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  • 5 Ways to Grow Your Business Using Social Media

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    There's no question your customers are spending time on social networks, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter, or any number of other apps and websites where people are hanging out in digital form. Since you want your brand to be where your customers are, it makes sense to figure out how to grow your business using these platforms. That's according to Jeremy Reid, founder and chairman of digital product sampling platform PINCHme. His company boasts customers such as Revlon, Kraft, L'Oréal, and P&G, a member community that is 2.7 million strong and includes 900,000 followers on social media. Here's what he says you need to know about growing your business using the most popular social platforms.

    1. It's all about optimization.

    In other words, you need to find a way to analyze your social media posts, rank them in terms of engagement, and figure out why they perform well (or don't), adjusting what you're putting out into the world accordingly. Listening tools Reid suggests include Social Bakers, Lexer, and Google Analytics.

    2. You need to create great original content (but post it in the right places).

    Doing so involves understanding trends, who your audience is, and how they want to engage with social media. A big target for PINCHme is stay-at-home mothers, because they're the primary shoppers for the family. As such, it makes sense to post on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, which 74 percent, 32 percent, and 19 percent of this demographic respectively visits on a weekly basis. So, while Snapchat and Twitter might be trendy for other audiences, it's not where many moms are hanging out.

    3. Asking questions is a great way to drive engagement.

    People want their opinions to be heard. It's just a matter of finding creative ways to encourage the sharing of them. PINCHme gives its members free consumer products to try in exchange for their feedback.

    4. Sweepstakes are a great way to drive engagement.

    People love having the chance to win things. And, you can exponentially grow your following by requiring them to tag a few friends to enter a contest.

    5. Featuring popular blogs works, too.

    Consider the popularity of how-to videos on YouTube. "It's huge--whether it's putting on makeup, changing a car tire, or doing an anti-aging skin care regiment, there's somebody out there giving a tutorial in pretty much every category," he says. "You just have to look at the number of views these people are getting, sometimes in the tens or hundreds of thousands. They're clearly getting very strong airtime."
    The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

  • How Do I Know When I Should Hire My Next Employee?

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     One of the hardest questions facing fledging businesses is when to grow their workforce. Knowing when to add your next employee -- or when not to -- can have tremendous impact on your bottom line.
    One indicator you can use to see if you are financially ready to add a new employee is to take a hard look at your ratio of income to wages. Simply divide the total amount of income by the amount you are paying in employee wages. If this ratio high or trending upwards, you may be overstaffed. However, it may also be a sign that you are understaffed and are paying out a large amount of overtime. If is trending downward, now may be a good time to add a new employee. An equally importantly indicator is whether you have enough work to justify a new employee. For instance, if you are paying out a large amount of your salary budget in overtime, now would be a good time to add an additional employee. One caveat, however, is to first determine if your current overtime situation can be expected to continue. You may find that it is being caused by such things as a temporary surge in sales and customer demand, or is simply seasonal or cyclical demand that will quickly subside. If the work is available to justify a new employee, the next question you need to ask yourself is what impact will adding an additional employee have on your wages-to-income ratio. This can be a tricky equation - you need to look at how much the additional employee will cost versus the financial gain of having an additional employee to perform the job, which will free up money you have been spending on overtime. Also, when adding an employee, make sure you include all the costs of the employee. Health insurance, dental insurance, and other benefits quickly add up and can have a significant impact on your bottom line. It is also very important that you realize that you may see very little return on your investment in a new employee for weeks or even months. Depending on the complexity of the job, your new employee may require extensive training before performing up their full potential. Finally, if your new employee requires advanced technical training you will also need to factor in the cost of that training as part of the total cost package - including benefits - for that employee.

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  • How Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses

    For $1.19 an hour, you can have more customers than you've ever seen in your life
    CREDIT: Miramax Films/Photofest
    The speed at which Pokemon Go has spread is unprecedented. Less than a week after launch, this augmented reality mobile exploration game has been installed on twice as many phones as Tinder, it has double the engagement of Snapchat, and it is eclipsing Twitter in its percentage of daily active users. People are spending so much time journeying around looking for Pokemon that getting sore legs from playing for hours on end has practically become its own meme. Smart businesses have caught on too. As Pokemon Go users traverse their towns in search of Pokemon, local stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity, driving huge amounts of foot traffic and conversions both with simple in-app purchases and creative marketing campaigns. To start turning the ambulating gamers around you into your new best customers, all you need is to know how to play the game. Here's how:

    1. Find Out if Your Business Is a Gym or PokeStop

    What makes Pokemon Go different from many other games is that it doesn't keep people shut up in their rooms. The game runs off an augmented reality HUD, or heads-up display, of the real world. Players' avatars explore with them as they catch Pokemon, collect rewards from PokeStops, battle other users at Gyms, and team up to defend their territory. Figuring out whether your business is a PokeStop or Gym is the first thing you should do. PokeStops and Gyms attract foot traffic without any effort-players flock to them for rewards and to battle other players-and they can be leveraged for massive sales if you know how. There is no official Niantic map that lists all the PokeStop and Gym locations yet. One workaround is to use the online map of portals created over the last three years for the game "Ingress," also developed by Niantic, which maps virtually 1:1 with Pokemon Go's PokeStops and Gyms. Check out the map here after you install the Ingress app on your phone and sign in (you can use a Google account, and it only takes about a minute to set up). Once you have it set up, you'll be treated to a searchable world map of different "portals"-each one being either a PokeStop or a Gym in Pokemon Go.

    2. Sit Back, Throw Down a Lure, and Enjoy the Show

    Pokemon Go offers a range of in-app purchases. The one that is most important for your small business is Lures. Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they're placed for one half hour. That may not sound that powerful, but Pokemon arescarcer than you think. Luring is an insanely powerful tool that you really have to see to believe. Here's a sample of the comments from some recent Reddit threads on thesubject:
    We did this last night (college town), and within minutes of dropping the lure, 30 people walked in. Hoooly s#&@. I own a pizzeria that's a Pokestop and I literally did this all day. I had a ton of kids and adults (mostly adults) come in for a slice of pizza and a drink until the lure ran out.
    What's even more incredible is just how affordable luring is. Let's do the math. With $100 netting you 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:
    14,500 Pokecoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures (21 * 8)/2 = 84 hours $100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour
    All you have to do is:
    • Tap the red Pokeball at the bottom of your HUD
    • Tap "Shop"
    • Scroll down and tap the purple, box-shaped Lures to purchase. You'll re-direct to your app store's payment system
    • Once back in-app, tap the red Pokeball again, then tap "Items"
    • Tap the purple Lure to activate!
    For a little more than a dollar an hour, you can bring virtually guaranteed crowds to your business. The ROI here is ridiculous, so if your business is anywhere near a PokeStop, this is something you absolutely have to try.

    Capitalize on Your Business Being Near a Pokemon Gym

    Gyms are a separate kind of animal entirely from PokeStops. You can't put down Lures, but you don't have to either, because users are converging on Gyms day and night to face off with other users and "take control" of the gym for either team Mystic, Valor, or Instinct. To see if your business is near a gym, you can check the Ingress map, or just open Pokemon Go on your phone and look for the tall structures with little Pokemon near the top. They're not hard to spot-they're the biggest structures on the in-game map. Capitalizing on your proximity to a gym is more about creative marketing in real life than anything else. Here are some ideas for ways to engage with the droves of people standing near your business with their eyes glued to their phones:
    • Giveaways: Order Pokemon Gym badges from a supplier that can customize them for your business. A quick Google search of the keywords "Pokemon Gym badge" and "custom" should get you what you need.
    • Keep score: Put up a sandwich board announcing which team is currently in control of your Gym, and then offer a discount to members of that team! Don't worry about staying updated on which team is winning-just ask those who are participating in the promotion to inform you when the gym has changed hands.
    • Get social: Take in-game screenshots and post them on the social-media platforms where you're active. Use hashtags like #pokemongo and #pokemon to get the message out to your potential new customers.
    If you're nowhere near either a PokeStop or a Gym, that just means you have to get a little more creative.

    3. Go Where the Pokemon Roam

    Once you know the basics of how Pokemon Go works, you don't actually need to be near a PokeStop or a Gym to capitalize on the traffic they can create.

    Take Your Business on the Road

    One way to make your business a part of the Pokemon Go phenomenon is to get mobile and find a spot from which to orchestrate the Lure or Gym strategies. If you're a fashion retailer, maybe this means loading up a van with some of your latest vintage finds. If you're a restaurant, maybe this means going to the park and setting up a barbecue. It's summertime, so get creative. Since Pokemon are everywhere, you want to go where you have the best chance of finding success. Take advantage of places where you have clusters of PokeStops. If there are three PokeStops on the same block, as is happening fairly often in larger cities, then park yourself in the middle of them and lay down three Lures at the same time. It's the same effect as if you were laying down one-just multiplied by three. Before you know it, you'll have a serious crowd on your hands.

    Promote Your Local Pokemon on Social Media

    Even if your business is nowhere near a PokeStop or a Gym, you're still going to have Pokemon. One way to get people excited about visiting your business is to get on social media and show off the valuable or rare Pokemon popping up in your area. To know what to look for, a Reddit user has created a handy rarity chart. You could hire a member of your staff to sit on Pokemon Go all day, lay down Incense (an in-game purchase similar to a Lure, but which only gives effects to the person who triggered it), and take screenshots of the Pokemon they capture. A better option, though, might be to incentivize play on the part of your customers. Consider running it like a referral program:
    • Tell users you'll pay for their Incense in return for some screenshots of any rare Pokemon that pop up in the vicinity of your shop.
    • Have them upload the picture and tag you on social media, so that their followers know about you too.
    • Promote the fact that you're rewarding users who find rare Pokemon at your business.
    Do this right, and you could turn your store into a viral destination.

    Advertise Your Pokemon on Facebook

    If you don't already have a decent-sized following on social media, or if you're looking to drive an even greater amount of traffic, then Facebook advertising is your best bet. By creating a Facebook ad targeted only inside the geographical radius of your choice, you could spread the word about your local Pokemon only to those people liable to actually stop into your store. The vanilla Facebook advertising interface can be hard to use, so check out one of the Facebook ad managers out there if you want help. AdEspresso, one such tool, makes it easy to set whatever targeting criteria you want, whether that's geographic (one mile around your business), demographic (ages 16 to 26), or interest-based (they "like" Pokemon Go on Facebook).

    Pokemon Go and Start Marketing Your Local Business Right Now

    The naysayers inside your organization will say the same things people say whenever there's a big paradigm shift. "This is a fad," they'll say. And that could be true. People, of course, said the same thing about the original Pokemon game. The more salient point here is that no marketing channel is evergreen, but businesses that want to win have to keep one eye open for these big shifts-and they have to capitalize on them when it's time. With Pokemon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money. Even if Pokemon Go isn't as powerful a tool for driving sales six months or a year from now, the customers that you delight today are going to remember you tomorrow.

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