7 Ways You Can Grow Your Business By Tracking Your Time

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

I get asked all the time, what are your reasons to track your time? William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” Not exactly correct English — but you know what’s being said.

As a business owner, it’s easy to relate to that statement. Before starting to track time, you can waste huge chunks of valuable time — maybe scrolling through my social media feeds and binge-watching Netflix. The result? You won’t be as productive, which means making less money.

However, small business owners and the average 9-to-5 person also struggle with time management.

Thankfully, there are numerous time tracking tools that can help get with solving this problem. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who haven’t taken advantage of these tools because they still think that time tracking is a waste-of-time.

Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

Here are 7 Reasons Why Everyone Should Track Their Time

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

1. Discover How You Spend Your Days

How many times have you looked at the clock only to ask, “Where did today go?” Well, by tracking your time, you can finally answer that age-old question with clear, direct accuracy.

By recording your daily routine for a week or so, you can determine when you’re most productive and identify the time-waster, such as social media, email, or blankly staring at the wall. When you eliminate extraneous interruptions and activities, you will be able to sort your tasks, and increase your productivity and focus on the tasks that are most important.

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

2. Allows You to Identify Areas that Need Improvement

After you start tracking your time, you will be able to see the various areas where you need improvement. Seeing areas where you need improvement goes beyond eliminating those time wasters which were just mentioned.

For example, if you’re a graphic designer and you discover that you’re spending too much time on thumbnail logos, then you can determine what you believe is the appropriate amount of time you should be spending. It may be that you’re giving the client too many options. Instead of developing ten different options, offer only three or four and then make any changes from there.

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

3. Helps You Bill Correctly

Would you rather prefer to be paid by the hour for your expertise or by a fixed rate for the finished product?

If you charge by the hour, then the client needs to know how many hours it will take it will take to finish the project. If you charge by the project, the client still needs to know how to calculate the amount of time it will take for you to complete the project as well. Time tracking previous projects can help you create more accurate estimates.

Remember, clients aren’t too keen on paying for work that they believe could have been done faster. Time tracking tools provide documentation that shows how exactly you spent your time on the project. This not only addresses any concerns that the client has regarding the invoice, it also puts an end to time theft, since you’re able to bill the client fairly — there is no guessing for those times and projects that you forgot to write down.

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

4. Forecast More Accurately

We’ve all been guilty of setting unrealistic deadlines and budgets for a new project. Here’s the thing, after you and your employees have tracked your time on a previous project from start to finish, you’ll have a basis for future projections. This allows you to create more accurate estimations on how much time and money a project is going to take, as well as set reasonable deadlines.

Having this knowledge readily available will also allow you to take-on new projects with confidence since you can be certain that projects won’t overlap nor will you or your employees get overwhelmed.

5. Forces You to Single-Task

It’s been proven that we’re just not capable of multitasking. In fact, the entire concept of multitasking is a myth. Instead of doing several things at the same time, you’re actually cycling through these tasks quickly.

“When you’re time-tracking, you’re aware that each increment of time — be it 15 minutes or an hour — is being logged. This means that you give each task its due time for the simple fact that you want to be able to log it accurately,” writes Jeremy Anderberg. “If you’re spending mere minutes on a variety of tasks, your log will be a mess. But there’s a certain pride that comes with being able to mark down a full hour or two on a single important item.”

Eventually, you’ll be able to grow and appreciate your ability to focus. There won’t be a need to multi-task. “You’ll learn to block off 30 or 60 minutes per day to these simple to-dos. You will get them all out of the way in one fell swoop.”

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

6. Creates a Daily Routine and Habits

Tracking your time gives you the opportunity to create daily routines and habits. This will ultimately help you battle procrastination and help you be able to get the most out of your time.

Daily routines and habits can also keep you healthy, happy, and productive. These routines can also improve your chances of becoming a successful “Unicorn,” like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Drew Houston, and Julia Hartz.

Here Are 7 Great Reasons to Start Tracking Your Time

7. Helps You Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is important to your personal health and productivity, along with the health and productivity of your family and community. “After all, people need time and energy to participate in family life, democracy, and community activities,” says Shawn M. Burn, Ph.D. “They also need time outside of work for rejuvenation, and to develop and nurture friendships and their ‘non-work selves.’”

Once you’re tracked your time, you will notice that you now have free time. This equals time to spend with your friends or family. It allows you to do more things that you actually enjoy.

When you achieve a healthy work-life balance, you can remain healthy. Both mentally and physically. It helps you stay productive, motivated, and you will be much better able to avoid getting burned out.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Images: Due.com

This article, “7 Ways You Can Grow Your Business By Tracking Your Time” was first published on Small Business Trends

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YouTube Introduces Heatmaps for Virtual Reality Videos

New: YouTube Heatmaps for Virtual Reality Videos and 360-Degree Videos

YouTube recently introduced heatmaps for virtual reality (VR) videos with over 1,000 views. The Google-owned video site said the heatmaps will give you specific insight into how your viewers are engaging with videos created in VR.

YouTube Heatmaps for Virtual Reality and 360-Degree Videos

“With heatmaps, you’ll be able to see exactly what parts of your video are catching a viewer’s attention and how long they’re looking at a specific part of the video,” wrote Frank Rodriguez, a Product Manager at YouTube, in a post announcing the new tool on the YouTube Creators Blog.

Small businesses looking to share new and unique experiences with their audience can take advantage of the emerging VR technology and start creating immersive videos in VR their audience will appreciate.

Check out this video on how to make a simple VR/360-degree video from your smartphone for YouTube:

Tips for Creating Immersive Videos in VR

For those businesses that want to go all in on VR and hone their skills, YouTube says it’s helpful to know how your viewers interact with these videos. The video-sharing site used its new heatmaps tool to conduct some early research on what makes an engaging VR video.

Apparently, people spend 75 percent of their time looking straight ahead (within the front 90 degrees) of a VR video. So when creating videos in VR, spend significant time on what’s in front of the viewer.

While a lot of time is spent focusing on what’s in front, people view more of the full 360-degree space with almost 20 percent of views actually being behind them. The more engaging the full scene is, the more likely viewers will want to explore the full 360-degree view, said Rodriguez. So don’t forget to use markers and animations to draw attention to different parts of the scene.

The context in which people are viewing VR videos matters too, added Rodriguez. Some might be watching on a mobile and portable Cardboard, while others are watching on a desktop computer. Make sure to give your viewers a few seconds before jumping into the action.

Small Business VR Adoption Is Growing

It’s worth mentioning it is still early days in VR. Only five percent of people in North America own a virtual reality headset overall. But VR adoption is growing — albeit slowly. Small businesses are already utilizing the technology to hold VR conferencing and also immerse customers in VR business events.

YouTube said it’s also launching its first ever VR intensive program at YouTube Space LA called the VR Creator Lab. Applications opened Friday, June 16, 2017.

Image: YouTube

This article, “YouTube Introduces Heatmaps for Virtual Reality Videos” was first published on Small Business Trends

UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Growing Global and Exporting Your Brand #Gateway17

UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Global Expansion and Exporting Your Brand

What do CEO and Chairman of UPS David Abney and style-maven Martha Stewart have in common? They both think that growing globally is a great way to expand a business.

Global Expansion Tips

Both spoke at the Gateway ’17 event in Detroit today, sharing their thoughts on opportunities for small businesses in China and beyond.

First, Abney gave his talk on the opportunities and challenges of selling products overseas, a topic he’s qualified to address since UPS ships to countries around the world, including China. In fact, before he was named Chairman and CEO, Abney served as the President of UPS International, where he often reminded employees and clients about the power of thinking beyond just the U.S.

UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Global Expansion and Exporting Your Brand

Like others at the conference, Abney stressed the importance of gaining an understanding of your customers before selling to global markets.

“To sell around the world, you must go native,” he said.

By this, Abney means that you need to really understand the customs and preferences of the people you’re selling to.

He offered an example of one of the first times UPS sent a flight to China. The company was so excited and wanted to make it special. So they had a dragon painted on the side of the plane. But the dragon was facing backwards (in the wrong direction) on the plane. It’s something the team would have known had they consulted anyone from China, or someone familiar enough with the culture to understand the importance of the direction the dragon was facing.

For this reason, Abney said, it’s very important for businesses to immerse themselves and do lots of research when breaking into new markets.

Of course, you also need to understand the logistics and practical processes of selling overseas, which companies like UPS can help with.

For her part, Stewart also shared some tips for small business owners based on her years of experience.

The lifestyle mogul has recently started exporting her various product lines to China and other international markets, a move that has made her businesses even more profitable than previously imagined.

Of course, it’s not as easy as just saying you want to export. Stewart also stressed the importance of knowing the markets you plan on entering.

For example, her line of sheets is something that appeals to Chinese consumers due to the quality. But they don’t usually have access to the same size washers and dryers as American consumers do. So the company had to make a small adjustment to make sure the products would be practical specifically for Chinese consumers.

“It’s just about making smaller versions of luxurious things,” Stewart said.

In addition, Stewart spoke about the amazing power the internet and social media give small makers and small business owners to reach people around the world. Stewart has made great use of social media for her businesses. And she thinks that things like livestreaming, podcasting and online video offer unique ways for businesses to build a great deal of recognition when breaking into new markets.

Stewart also applauded Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, whose company sponsored the event, for choosing to host in Detroit, which she called a “hotbed of American makers.”

Gateway ’17 is a conference for small businesses looking to expand by marketing to Chinese consumers. The event began June 20 and carries on through June 21 at Cobo Center, Detroit.

Images: Small Business Trends/Annie Pilon

This article, “UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Growing Global and Exporting Your Brand — #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

China Needs Your Small Business Products #Gateway17

China Needs Your Small Business Products: Business Opportunities in China

China is the next big frontier for small businesses, according to a Keynote from Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, at Gateway ’17 at Detroit’s Cobo Center today.

When the internet was booming in the mid ‘90’s, Ma did a search for “beer and China” and found no results. That’s when he first realized there was a gap in the market — eCommerce products for Chinese consumers.

After a series of failures, including rejections from colleges, being turned down for a job as a police officer and even being the only one out of 24 applicants to be turned down for a job at KFC, Ma decided that he was destined to go into business for himself. So he turned to that idea of creating an eCommerce solution to serve Chinese customers.

China Needs Your Small Business Products: Business Opportunities in China

Even then, there were a lot of doubters. China didn’t have the credit card services or logistics that made eCommerce a good fit in other markets. But Ma really believed that it was something Chinese consumers wanted and that if he started right away, he and his team could make it happen eventually.

“If we do not succeed, someone else will,” he said.

So he built a team, attempted to gain some startup capital, and eventually started with about $50,000.

There were plenty of failures along the way. But those failures turned into lessons Ma has been able to share with other business owners. One of the most important lessons, which specifically relates to businesses looking to break into new markets like China, is to really understand the needs of your customers above all else.

“Investors may not like us. But if our customers like us, we can survive,” Ma said.

So for the businesses looking to explore opportunities within the growing Chinese market, capturing customer interest can make the difference between success and failure, Ma explained. You might have a great product that people in the U.S. love, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically be a hit in China. But you may also just need to find the right partner or make a small tweak to your offering that can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your small business.

Business Opportunities in China

And there’s plenty of opportunity and demand. According to Ma, the Chinese middle class is currently at about 300 million people. And there are plenty of products, ranging from sneakers to baby food and even live lobsters, that consumers want to spend their disposable income on when given the opportunity.

Overall, Ma says that it’s important for businesses to be open to new possibilities, especially in the age of the internet. And he thinks small businesses are going to be at the forefront of changes in China and around the world over the next 30 years.

“The world is shifting from standardization to personalization,” he said.

So the companies that provide products created for a specific market are those likely to succeed. And small businesses are poised to do just that.

Gateway ’17 is an event aimed at helping entrepreneurs learn about the growing opportunities for selling to Chinese consumers. The event drew 3,000 registered attendees over June 21 and 22 to downtown Detroit.

Shanghai Photo via Shutterstock

Jack Ma photo: Small Business Trends/Annie Pilon

This article, “China Needs Your Small Business Products — #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Small Business Conference #Gateway17

Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Gateway 17 Small Business Conference - #Gateway17

Gateway ’17, an inaugural small business event aimed at businesses interested in exporting goods or otherwise expanding their customer base in China, took Detroit by storm this week.

The sold-out event features big name speakers like Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, CEO of UPS David Abney, and style-maven Martha Stewart.

This conference is not so much about sourcing manufacturing of goods in China (although there’s some of that represented). It’s mainly about helping small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs in attendance to network and learn more about tapping into the hundreds of millions of Chinese middle-class consumers.

Jack Ma decided on Detroit for the event because, according to company officials, he and Alibaba are committed to the heartland. And Detroit has recently become revitalized and has a strong entrepreneurial base. According to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, “the Creative Class is here” (giving a nod to the book by Richard Florida called “The Rise of the Creative Class”).

The event opened last evening, and among the speakers was Ma, who was interviewed in a fireside chat format by media personality Charlie Rose. In inspirational and surprisingly candid remarks, Ma outlined the struggles of starting Alibaba in 1999, at a time when the Internet was new in China. “Everything I did before Alibaba failed — everything,” he said, highlighting the need to have an entrepreneurial vision and believe in it.

Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Gateway 17 Small Business Conference - #Gateway17

Entrepreneur and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert, who has been a driving force behind Detroit’s comeback, also emphasized how failure is a part of achieving success. He urged the small business owners and entrepreneurs in the audience, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

The event kicked off with a bang with a team of drummers. But these were not ordinary drummers. They wore lighted suits and drummed to a light show — while being suspended in the air on wires. Ecommerce entrepreneur John Lawson, who attended the event, said after the opening evening, “As soon as I saw that opening drum show, I knew Alibaba had kicked it up to a higher level than your typical conference.”

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Tina Yuan of Co.Media, who attended the event, counts Ma as her business role model, saying “He started out as a small business. He says you have to give back. He wants to make others successful and that’s his strength.”

And in fact, helping small businesses is a message that Ma repeated during his opening remarks. People sometimes call Alibaba an eCommerce company, Ma said, but that’s not really a good description. “We’re not an eCommerce company. We help small businesses become eCommerce companies.”

After listening to the keynote speakers, attendees will have the opportunity to drop in for breakout sessions on everything from exporting specific items like clothing or food to China, to learning about the specific offerings of platforms like Alipay (Alibaba’s payment platform). The event also features casting sessions for CNBC reality shows “The Profit” and “Billion Dollar Buyer,” along with customer spotlights and success stories.

The focus of the event is to help small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs explore growth opportunities in China and learn about marketing to Chinese consumers. China is one of the fastest growing consumer bases in the world. So learning how to market and sell to this growing group could provide a major boon for small businesses, likely one of the reasons Gateway ’17 has drawn in thousands of registered attendees.

About 3,000 people registered to attend the event at the Cobo Center in Detroit on June 20 and 21, 2017. The opening evening appeared filled to capacity.

Anita Campbell, also in attendance at the event, contributed to this report.

Images: Small Business Trends

This article, “Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Small Business Conference — #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

14 Essential Tips for an Engaging Facebook Business Page

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Whether you’re setting up a brand new Facebook Page for your brand, or you just want to make the most of your existing one, it’s probably a smart move — Facebook is home to nearly 2 billion monthly active users.

It should be easy enough, right? Just slap together a photo, a couple of posts, and expect the leads and customers to roll on in, right?

Wrong.

If you’re not creating a Facebook Page with a comprehensive strategy to get noticed, Liked, and engaged with, the chances of actually generating leads and customers from it are pretty slim. For example, you can’t just choose any picture — you have to choose one that’s the right dimensions, high-resolution, and properly represents your brand.

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But it doesn’t end there — so we compiled the tips below to make sure you’re creating an engaging page that takes full advantage of everything Facebook marketing has to offer.

14 Facebook Business Page Tips

1) Don’t create a personal profile for your business.

We’ve come across many well-meaning marketers and entrepreneurs who create personal profiles for their brands, instead of an actual Facebook Business Page. That puts you at a huge disadvantage — you’re missing out on all of the content creation tools, paid promotional opportunities, and analytics/insights that come with a Facebook Business Page. Plus, a personal profile would require people to send you a friend request in order to engage with you, and the last thing you want to do is make that more difficult for customers.

And while you’re at it — don’t create an additional public, “professional” profile associated with your business. For example, I already have a personal profile on Facebook that I largely keep private; the practice I’m talking about would be if I created a second, public one under the name “AmandaZW HubSpot,” or something along those lines. People usually do that to connect with professional contacts on Facebook, without letting them see personal photos or other posts. But the fact of the matter is that creating more than one personal account goes against Facebook’s terms of service.

2) Avoid publishing mishaps with Page roles.

We’ve all heard those horror stories about folks who accidentally published personal content to their employers’ social media channels — a marketer’s worst nightmare. So to avoid publishing mishaps like those, assign Facebook Business Page roles only to the employees who absolutely need it for the work they do each day. And before you do that, be sure to provide adequate training to those who are new to social media management, so they aren’t confused about when they should be hitting “publish,” what they should be posting, if something should be scheduled first, and who they should be posting it as.

To assign these, on your business page, click “Settings,” then click “Page Roles.”

Also, when sharing content on behalf of your brand, make sure you’re posting it as your brand, and not as yourself. You can check that by going into your settings and clicking “Page Attribution.”

3) Add a recognizable profile picture.

You’ll want to pick a profile picture that’s easy for your audience to recognize — anything from a company logo for a big brand, to a headshot of yourself if you’re a freelancer or consultant. Being recognizable is important to getting found and Liked, especially in Facebook Search. It’s what shows up in search results, pictured at the top of your Facebook Page, the thumbnail image that gets displayed next to your posts in people’s feeds … so choose wisely.

When choosing a photo, keep in mind that Facebook frequently changes its picture dimensions, which you can find at any given time here. As of publication, Page profile pictures display at 170×170 pixels on desktop, and 128×128 pixels on smartphones.

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4) Choose an engaging cover photo.

Next, you’ll need to pick an attractive cover photo. Since your cover photo takes up the most real estate above the fold on your Facebook Page, make sure you’re choosing one that’s high-quality and engaging to your visitors, like this one from MYOB’s Facebook Page:

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myob mobile.png

Keep in mind that, like profile images, Facebook Page cover photo dimensions also frequently change, so we advise keeping an eye on the official guidelines. As of publication, Page cover photos display at 820×312 pixels on computers, and 640×360 pixels on smartphones.

5) Add a call-to-action (CTA) button.

Since Facebook first launched the feature in December 2014, the options for brands to add call-to-action buttons to their Facebook Page’s have vastly expanded. These are things like “Watch Video,” “Sign Up,” or “Book Now” — and each can be customized with a destination URL or piece of content of their choosing.

It’s a great way for marketers to drive more traffic to their websites, or to get more eyeballs on the Facebook content they want to promote. This is a great way for marketers to drive traffic from their Facebook Business Page back to their website. Check out how Mandarin Oriental uses the “Book Now” button in this way, to make it easier for viewers to make reservations.

Mandarin Oriental.png

To add a call-to-action to your Page, click the blue “Add a Button” box.

Add a button.png

You’ll then be able to choose which type of CTA you want to create, and which URL or existing content on your Facebook Page you want it to direct visitors to. To get data on how many people are clicking it, simply click the drop-down arrow on your button and select “View Insights.”

6) Fill out your ‘About’ section with basic information, and add company milestones.

We’ve arrived at one of the most important sections of your Facebook Page: the ‘About’ section.

Although visitors no longer see a preview of your “About” text when they land on your page — instead, they have to click on the “About” option on the left-hand column next to your content — it’s still one of the first places they’ll look when trying to get more information about your page.

Even within the “About” section, however, there are many options for copy to add. Consider optimizing the section that best aligns with your brand — a general description, a mission, company information, or your story — with brief, yet descriptive copy. By doing so, your audience can get a sense of what your Page represents before they decide to Like it.

You might also want to populate sections that allow you to record milestones and awards — like when you launched popular products and services — as well as the day/year your company was founded, or when you hosted major events.

7) Post photos and videos to your Timeline.

Visual content has pretty much become a requirement of any online presence, including social media channels. After all, it’s 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

And while photos are a wonderful way to capture moments and an actual look at your brand, you should probably invest a good amount of time and other resources into video. The 2017 State of Inbound report cited video as the “main disruptor,” with 24% of marketers naming it as a top priority.

“Watch video” is one of the CTAs that Facebook allows brands to add to their Pages for a reason — because it’s becoming one of the most popular ways to consume content. But it’s not just pre-recording videos. According to the social media channel’s newsroom, “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live.” So don’t be afraid to give viewers an in-the-moment look at what your organization does, but do make sure you’re prepared.

Not sure what your videos should look like? Here’s a fun one that we put together on business lingo.

8) Determine the ideal timing and frequency for your posts.

An important consideration in your Facebook content strategy should be how frequently you post, and when. If you don’t post frequently enough, you won’t look as reliable or authentic — after all, how much faith do you put in a brand that hasn’t updated its Facebook Page for several months? Post too often, however, and people might get sick of having their feeds flooded with your content.

Here’s where a social media editorial calendar can be particularly helpful. Like any other online content, it can help you establish a schedule for when you share particular posts according to season or general popularity. You’ll probably have to adjust your calendar several times, especially in the earliest stages of setting up your Page, since you’ll want to check the performance of your updates in your Facebook Insights (which you can navigate to via the tab at the very top of your page). Once you’ve observed popular times and other analytics for your first several posts, you can tailor your posting frequency and strategy accordingly.

Wondering how to schedule posts? You can either use an external publishing tool like the Social Inbox within HubSpot software, or the Facebook interface itself. For the latter, click the arrow next to the “Publish” button and click “Schedule Post.”

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9) Leverage Facebook’s targeting tools.

Facebook allows you to target certain audiences with specific updates — be it gender, relationship or educational status, age, location, language, or interests, you can segment individual page posts by these criteria.

Just click the small bullseye symbol on the bottom of the post you want to publish, and you can set metrics for both a preferred audience, and one you think might not want to see your content.

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10) Pin important posts to the top of your page.

When you post new content to your Facebook Page, older posts get pushed farther down your Timeline. But sometimes, you might want a specific post to stay at the top of your page for longer — even after you publish new updates.

To solve for this, Facebook offers the ability to “pin” one post at a time to the top of your page. You can use pinned posts as a way to promote things like new lead-gen offers, upcoming events, or important product announcements.

To pin a post, click on the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of a post on your page, and click ‘Pin to Top.’ It will then appear at the top of your page, flagged with a little bookmark. Just keep in mind that you can only have one pinned post at any given time.

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11) Decide whether you want Facebook fans to message you privately.

If you want your Facebook fans to be able to privately message you directly through your page, definitely enable the messages feature. You can do so by going to your settings, clicking on “General” on the left-hand column, and then looking for “Messages” on the list of results.

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We recommend enabling messaging on your page to make it as easy as possible for your fans to reach out to you — but only do so if you have the time to monitor and respond to your messages. Facebook Pages now have a section that indicates how quickly a brand responds to messages, so if you don’t want that section saying that you’re slow to answer, you might just want to skip enabling that feature.

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12) Monitor and respond to comments on your page.

Speaking of monitoring the interactions your fans have with your page, don’t forget about comments. You can monitor and respond to comments via the ‘Notifications’ tab at the very top of your page. While it may not be necessary to respond to every single comment you receive, you should definitely monitor the conversations happening there (especially to stay on top of potential social media crises.

13) Promote your page to generate more followers.

Now that you’ve filled your page with content, it’s time to promote the heck out of it.

One of the first things you can do is to create an ad promoting your Page. To do that, click the three dots at the top menu bar above your posts and select “Create Ad.” From there, Facebook will let you start creating an ad from scratch based on your goals — things like reach, traffic, or general brand awareness. Choose yours, then scroll down and click “continue.”

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After that, you can choose your targeted audience (similar to what you did with your promoted posts above), where on Facebook you want it to be placed, and your budget — you can learn more about paying for Facebook Ads here.

You’ll probably also be asked to add some creative assets or copy. Remember, you’re paying for this, so choose something that’s going to grab attention, but also has high quality and represents your brand well.

14) Finally, measure the success of your Facebook efforts.

There are a couple of ways to execute this step. You can use something like the social media reports tool in your HubSpot software, and you can dig into your Page’s Insights, which allow you to track Facebook-specific engagement metrics. Here, you’ll be able to analyze things like the demographics of your Page audience and, if you reach a certain threshold, the demographics of people engaging with your page and posts. As we mentioned earlier, the latter is especially helpful to modify your Facebook content strategy to publish more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. You can access your Facebook Page Insights via the tab at the top of your page.

How have you set up top-notch Facebook Pages? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Starting a Wine Business? Here are the States with the Lowest and Highest Excise Tax Rates

Starting a Wine Business? Here are the States with the Lowest and Highest Excise Tax Rates on Wine

If you’re planning to start a wine business — winery, wine shop, wine retail, restaurant, wine bar etc, it’s important to factor in your state wine excise tax rates. Federal and state wine excise rates vary by alcohol content and type of wine. The states with the lowest tax rate are California and Texas as per the Tax Foundation, the nation’s leading independent tax policy research organization.

States Taxes for Wine Businesses

According to the foundation, wine taxes apply to off-premise sales (from retail sources) not (on-premise sales) at a restaurant or bar. That means certain wine types you may be considering to sell, and wines with a higher alcohol content may be subject to higher excise tax rates at your retail source in some states compared to others. You need to know where your state lies on the wine tax spectrum.

Here’s a list of states’ wine excise rates as per the Tax Foundation:

1. States with the Lowest Excise Tax Rates on Wine

The five states with the lowest wine excise rates are California ($0.20), Texas ($0.20), Wisconsin ($0.25), Kansas ($0.30), and New York ($0.30).

2. States with the Highest Excise Tax Rates on Wine

Kentucky has the highest wine excise tax rate at $3.17 per gallon, followed by Alaska ($2.50), Florida ($2.25), Iowa ($1.75), and New Mexico and Alabama (tied at $1.70).

3. Federal Excise Tax Rates on Wine

Federal rates for wines with up to 14 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) are taxed at $1.07 per gallon, wines between 14 and 21 percent ABV at $1.57 percent per gallon, and wines between 21 and 24 percent ABV at $3.15 per gallon. Sparkling wine is taxed at $3.40 per gallon regardless of alcohol content.

Note: This list does not include states that control all wine sales: New Hampshire, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming.

Other Factors that Determine Wine Excise Rates

The Tax Foundation notes that wine excise rates can also include case or bottle fees dependent on the size of the container, as in states like Arkansas, Minnesota, and Tennessee. Moreover, rates may include sales taxes specific to alcoholic beverages and wholesale tax rates, as is the case in Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia.

Wine Glasses Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Starting a Wine Business? Here are the States with the Lowest and Highest Excise Tax Rates” was first published on Small Business Trends

Shocking! Fake News Now a Booming Business for Hire Online Report Says

Shocking! Fake News Services Now a Booming Business for Hire Online, Report Says

Twisting the truth and spreading it online is no longer just a fad. It’s a growing industry with a range of services on offer, a new study finds.

The whole business of making money by spinning lies of course presents a moral dilemma. But its rapid growth creates a business opportunity that many people are apparently finding hard to resist.

Fake News Services on Offer

A new report by IT security company Trend Micro reveals there are several services available today to spread fake news. And these services come for a price.

Take instigating a street protest, for example. A fake protest can be announced by paying $10,000. The total price for discrediting a journalist, on the other hand, comes up to $55,000.

Creating fake celebrities is another prominent service available today. It involves a gradual increase in followers and plenty of reposts and voting among other activities.

“It’s never been easier to manipulate social media and other online platforms to affect and amplify public opinion,” Trend Micro spokesman Bharat Mistry told BBC.

Fake News Tricks

The report highlights the difference between “simply posting propaganda and actually turning it into something that the target audience consumes.”

It also reveals the specific techniques used for such a campaign including the buying of followers, fans, likes, reposts, comments and videos.

From a Fake News Publisher’s Perspective

Online publishers like Jestin Coler have turned fake news into a money-making venture.

At the time of the U.S. presidential elections, Coler published a string of fake news articles that went viral. This prompted many to speculate whether they had an impact on the election results or not. Coler, however, insisted their impact had been negligible.

Instead, Coler maintained profit rather than politics had been his motive. He told National Public Radio his profit was comparable to the $10,000 to $30,000 a month reported by other publishers. Like it or not, publishers like Coler have stumbled upon a profitable business opportunity — even if many may find it unethical .

Fake News Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Shocking! Fake News Now a Booming Business for Hire Online, Report Says” was first published on Small Business Trends

The Simple Test That Doubled Leads in One Week

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We’ve talked about the best practice of matching your offer and blog post topic as tightly as possible many times on the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But just in case you haven’t heard of this best practice before, I’ll give an example.

Let’s say you have a post explaining different types of commercial cooling systems that gets a steady amount of organic traffic each month. The best fit offer for this post would be a quiz to determine the right cooling system for your business, or a cooling systems pricing comparison sheet.

Because the offer closely aligns with what brought the visitor to your blog post in the first place — an interest in learning about commercial cooling systems — it’s natural for visitors to want to consume this additional content and convert on a lead form. On the other hand, an ebook on ventilation best practices probably wouldn’t convert traffic as well, since it’s not as well-aligned with the topic of the blog post.

A few years back, we did an audit of our highest organic traffic posts on the HubSpot Blog to see if our offers were as optimized for conversion as they could be. We found several areas to more tightly align blog post topic with offer topic, and saw CVRs climb. For example, conversions from this post increased considerably when we swapped a generic marketing offer for a press release template.

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The bottom of the post CTA

Fast forward to today. It had been a while since we took a look at those posts. After all, all of the optimization work that could be done had been done, right?

But then I started digging into the conversion rates of the offer landing pages themselves … and discovered a whole new gold mine of opportunity.

Here’s the quick and dirty of how I doubled leads from 50 of our top-performing blog posts in one week by analyzing landing page CVRs.

Gathering the Data

First, I created a massive spreadsheet that included data on:

  • Blog post traffic
  • Leads generated from blog posts (HubSpot customers, you can do this via attribution reports. Learn how here.)
  • Conversion rate of offer landing page

Here’s what that looked like (this snapshot features some of our worst-converting blog posts — clearly, there’s some work to be done):

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Blog data: URL, views, leads attributed, and CVR

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Separate tab with offer LP submission rate data

Then, I sorted by highest number of blog post views and highest number of leads generated, and started comparing to offer landing page CVR. This helped me prioritize my optimization efforts so I could see where the potential to move the needle was the greatest — i.e. an offer with a 70% submission rate but 800 monthly views wouldn’t be as good an opportunity to increase raw leads as one with a 45% submission rate and 15,000 monthly views.

The sweet spot was high blog post views + low number of leads generated + low landing page submission rate.

Auditing the Offers

Then, for the top 150 viewed blog posts, I manually audited and noted the URL of which offer LPs were being used. I found that some offers were tightly aligned to the topic of the blog posts while others were not. I also found that some of the offers we were directing visitors to were out of date — not the best experience.

Next up? Some VLOOKUP magic to match offer landing page submission rate to the blog posts that offer was being linked from. It quickly became clear that some of our best-performing blog posts were pointing to some of our worst-performing offers. I also spotted a few trends in subject matter among our lowest performers, such as social media, career development, and content creation.

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Finally, I went through our offers library and identified the content offers with the highest submission rates, and sorted them by topic category. These would be the replacements for the laggards.

The Results

After all this number crunching, I was able to identify 50 blog posts that represented our lowest-hanging fruit. I went through and swapped out these posts’ CTAs (or created new ones from scratch) for the most tightly-aligned offers with the highest submission rates.

The results were even better than I expected. After one week, these posts generated 100% more leads than average — even while post traffic was down 10%. This seemingly small tweak made a big impact on our leads.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how this pans out long-term. But in the meantime, here are a few takeaways and lessons learned I hope will be as valuable for your team as they were for ours:

  • When deciding what offer to pair with what blog post, don’t neglect to check the submission rate of the offer landing page. As we found, this is an easy way to quickly increase the number of leads you’re generating from your best-performing blog posts — especially if you have multiple offers on the same or similar topics.
  • Regularly audit your offers to ensure the content isn’t out of date. Outdated content will create a negative visitor experience and hurt your conversion rate.
  • Regularly audit the conversion paths of your top blog posts. Set aside time for optimization every few months so you can ensure you’re using your content to generate the most possible leads. Optimization isn’t a one-and-done thing.

Have you ever done a similar optimization project? Comment below with your best experiments and hacks to increase conversion rate below (and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog).

Intro to Lead Gen

Fascinating Mobile Apps Tactics That Can Help Your Business Grow

Using a Mobile App to Grow Your Business

Sometimes we can all feel resistant to technology. I think we all look at shiny new tech and think, “But the old way works just fine.” I feel your pain. However, your business will the feel pain if you don’t embrace technology that could help your business grow and attract a new customer base, like millennials. Building a mobile app for your business is one way to leverage technology and automate some of your marketing efforts.

Using a Mobile App to Grow Your Business

Mobile App Usage Has Changed

We are constantly connected to content via — laptops, phones, tablets, and wearable technology. The idea of a mobile app as an independent destination is becoming less of a thing. Think of a mobile app now, as a publishing tool. We as users respond by seeing relevant notifications that contain content and actions, not by opening the app itself.

Where Do Your Customers Congregate?

You probably use your smartphone multiple times a day. When you do, you search Google, use your business phone app, look for directions, check your email, review your bank accounts, and use apps to solve problems, and learn new information. I don’t know about you, but when I’m intrigued by a new business, one of the first things I do is check them out from my cellphone, and if they incentivize me the right way, I will download the app. Since millions of consumers download mobile apps every day, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to connect with them in that space.

Not Everyone Opens Emails

Open rates for emails have been dropping. This trend is due in part to security concerns but it’s also related to busy schedules. This could be a great time to start building a mobile marketing campaigns. I run a full-time business and I like to spend as much time as I can with my young son. I don’t always have time to open email or read a sales pitch.

But if I download your app, I want to build a relationship with your brand or claim your incentive. A mobile app creates a form of permission marketing with your customers and prospects that email can’t touch. Once they have downloaded an app, it’s your job to give them a reason to check it frequently, that could include discounts, exclusive mobile offers or new content. Or they can allow notifications from the app which is the way most people are engaging with apps. The relationship is always on their terms. Creating relevant content through your mobile app could boost customer engagement and even generate profits.

Retarget Existing Customers

It’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain existing ones. Many people who download your app may have visited your business or retained your services in the past. You can keep them engaged with features, experiences, and content through push notifications and custom offers. Target each market segment based on their purchase history and shopping habits. You might see an immediate increase in sales and customer activity.

How to Win the Mobile App Game

While mobile apps can significantly boost your business growth, they only work if you market them effectively.

If I’m searching for an app on Apple iTunes or Google Play, the apps that appear at the top of the list will probably capture my attention first, and I won’t continue to scroll too far. Use SEO best practices to make your app discoverable, then promote your app on your website, blog, social media platforms too. You could even include a mention on your business card. If you have a storefront, encourage your customers to download the app through signage. Try offering a special download bonus, such as a coupon, to encourage participation.

Mobile apps should make life easier and keep your customers connected to your brand. If you want my business (and everyone else’s), you might want to consider building a mobile app of your own.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Mobile Phone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Fascinating Mobile Apps Tactics That Can Help Your Business Grow” was first published on Small Business Trends