Category Archives: Small Business

How To Create Your Own facebook.com/yourname URL

find us on facebook

I’ve been envious of companies with a facebook.com/coname URL for a while now.  Because I didn’t do any research online – assuming only big bucks purchased such a URL – I didn’t realize how incredibly easy, and free, it is to setup one up.

Here’s how:

  1. Log into facebook
  2. Browse to: http://www.facebook.com/username/
  3. Enter a user name for your personal profile, and for each business/ non-profit/ etc.,  page that you are an admin for.  Choose your name wisely.

If only everything was so easy!  http://facebook.com/meetingplaceonmarket

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Idol-Think

I have a love/ hate relationship with American Idol.  I love watching raw talent and listening to good vocals.  What makes it hard for me to watch, however, is the fact that for every person who makes it to Hollywood Week, there are thousands of performers across the country who are just as talented, but still unknown, sharing their gift in church choirs, coffee houses, or bar bands, but unappreciated and undercompensated. 

The premise of American Idol is that the best will rise to the top, and a superstar, the ‘best of the best’ will emerge.  Of course, we all know that’s not the case, especially when we see our favorites knocked out in earlier rounds.  There really is no best of the best, because choosing a winner is a matter of taste based on a small pool of applicants.  American Idol is basically a vocal popularity contest.  We all know how those popularity contests worked back in high school.

If we hated the popularity contests back in high school, why do we let popularity inform so many of our buying decisions?  Not only do we buy our music from the latest super-marketed superstar, but we make a lot of our buying decisions based on the biggest “name”.  Is it because we’re too lazy to research the options?  Is it because we don’t trust our own likes and instincts?  Is it because we want to feel like we belong?  I think in many cases it’s a little bit of all of the above.  

That doesn’t mean that the popular choice doesn’t have value, because it often does.  But when we make our decisions soley on what “everyone else is doing”, not only do we miss out on great alternatives that may not be embraced by the crowd, but we grant even more power to the perceived popular supplier, potentially resulting in fewer choices down the road.

Something to think about when you make that next purchase.

Before You Get Excited About the Latest Chain Store, Consider Its Local Impact

I just heard about another couple of chains coming to my hometown.  When I hear people getting excited about this news, I cringe, because I have come to realize the potentially negative impact of chain stores and restaurants on the local economy.

With Chains, Less Money Stays Local
For every $100 spent in locally owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.  If $100 is spent in a national chain, only $43 stays local.*  Why?  Because national chains usually get their supplies from suppliers chosen at the national level, not locally.  Also, national chains’ profit returns to the corporate office, and, if public, stock-holders all over the world.

It’s Highly Likely They Received Tax Abatements
Most large companies looking to locate in a new place persuade the local governments to give them tax abatements.  That means they aren’t paying property taxes, even though the businesses owned by your neighbors get no such benefit.  So, not only are they not paying into taxes for whatever length of time has been agreed upon, they have an unfair advantage over the locally-owned business who do.

Small Business Creates More Jobs
Over the last 15 years, small businesses have generated 64 percent of net new jobs.**  Local small business owners are more motivated to keep their workforce employed, since they are their friends, neighbors and customers.   Companies that make decisions at the corporate level, don’t have the peer pressure to keep their workers in tough times.  Instead, the peer pressure is often to create a profit at all costs.  When we spend our dollars at the chains instead of locally owned stores and restaurants, we make it harder for the locals to stay in business.

You might get more than you bargained for when you switch your allegiance to Chain Store  ice cream, and away from the local ice cream shop.  Think carefully before you do so.

* souce: 3/50 Project: http://www.the350project.net/home.html

** source: US Small Business Administration: http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7495/8420

Tips for Leveraging Social Media as a Marketing Tool

The terms Social Media or Social Networking can inspire fear into those unexperienced. But don’t let those big, bad terms discourage you. All they really mean is that internet technology is wrapped around communicating with your friends, acquantainces, and their friends and acquaintences. If we removed the internet from it, the original social media would be telling stories in the town square. Now, the town square has moved to the internet.

To get your name or organization into social media, I’ve put together the below tips. I’ve started with the basics, because social media really only works well if the basics are there.

Must Haves:
• Public website (website example )
• Facebook page (use a page for the public/ a group if you want to limit membership, facebook page example)
• Twitter account (twitter example)
• Linked In (personal profile, example: linked in example)
• Profile on Google maps (if you have a public location, click for example)

Recommended:
• Blog (wordpress.com or blogger.com)
• Linked In group
• Email newsletter (I recommend ConstantContact.com)

Interesting Options:
FourSquare.com – good for retail/ event spots/ restaurants, your customers will use their mobile phone to “check in” when they visit your establishment.  They can become the “mayor” by checking in more than anyone else.
Flickr.com – good for photos with descriptions (google indexes it), just upload your photos and use keywords to tag them
Focus.com – growing B2B social networking site
Google earth – add videos and photos about your organization

Tips:
1. Make sure each site and profile includes your businesses primary contact information, a short description about the business, a website, and hours of operation
2. Duplicating basic information is ok, and in fact can increase search engine rankings
3. Time your posts throughout the day to increase coverage
4. Make sure the information you post is entertaining or informative. For example, your sales, specials, events, and informative how-to articles are good.  The knowledge you think is basic will probably be very useful to your prospective customers.  For example, for a coffee shop blog, pages on “How to Make Froth” and “How to Brew Coffee” are popular.
5. Use HootSuite.com to post to both Twitter and Facebook at the same time (plus others), and to schedule posts.
6. Use Twitterfeed.com to setup RSS feeds to automatically post into facebook or twitter or both. For example, if you have a blog, use the RSS URL to feed new blog entries into both twitter & facebook. If you have information on your web site, like a calendar of events, a programmer can create an RSS link that can be used to feed events automatically into twitter &
facebook.
7. On Facebook, when typing in status updates, type @ to see a list of other people/ pages that you can refer to.

Twitter screen shot with hash tags

Twitter screen shot with hash tags

8. On Twitter, type @[name] i.e. @AlterEgoComics to mention another person or business. Use #[something] to “tag” your tweets so that others might find them in a search, i.e. #lima #ohio.
9. Use AddThis.com to add facebook/ twitter/ share buttons to your website, including a Facebook Like button to your website
10. Always be on the lookout for new social media and social networking trends, since they change constantly. Ride the wave of what works while you can!

Is There Anything More to America Than Name Brands & Celebrities?

I recently returned from trip to the city of Seattle and my faith in human goodwill has been restored.

I admit that I have been bogged down by the constant barrage of designer shoes and reality TV.  I began to wonder if I was the only person in America who couldn’t tell a Jimmy Choo from a Reebok. I began to doubt that there was anything more to America than name brands and celebrities.

But sometimes it takes a change of scenery to knock the cobwebs from my perspective. My recent trip to Seattle did just that – it reminded me that life is full of rich experiences beyond name brands. It reminded me that the majority of America operates outside of the Fortune 500.

How, you may ask? First of all, I was warmly welcomed by all I came across, friend and stranger alike (and I was even wearing shoes I bought at Payless).  Because I was going to a city I had never visited before, I envisioned more of the same of New York, Boston, DC, with imposing companies, structures and people.  I saw evidences of Fortune 500 companies, yes, but more importantly, I engaged in commerce with thriving businesses you’ve never heard of.   I worked with a privately owned software company, stayed at a regional-brand hotel, ate food at locally owned restaurants, and didn’t even have to drink Starbucks.  After my business was complete, I spent a day sight-seeing, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, by myself, yet meeting so many friendly people along the way.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to me, peddling quality software in a world in which giant marketing machines reign supreme. But this trip reminded me that there is so much more to America than the big brands, so many rich experiences for us all to share in, and for that I am inexpressedly thankful.

Free to Live

Sometimes we get so wrapped in our to-dos, in perfecting our trade, that we forget what it’s all about.  It’s about living.  Business, technology, human resources, education, all of it is about making it through life with peace, love, grace, dignity, and comfort.

I don’t care how many times I was taught in business school that the primary goal of business is to make a profit, business is not about the bottom line.  Business is about providing a certain quality of life for its employees, stakeholders, customers and suppliers, while maintaining itself through profitability.  Money at its root is trade – we trade the skills and products we have to get other skills or products that improve our lives.  The trade should always be a win-win.

Business should be our slave, our tool to help us live more comfortably, to allow us to spend our time on our strengths and let others help us out with our weaknesses.

Business serves its purpose when it allows us to be free to live.