Official Bootstrapper Announcement: Resource Guides for A Financially Better You

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 2:32am by Site Administrator

 

Hello Bootstrapper Followers!

Check out the newest addition to our site – a section devoted to educational resources that will help you lead a more financially secure life.  We’re proud to present the most recent addition, Money Matters: A Guide to Teaching Finances to Children.  It’s a five part resource that we recommend you start reading from the beginning, but feel free to jump to the section that speaks most to you. 

Part I: An Introduction to Teaching Financial Independence

Part II: Government-Sponsored Investment Programs

Part III: Actionable Ways to Teach Children Finances 

Part IV: Understanding Credit & Credit Cards for Young Adults

Part V: Trusted Financial Resources for Parents, Teachers and Young People

As always, let us know what you think in the comments or what kinds of resource guides you want to see!

A Guide To Building Your Business Through Social Networks

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 6:21pm by Site Administrator

According to recent data in The Economist, nearly 80% of businesses in the U.S. are staffed by fewer than 10 people. Small business owners make up the bulk of entrepreneurship in America, and are tasked with finding cost-effective ways to grow their businesses. Social media outlets may formerly have been thought of as toys that twenty-somethings use to stay connected. But now applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are proving they give small business owners the unique opportunity to develop a sense of community within their customer base.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a fairly simple concept that is often misunderstood. The use of certain keywords on your website and in your social media interactions drives your Google search ranking higher. Devoting the time to research and use these keywords pays off in brand awareness and sales. Like any marketing campaign, capitalizing on SEO and social media networks requires clear strategy; without it, your competitors may leave you in the dust.

Benefits to Small Businesses

Companies who have success with social media redefine the traditional approach to promotion. Paid media (advertising) and owned media (your website) should seamlessly converge with what is known as earned media: Facebook likes, tweets and retweets, customer commentary and SEO. To put it simply: today’s best small businesses maximize their advertising dollar by building a community of faithful customers – social media successes are a business’s best friend. Things that once seemed intangible, such as Facebook likes, Yelp reviews, and tweets, are now proof that customers respond to your brand. In turn, these same customers reward your business with public approval and open ended discussions of your business. Not only can you put this direct input into practice, your potential customers can turn to the resources and quickly get what your business is all about.

This doesn’t mean you just “flick on the social media light” and wait for results. You need to spend time developing a lasting online presence. This can mean directly responding to negative feedback, offering online-only perks, or just playfully updating your fans, keeping your business on their minds. Whatever your tailored approach is, you need to make sure it is consistent and engaging. Social media success will always depends upon your level of involvement.

Show Me the Metrics

Any marketer worth their salt knows that measurable results define a successful campaign. With these emerging technologies, it is sometimes difficult to establish useful metrics to justify your marketing budget. The use of social media challenges marketers to expand their definition of return on investment (ROI) to include the positive effects of brand awareness.

While they may find it confusing when Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and FourSquare continually tweak platforms and user interfaces, 72% of small business owners are aware of the need to grasp technologies. Now not all small businesses can directly benefit from the four major social media tools. Before you get really involved in media metrics, make sure you understand how your business operates, what makes it successful, etc. Only then can you understand which tools to approach and the best ways to benefit from them.

But for most models, the ability to establish community within a customer group helps refine customer service response and brand promotion, which ultimately converts to hard sales data. Low-cost social media efforts create an avenue to drive traffic to your website and allow you to offer incentives and promotions without direct marketing costs.

Getting Started

Boosting your social presence starts with simply using the right technology.  A thorough company will want to consider a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, Pinterest pages, a Google+ group, or even a blog. The best way to decide if a tool works for you is to look at the sorts of businesses using a given tool. Is their online presence successful? What is it about a particular tool that makes their business standout?

Consider the following scenario: a client approaches a social media consultant simply hoping to increase likes on their Facebook page. Further discussion reveals that, in fact, what the client really wants is to build out their mailing list in an effort to solidify public understanding of their product. While an admirable goal, the client’s fuzzy grasp of what Facebook likes actually do for their business shows that they have no clear vision of how to best accomplish goals through social media. Instead, the business should not have simply limited themselves to Facebook. Specific goals require specific social media solutions that can only be articulated after properly researching a number of distinct options.

Social Media Musts
 

  • Here are some invaluable lessons you need to know in order to truly capitalize on social media:

    • Add plug-ins to your website that encourage social media sharing. Facebook and Twitter share buttons not only allow your readers to communicate their responses to you, they also let you share your messages with potential customers.

    • When building business pages on Facebook or Google+, ask your family and friends to help with promotion. While this can further your social presence, make sure your business page always comes off as completely professional. Never treat it like your own personal profile!

    • Don’t forget that the vast majority of social media sites have specific rules you need to know and adhere to – if you don’t, you risk being suspended or banned from a given site. This could mean months of your time and expense down the drain!

    • Take notice of customers who faithfully interact and reward them. Consider a “Fan of the Week” promotion with a coupon for services.

    • Tweet regularly. Try posting blog announcements, special incentives to purchase, and useful information, such as a link to a relevant article published elsewhere. Strive to provide consistent content and respond directly to customers who address you on Twitter.

    • When your social media sources are activated, send out a newsletter to your customer base announcing the new contact channels. Include buttons to ensure one-click access to these sources.

    • Mention your social media sites in traditional advertising.

    • Attract new followers with incentives that make them feel special. A discount or free service can drive traffic to your product, and the feeling of inclusiveness can make a first-time customer a regular customer.

    • Directly address your public. Get patrons and potential patrons interested with polls or direct questions on the social media platform of your choosing. Such options work like free, highly specific market studies. No business can afford to pass up on such data opportunities.

    • Seriously consider investing in paid ad options on social media, such as Facebook Ads. Low-cost advertising can produce high traffic and provide excellent demographic metrics.

When it comes down to it, a small business in today’s climate needs to embrace  information-centric customers and the social media they love. Any business that can’t get with the program will end up in technology’s dustbin.

 

Voting for You: Are the Presidential Candidates Looking Out for Your Business?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 9:59pm by Site Administrator

It is inarguable that small businesses represent the American dream. The family-owned business is a direct reflection of the capitalist system that make it possible for anyone to establish trade of a product or service and to make a living doing so. The image of the little guy doing battle against corporate behemoths has become as much a part of our social fabric as Norman Rockwell’s paintings. As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, small businesses’ interests are high on the lists of both the Democrats and Republicans. 

Why are Small Businesses Important?

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as one that is independently owned and operated, organized for profit and not dominant in its field. Depending on the economic sector a business operates in, this qualifies as a business concern for both the Mom & Pops and small corporation of less than 500 employees. While this is a broad range, the SBA estimates that nearly 80% of business concerns in the U.S. employ fewer than 10 people, and nearly 90% employ fewer than 20.

Small businesses are important to politics. During the last two years of record, the phrase "small business" was mentioned over 10,000 times in Congressional sessions, second only to discussions of taxes and more popular than the phrase "debt limit." Small businesses are important to Washington because they drive two-thirds of the nation’s job growth.

As members of this powerful voting bloc, small businesses have much at stake in the upcoming election. Entrepreneurs are under extremely heavy federal regulation; a recent Gallup poll listed governmental compliance as the most difficult problem these business owners face. They are also heavily taxed; the U.S. has a higher business tax than nearly any other country. Smaller firms bear the brunt of this burden because they lack the resources that let large corporations abuse many tax code loopholes.

Also of growing concern to small businesses is the power that large corporations have in Washington. Corporations may legally donate large amounts of money to campaign funds, which gives big business clout on Capitol Hill. While corporations finance the excessive amount of money spent on campaign funding, politicians will continue to drum up the concerns of small business owners because of their voting power.

Small business owners are very politically active. A survey by the National Small Business Association (NSBA) reports that 97% of these business owners vote in national elections and 94% vote in state elections. Economic and fiscal policy drives these voters, who are rarely known to vote along straight party lines. Both the Obama Administration and Republican Candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign have much to prove to this voting bloc, which amounts to a third of the electorate.

 

The Two Sides and What it Means for Small Businesses


Thus far, President Obama’s administration has attempted to assist job growth in small business with 18 tax cuts, some of which were temporary. The SBA has also set a record high for small business loans, of which more than 150,000 were made since 2008. While Obama has also increased the SBA’s funding by $2 billion, business owners are no longer allowed to borrow against personal property to fund their companies – a decidedly unpopular outcome

The incumbent Democrat’s campaign platform includes the Startup America initiative, a capital matching fund for investors. If re-elected Obama promises additional support to the SBA as it attempts to provide $26 billion in loans to the private sector. Additional proposed tax cuts are designed to reward new hiring and investment in these companies. "Small businesses create 2 out of every 3 jobs in this economy, so our recovery depends on them," said Obama on the campaign trail.

Romney’s governmental record in Massachusetts is less than stellar, as startup businesses dropped by 10% during his last year in office. However, his presidential campaign platform contains plenty of juicy incentives for business owners. Proposing enormous tax cuts for households earning over $250,000 per year, Romney claims that small businesses will be largely unaffected. The idea is that a relatively small number of profitable companies under the small business umbrella create the most new jobs, and so, small business as a whole will not feel the pain.

Romney plans to cut SBA funding by nearly 20%. However, he promises to repeal portions of the controversial Dodd-Frank Act that allows banks to tighten the reins on business loans. Another major talking point of his campaign, the promise to end Obamacare, directly affects these business owners. Under the provisions of Obamacare, federally mandated healthcare legislation has the potential to be very costly to business owners. Romney also promises to stop regulatory increases by capping that spending at zero. Business owners struggling under a heavy load of governmental compliance may find this appealing. Lastly, Romney is a believer in state’s rights and if elected, will give individual states the power to develop healthcare solutions.

A Manta survey in August 2012 among small business entrepreneurs revealed a definite swing toward the Romney campaign. Only 26% of survey respondents claimed they would re-elect President Obama, and 61% said they would definitely cast their vote for Romney. President Obama, in spite of the changes he has offered for entrepreneurs, is dropping in popularity among these voters. A prior Manta poll of the same group of voters in May 2012 showed 6% better numbers than in August. The National Federation of Independent Businesses conducts analysis and endorsements of candidates in all elections and offers detailed information for these entrepreneurs.

 

Business Credit Card Resources

Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 8:51pm by Site Administrator

Finding ideal rates and terms for a personal credit card can be hassle enough, but at the same time, looking for the perfect business credit card can feel like too much trouble for too few advantages. But a business card can be the perfect solution for short-term credit needs when you are starting a new venture and need access to extra funds from month to month to cover inventory or overhead costs. A wide variety of online resources from government branches and major organizations exist to help you make the choice, but they can be difficult to find without a handy guide that collects them all in one place. Thankfully you do.


Determine Your Eligibility

Credit Cards: Seven Things to Know About Business Credit Cards: This article answers questions about eligibility, long-term effects, and other key considerations that could make or break your business. While the list focuses on advantages, it is still a good starting place.

SBA.com: Small Business Credit Cards: This article provides solid information on the subject and helps you make up your mind about business cards and how they work. Follow the side links for more tips.

NFIB: Securing Credit When Self Employed: This National Federation of Independent Businesses offers this simple article to help you build your business the right way, so that if you ever need credit, you will stand a good chance of applying successfully.

Consider Your Situation: Do You Need a Card?

NFIB: What to Look for in a Company Credit Card: The National Federation of Independent Businesses is an excellent resources for all sorts of questions. This article lays out the basics of business cards and what makes for ideal terms.

NFIB: Does Your Business Need a Line of Credit?: This article breaks down this simple question. After all, you may be able to survive without a credit card.

SBA: Do Credit Cards from Your Business Report to Your Personal Credit Reports?: The short answer is maybe, but either way this article provides some solid warnings and advice on keeping your personal loans separate from your business card.

Your Credit History

BBB: Managing Credit: FAQs: This list of FAQs from the Better Business Bureau answers a broad range of questions on business credit and how credit scores are used.

NFIB: How to Establish Solid Business Credit: This article provides a great list for starting your business credit and maintaining it properly as your company grows. Start here and learn key facts before it is too late.

SBA: Business Loan Checklist: If you are worried about your credit history or what lenders will be looking for, this Small Business Administration article is an excellent place to start. This useful lists end with a series of links to other SBA articles as well.

Different Types of Cards: Making a Decision

BBB: Choosing the Right Kind of Card for Your Business: The Better Business Bureau steps in with advice on good card features, and a very handy list of the major types of business cards you can apply for, arranged primarily based on their rewards and benefits.

NASDAQ: Small Business Credit Cards vs. Corporate Cards: Avoid confusion with this NASDAQ article on the differences between a card for your venture and a corporate card that large companies use.

Daily Markets: Business Credit Cards: Which Business Credit Card to Get?: This Daily Markets article lists some of the business cards offered by major players such as Chase and American Express. Read it carefully to find comparisons and tips on which card to choose.

Taking the Time: Creating Good Business Credit

Inc.: How to Responsibly Use Credit Cards for Your Business: This Inc. article gives you tips on your business credit score and how to keep your credit in good standing through wise business management. If you have a business card, it makes for invaluable reading.

NFIB: How to Fix Your Small Business Credit Score: Here are three simple steps to improve your credit score, but be sure to search the NFIB website for more information. The links on the side lead to stable online resources that offer ways to check or improve your score.

BBB: Need More Help? Good Ways to Get Help Now: This Better Business Bureau article goes through several ways you can salvage your business credit and turn a bad situation into something better. If you have made a few business mistakes with your card, this resource can help you stabilize.

Business Credit Card Exploration

The credit world constantly adapts to financial changes, so it is worth it to do some research of your own. Shop carefully and always compare rates or rewards with similar cards offered by other lenders. Explore sites like the FTC and SBA for more information on credit and business finances to find out if a card is right for you.

 Image via.

Piggy Bank Getting the Slops

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 1:48pm by Sandy Jones

The economy is shaking currency rates around like loose coins in a jar. With all the noise and fears in conjunction with market fluctuations and international relationships, the currency values are all over the charts. But which moneys are forecasted to do well in the future and which ones appear to be headed downhill for good?

 

Brazil and China

Although minor tensions exist between the two, Brazil has partnered with their biggest trading partner (China) in an agreement to conduct a currency swap. The deal gives their central banks the ability to exchange local currencies worth up to 60 billion reais or 190 billion yuan (equivalent to $30 billion and £19 billion). These funds can be used by the banks to boost bilateral trade, or to build up their reserves for a possible time of crisis.

China has transacted similar deals with Austraila (valued up to $31 billion), Honk Kong, and Japan. Beijing desires an altercated version of the deal, pushing for a settlement in yuan instead of US Dollars in an effort to reduce their dependency on the US dollar. This would actually benefit China’s attempt to make the yuan a global currency. However, as the BBC news reports, China’s slowing economy may be seen as a warning sign by some. According to Brazil’s Finance Minister though, China will continue to be their primary source of trading.

 

India

Financial activity in India has changed as well. Recently, the government increased by $5 billion the amount of their bonds that foreign investors can buy. Following the dramatic decline of the rupee’s value against the dollar, India has sought to increase demand for their currency. Given the 21% drop the rupee took against the dollar, the mere 0.2% increase coinciding with the announcement of higher bond availability was disappointing at best.

In the article released by Bloomberg, noted economists were complaining that the measures taken by the government were temporary and short-term. Sonal Varma, (Nomura Holdings Inc. Economist in Mumbai) put it this way: “The underlying issues of more economic reforms and cutting subsidies are still not being addressed. What has the government done to reduce the fiscal deficit and curb the current-account deficit?”

 

Australia

One of the few remaining AAA rated countries, Australia is gaining more attention for its currency value. China is also the biggest trading partner with Australia, yet even though there were worries over the slowed growth of that country, Aussie’s dollar remained steadfast. This drew the spotlight to the land down under and global banks have shown an increase in Australian dollar purchases.

Most recently, Russia’s central bank looked into the possibility of investing in the Aussie currency. They will allocate about $5 billion (equivalent to 1% of their foreign currency reserves) to Australia’s dollar-assets, including government bonds. In addition to the Russian interest, Germany also investigated the Australian monetary assets and has increased their meetings with Australia’s banks in discussing foreign-exchange strategies.

Even though it appears safer than most other currencies, Australia comes in second compared to the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc according to CNBC.com. Although it remains only a small part of the overall global forex reserves, the Aussie is capable of drawing in substantial capital inflows from portfolio and direct investment flow. While their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains relatively low, the economic growth appears quite positive compared to other countries.

 

Canada

Unfortunately, Canada is not doing quite as well as Australia or China, as pointed out by Bloomberg. In fact, the Canadian dollar dropped a total of 1.12% this month, the steepest decline since December. The decline is due in part to the decrease in retail sales – down 0.5%. Jim Flaherty, Canadian Finance Minister, made known his intentions of tightening mortgage terms to help avoid household debt crisis along with the other measures.

Buckling or Booming Businesses

Monday, June 25, 2012 at 1:36pm by Sandy Jones

Despite the challenge of an ever-changing economy, a few businesses are managing to keep afloat with strategic investments and innovative new products. However, not all companies are able to sustain growth.



Procter and Gamble

For Procter and Gamble (PG), the Euro activity and Europe crisis has exacerbated their downward slide. Since the markets slowed down and growth became stagnant overseas, PG decided to route their investments via China instead. However, as investors.com reports, they ended up lowering their sales and profit direction because the exchange rates were so unfavorable. The predicted Earnings Per Share (EPS) of 79-85 cents are only expected to reach 75-79 cents. Additionally, Organic sales growth is not projected to be 4%-5% but rather 2%-3%.

Businesswire.com continues the story noting that PG plans to prioritize its investments in the highest profit markets and largest innovations as part of their strategic approach to the coming fiscal year. The company has made it clear that they are committed to winning the fight against the odds. Part of their initiatives includes more focus, balance, and a strategic approach to wise investments. They have expressed concern over volatile variables such as commodity costs, foreign exchange, and government policies.


Walgreens

In contrast to Procter and Gamble, Walgreens announced just recently their largest quarterly dividend in company history; the previous 22.5 cents per share rose to 27.5 cents per share. Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson reportedly attributed the success to their commitments to returning cash to shareholders and staying consistent with their goals of paying out a target of 30%-35% of net earnings for long-term dividends.

This was countered by the company’s recent acquirement of nearly 50% of Alliance Boots in a strategic attempt to put a solid foot on the ground in Europe. What impact did this have on consumers you might ask? Due to uncertainty, the Wall Street Journal notes that investors bailed on Walgreen’s shares out of fears that the European gamble won’t follow through and based on the expensive price tag of $6.7 billion. However, Wasson feels confident the move will benefit the company in the long run. If things pan out the way he expects, it won’t be long before they purchase the entire Alliance Boots Company.


Starbucks

Crowned-king of coffee, Starbucks decided to take on a new flavor of business in an innovative endeavor to create a tea-only shop featuring the Tazo brand. Unlike the typical coffee shops, this store allows customers to choose from over 80 varieties of tea and pay for it by the ounce. CNN shares that the location of the store will be in Seattle’s University Village, nearby the company’s headquarters.

Tazo as a brand has been quite successful, especially since Starbucks purchased them back in 1999. Having paid $8.1 million for the tea company, Starbucks has increased the brand’s value to $1.4 billion. Depending on the success of the first shop, Starbucks may continue to build more in the future. However, the company is currently more focused on bolstering the Tazo brand at the moment.

Starbucks is stirring up excitement in Costa Rica too. Daily Finance reports about the recently opened location in San Jose that offers the complete range of beverages to the Latin American coffee consumers. Starbucks has a history with Costa Rica, but although they import beans from the country, this will be the first store located there. In addition to the coffee shop expansions, Starbucks also added a Farmers Support Center in Colombia and plans to open one in China as well in the coming year. Over the next three years, the coffee-king will team up with a joint-venture partner and open 300 new stores in Mexico and Argentina.


Burger King

The New York Stock Exchange welcomes back Burger King (BK) to the public market through a complicated deal the fast food franchise struck in April (rather than a public offering, the chain sold a minority stake to Justice Holdings Ltd.). Burger King modestly offered 16% of their shares to investors and according to Business Week the shares are on the rise. 3G Capital, who controls 71% of BK’s stock, will hang onto that claim for at least the next six months. Burger King also seeks to expand their business overseas, in Russia and China specifically over the next few years.

Speaking of innovations, Burger King just announced a bacon sundae as one of the limited time offers of summer delights on their menu. The NY Daily News gives us the delicious scoop on this frozen salty-sweet treat. Made with soft serve vanilla ice cream, topped with fudge and caramel sauce, bacon crumbles, and accented with a strip of bacon, it’s not surprising the dessert clocks in at 510 calories. Between the 18 grams of fat and the 61 grams of sugar, this treat is sure to give anyone a heart-attack. Thanks to the recent additions of fruit smoothies, wraps, and new salads, at least there are plenty of alternatives for health-conscious consumers.

It seems successful businesses are strategically planting their feet globally to provide added stability and making safe investments to secure their future despite whatever economic changes come their way. Innovation also plays a key role in determining the success and survival of a business.

Providing for the Future of our Children

Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 9:25pm by Sandy Jones

In America, we want it all. We want the career, the family, and the fabulous life. However, in pursuit of our dreams there are going to be areas that suffer while others prosper. Now that most families have both parents working full time, there is a higher demand for children to be in day care. This shift from stay-at-home parents to working parents has pushed a higher need for child care providers to help a child grow during their fundamental learning years. Since there is a demand for workers, there is also a demand for more child care centers. Being able to start your own business providing child care could be just the change you are looking for in your life.

 

Basics of Starting a Business

Nothing in life is certain, and starting a new business could be one of scariest things that you will ever do. However, sometimes the biggest risks yield the highest gain. If you believe that you have what it takes to start a business, you will want to start right away. One of the first things that you should do is research what style day care you would like to own. Some people would like to have their own business; some will prefer to work from the comfort of their own home. Only you can decide which option will work best with your personality. There are several other steps that you will need to go through but it’s important to start with a few basics.

  • Learn Your State Requirements: Every state is different, and there will be different requirements that you are required to meet before you can be a licensed child care provider. Most states will require you to have some sort of degree and experience in the field. Some states will also require that applicants have child care accreditations. The two main child care accreditations that states look at are the Child Development Associate (CDA) and the Child Care Professional (CCP). Once you have received these you can contact your state and find out the next step in obtaining your license.
  • Find Funding: Dreams of starting a business are great, but you are going to need a way to pay for those dreams. Unless you just inherited some money, chances are that you will be starting from scratch. You will still be able to find funding. There are grants and loans available through the government. Your access to this money will depend on what type of center you want to own. There are other avenues as well. A person wishing to receive funding can look into bank loans, obtain venture capital, ask family and friends for help, or seek help from other businesses. When you go to ask for money you will want to make sure that you have a solid business plan in place that will detail every vision that you have for your center.

 

What Parents are Looking For

To understand the best way to operate your child care facility is to understand what parents will be looking for in a center and how to handle different types of children. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that these parents trust you with their children and are expecting that you provide a safe, educational, and fun environment for their child while they are working. One major requirement is that you and your potential staff understand the fundamentals of early childhood education. Classes can be taken at a local university or are provided by your state. Often times you are expected to continue training continuously so that you are current on all techniques. Another important thing that parents look for is safety. Many states will require that all providers are CPR certified and that each center is inspected regularly. You can also consider calming parental fears by having a security system in place that will allow them to see what has happened in their child’s day. One final aspect that parents will be really interested in is your curriculum. Will their child continue to develop in your care? Will they be able to have fun? Will all their fundamental needs be met?

 

Your Next Move

Now that you have decided that you want to proceed and pursue your dream of being a child care owner, it is important to get started. By understanding that it will be hard work to get your center off the ground, you will be mentally prepared for the road ahead. Find people that have been in your shoes before and ask them about what worked for them and what didn’t. This will help you learn what mistakes not to make and how you will want to operate your own facility. Once you have this understanding you will be able to have a particular niche developed. Your personal niche is what you will use to promote your center and help find clients that will work well within your educational environment.

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7 Businesses That Failed at Twitter

Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 9:13pm by Sandy Jones

The social media revolution has become an integral component of businesses worldwide. However, some businesses may not entirely grasp how they can most effectively use social media to promote their brand. Occasionally, a Twitter or Facebook campaign intended for marketing value goes horribly wrong. Sometimes this is as a result of third party interferences, while other social media flops are merely due to poorly thought out decisions. Either way, Twitter has proven itself as a powerful force behind both negative and positive publicity for a company.

  1. @Sweden

    Prompted by a government initiative, the Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden, two tourism companies in Sweden, hired the advertising company Volontaire to think up a way that Sweden could promote their country to the world. The result was @Sweden, which enlisted a different Swede each week to represent the country’s personal Twitter account. The Twitter handle has been passed down to a variety of selected Swedes, with ages ranging from 18 to 60 years old, and they must meet a few, simple criteria — be interesting, Twitter-literate, and post in English. However, once the account was passed down to Sonja Abrahamsson, the ambitious PR stunt backfired. Abrahamsson, a 27-year-old mother of two, immediately began posting anti-Semitic and otherwise lewd comments that quickly drew public attention and disgust. "Once I asked a co-worker what a jew is. He was ‘part jew’, whatever that means," Abrahamsson wrote, among many other musings on Jewish culture, "He’s like ‘uuuuh… jews are.. uh.. well educated..?’" While the rest of the world saw the faux pas as an embarrassment for Sweden at large, the Swedish government stuck to their original initiative and did not censor any comments.

  2. #Mcdstories

    When McDonald’s began a Twitter campaign using paid-for Tweets that appear at the top of search engines, it nudged the discussion of their brand using hashtags. The first hashtag, "#MeetTheFarmers," did not instigate much discussion, given that most McDonald’s eaters couldn’t care less about the farming process behind a Happy Meal. However, when McDonald’s issued a comment under the hashtag "#McDStories," comments blew up, and not all of them were exactly positive. One user tweeted, "I ate a @McDonalds cheeseburger a few years ago and got food poisoning so bad that I had to get hospitalized. That is my #mcdstories." Another countered with, "Eating a Quarter Pounder value meal makes me feel exactly the same as an hour of violent weeping. #McDStories." McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion immediately set forth to stop the negative publicity by pulling the #McDStories hashtag off of the trending list. However, McDonald’s still bore the scar of about 1,456 Tweets with sarcastic, horrific, and otherwise negative comments under the #McDStories hashtag.

  3. #CamryEffect

    In an effort to create a marketing campaign based around the new Camry being promoted via Superbowl commercials, Toyota created nine accounts — @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9 — that would send promotional messages to anyone tweeting about the Superbowl at large. The tweets encouraged users to enter a contest to win a new Camry. However, instead of creating a buzz, the unsolicited messages were seen as spam and hastily received criticism from Twitter users everywhere. Users were also angry that Twitter verified nine different accounts for Toyota’s usage, and ensuing backlash prompted Twitter to suspend the accounts immediately, ending the failed campaign in its tracks. One user posted, "Does having a verified @Twitter account give @Toyota / @CamryEffect7 the right to spam people? #socialmediafail." Embarrassed, Toyota issued an apology via Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager Kimberley Gardiner shortly thereafter.

  4. #Amazonfail

    Amazon infuriated customers when it removed the sales rankings of many books with homosexual content due to the fact that they were supposedly all intended for mature audiences. When the sales rankings of a book are removed, they are no longer able to appear on the best seller list. They also may be tricky to search for. As a result, books like The Mayor Of Castro Street: The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk were difficult to find even though they are clearly not erotica, simply because there are gay and lesbian themes present. In response, Twitter became ablaze with conversation about the stint with each comment appearing alongside "#amazonfail." Amazon backpedaled, blaming the issue on a "software glitch," but its incensed customers sought to punish the company by degrading it on social media platforms. Finally, Amazon released a formal apology, noting that the problem applied to a multitude of book genres, and not just those with gay and lesbian themes, including health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine, and erotica. Yet, the damage was done, and if you search for #amazonfail on their Twitter feed, you can still see a couple pages of the drama.

  5. @ChryslerAutos

    A foul-mouthed employee with his hands on the company Twitter handle made Chrysler look like a bit of a jerk when he posted the tweet, "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive." The tweet was immediately sent to the feeds of more than 7,000 followers, many of whom retweeted the statement. Chrysler quickly removed the comment and tweeted, "Our apologies – our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it." The account, operated by social media company New Media Strategies, was initially thought to have been mistaken for a personal account. However, Chrysler expanded on the issue with an in-depth blog post, revealing that the rogue tweeter was actually a disgruntled employee from NMS, and noted that the employee had been terminated. Many felt that the matter wasn’t dealt with very gracefully, especially given that Chrysler had outed themselves as using a separate company to deal with social media when social media platforms are mainly intended to make people feel more personally acquainted with a brand.

  6. @HabitatUK

    Habitat, a home furnishings store, blatantly abused the power of social media by using popular, trending hashtags to promote their brand. The spammy posts were made using not only hashtag topics like "#iPhone" that they knew would have a powerful social media presence, but also tasteless topics concerning the situation in Iran. The result did not gain them more followers, but merely alienated people who did not wish for their feeds to contain misleading hashtag comments. It also effectively showed their customers that they didn’t understand how Twitter works, or didn’t care that their methods for gaining exposure were unethical. The tweets were deleted and Habitat apologized, stating that the tweets were not authorized by the company and were not consistent with their social media strategies. They also addressed a number of tweets that postulated that Habitat was using a third party to deliver tweets to the Twitter community by stating, "In response to speculation, we would like to clarify the hashtags were not uploaded by an agency."

  7. Skittles

    Skittles attempted a social media campaign that turned their entire website into a live feed, combining Skittles’ Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Channel, Wikipedia entry, and photos on Flickr that were tagged as being candy wrappers. The idea was that people would actively discuss Skittles on any of these platforms and it would show up on the website’s main page, providing more incentive for Skittles-related conversation. Instead, the website’s main page became a breeding ground for profane comments and generally unrelated content. Other companies even used Skittles’ page to advertise their own work, taking advantage of anyone else browsing Skittles’ website. Ben Weisman, a marketing expert for the Iris agency which put together Skittles’ website noted that, "Skittles, or any other brand, has to be ready to accept the users’ positive and negative comments." While that may be true, it’s probably not necessary to openly invite negative press via immature Twitter enthusiasts.

Comments (0) | Filed under: Marketing

8 Sites Every Small Business Owner Should Bookmark

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 2:32pm by Sandy Jones

A small business owner juggles many things a day, such as making sure the business is running smoothly, optimizing an online presence, redesigning a webpage, and making big decisions on the fly. Luckily, there are many invaluable resources out there for small businesses, which will guide you through anything from getting your business idea off the ground, to finding ways advertise for free, to designing a corporate website. Here are some websites that are great bookmarks for every small business owner, entrepreneur, or business professional.

  1. Entrepreneur.com

    Celebrating entrepreneurs since 1973, this online magazine is a great resource to consult to help build and grow your business. You’ll find topics on innovative business practices, tips on new tools and business technologies to optimize business procedures, and answers to any legal or financial questions. The site caters to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are trying to get their businesses to a new level. It’s a resource worth bookmarking when you need inspiration, how-to, or just want to read about creative business ideas.

  2. Smallbiztrends.com

    An award-winning online publication for small business owners, this resource provides business information, tips, and advice while also keeping you up-to-date on the latest trends and news for your business. With more than 200 freelance writers and guest experts, you’ll surely learn new ways to improve your business. Reaching four million readers annually, the site is quoted regularly in media and is a well-known entrepreneurship platform for discussion and curating new business ideas.

  3. StartupNation.com

    A free service founded by leading entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, this site is a leading online resource dedicated to helping small businesses grow and network. With expert blogs, member-to-member networking, helpful forums, and step-by-step advice, it seeks to be a comprehensive source for entrepreneurial success.

  4. Inc.com

    In 2012, Inc. Magazine won an ASME magazine award for General Excellence. It strives to provide everything you need to know to start and grow your business. Covering sales, marketing, technology, management, and financial advice, it pro provocative articles gathered from the web, as well as original content. You’ll find videos, hottest stories from LinkedIn, interviews with leading executives, and even in depth tutorials on writing a business plan and implementing new marketing strategies.

  5. Business.USA.gov

    On October 28, 2011, the President challenged government agencies to go beyond their organizational boundaries and help America’s business community in a new way: providing a "no wrong door" medium where small businesses and exporters could quickly connect to services and information relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located, anywhere in the world. Federal agencies added their resources onto BusinessUSA, consolidating information onto the site, which helps reduce confusion and simplifies the format. Put in simple terms, the website is a collection of inputs from federal agencies that are committed to helping business owners succeed. Though it is still in its beta format, in the coming weeks, it would be an invaluable resource for anyone looking for reliable business-related information.

  6. BusinessWeek

    News, data charts, advice, analytics, 24-hour support, and around the clock updates are all provided by BusinessWeek. The publication was awarded The Arts & Business Innovation Award and has nearly 310,000 professional service subscriptions. With a radio broadcast, in depth articles, stock market analysis, and even a live television channel, the company behind BusinessWeek, Bloomberg, is a great source for any business professional. You’ll find stories on politics and policy, global economic trends, and a special section dedicated to small businesses. Slideshows, multi-media channels, charts, and photo essays also help condense vast amounts of information into a better visual interpretation.

  7. Forbes

    One of the best business news sources in the world, the magazine and online publication is available in many countries, providing not only small businesses but large corporation business executives with real-time reporting, unbiased commentary, expert analysis, and investing advice.

  8. Fortune

    An affiliated publication of CNN Money, Fortune is the online home that serves as CNN’s exclusive business site. It covers personal finance, retirement advice, small business articles, and analysis of today’s most current markets and technologies. It also provides helpful market data alerts, widgets, calculators, and videos to help you grow your business in all aspects.

 

Couch Potatoes Wanted

Monday, June 18, 2012 at 2:36pm by Sandy Jones

What is your favorite part of your job? The fact that you have an awesome coffee machine? What about the fact that you only have to work three days a week? There can be many benefits of your job depending on where you work. As we struggle to bring down our national unemployment rates, those with jobs often find themselves feeling lucky that they just have a job. Still, there can be pains in having a job. Do you have to commute over an hour both ways each day? Wouldn’t it be nice if some jobs would allow you the option of working from home? Well couch potatoes unite; there are now more options for you to work in the comfort of your fuzzy pajamas.

The Love for Couch Potatoes

Who wouldn’t love to work at home and still get paid? With this concept you could carry a full time job and still have more time to spend with the family. If you have to commute, you would save money on the travel. You could set your own hours and be within the comforts of your own home. Long gone are the days when working from home were just from self-employed workers. Many corporations and businesses are allowing their employees the option to work from home. This privilege can be on occasion or even every day. By working from home you are still contributing to a business without having to be present all of the time.

 

The Advantages of Staying in Your Pajamas

So now that you are hooked on the idea of working from home, it is time to sweeten the deal. There are many advantages for you and your employer if you are working from home.

  • Advantages for the Company: Obviously if you work for a company, they care about their cost and bottom line. So though it may seem like they are doing you a great favor by allowing you to work from home, you can bet there is a reason that benefits them as well. One of the main reasons is that it cuts down on needed office space. If you have a huge company and half of them work from home, then you really only need room for those that are physically in the building. Another great reason that employers are willing to keep you at home is that their attendance and retention rates will be higher. You would have to be really sick to not be able to at least curl up in bed and work. You will also have higher desire to stay with the company longer.
  • Advantages for You: So what is in it for you? Well for one you will save money. Who doesn’t love that? You will not have to commute, you won’t have to pay for as much child care, and you will even save on food because you will be able to eat at home more. Not to mention you will have more time to hang out with your family, as opposed to sitting in traffic.

 

The Disadvantages of Channel Surfing

As you have learned, every good thing has the potential to have something negative attached to it. It is unfortunate fact in life and even laying on the couch all day can have a downside.

  • Disadvantages for the Company: One of the biggest risks a company will take in allowing you to work from home is the potential that you will slack on your work. Who seriously wants to work when their favorite show is on? Employees will also lack the human interaction that they could have with fellow employees. In the digital age we communicate mainly through text and email, but how many times have you misread the tone of something. There could be unnecessary conflict between employees that can only be solved by social interaction.
  • Disadvantages for You: Still not really seeing the possibility of there being disadvantages for you personally? Well there are many that can occur. For one, there is the possibility of your personal life affecting your work. When you are at home all the time, you will be plugged in more to your responsibilities at home and your work could begin to suffer. Another issue is that your health could suffer. If you don’t make time to take care of your health and your body, then you will begin to stay in the house more and more and find it hard to leave.
Comments (0) | Filed under: Advice
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