Thursday, March 9, 2017

Big ways small businesses can give back to their communities

Giving back to the community is a big part of operating your business in a socially responsible manner, and it can significantly improve your business model. Although big businesses give thousands of dollars to charitable causes, small businesses can also offer community service in ways that have a large impact.

How to give back

Generally, a monetary contribution is the common form of giving back to the community; however, there are many beneficial ways your business can provide time and effort to worthy causes.

1. Encourage employees to volunteer

It costs only time to set aside a day for community service, which may be over a weekend or holiday. Employees can volunteer to visit and play with orphaned children, help paint a room in an elderly person's home, or simply serve and feed children with special needs. You can select the ideal cause by discussing options with your employees so they will be enthusiastic about the choice.

2. Offer your expertise

As a business owner, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be beneficial to the community. Your expertise in business can also be useful to nonprofit institutions. Choose an organization that could use your help and schedule to share at a time that is convenient for you.

3. Hold contests at your workplace

Employees are your biggest asset in your charitable efforts. You can decide to conduct an internal donations race by establishing different teams to compete for cash prizes that go toward a worthy cause. This method works in two ways: it instills teamwork in your staff, and it gives your employees a sense of responsibility for the less fortunate in the community.

4. Change collections and "round ups"

Most customers would gladly donate their change when offered the opportunity and information about the charitable beneficiary. For a brick-and-mortar business, you can have cans at various spots in your store or offices where your customers and visitors can deposit loose change. Ensure that the cans are well labeled to indicate the cause or organization they are supporting. For an online business, you can allow customers to round up their payments so that the difference goes to charity. Again, specify the beneficiary.

5. Upsell on charitable causes

Another way to make donations for a worthy cause is by setting aside a certain percentage of each sale to go to an organization of your choice. This can be done on a regular basis. Alternatively, you can make donations to a single organization or various organizations in a given year. You may also consider making a collection box available to take donations from customers in the form of money, food, or clothing items.

6. Offer future discounts on products

You can offer discounts to customers who donate food or clothing towards a cause you are supporting. The best way to get your customers energetic about this is by providing different percentages on discounts depending on what they donate. This should get the customers excited about giving as much as possible in order to secure substantial discounts in the future.

7. Tweets or likes on social media

One of the simplest ways of supporting a worthy cause is by posting an image on social networks and dedicating a certain amount of money for each like and retweet. Urge your audience to share the image. Depending on how active your audience, who are ideally your customers, becomes, you should be able to come up with a reasonable amount to donate.

Merits of philanthropy

There are many external benefits for businesses engaged in social good. From getting your name out in the community to bringing in new customers, you get to experience increased purchasing behavior and greater customer satisfaction as well as higher employee retention. It all starts with listening to what is happening in your customers' lives and defining ways that you can provide assistance when possible. Here are some salient benefits.

1. Decrease your tax liability
. In most cases, your small business will receive a full tax deduction on charitable contributions.

2. Boost your reputation.Philanthropy accords your business positive publicity and reputation, which are essential for success in business. As you contribute to social causes and attract publicity, your visibility will be enhanced, which ultimately affects your sales. Likewise, you can recover from a bad reputation by having the commitment to doing good for the community.

3. Improved client base and motivated employees. Giving back to the community attracts a client base that tends to be better educated and willing to spend an extra dollar because they are aware that it is going back to a good cause. In addition, the success of your small business becomes more important to your team because they are part of an establishment that makes a positive impact on the community. Giving back becomes an incentive for employee loyalty because they know they are working for something bigger than the periodic paycheck.

4. Gain unique advantage. Philanthropy differentiates your company and gives you an edge over the competition. Consumers will look for products and services from those organizations that place equal emphasis on their business and social interests by working to better society. When quality and price are equal, the critical factor influencing brand choice is purpose; thus, being socially responsible sets you apart from competing ventures.

5. Boosts morale.Giving something back to the community feels good; the feeling of reward is apparent and makes the business owner happy. Happy business operators tend to lead successful ventures. Generally, business owners want to see that their enterprise is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

In general, a small business can be part of community service in small ways that can bring about significant changes. Help should be seen not only in monetary terms, but also in the assistance that can be given to those who may not be capable of performing their activities well. When your business gets into the habit of assisting the community, it becomes recognizable by more customers. Customers may want to refer others to your products and services because of the worthy causes you support. Have a schedule on how often you wish to serve in this capacity so the normal activities of your business will not be impacted negatively.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Small business social media management: You can handle the truth

In an increasingly digital world in which your small business interacts with existing and potential customers over the Internet, having a social media presence is a must. You have to leverage social media, and the key to success with social media management for any business boils down to teaching your audience something new.

Your social media strategy should plant a conversation among consumers about your business, products, or services so that they are favorably disposed or driven to your business website. It should also place emphasis on teaching your audience something.

What is social media management?

In today's social media landscape, it has become easier for people to engage, interact, and collaborate with businesses on various levels, whether it's giving feedback, learning new ideas, or even purchasing products through special online promotions. As you further engage your audience, the volume of your conversations is bound to rise, becoming a challenge to track effectively.

Social media management is about having a system in place that will monitor, filter, contribute to, measure, and guide your social media presence, akin to managing a community website forum. You should have personnel who can devote some time to help you manage outbound and incoming online interactions, along with other marketing activities, efficiently.

The objective of social media management is to streamline and consolidate the way your company listens to and participates in conversations on various social networking platforms, including blogs. By monitoring what people are saying about your business, you can automate the process of simultaneously delivering your outgoing messages on the various social media outlets, amplifying your social media presence.

Feedback: Should you care?

Social media is like word-of-mouth on steroids. It is vital that you tap into and join online conversations about your business, your industry, and your areas of expertise, as well as those of your competitors. Keep a pulse on what users are saying — good or bad — about your business, competitors, and major trends. Your outbound social media strategy should focus on representing your business in a positive, authentic fashion to build credibility for your business and link to customers and prospects quickly.

Although there will be a wealth of information in the feedback you receive from current and future customers, not every comment received is going to be useful. Social media management will enhance the way you get your arms around the many-headed social media Hydra that can often get nasty when negative conversations about your business emerge.

You can handle the truth

Be prepared to handle negative feedback. Often, this type of feedback is an opportunity to grow. For instance, you can learn something that customers want changed regarding your product or service. As part of your social media strategy, evaluate remarks carefully and figure out how to react to negative comments swiftly and appropriately.

Have a clear-cut reaction plan that includes damage-control procedures to ensure that the issue is addressed quickly and effectively. Again, like word-of-mouth on steroids, unhappy or dissatisfied customers, disgruntled employees, and even false feedback can damage your business reputation in no time.

Address potentially false comments that may skew opinions about your business and lead to brand damage. By streamlining and integrating customer interactions, you can steer the discussion in a constructive and informative manner.

Here are some suggestions for handling negative comments:

Don't delete negative feedback unless it contains inappropriate language or lewd comments.

Don't respond defensively. This will likely initiate a battle with the audience.

Don't ignore negative feedback. Treat the conversation as you would on a telephone call. Your customer service representative wouldn't hang up on a complaining customer, right?

Determine whether the feedback has some truth to it. Stay calm, manage your ego, and acknowledge the feedback. If the customer has a legitimate complaint, genuinely and publicly apologize. You may then take the conversation offline and offer a solution.

If you consider a comment as slightly misguided or if, in your view, the feedback is only partially true, acknowledge the error or mistake and offer apologies. Try to correct any misinformation. You may respond to the source offline and provide a solution.

If the feedback is outright wrong, far from the truth, or just a perceived dissatisfaction, acknowledge the comment and write a general apology. Try to get more details offline. If it is highly subjective and nasty, avoid getting emotionally involved in the opinion, but use it to improve customer relations and demonstrate compassion for those customers who are upset.

As a general rule, walk in the customer's shoes and make it easy for them to give their feedback. Be transparent when addressing their concerns. Done right, social media sites can help you better understand prospective and existing customer needs. They can also increase your visibility and generate leads.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Increase Your Social Media Reach: 5 Tips

The social media reach of your business is largely influenced by the content you post and its "shareability" — that is, how and whether others like, comment, link or share it. Providing content that triggers emotional or surprise responses is more likely to be circulated in social networks. When you are posting an article that is factual, spin it to evoke emotion or provide an unexpected fact to elicit surprise.

Above all, your goal is conversion, which means turning audiences into active, loyal customers. Your social network platforms should serve as lead generators for your small business.

1. Share useful content

Content marketing has come to define how businesses share useful information and indirectly advertise without selling. You can expand the social media reach of your business by writing and sharing instructive articles, blog posts or tips and tricks. Adding value to peoples' everyday lives will likely lead them to subscribe to you and further share the content with their followers.

Additionally, your posts must be consistent in order to attract more visits from people who want to remain up-to-date. Provide original, quality content that seeks to answer customers' questions related to your industry or area of expertise.

2. Social media integration

It is important for customers to know you are on social media. Promote your social network presence by integrating social media in your product packaging, service communications and traditional marketing campaigns to alert the public about where to find you on the social web. You just need to include your social network addresses on your packaging, printed materials, email signature, Website and other advertisements or promotional items.

3. Engagement and feedback

Interacting and engaging with other people is one of the most important functions of content marketing. Make sure to always acknowledge and thank those that comment, provide feedback or even complain about your product or service to assure them that there is a real person representing your company. People want to be heard, and participating in discussions creates that sense of community.

Make an effort to configure your page to block content that contains specific keywords or profanity, but do not delete negative content. Instead, address it objectively and promptly to create trust.

4. Organize contests on social media

An effective way to extend your reach is to organize a social media contest, such as a sweepstakes where participants retweet a funny but educational video about your product or service or a photo caption contest where entrants submit a photo of a friend and fill in a caption about how your product makes them stand out. This ensures both the actual participant and their friend become engaged in your business social site. A contest will reward loyal followers, fans and/or readers and can be leveraged as motivation for a new audience (potential customers) to connect their profile. Companies such as Constant Contact offer social campaign tools that are easy to use.

5. Offer to guest post

Guest posts are an excellent way to expand your reach to audiences in an unfamiliar community. Ensure your business name is mentioned alongside your posts. Though many people might not know who you are and what your business is about, a well-written guest post can compel a user to connect with you or share your post. This will not only increase your reach socially, it will translate to an increased customer base.

Marketing is essential to your business. However, as you create truly great content and share it on your social networks, do not overwhelm your followers with branded posts. Content marketing should be subtle, unlike traditional push advertising. Follow the 80/20 rule and limit promotional posts to 20 percent of your content. Having an effective social media strategy ensures that regularly published, relevant posts will stand out from a cluttered social media news feed, giving you the most exposure possible.