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How Good Is Your Company’s Facebook Page?

by on October 29, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on Inc.com where author Dan Levy discusses Facebook marketing for small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

How Good Is Your Company’s Facebook Page?

Your greatest untapped resource for Facebook marketing advice? Other business owners.

At Facebook, it’s my job to make it easier for small businesses to use Facebook and reach more customers. Earlier this year, in an attempt to learn more about how small businesses use Facebook, I traveled around the world meeting small business owners face to face. The range of expertise and passion was astounding:

A tattoo artist in Dublin (DublinInk)

An dog-focused ecommerce provider in New York (BarkBox)

A children’s clothier in Buenos Aires (Likeeds)

A local entertainment attraction owner in Ohio (Scene75)

And a women’s fashion retailer in Singapore (Ministry of Retail)

What I learned from my travels was this: There’s no better way to get practical advice for growing your business than through other business owners. And the same is true for advice using social media to the fullest extent. And while every owner had a unique perspective on how to run their business, the growth tactics they used are overall surprisingly similar.

Bright, colorful images really stand out. Yvonne at Ministry of Retail discovered the power of bright photographs to showcase her products– the same techniques that Javier from Likeeds used for kids clothing in Argentina. Javier and Yvonne were separated by ocean, currency, and language yet could have been business partners with their shared approach.

Be yourself– not a social media robot. A lot of businesses I talked to said that when they started their Page, they were worried about what to post, how to phrase things. And then over time they realized the more conversational they were, the more human and authentic they sounded. They embodied their brand by being themselves. That’s what Facebook is all about. A great example of this is Barkbox, a monthly delivery service for pet goods. Check out their page.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Small businesses know their customers well, but sometimes it takes trying new types of post promotions on Facebook to figure out what gets the best response. DublinInk’s owner told me that he knew images of tattoos would be appealing to potential and current customers, but creating urgency around his posts– like featuring art from a tattoo artist that is only in residence for a certain amount of time– really helped get more people into his tattoo parlor. Test, refine, and repeat to increase sales.

Those were some of the most remarkably similar tactics used at small companies around the world. My last piece of advice would be– if you’re ever unsure how to get business from using Facebook, just ask another small business owner. As you can see in this column, you’d be surprised how many unique strategies have been thought up that you could use.

Recently, I’ve been grounded from international travel as my wife and I are expecting our third child. I’m taking advantage of the time to meet local businesses that use Facebook. And knowing that what I’m learning is universally applicable. Plus, pictures of baby clothes from around the world are universally cute.

Local SEO Strategies for Small Businesses

by on September 19, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Gabriel Stephens goes over a few local search engine strategies small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Along with the new Penguin update that hit on May 22, Google has changed the way it treats local search results. For example, if you were to type “pizza” into Google, a carousel of images with a variety’ of store’s locations, ratings, costs, and reviews. While average white-hat SEO tactics can get a company up to the top of the results page, companies are trying to figure out how to get into the carousel.

This, of course, is a great advantage for local businesses that can’t compete on a large-scale with bigger companies. Before, local pizza restaurants (like 4th St Pizza Co) would not have ranked for the general term “pizza”, but here they are. Local pizza joints are being ranked right along with national companies.

There are stills strategies that local business should take advantage of to take full advantage of Penguin 2.0:

Local Citations

Quality citations have always been important, but Penguin has made it clear that they are quite effective for local search engine rankings. Mentions of your business that include your business’s name, address, and phone number found on relevant sites (location and niche) will lead to higher local search engine rankings.

Be consistent in your business’s information for these citations; that will help immensely. The information in the city business index, the local online herald, or the county’s homepage should be the information you use to make citations around the web. It’s also hard to fake local information like to, say, the local online newspaper, so that’s a way to authenticate your business.

Don’t forget the big websites, though. Sites like MapQuest, Yelp, City Search, and Yelp. People using those websites, or the apps for the websites, will have an easier time finding your business locally. Remember, these sites hold reviews and user ratings. Doing SEO isn’t enough to get customers, you must work on your normal business practices as well.

Word to the wise: do not try and spam Yelp with fake reviews.

Guest Posting

Despite the recent Google link schemes update, guest posts live on. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Guest posting involves creating content for high-quality relevant sites that contains natural backlinks to your site. Many of you might be asking “What are backlinks?” These contextual links that are inbound to your site help your business gain authority and local search rankings, especially with sites that boast a local presence in your community.

Try to be as helpful as possible with your guest posts. The more original and unique an article, the more page authority it will gain through social shares, visits, and comments. The page with your article will gain search engine rankings itself, that means more clicks on it and subsequently your backlink. It would also be a good idea to stick another citation for your business in the post, if the webmaster says it’s okay.

Social Media and YouTube

Optimizing your business’s Google+, Facebook, and Twitter is a great way to increase search engine rankings. Most businesses forget to make a YouTube Channel. Since Google owns YouTube, it is an opportunity to further increase ranking in the search results. Be sure to use the correct keywords and citations in the video, and link back to your landing page in the description. Adding video location is also a great way to optimize for local search.

Your business should also utilize Google+ Local. This platform ranks local businesses based on customer reviews based on quantity and quality. Google+ also takes into account interaction from the business on Google+, so don’t let your profile stagnate.

There are a lot of other nit-picky SEO tactics, but following these few guidelines, as well as having a much-loved local business, will ensure a spot in the carousel or other local search results.

Local Business Listing for Small Business Marketing

by on September 17, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Holly Cunningham discusses local internet marketing for small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

You really do not need to keep wondering why local listings are about. Simply put they are the yellow page alternative. A free service by search engine and local listing website directories that allow you to add your business information, products, services, photos, videos, coupons, offers, discounts and promotions. Not only can you update the multiple websites with this information, you can do so 24x7x364 anytime you desire. Certainly not something you will get from the once a year yellow page update.

The good news about local listings is that they show up on the first page of a search engine result based on the search term and the locality. For this reason, optimization a website is not as necessary as having your local listing claimed (required to use the local listing as a local marketing tool) and up-to-date. Local businesses no longer need to wait months to get on the first page of a search engine or understand the intricacies of search engine optimization (seo) of their business website.

Research by Kelsey Group shows 70 percent of online searchers will use local search to find offline businesses. The TMPDM study shows 86 percent of online users will be searching for a local business at some point in time. You’re probably thinking that the local consumer is sitting at a computer or laptop at home performing these local searches. That is partly correct, however, keep in mind that statistics from TMPDM indicates a 31% increase in mobile search while the local consumer is about town in the past year.

Think of this to be a convergence of web data about your business with mobile devices. There the local listing information benefits your local business not only on a computer web search, but also a mobile local search.

If you have taken a look at search results for your business, products or services you will notice that a map with local results shows up on the first page of the search results. Any business that has claimed (required to use the local listing as a local marketing tool) and updated their listing and has information pertinent to the search in the local area will get displayed. Understanding how to perform this process is equally important and has become more important as local business, products and services are easily available to the local consumer.

Some specific examples about local business types that will benefit from local listings include:

• If you are a franchisee your franchisor may have the necessary information about the brand, products or services.

• If you are a bank with multiple branches offices, they each need to be claimed (required to use the local listing as a local marketing tool) separately and updated separately.

• If you are a restaurant, then you will find you can update your menu into your local listing.

• If you are an automotive dealership you will find local listings to be your best bet to reach the local consumer market. This will be better than the yellow pages that are used for door stops as well as the full page ads that no one reads in the local traditional papers that are dwindling in circulation and frequency of issues.

• If you are a professional service like a Doctor, Dentist, Attorney, Architect, then you will local listings a new outlet to reach out to the local consumer.

For small business marketing or for that matter any local business marketing the steps to take to use local listings as a marketing tool are:

1. Claim your listing (required to use the local listing as a local marketing tool).

2. Update your listing with your business information, products and services.

3. Add any photos of your business, products and services.

4. Add any videos of your business, products and services.

5. Add any coupons, offers, discounts for your products and services.

6. Get customers to write reviews about their experience with your business, products or services.

7. Manage your local listing weekly with any updates about your business, products or services.

8. Now we need to do all of the above in six of the most popular local listing websites that includes Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, Local.com, and Yelp. There are up to 20 for consideration and based on your locality and industry there could be more.

9. Lastly, aside from keeping the listing up to date at multiple locations, you also have to monitor any local consumer reviews, particularly if they are negative. This will happen regardless if you have claimed (required to use the local listing as a local marketing tool) and updated your listing whether you like this part or not. Consumers have been providing their feedback about a business, product and reviews for a number of years on the web into these local listings as well as through social media.

You’re probably wondering why you need to manage your local listing at all these locations and not just on Google. The answer has two parts.

• The first lies with the mobile marketing industry. Google may be the 800 lb. gorilla “on” the web, but in the mobile industry, the mobile application developer will decide whose database of local listings they will use to display on mobile devices.

• The second lies with the local consumer who will decide which website they will use to submit their reviews and comments about a business, product or service. This one is probably more important than the first.

Both of the above clearly indicate that Google is not going to be the primary source when it comes to mobile devices, mobile applications and mobile marketing. At least not yet!

As with most local and small businesses, your time resources are limited and your expertise does not lie in the management of Internet marketing of your business. For this reason low cost local listing management services are provided by SmartFinds Internet Marketing through their SmartFinds Local Listing service. You will find this to be of great benefit and the low cost will help you potentially eliminate your yellow page ad costs. Let the experts of 15 years Internet marketing experience help you.

How to Build an Industry Community on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn

by on September 16, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on SitePtoNews where author Adrienne Erin goes over how to build industry communities on Google Plus, Facebook & LinkedIn.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Since the advent of the Internet, discussion groups have appeared in various forms, blossoming around a variety of subjects. Nowadays, discussion groups are an even more important component of the Internet than ever before – and there are ways you can use them to stay current with your industry, promote your business and learn a thing or two, all at the same time.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ all include support for community-wide discussion groups. Through these groups you can do many things like help consumers with issues that may arise, or garner attention thanks to word-of-mouth advertising. They are great for small businesses too, because you can provide advice and make suggestions to consumers based on questions they pose.

So, how do you go about setting up and using these discussion groups for your business? Each one is a little different, so we’ll talk about them individually.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is already a business-centric social network of sorts, because most people are focused on building their network to boost their professional career. It’s safe to say then that LinkedIn is a great place to build relationships with folks from other businesses. It never hurts to have a strong network of people plugged into the business world. They can generally offer sound advice, lend a hand or two where it’s needed, or even help you grow a consumer base.

Of course, there are a couple of other benefits to using LinkedIn Groups. For starters, you can send direct messages with others through a group. You can also connect with anyone in a group, thus adding them to your professional network. Generally, you are not able to do these things with private users. In some cases, it actually allows you to bypass the requirement for a premium account.

If you actually own the group, you can e-mail any or all of your members (or at least those who have opted into e-mail communications). In addition, you can configure an automatic welcome e-mail, which is sent as soon as someone joins the group. This is a great way to keep your members active, because you can send out newsletters or e-mail updates on a regular basis.

Of course, if you want anyone to read your e-mails and group content you’ll have to entice them to do so. Try promoting your business by hosting giveaways and contests with your own products or services.

One of the best things about owning your own group is you can showcase it on your public profile. It’s prominently displayed in the ‘featured groups’ section of your professional profile, where any new visitors can check it out.

Facebook Groups

Believe it or not, Facebook Groups can be used for a lot more than sharing memes or wasting time. Facebook is the largest social network currently in operation, if you didn’t already know that. The audience is quite vast and ranges from soccer moms to preteens.

One of the best features of creating a Facebook Group for your business is that you can link all of your profiles. In the “employment” section under your personal profile you can offer a direct link to your business page.

Of course, Facebook Groups offer much more support than just that. As the group, when you post a status, everyone who has ‘liked’ your page will be able to see said updates. This allows you to broadcast to a wide audience at any time, provided you have generated enough interest in your business or industry group.

The way Facebook Groups work, there’s almost no need to send out newsletters or frequent updates to consumers and associates. You can do it right through your Facebook Group, instead.

I would recommend creating a Facebook page for your business, in addition to a group. If you have a Facebook page you will be able to interact with customers using your business account instead of your personal one. Otherwise, you’re wasting a valuable marketing opportunity.

Google+ Communities

Google+ Communities is actually one of the newest platforms to be made available. Even though it may be in its infancy, relatively speaking, the network can do quite a bit for the business world when used properly.

With Google+ communities you can participate using both your business and personal accounts. That means you can interact directly with customers regarding particular topics. If someone asks for cooking advice, and you happen to sell the best pans around, get in there.

This is pretty much a simple form of advertising too — anyone who visits the topic will see the responses from your business and how you interacted with the community. Providing sound and helpful advice to consumers is an excellent form of social marketing.

Unfortunately, if you post links or URLs they will need to be moderated by the group owner which means they can be a hit or miss. It will depend on if the group owner finds the link useful. If you’re the owner of a page, however, you can accept the links yourself.

When you create a community page for your business, it’s automatically linked to your business profile and it’s also displayed at the top of your community page for all members to see. You can also provide links to your business or related sites in the ‘about’ tab of your community page. Since this is pretty much the first thing anyone sees after visiting a group page or joining the community, it will likely encourage some visitors to check out your business page.

Groups 101: How to Interact

With any of the communities or groups mentioned above, your best bet is to create engaging content that encourages interaction from members. Don’t just spend all of your time advertising your business on the community page. The more engaging and interesting content you post, the more likely you will see an influx of visitors to the community and your linked business pages.

Don’t be afraid to launch events or contests. In addition, you can make slightly unrelated posts here and there, like an appealing photo you came across or even discuss a topic related to the group itself but not your business.

The idea is to produce useful content, because that’s exactly why members and visitors join communities like this. They want something out of the experience too, instead of just being subjected to advertisements all the time. Reward them, by offering whatever you can: advice, news, or anything else you can think of.

Do you run your own social community? What kinds of content do you post, or what kinds of discussions do you kick off? Share in the comments below.

Adrienne Erin is a social media marketing writer and blogger who always looks for new social marketing techniques with an eye on how they can help any business, from a rehab center to Mosquito Magnet. Follow her on Twitter for more: @adrienneerin.

Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources How to Build an Industry Community on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn

The post How to Build an Industry Community on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn appeared first on SiteProNews.

5 Tools for Online Business Communication

by on September 11, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on HowStuffWorks where author Dave Roos goes over a few tools to helps businesses communicate online.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Your writer is in New York, your marketing team is in Chicago, your information technology (IT) staff is in India and you’re, well, more or less living at the airport. In today’s business environment — where employees, contractors, consultants and partners are spread across locations — it’s crucial to have online communications and collaboration tools. They boost worker productivity and save time that’s usually spent in tons of meetings.

The following five Web tools and services are changing the way we work.

1 – Project Management and Collaboration Tools

There are several popular subscription Web services for tracking projects, posting updates, assigning tasks, sharing files and managing a mobile workforce. Some of the best-known are Basecamp, @Task, WorkZone and ProjectSpaces.

Here are some of the most common features of these online project management and collaboration tools:

  • No requirements for special software, just a Web browser and Internet connection
  • Allow employees, managers and executives to clearly track the progress of projects, seeing which ones are completed, on track or running behind schedule
  • Allow managers to easily assign different tasks to different team members and for team members to report back on their progress
  • Everyone has access to a group calendar with important dates and deadlines
  • Team members receive e-mail or RSS (Really Simple Syndication) alerts when changes or comments are made on their project
  • Users can easily share documents of any file type and collaborate on changes
  • Managers and executives can print reports on employee productivity, on-time project completion rates, et cetera
  • Freelance and contract employees can track how many hours they’ve worked on a given project
  • Several of these programs allow you to update project status from a mobile device like a Web-enabled PDA or cell phone
  • Some programs can plug into other popular business management Web services like Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com

2 – Business-class Instant Messaging

Workplace instant messaging can be a powerful collaboration tool. Faster than e-mail, less intrusive than a phone call, it’s a great way to ask quick questions, share files and set up instant voice, Web or videoconferences. Programs like AIM Pro and KonoLive take instant messaging beyond simple chat. They allow document sharing, desktop sharing, conferencing and secure, encrypted messaging.

3 – . Web Conferencing and Collaboration

Companies specialize in Web conferencing, audio conferencing and videoconferencing solutions with built-in collaboration tools. Conferences are hosted on a third-party server and can be set up easily and instantly through a Web interface.

4 – VoIP and Unified Communications

 

By integrating all types of communication — voice, e-mail, IM, fax and video — over an Internet Protocol (IP) network, it’s possible to manage all of your communications from a single Web workspace. Smaller businesses can use a streamlined system like the one from Skype. Larger, more complex organizations could employee VoIP and unified communications solutions from companies like Cisco or Avaya.

5 – Social Networks at Work

Businesses are quickly realizing the potential of online social networks for collaboration, communication, and internal and external networking. A company can create a page or group on a popular social networking site like Facebook or build a self-contained social network with a service like Ning.

For more information about online business tools and conferencing, check out the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

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If the thought of entering a crowded room, and sheepishly handing out business cards to strangers while “selling yourself” gives you the heebie-jeebies, you’ll appreciate our networking tips for easing the pain. Read more »

More Great Links

Google Plus SEO: The Business Benefits

by on September 9, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Pam Dyer goes over a few search engine optimization benefits of using Google Plus for small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Google Plus offers business opportunities available nowhere else.

The social network run by Google — the gateway to your business — is a game-changer. It ties together several Google products and delivers many rewards for brands. Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, has said, “It’s really the unification of all of Google’s services, with a common social layer.” Google+ places a heavy emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO), which differentiates it from other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Google Plus and social signals

Sharing things on Google+ and encouraging others to +1 your content works essentially the same way as Facebook “likes”, but the impact is more pronounced because Google Search favors sites that have received more social credibility from others. Although Facebook and Twitter are essential to marketing efforts, both impede Google from accessing much of their data, which limits their SEO effectiveness.

According to a study by Searchmetrics, social signals — recommendations through Likes, tweets and Google+ — account for 7 of the 8 most highly correlated ranking factors in Google search results. Social networks are used by real people who reveal what they genuinely like and think is important via sharing, liking, retweeting, and +1′ing, so it’s not surprising that search engines track these indicators. Google +1s have the highest correlation, followed by number of backlinks, Facebook shares, and Facebook total (summary of shares, likes and comments).

Google Plus and PageRank

Google+ posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately. Google Search treats Google+ profile and pages just like “regular” websites, so they have PageRank and can be just as powerful as other websites in terms of ranking. Web pages with higher PageRank rank higher for search terms than those with lower PageRank, and higher PageRank pages deliver more authority to sites that they link to. It’s important to note that Google+ posts can indefinitely retain ranking, which helps brands capture more real estate on SERPs (search engine results pages).

Key points about followed links:

  • When you share a link on Google+, the anchor text becomes the title of the page you are sharing.
  • Only shared links (the links that show up beneath your post) are followed. Links in the post body are “nofollow”, so they don’t pass any authority/equity.
  • Most links in your Google+ “About” page are followed and do pass link equity.
  • Uploaded images don’t pass external link equity. Good images may increase a post’s popularity and click-through rates, but these posts do not pass link equity.

Google Plus and Web influence

The larger your Google+ network, the more directly or indirectly you influence the search results of the people who have you in their circles. Google Authorship, which I discussed in my post Use Google Authorship to Improve SEO and Drive Traffic , is a powerful tool that helps people connect your content creators with all of the content they produce — I highly suggest that you follow the setup steps in the article so you can begin reaping its benefits. Google’s nascent rel=publisher connection for brands enables Google to verify a connection between your brand’s site and your official Google+ page — this produces a “verified site” notation that shows up on a brand’s Google+ page.

Google Plus and Local SEO

Google+ Local is a part of Google+, and focuses specifically on businesses and their locations. These pages are similar to Facebook business pages, but include a many more features geared to help businesses connect with local consumers on a social level. Here’s a page from a local pizza restaurant in Seattle:

The benefits of Google+ Local include:

  • More online visibility, enabling consumers to find a link to your website, what your business has to offer, and any other information you think they should have.
  • More customer engagement via its social features.
  • Direct access to customers so you can connect on a more personal level, encourage feedback, and ask for reviews.
  • Higher page ranking through posting fresh content on a regular basis. See my post A Beginners Guide to Content Marketing to learn more about its importance.
  • Integration with Google maps, which enables consumers to find pertinent contact information like your phone number, address, directions, and hours of operation.

Google Plus post timing

A great app called Google+ Timing calculates the optimal time to share your posts on Google+. After granting the app access to your Google+ profile, it analyzes engagement on your posts, and determines what time is best for you to post. It’s a pretty hand tool to keep in your arsenal.

Google+ For Business – The 3 Best Types Of Google+ Content

by on August 29, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Evan LePage goes over 3 types of content you can use with Google Plus for small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share! 

Lumping individual social networks into the category of “social media” doesn’t mean you can also lump them into one content category. Each social network has a unique audience, people who expect and enjoy (and are therefore more likely to share) a specific type of content.

Though there is some overlap, knowing the type of content that followers on an individual social network are looking for is a key to being successful on that channel. Google+ is no exception to that rule.

In our own efforts to engage and attract an audience, we’ve seen first hand what type of Google+ content tends to flop and what succeeds on the social network. Here are three kinds of content that are effective on Google+:

Learning opportunities

While many people find Facebook followers enjoy simple photos and videos rather than text, on Google+ we’ve discovered that people respond to posts that teach them something. To our own surprise, posts with entertaining or appealing images didn’t perform as well as posts that provided new knowledge to our followers. Be it information on a product update, social media tips or new tools for learning, Google+ users have clearly expressed their thirst for knowledge.

Our followers are obviously interested in social media and we share Google+ content on that subject. But the same approach can be applied by companies in other industries as well. From cars to cardio, chances are there’s a niche audience on Google+ looking to learn about you, your expertise, your product or service.

Gifs

It may seem basic, but the fact that Google+ allows you to share gifs with your followers is a huge advantage, and one not to be ignored. Where an image is static and a video requires the user to push play (and adjust settings like volume, full screen, etc.), a gif is its own device, one that moves and pulls in the eye without asking anything of the viewer. In our experience, even product gifs have performed startlingly well on Google+, far better than most of our regular image posts.

Are gifs really worth the effort? Gifs can show your followers something in 5 seconds that they may not have watched a full video about. They can also be used and reused in blog posts and future pieces of content. Google+ is the only major social network that allows you to share gifs that will appear in your follower’s streams. Don’t miss out on that opportunity!

Google+ Content About Google+

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but since Google+ is a relatively new social network it has a smaller group of regular users in comparison to Twitter or Facebook. That said, the people who frequent the channel are usually very passionate about it. Put simply, people on Google+ love Google+.

What does that mean for your content strategy? It means that speaking about Google+ is a good way to ensure a receptive audience. As a social relationship platform, we regularly explore major social networks in blog posts and videos. Of any network, content about Google+ (logically) always performs the best on Google+. This audience wants information, tips and discussion about the network they use and love. While this may be a bigger challenge for companies in other industries, it’s not impossible (see Cadbury, for example). Finding ways to include Google+ in content is a smart strategy for creating successful and shareable content on that network.

Bonus Tip: Use Communities

If you feel that your content (or area of expertise) doesn’t mesh well with any of these three categories, find related Google+ communities and post your content there. Here at HootSuite, we do our best to post content not only to our Google+ profile, but to communities like “Social Media,” “Social Media Strategy,” as well as less obvious ones like “Building a Company” or “Entrepreneurs, Self-Employed and Small Business.” Posting in these communities has often doubled, or even tripled the amount of +1s or shares our content has received on the social network.

Want to hone your Google+ strategy? HootSuite University has a full lesson on Google+ for business. Sign up today.

Did you know that HootSuite’s integrated with Google+ Pages? Learn more.

Tax Tips for the Small Business Owner

by on August 27, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Rick Delgado goes over a few tax tips for small businesses.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Tax Tips for the Small Business Owner

It’s never been easier to start a small business to call your own. From business websites to e signatures for legal documents, and multiple communication options, small businesses have become extremely efficient and inexpensive to operate.

Although expenses have decreased, taxes most certainly have not. However, there are some tax benefits for the small business owner that can greatly add to your bottom line.

HOME BASE

Working out of your home is a great way to launch a small business if you can’t afford an office space right off the bat, and your house can be worth a great deal in tax write-offs.

Field Advantage If you run your business out of your home, get an idea of how big your workspace is relative to your house. The percentage of your home used for business purposes are legitimately deductible, but only if it’s used strictly for your company. It doesn’t matter if you have an office adjacent to where you live or you’re just using a spare room, but using the den while your family isn’t home doesn’t count. Don’t forget to write off the relative percentage of utilities you use in this workspace also. Your internet connection is deductible, and so are any phone bills if you have a line exclusively for work.

The Family Advantage Though it may cause some friction after hours, hiring family members can save you quite a bit on small business taxes. As long as they hold legitimate positions in a company you fully own, all of their medical costs can be deducted. Regular taxpayers can only write off medical expenses if they exceed 10% of their taxable income. But small-business owners can write off their own non-reimbursed healthcare costs and their immediate family’s as well.

YOU’LL GO FAR

Whether you work at home or in an office, your travel expenses can almost always be deducted from your tax base.

Step on It Travel expenses are a write-off that many self-employed people forget is deductible. Keep close track of your car’s mileage and gas purchases if you do a lot of travelling from home while you’re on the clock, and then choose one of the options for deducting it. The simplest way is to figure out your total business mileage and then multiply it by the IRS rate for deduction, which you can find on their website. Just make sure that you keep a log of all miles driven for business purposes. If you operate out of your home, the mileage you drive between leaving your house and returning on business travel is also a write-off.

FOR THE RECORD

It can’t be exaggerated how important it is to keep your records in order. This can mean the difference between getting a large check back from the government and a getting hit with a huge tax penalty.

Receipt Me It’s an old tax cliché, but it’s entirely true. Keep a receipt for positively every single business purchase you make. This not only includes the obvious things like equipment or plane tickets but the items that seem insignificant also. Postage fees, office supplies and magazine or journal subscriptions can often be written off. Always consult the IRS’s website before making deductions you’re unsure of, but a surprising amount of minuscule things are eligible and add up quickly.

Get Organized If your company has grown by leaps and bounds in a short period of time, you might feel overwhelmed with purchase orders, legal documents and other paperwork. It isn’t fun to get audited when your paperwork is not in order. Play it safe and plan on being audited. Consider PDF and e signature equipment and software that will help keep messy paperwork off your desk, out of your filing cabinets (or trash) and into a format that is organized, secure and easy to access. Taking the steps to go paperless now by scanning all your current hard copies into PDF form and signing all business documents with an e signature will save paper, ink, time, money and IRS headaches in the future.

Spendthrift If your business has grown faster than you thought possible, you might want to spend some of it on the company before the year is out. Higher income means belonging to a higher tax bracket, but you can legally keep yourself in a lower one by splurging on some equipment and supplies and writing them off. Just make sure you keep good records and can legitimately claim them as business necessities.

Using YouTube to Boost Your Business

by on August 26, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author Ryan Harris goes over how to get more business by using YouTube to promote your small business.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

Driving traffic to the website for your small business can be a challenge. Google Adwords tends to be prohibitively expensive in industries dominated by national brands, or large lead generation companies. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is murky and difficult to navigate as Google continues to make changes to how they rank sites in their results. Word of mouth is much easier said than done. Social Media marketing, however, has been getting an increasing amount of attention by small business owners due to the combination of low-to-no overhead, and potential for large reach within your service area.

There are countless guides on using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to grow your business. Today, I’m going to focus on Youtube, and share examples of businesses using video to their advantage.

YouTube is actually the second largest search engine in the US, much to the disappointment of Bing and Yahoo. While most of these searches are non-transactional (people looking for music videos, cats playing the piano, etc) there are both direct and indirect benefits to using video (and YouTube specifically) as part of your small business marketing plan.

Direct Benefits

By recording simple videos and placing them on YouTube, you instantly gain access to the audience of the most trafficked video site on the internet. Roughly 100 hours of new video content is uploaded to YouTube each and every minute (More YouTube statistics can be found here). According to Alexa.com, YouTube is the third most trafficked website online, behind only Google and Facebook.

Once your content is live on YouTube, you’re eligible to be returned as search results when people look for videos related to your business/topic. Doing simple things like remembering to add a link to your website in the video description will aid in transitioning viewers from seeing your content on YouTube, to coming to your website.

Indirect Benefits

One of the biggest indirect benefits of using YouTube is the ability to embed your video content on your website without additional hosting or bandwidth charges. Creating video to help explain difficult or in-depth concepts and issues can help you more easily connect with your viewers. Getting a website viewer to hit play and passively watch a video is much easier than getting them to read every sentence of a 900 word article on the benefits of your product of service.

This also presents an additional opportunity to connect with your customers, and develop a sense of familiarity and trust with potential buyers.

One example of a small business utilizing video is the Seattle based company, Moz. Moz sells Software As A Service (SAAS) products to online marketers. They maintain a very active blog and community, and publish a weekly video series called “Whiteboard Friday” in which the Moz CEO, Rand Fishkin (and sometimes, a guest host) tackles online marketing topics and issues in front of a whiteboard. These videos regularly produce tens of thousands of views, plus additional tweets, shares, likes, and comments. It also helps showcase the company personality and culture through it’s laid back, informal tone as well as the animated introduction.

An example of a business outside the tech space using video is the Louisiana based lawyer, Loyd J. Bourgeois. Mr. Bourgeois created and maintains LouisianaDisabilityLaw.com, and utilizes video on his “Video Tips” page. While these videos have “only” generated several hundred views each, they have helped Mr. Bourgeois connect with his website viewers, and help begin the critical process of building trust between an attorney and their clients. According to Mr. Bourgeois, “The videos have been a big help. The folks who call in after viewing the video tips are notably much more comfortable in the overall process, and we are able to get started more quickly because they are better prepared. They’re also more comfortable, as they’re already able to put a face and voice to a name from the very first point of contact.”

By utilizing video on your business website, specifically YouTube, you can easily develop initial connections with your viewers, as well as open up your brand to a large potential audience. Once you commit to using video for your business, make sure you customize your YouTube Channel artwork, and remember the best practices for utilizing online video for business.

Must-Have Apps for Business Road Warriors

by on August 21, 2013 |

In an article from the web we check in on B2C where author GetApp explores a few apps for people who have to travel for business.  We hope you enjoy the article, learn, comment and share!

While packing for your next work trip, don’t forget to also “pack” your smartphone full of these must-have apps for business. Today’s software applications can keep all of your business information organized and easy to find and also help you locate services, such as gas stations, and great places to eat or to get a cup of coffee while you’re in unfamiliar territory.

After using these apps on your smartphone, you will wonder how you ever managed to travel without them.

BlackBerry Travel

If you are tired of scrolling through your emails looking for your various car rental, flight and hotel booking confirmations, you’ll want to download BlackBerry Travel. This nifty little app keeps all of those important emails together and will even notify you of gate changes and flight delays. You can even share your trip info with other BlackBerry users with this app so that your co-workers or family members will know when your flight will land or if there are any delays. In addition, this free app boasts a currency converter, world clocks and other useful travel gadgets.

Waze

According to Ynetnews, this social network-based GPS has approximately 45 million users, making it the biggest such application in the world. Utilizing information it gathers about accidents and delays from its many users, this real-time app informs drivers of potential slowdowns and traffic jams. Waze, which was recently bought by Google for $1.1 billion dollars, is free and available for the iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Android smartphones.

Viber

If you travel frequently to foreign countries, it can cost you a small fortune to stay in touch with family, friends and co-workers by phone — even if you’re only heading across the border. Viber is a free app that allows you to talk or text other Viber users for free over a Wi-Fi connection. This app is free and available on various platforms, including iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

Wi-Fi Finder

This app’s name says it all. This software application from JiWire will help you find the nearest free Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere in the world. Wi-Fi Finder is free and available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

TripAdvisor App

No one should plan a trip for business or pleasure without consulting TripAdvisor at some point. This website has millions of up-to-the-minute hotel, restaurant and attraction reviews from fellow travelers. You can also find helpful tips about various destinations on TripAdvisor, such as advice on transportation, that can help with your trip planning. The TripAdvisor app is free and available for all major platforms, including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.

Expensify

Expensify is a handy, free app that will keep your business expenses organized on the road. This app, which is available on all major platforms, including BlackBerry, iPhone and Android, allows you to take pictures of receipts and then make notes regarding the expense. You can also link emailed receipts and import credit card charges to your Expensify account. At the end of the trip, you can then use the information to create an expense report.

You can discover hundreds of mobile apps for your business on the GetApp Mobile Marketplace.

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