s talk about a couple of basics. It’s a Facebook Violation It’s a violation of the Facebook Terms to use your personal account to represent something other than yourself (ex: your business), and you could permanently lose access to your account if you don't convert it to a Business Page. Do You Really Want Business Friends? Facebook is a place to be social with “friends.” Do you really want prospects and clients knowing about your holiday celebrations, kids’ first day of school, or that you enjoyed the rock concert last night? A Test: Would You Like Your Own TV Channel? How would you respond if I told you that I’m going to give you your own radio or television station, completely dedicated to your business?  Would you shrug your figurative shoulders and say, “Nah.  I don’t have time to talk to people who want to watch my channel. I already have my own world where I talk to everybody I know.” Sounds a little… unenlightened, doesn’t it? Of course, you wouldn’t respond that way.  Because the prospect of a radio or TV channel would mean that people you don’t know would be watching and learning about your offers! You’d be crazy to pass that up, right? New prospects. New leads. New business. A Facebook page for your business is essentially a new channel to reach not only existing customers, but also prospective customers. And to allow them to tell each other how great your business is. And it’s free. Sound more appealing now? Benefits of a Business Facebook Page Here are some differences you may not realize between a personal Facebook profile and a business Facebook page that   will help you grow your business. Unlimited fans: Personal profiles have a friend count limit of 5,000. Business pages are unlimited. 5,000 may sound like a lot now, but think about several years down the road. Professionalism: Frankly, it looks sloppy to not have your Facebook presence set up as a Page.  And, think about the “creepiness factor” if you sent a “friend request” from your business.  Your fans should have the ability to LIKE your page without requesting a friendship. Easily get found: Facebook has excellent search engine optimization. Your business Facebook page, therefore, will capitalize on this and will be more easily found via Internet searches. Additionally, people must login to see a personal profile, but not a business page. A Facebook business page is built to “get found.” [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|

How to Promote Content on Facebook

Get the most out of your content by promoting the free content you receive from HOT!Content. Social media marketing starts with posting articles that are interesting, entertaining and informative. Engage121's HOT!Content is a great source. And it's free! But did you know that Facebook estimates that only 5% of your community ever sees the articles you post? That's because social media is an advertising medium, no different than your local newspaper or radio. To engage and grow your social media community, you need to make sure that your posts are seen by both current and new community members. That means advertising your content, or what social media pros call, "Promoting your posts." Engage121's HOT!Content makes promoting posts as easy as 1 - 2 - 3.    

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 December 7th, 2016|Uncategorized|

What is Local Social Media Marketing and Why Should You Care?

Local social media marketing is the science of building a community of social media followers that are a demographic fit with your best customers and live or work within the geographic reach of your business. So, if your best customer is a 40 – 50 year old woman interested in cooking who owns a dog, you can reach her directly. Inexpensively you can build a relationship and more efficiently promote offers, specials, recruit new staff, or develop her interest in your business. Your goal?  Turn these “new friends” into community followers and then into customers. If you sell locally, local social media marketing should be on your radar. These are your people. People develop a preference for things, simply because we are familiar with them.  This is called the mere-exposure effect. Wikipedia explains: The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. In social psychology, this effect is sometimes called the familiarity principle. The effect has been demonstrated with many kinds of things, including words, Chinese characters, paintings, pictures of faces, geometric figures, and sounds. In studies of interpersonal attraction, the more often a person is seen by someone, the more pleasing and likable that person appears to be. So, let’s see how to use this to grow your business. Local Social Media Marketing Step 1:  Grow a community Start with identifying your target persona. Focusing on your ideal purchaser will make you exponentially more effective.   Our blog entry How to Crush Your Competition Using a Buyer Persona Template covers this in detail. For our fitness center, let’s use the profile we created in the article above. We’re selling to Danielle, and her husband is named Chris. You can read more about her here. There is a three-pronged approach to getting more “Danielles”  to follow you and grow your social community. Post the type of content that is interesting and informative to Danielle. (Get your free HOT!Content here.) Promote (pay/advertise) that interesting content to people who are not yet fans. Pay to promote your site, and getting more likes. (Get help posting your social media ads.) Local Social Media Marketing Step 2:  Breed familiarity How do you now take this group of followers who are not yet customers, and turn them into customers by “breeding familiarity?” The answer lies in what type of content you post. Fans must find it interesting enough that they look forward to your posts. I’ve read tons of articles explaining “how many re-tweets of other people’s content you should do before you can promote anything, etc.”  But let’s simplify, based on our experience. Minimally, out of four posts, three should be interesting, informative or helpful, and one can be promotional.  A sample rotation may look like: Meet our new instructor, Jamie (including a photo and some fun facts about Jamie). Promote HOT!Content. (Get your daily free HOT!Content here if you don’t already have it.) Survey:  Who likes the new tollway that just opened? A behind-the-scenes look at how you prepare the [...]

By | 2018-05-07T12:55:12+00:00 December 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|