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.

 

10 Most Recognizable Business Mascots

Monday, January 16, 2012 at 4:28am by Site Administrator

Used to be that a mascot for a business, be it a cartoon character, member of the animal kingdom, or human stand-in, existed only in two-dimensional form on signage and print advertising. These days, with more outlets for advertising than ever before, advertising mascots appear on Facebook pages, tweet on Twitter, and even star in their own sitcoms. Some mascots are so entertaining on their own, you might not know or care about the product they’re trying to sell. Here are 10 of today’s the most recognizable business mascots, mascots designed to brand a service as opposed to a product such as breakfast cereal or pancake syrup.

  1. The GEICO Gecko

    Most recently voiced with a Cockney London accent by actor Jake Wood, this charming and earnest reptile maintains his own blog, sharing updates and photos from his travels around the world.

  2. The GEICO Cavemen

    The joke just doesn’t get old. Articulate quasi-metrosexual Neanderthals repeatedly find themselves the butt of GEICO’s "So easy, a caveman could do it…" tag line. (Honorary mascot mention: Kash aka the stack of cash with googly eyes identified as the money a person saves when using GEICO. Kash’s recurring music cue is also a hoot.)

  3. The AFLAC Duck

    The ad agency responsible for this mascot credits the ducks in the ponds of New York’s Central Park for demonstrating how much "AFLAC" sounds like a quack. That team of creative ducks received payment for their help in the form of several loaves of white bread. Gilbert Gottfried voiced the character for more than a decade, but he was fired in spring 2011 when he made jokes about the recent tsunami and earthquake that company officials deemed "lacking in humor."

  4. The AOL Running Man

    Back in 2009, AOL tried its best to replace the Running Man with a variety of new branding images, including a goldfish, all of which seem to be gone now in 2012. That little yellow guy is still their best icon.

  5. Juan Valdez

    Created in 1959 by a New York ad agency, this fictional character, wearing the traditional dress of an arriero, or mule driver, is directly inspired by Colombia’s real-life coffee farmers. In addition to being the brand symbol for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, Juan Valdez is a national folk hero, representing the very real demographic of rural coffee farmers that help make Colombia the world’s third-largest producer of coffee.

  6. The Twitter Blue Bird

    Perhaps it’s not surprising given the nature of the Internet, crowd-sourcing, and out-of-date copyright laws, that Twitter paid the designer less than $6 for this now ubiquitous image of a blue bird. That’s just a couple bucks less than what the designer of the Nike swoosh received.

  7. Mayhem

    If fate is a hunter, than Allstate’s Mayhem is looking to mount your head on his wall. He is one of the most frightening and funny mascots in current advertising culture, and very much a product of our uncertain times.

  8. Flo the Progressive Girl

    In television commercial after television commercial, the incessantly bubbly and, well, kinda sexy Flo the Progressive Girl for all of her oddball quirkiness, somehow delivers a consistent message regarding credibility and customer service. And her 2.4 million fans on Facebook can’t all be stalkers, right?

  9. Reddy Kilowatt

    Those of you born later than 1930 may have no idea who this freaky character is. The lightning bolt limbed Reddy was once the super-charged mascot of more than 200 electric power companies promoting electricity as a safe utility for homes and businesses.

  10. William Shatner

    There are no second acts in American lives. Unless your name is William Shatner, who has experienced at least four or five. In addition to starring in two different hit television shows after playing the iconic Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, Shatner has enjoyed a lucrative career as less of a spokesman and more of a mascot — albeit a very butch, post-modern, self-aware mascot — for a variety of companies, including DirectTV, Smith & Hassler Attorneys at Law, and perhaps most famously, Priceline.com.

Top 50 Christian Business and Finance Blogs

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 2:43pm by Site Administrator

Staying on top of your business while keeping your finances organized can be tough. Instead of agonizing over your personal investments and second guessing your every business move, turn to these Christian bloggers to guide you through the good and bad. Their sites give sound business advice but are inspired by Christian values and priorities. Personal Finance

These blogs will help you understand how to organize your own personal finances, whether it’s getting out of debt, setting up college funds, or saving for retirement.

  1. ChristianPF.com: This site gives advice on everything from credit card tips, building personal wealth to banking tips. Also be sure to check out the "Money in the Bible" category to help you see your priorities more clearly.
  2. Gather by Little: Use simple Bible tips to help you increase your personal wealth, "little by little."
  3. Why Religion is an Important Part of Personal Finance: Read articles about how to save money by cutting costs in unlikely places.
  4. How to Make a Million Dollars: This Christian blog will inspire you to take a proactive role in your quest to be a millionaire.
  5. Christian Finance Blog: Browse categories like taxes, retirement, emergency fund, and more. This blog gives great financial advice that is "relevant to today’s Christian." Don’t forget to check out the verse of the day!
  6. Free Money Finance: Find tons of helpful resources on this blog inlcuding saving for your kids’ college tuition, holiday spending trends, and Biblical investing.
  7. Fallible.com: Katy McKenna Raymond writes about her personal Christian experiences often touching on money and finance.
  8. Financial Baby Steps: A fun blog tracks each step of a person’s financial journey from birth until adulthood.
  9. Five Cent Nickel: Read finance tips about insurance, debt, family and home expenses, and helping the environment.
  10. The Simple Dollar: This blog shows you how to save money and accumulate wealth the healthy way.
  11. Good Sense Ministry: Learn about the financial and spiritual benefits of stewardship.
  12. Crown Financial Ministries: This site gives valuable information on organizing and understanding your money.
  13. Crosswalk.com: This website includes articles and stories about finding God in everyday life, including money matters.
  14. PF Blog: Browsing through the articles in this blog will give you a better understanding of personal finance in general.
  15. Biblekeeper.com: Christopher Green’s personal finance blog is full of excellent tips for saving money.

Investing

Investing your hard-earned savings can be a little risky. Let these bloggers guide you through the process.

  1. Christian Money Talk: John Gay is a well-known financial planner. Read his professional tips here.
  2. Christian Financial Advice with James L. Paris: Get great investing tips and learn about managing your personal wealth and finances from James L. Paris’ blog.
  3. WallStRadio.com: Find links to the Christian Financial Radio Network and other great resources.
  4. The Timothy Plan: The goal of The Timothy Plan company is to provide Christian investors with "a biblical choice when it comes to investing." Read this blog to find out more about how you can ensure that your money is used in a moral way.

Legal & Ethical Information

Understand the legal and ethical side of business and finance with the help of the following bloggers.

  1. Christian Law Association: Find all kinds of legal information and resources on this site.
  2. Christianity.ca: Browse through titles like "Christian Ethics in Business—Asset or Liability?" to learn about and analyze the current stage of business ethics.

Business & Entrepreneurial

Whether you’re your own boss or just want to brush up on news of the business world, these sites will keep you in the know.

  1. Church Communications Pro: This site is an excellent resource for those interested in developing marketing strategies for their church.
  2. Pro Money Blog: A popular business and finance blog, Pro Money Blog sometimes touches on Christian and religious topics.
  3. Christian Money: This blog is brought to you by the "Absolute Guys," who specialize in debt consolidation and money management. Read their blog for excellent tips on entrepreneurial and other business matters as well.
  4. The Christian Science Monitor: This widely respected publication has a great Web site too. Check back often for articles about business and finance.
  5. Selling Among Wolves: This blog gives advice on how to make it in the tough business world without compromising your faith.
  6. Christian Products Resource Directory: Find other Christian businesses by searching through the directory, check out other Christian Web sites geared towards business and more.
  7. Christian Business and Information Directory: Look for other Christian businesses around the world to scope out your competition or to network with possible clients and partners.
  8. Christian Business Daily: Read about news in the economy, get tips on HR management, and learn great new marketing strategies for your company, all from a Christian perspective.
  9. ChristianEntrepreneur.org: This site isn’t exactly a blog, but we felt that we just had to connect you to the official Web page for the Christian Entrepreneur Organization. Link up with other Christian entrepreneurs to network, support each other, and learn about programs and membership that will strengthen you and your business.
  10. Godblogcon: This blog urges Christians to engage in new media techniques to help their business grow. Find information about their valuable conferences across the country.
  11. International Christian Entrepreneurs Association: This site has tons of resources for the Christian entrepreneur.
  12. Church Marketing Sucks: This irreverant take on church marketing actually strives to share the story of Jesus Christ by challenging churches and the Christian faith to better market themselves.
  13. The Christian Billboard: This blog promises to show you "how to double your Christian business or ministry with one hour of work."

Donating and Ministry

Donating a percentage of your income to Christian charities is a smart way to give back to the world. Help support those who are less fortunate and find yourself building a stronger relationship with God.

  1. Money Missions: Read about missionary life and what you can do to financially support your favorite cause.
  2. Persecution Blog: This blog addresses Christian persecutions around the globe, and find out how you can help support individuals or even whole communities.
  3. Alpha and Omega Ministries: Read about the Christian Apologetics, watch their live Web cast, and check out Bible verses and passages.
  4. The Blogging Ministry: Learn about how you can run a profitable, effective blog for ministry.
  5. Gospelcom.net: Here you can find information about the various ministries that Gospelcom sponsors. Donate to a ministry that speaks to you.
  6. Tech Mission: Tech Mission is the blog for UrbanMinistries.org, an inter-demoninational organization that provides information about all kinds of ministries.

General

These Christian blogs provide resources and articles dedicated to personal finance and creating balance between work, family, and spirituality.

  1. Focus on the Family Blog: The Focus on the Family group now has their very own blog. Check it out for articles on managing your family’s finances and keeping your priorities in the right place.
  2. Beliefnet: One of the most popular Christian sites on the Web, Beliefnet is a powerful resource for deepening your faith.
  3. Religion News Blog: Catch up on all the news, business and otherwise, in the religious world.
  4. ThinkChristian.net: Find inspirational stories about staying out of debt, supporting your family and more on this Christian blog.
  5. The Christian Mind: Keith Plummer analyzes what it’s like inside the mind of today’s Christian.
  6. ChristianBlog.com: Network with other Christians on this community-powered blog.
  7. SmartChristian.com: This excellent resource provides information on theology, news, and activism opportunities across the world.
  8. Life With Christ: Browse through tons of forums to link up with other Web-savvy Christians. Talk about business woes, financial planning, or your family and spiritual life.
  9. Internet Evangelism Day: Understand the power of the Internet by checking out IED. Their mission is to spread the word of God and connect Christians all over the world, all from their impressive Web site.

With the help of these blogs you can learn about your own personal investments, how to start and run a sucessful business all while learning how to fit God and spirituality into the greater scheme of things.

12 Easy Personal Fashion Rules to Increase Your Earning 12%

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 3:45pm by Site Administrator

When you started your business, you probably imagined never having to suit up for an interview or conform to someone’s dress code ever again. Right? Wrong. As an entrepreneur, your style of dress is more important than ever before. Show clients that you’re a professional by following these essential fashion rules.

  1. Wear what makes you feel confident: This one’s important, because if you don’t appear confident, no amount of tailoring and shoe shining can make up for it. If you feel like an impostor in a suit and tie, wear something else that feels more appropriate for your comfort level. If you feel you look good, you’ll be in a better position to connect with your clients.
  2. Suits give an illusion of power: If you’re comfortable in a suit, where it whenever it’s appropriate, the key word here being appropriate. They give off a sense of sharpness and professionalism. Of course, if you’re meeting a client at a coffee shop down the street, you may want to tone it down to business casual.
  3. Always wear nice shoes: Run down and scuffed up shoes will make you look like you’re sloppy and can’t pay attention to detail. Clients do not want to see this. Make sure that your shoes look nice, even if they’re not horribly expensive. Remember, a little shoe shine goes a long way. While you’re at it, remember to make sure your belt matches your shoes. Brown shoes do not go with black belts, and vice versa.
  4. Dress appropriately every day: Even if you’re just on the couch with your laptop most of the time, it’s important to make yourself presentable every day. Why? Because if you’re bumming around in your jammies all day, you’re not likely to feel very productive. Even more importantly, you don’t want to get stuck having to scramble to get presentable if a client wants you to stop by and meet with them in half an hour. This doesn’t have to mean you’re dressed to the nines, but you should at least wear something that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in.
  5. Wear what fits: Nothing screams, "Hi, I’m wearing grownup clothes today" like an oversized piece of clothing. Avoid looking like you’re playing dress up by purchasing clothes that fit appropriately. If you’ve got nice pieces that just don’t fit anymore, consider having them altered. Otherwise, get rid of them in favor of something more flattering.
  6. Manage your hair: Shaggy, unkempt hair just doesn’t look professional. Keep your hair neatly trimmed and styled. You don’t have to lay on pounds of gel, but make sure it’s attractive and tidy. The same goes for any facial hair; if you’re going to grow a goatee or moustache, don’t let it go wild. Keep it neatly trimmed for a professional look.
  7. Don’t go overboard with makeup: Ladies, makeup can make you look more attractive, but don’t let things get out of hand. You don’t want the person you’re meeting with to marvel at how thickly you’ve caked on your foundation. Keep it natural so your clients aren’t distracted by your looks.
  8. Cover up: Again, distraction is a major folly, and skin is sure to take the attention away from you. You want the focus to be on your work and intelligence, not what you are or aren’t wearing. So as a general rule, you’ll appear more professional if you wear more clothing. Not necessarily quantity, but quality of cover. Consider slacks instead of shorts, a sleeved shirt instead of a tank top, and other less revealing pieces of clothing.
  9. Know your audience: It’s important to consider your occasion and dress on par with what you expect others to wear. Don’t show up at a construction site wearing a three piece suit unless you want to be laughed all the way back to your car. Likewise, forego your jeans for slacks if you’re visiting someone’s corporate office.
  10. When in doubt, overdress: If you’re not sure what the occasion calls for, err on the side of overdressing. As long as you feel confident and comfortable in what you’re wearing, it’s always better to be too dressed up than not enough.
  11. T-shirts just won’t work: You may think that your client is charmed by the witty saying on your shirt, but he’s laughing at you, not with you. Instead of a t-shirt, wear a polo or a comfortable button-down. This rule goes for flip flops and Crocs, too.
  12. Keep a spare in your car: Keep a few key pieces in the trunk of your car in case you find yourself roped into a last minute meeting and need to take your appearance up a notch. A wrinkle-free jacket, shoes and a belt should suffice. Make sure that they’re versatile enough to work with just about anything you’d normally wear.

7 Tips for Bootstrapping a Business by Blogging

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

If you do decide that your business website should have a blog, and that having a blog can bootstrap your business, you’ll likely want a few pointers on settng up and managing a blog. This is not a detailed guide, but rather a quick overview.

  1. Blog setup.
    Setup a blog on a subdirectory of the main site. That is, if your website is at http://www.example.com/, use http://www.example.com/blog/ or some such instead of http://blog.example.com/.

  2. Niche selection.
    This is the tough decision. Your blog’s topic niche should be related to your business, but be of interest to readers. First, decide who your customers are, whether they will be your blog readers, and whether they’ll convert into customers. If that’s not possible, the blog can be about a topic related to your business, even just peripherally.

    Either way, your blog builds authority over time, and that authority partly transfers to the main website. That’s where you are selling your products or services, and hopefully it will receive its fair share of web traffic from search engine queries. (I.e., people searching for a specific product or service tend to be ready to buy something.)

  3. Editorial calendar.
    Once you’ve selected a niche, it’s easier to come up with a plan for actual articles – an editorial calendar. A strict editorial calendar also indicates specific publication dates. For a blog, you can just come up with a loose schedule and a list of article ideas or actual titles. It’s important that you publish “key” content:

    • Resource lists and general linkbait articles.
    • Profiles and interviews of industry leaders.
    • Comparisons and reviews of products and services, though not of your direct competitors.
    • Tutorials of how to do something related to your blog’s niche.
    • Video screencasts of how use relevant software.
    • Ebooks.

    All of these types of content should be produced with the intent of establishing your blog as an authority on its selected niche.

  4. Regular schedule.
    Publish to the blog regularly. If you can publish quality articles five days a week, fine. If you can’t, fine. Just be consistent. Any less than three times per week is not a good idea, in my opinion. Neither is it expected that you publish more than 3-5 articles per day, unless there is an overwhelming reason to do so.

  5. Giveaways.
    Use your blog, which does not hard sell your products and services, to occasional give away what you’re selling. You can also hire a design firm to create plugins and website templates for blog platforms (such as WordPress – one of the most popular Open Source platforms). Give the plugins and themes away on your blog.

    Such freebies can generate an awful lot of buzz for you, especially if you do them on a regular basis. Your website’s link goes into the footer, as the sponsor. [Some search engines may discount the value of these links, but you will still get visitors from blogs that use your free themes, and some bloggers will write about and link to your site. So it's still a worthwhile move.]

  6. Build relationships.
    Relationship-building is very important online, but it must be sincere and diplomatic. It’s not easy, and you might slip, so do your best to rectify awkward situations. This applies if you comment at other blogs related to your niche, which you should consider doing.

  7. Promote and build links.
    All the activities above are for naught if you cannot succeed in building links to your site through good content, social media marketing and ongoing networking with other online professionals. For more reading material, check out Tropical SEO and Search Engine Journal.

This is the tip of the iceberg for building a successful “business” blog, though it should give you a general overview.

Productivity and Entrepreneurship Roundup – Thur Aug 09, 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

Here is some interesting reading material from around the blogosphere, relating to business, marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, productivity and success.

  1. Web applications vs desktop software.
    Whether you’re a cheapskate, just frugal, or a nomadic entrepreneur, check out Tzunami‘s article No More Hard Drive, which lists 100 mostly-free web browser-based applications useful to entrpreneurs of all sorts.

  2. Handling info overload.
    No matter how much research us budding entrepreneurs think we can handle, sometimes there’s just too much. Web Worker Daily offers 21 tips for dealing with information overload.

  3. How not to be productive.
    We’re a nation of TV watchers, and many of us have taken that habit online. But if you are an entrepreneur and thinking of success, the best thing you ever do might be to give up TV. Forever. Yahoo! Finance presents an article from TheStreet.com that says giving up TV for life might actually result in an extra million dollars in earnings. Is that motivation enough for you to quit your habit of the boob tube?

  4. Free blog logo.
    If you’ve decided that your business website should have a blog, then you should also consider a blog logo, especially if you don’t have a business logo yet. Right now, Randa Clay Design is run a blog logo contest. Logo Design Works is offering 10 free blog logos per month for a limited time to specific types of blogs including small business, entrepreneurship, marketing, design, blogging, freelance, productivity and related topics. Check the rules of both to determine if you qualify.


Working Green: 50 Tips To Reduce Your Office’s Waste

Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 2:07pm by Site Administrator

From daily smog to the rising threat of global warming, it’s pretty obvious that we all need to clean up our act a little. Much has been said about how to go about doing this at home, but what about in the workplace? Copiers, computers, even old floppy disks, can make a huge impact on the environment. Here’s are a few ways to reduce your office’s effect. Paper and printing products

Nearly every office, large or small, relies on large quantities of paper. Check out these tips to help reduce the amount of paper and printing products that are used at your workplace.

  1. Use both sides of paper: When making copies, set your machine to use both sides of paper and cut your consumption in half.
  2. Shred and reuse unwanted paper: Instead of throwing away old documents, shred them and reuse them as packing material in shipments.
  3. Reuse boxes: When you get shipments in, save your boxes so that you can use them again for shipments out.
  4. Offer paper recycling: Put a paper recycling receptacle next to every printer, copier and fax machine so that employees can deposit unwanted paper in them. Discuss recycling with your cleaning crew or appoint a person to bring your paper to a recycling center each week.
  5. Avoid color printing: Color printing generally uses more ink, so print in black and white when you can.
  6. Print in draft mode: To conserve even more ink, print in draft mode. It will generally lighten the shade, but you’ll still be able to read your copy clearly.
  7. Buy paper wisely: Create a policy to buy only chlorine-free paper with a high percentage of recycled content.
  8. Consider alternative paper: Think about buying paper made from hemp, bamboo or organic cotton.
  9. Buy recycled toner and ink: Cartridges contribute metal and plastic to landfills, but buying toner and ink that’s refilled can help alleviate this environmental burden.
  10. Distribute memos via email: Instead of printing out memos for distribution, email them and let employees decide whether or not they wish to print them.
  11. Store manuals, policies and other documents online: Don’t print out huge employee handbooks. Allow employees to access PDF copies at their leisure.
  12. Provide air dryers in the bathroom and common areas: Reduce paper towel waste by providing air dryers as an alternative. Take it a step further and provide reusable towels.
  13. Reduce margins: Reduce your margin settings so that your printer uses less paper.

Transportation

You may not consider commuting to be a part of your office’s environmental impact, but your transportation policies can make a large difference. Encourage telecommuting, biking, and other green transportation options by taking these steps.

  1. Encourage employees to walk or bike to work: Make walking or biking an easier option by offering showers and private changing areas at your office.
  2. Offer a bonus for green commuters: If employees agree to walk, bike, or take public transportation to work, offer them a small bonus for encouragement.
  3. Support alternative schedules: Allow employees to work longer hours, but fewer days, in order to let them stay at home once a week or more.
  4. Create a carpool program: Many of your employees may want to carpool, but don’t know where coworkers live or simply don’t have the courage to ask around. You can help by administering a program to get them connected.
  5. Offer telecommuting: If some or all of your employees’ work can be done at home, give them the option to telecommute.
  6. Encourage efficient vehicles: If you provide company cars to employees, consider purchasing hybrids. Additionally, encourage employees to rent hybrids or other high-efficiency cars when they take business trips.
  7. Videoconference: Whenever possible, try to videoconference instead of traveling to meetings.
  8. Offer bike parking: Provide employees with a secure space to park their bikes in order to encourage this mode of transportation.

Equipment

Manufacturing office equipment contributes greatly to reducing air quality and landfill waste. Consider these tips when you’re purchasing equipment for your business.

  1. Buy used furniture: When appointing your office, check out sites like Craigslist or FreeCycle for cheap or free used furniture. You can also check out remanufactured cubicles for both cost and environmental savings.
  2. Recycle floppy disks: Turn your old floppy disks into a pen cup or other useful storage unit.
  3. Buy used copiers and faxes: Manufacturing equipment like copiers and faxes creates lots of waste. Buy used equipment to eliminate waste, but make sure that they are still efficient.
  4. Unplug equipment when not in use: Encourage employees to shut down and unplug copiers, printers and other equipment when they leave the office every evening.
  5. Recycle your e-waste.: Cell phones, computers, printers and other equipment can often be recycled. Look for recycling programs in your area that accept these kinds of materials.
  6. Buy high-quality equipment: When buying equipment, be sure to purchase something that will last and not become obsolete quickly. That way, you’ll avoid having to buy new equipment and contributing to manufacturing waste.

Electricity

Small changes in air conditioning, lighting, and fixtures can make a huge difference in your energy consumption. Follow these guidelines to save the environment and save on your electricity bill.

  1. Change your thermostat: Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer. Encourage employees to bring personal fans and sweaters to ensure that they stay comfortable.
  2. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs: As your current light bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs. They are more efficient and last much longer than traditional bulbs.
  3. Buy from a green energy company: Many utility companies generate their electricity using wind or other alternative energy sources. Consider purchasing your electricity from one of these companies.
  4. Create an after hours and weekend thermostat setting: If you know your employees aren’t going to be in the office, create a setting that conserves more energy during these hours. Be sure to allow an override function so that it can be changed if someone decides to come in to work.
  5. Turn off lights when not in use: Ask employees to turn off lights when they leave. Invest in automatic switches in places like the bathroom and supply areas so that they turn on and off whenever someone enters or leaves the room.
  6. Take advantage of natural lighting: Install windows and skylights so that you can use natural daytime light instead of electrical lighting.
  7. Buy Energy Star fixtures: When buying fixtures, look for the Energy Star label to save at least two-thirds less energy than regular ones.
  8. Unplug vending machines: When your office goes on vacation or leaves for the weekend, unplug vending machines.

Computers

Like other appliances, computers can be major energy hogs. Adjust screen savers, energy plans and quality to streamline your company’s computer efficiency.

  1. Unplug computers when not in use: Encourage employees to shut down and unplug their computers when they leave the office for the day.
  2. Buy for quality: When shopping for computers, buy units that will last and avoid becoming obsolete too quickly. This way, you’ll avoid contributing to e-waste.
  3. Buy for energy savings: When shopping, be sure to ask if your computers, monitors and printers are energy efficient.
  4. Give your computer a nap: Ask your IT department to set your computers to go to sleep when not in use. Creating short energy breaks can cut energy use by up to 70 percent.
  5. Banish screen savers: Make sure that employees know screen savers won’t save energy. They eat up lighting and processing energy. Instead, set screen savers to "none" or "blank screen."
  6. Buy smaller monitors: You can reduce your monitor’s consumption by up to 30% by using a 2 inch smaller monitor.
  7. Consider laptops: Consider buying laptops instead of desktops, as they generally use less energy and are more efficiently made.

Miscellaneous

Every little thing adds up when it comes to office waste. Check out these tips for even more ways to reduce your consumption at work.

  1. Use simple cleaning supplies: Discuss cleaning supplies with your maintenance crew. Ask them to consider using cleaners like baking soda or vinegar instead of commercial products.
  2. Do the dishes: Provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses for luncheons.
  3. Provide filtered water: Instead of bottled water, provide employees with filtered drinking water and reusable cups.
  4. Install low-flow faucets and toilets: Help conserve water by installing low-flow faucets and toilets in restrooms and other common areas. This will also help conserve electricity by reducing your water heater’s output.
  5. Buy local, organic coffee and tea: If you provide coffee or tea service to employees, be sure that it’s local and organic to reduce your environmental impact.
  6. Consider office sharing: If you have a number of employees that don’t use the office regularly, consider assigning offices based on a schedule. You’ll save on utilities, equipment, furniture and more.
  7. Plant a tree for gifts: In lieu of sending a holiday gift to clients, plant a tree in their name.
  8. Buy sugar and cream dispensers: Avoid paper packets and save waste by offering employees sugar and cream in large dispensers.

How Not To Use Design To Brand Your Business?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 9:00pm by Site Administrator

Warning: I am no professional designer and I’m not pretending to be. I’m probably what you might call an armchair designer. After spending five years at the local university library studying both graphic design books and “old master” art collections on my own time, I can draw, but I can’t design. I can sketch out ideas and have more talented people finish them off better than I could. Unfortunately, a good design is a part of corporate branding, and it’s something that every entrepreneur probably needs to address at some point.

So after all my browsing, I know what I like and what I don’t in design. What I don’t like is the London 2012 Olympics logo (above). It’s turning heads all over, but not in a good way. It seems so out of place, compared to the more elegant designs of past Olympics. Some people dislike it more than I – many being Londoners – and are voicing their opinion. (What Seth Godin said made me chuckle, and it’s good advice when looking for a logo or other design components.) Hopefully, the London committee will accept these suggestions for alternate designs [via Logo Design Works].

But when you have an old brand like the Olympics, a bad logo for one event probably isn’t going to have too much long-lasting negative effect. If you’re a new business, that’s another story. Now in addition to typical print-related branding design elements, digital entrepreneurs building a web-based business have additional graphic needs: website/ weblog theme and something called a favicon (fave icon).

ChameleonIntegration.com faviconA favicon is a 16×16 pixel graphic that is either a scaled down version of your logo, or something that suggests the same thing. For example, I sketched out an original logo that a professional designer turned into the large image you see somewhere in this paragraph. You can see the favicon version (tiny graphic) as well. It’s actually my original design, and it works better for the favicon. Even though the real logo is a stylized chameleon, it has too much detail that will not show at a 16×16 pixel size. The original design was raw and incomplete, but for all intents and purposes, it’s visually similar enough to the logo to act as a stand-in.

Do you need a favicon for your website, given that some web browsers will not show it anyway? Some websites don’t use one, but they probably should. Jennifer Slegg, aka Jenstar/ Jensense, is an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) expert who wrote at length about the importance of a favicon as a visual branding element.

And of course, any logo and favicon has to work with the color scheme for your business’ website. But let’s get to that another time.