Facebook Insights

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

If you have a Facebook page, are you monitoring your insights whenever you post? The Insights tab on your Facebook page allows you to view and monitor so much about who is visiting your page and how your posts are responding. What all can you utilize the insights for? Let’s talk about a few of them:

• Overview – if you don’t want to dive deep into your page, no worries. The overview showcases a summary of all the statistics and your most recent posts.

• People – Oh wow, this shares so much. If your business needs to target a specific audience, this is a great starting point. This tab shows the likes of your page and the people those likes represent. Percentages of male and female fans, age ranges, and the cities (and countries if relevant) they represent.

• Posts – This tab lists your published posts and how they were received. It shows the type of post – whether it’s a link shared, a photo uploaded, or just text; the reach or the unique number of individuals who have seen the post, and the engagement, which is clicks on the link or photo, reactions, comments and shares.

• Local – If your business page has an address associated on the page, then a Local tab will show up in your insights, which shares data from the zip code you are located in.

There’s also statistics on videos, events, messages, and even more. The biggest key to all of these insights is one thing. POST! Too many businesses come to me with help gaining a larger audience with their Facebook page, but only post a few times a month. The more you post on a regular basis, specifically posts with links or videos, the more reach and engagement will grow on your page.

SOACDF offering a variety of agricultural programs to assist southern Ohio farmers

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

The Southern Ohio Agricultural & Community Development Foundation (SOACDF) is again offering an opportunity for farmers in Southern Ohio. The programs are similar to previous years, however, this year, a new requirement is that eligible parties must provide documentation of the most recent tax return which shows farm activity (ex. Schedule F, form 1120, 1065, 4835, etc.).

The Young Farmer Agricultural Program is designed to facilitate growing an agricultural enterprise to the next level. The intent of the program is to help promote and ensure a strong future in southern Ohio agriculture. Eligible applicants must be ages 20 – 38 as of August 1, 2016 and must reside within the 22 counties the Foundation currently serves.

The Agricultural Development Program is open to any individual who resides within the 22 counties the Foundation currently serves that have either a Farm Service Agency (FSA) number on record. It is very similar to the Young Farmer, however there is no age requirement.

SOACDF will award up grants in both of programs of up to $25,000 each. The grants will be 50% cost shares with the awardees.

Returning this year is an Environmental/Water Quality Grant Program which is open only to tobacco quota owners, quota owner/growers or grower/tenants of FSA records in any single crop year from 1997-2004. The maximum reimbursement is $10,000 and focuses on improvements made on farming operations such as stream crossings, containment systems, and manure storage facilities.

Applications, including a business plan, will be accepted for the programs throughout August. Applications are available at the SOACDF office in Hillsboro, the local Farm Service Agency or online at www.soacdf.net Continue reading

Keeping the Good Ones

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Whether you have just hired new employees or you’ve had staff for 20 years, it’s important to retain quality employees. Some ways to help keep the ones include:

• Communication – While this may seem like a no-brainer, this is the most important factor in retaining good employees. Communicate on a regular basis your expectations, their successes and good work, barriers and challenges they face on completing the job, and how the day/project is going. Along with this is to LISTEN. Hear what your employees are saying and take their suggestions in consideration.

• Establish clear expectations and provide effective evaluations – Along with strong communication, setting up clear expectation of the job or a specific project allows the employee to complete the task without having to ask questions or assumptions. Evaluating on a regular basis allows the owner and the employee to address issues, reward great work and create a path for success.

• Create growth opportunities – While this is harder with a small business, show a clear path for good work. Whether that means a different title, pay raises or different responsibilities, creating opportunities for growth in the business allows for employees to work hard and be able to advance if possible.

• Have creative perks – Typically small businesses cannot afford the same benefits to employees as a larger corporation. But that doesn’t mean you can provide other incentives or opportunities for your employees to have a good work place. If you are a retail business, offer your employees a discount or a free piece of clothing every so often. Do you have an office where it’d be ok for your pets to hang out? Maybe there’s a pizza party when everyone meets their goals for the month.

• And lastly, recognize good work. A simple acknowledgement and appreciation of a job well done goes a long way. Whether it is just a thank you or a financial incentive, appreciate your employees.

Hire the Right Employees

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Is it time for your small business to grow? Are you ready to hire employees? When hiring, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

• First and most importantly, take time to hire the right employee. It’s crucial that the individual(s) you hire will be the right fit with your existing team (or just you).

• Know what you can/cannot ask during an interview. Questions related to age, race, marital status, national origin, disabilities, and religion are all off limits when interviewing.

• Can you hire an independent contractor instead of an employee? If you need someone who will have their own tools/equipment and will set their own hours, your operation could hire them as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

• Know what the tax requirements and when to pay – here’s a good list of information to keep up with regulations: https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/hire-retain-employees/hire-your-first-employee

• Lastly, when you’ve hired the right person for your team, make sure you have a plan in place for their first day/week. Do you have an employee handbook for them to read? Will they be paired with another employee for training or do you have time set aside to show them the ropes? Start the employee with clear expectations and opportunities for growth on day one.

Going Live!

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Social media is ever-changing and evolving. First, all you had to do to gain views was post. Then, you needed to add pictures to a post. Now, video and livestreaming is increasingly popular.

Pressing that Live button can be daunting on Facebook, but for a business, it’s a great way to provide a tour of your facility, new product launches, cooking demonstration, or just a way to answer questions from your followers. Facebook Live will save on your timeline for followers to watch whenever they can.

Some helpful tips before you create a Facebook Live video for your business.
• Make sure you have a reliable signal – strong WIFI or 4G
• Promote your upcoming broadcast
• Minimize background noise
• Write a compelling description
• Purchase a mount/tripod – this is great to stabilize your phone
• Introduce yourself and allow people a minute or two to join the stream
• Be human, engaging, and interactive
• End your video with a call to action and thank viewers for watching

Mobile Friendly Websites

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Is your website mobile friendly? What does she even mean, of course it pops up on my phone? The difference is, when a website pops up that is not mobile friendly, it’s not easy to read, you’ll have to zoom in a good bit to read or navigate the page.

Like this example, a mobile friendly website fits on your screen with good size font and easy access to the information on the site. The little lines at the top? That’s the menu.

But why is that important? Well, for starters, 80% of internet users have a smart phone. And the average time spent browsing on a smart phone was 87 hours per month! 67% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a website that is mobile compatible. (Smart Insights).

Google has prioritized mobile-friendly websites in their algorithm, which helps your business tremendously in search rankings. Having a mobile friendly website also helps builds your brand’s credibility that you are a current and relevant business.

So what’s your next steps? Grab your smartphone and pull up your website, how does it look? Log onto: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/ and run a test on your site. Google will then email you a detailed report of how to fix the problems you have on the site. If it’s not mobile responsive, then it’s time to update your website!

Seven Social Media Tips for 2017

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

With a new year brings new marketing ideas. The biggest question is what is going to be big in the world of social media. Here’s seven tips and trends that could benefit your online presence in 2017.

1 – Put People First. This isn’t really a new concept. But knowing your audience and your customers helps guide all marketing decisions. Talk to your target audience, or the demographic you are looking to attract about what they are looking for with online marketing.

2 – Live is Here to Stay. I’m sure you’ve seen it. You get the notification that your weather guy or sportscaster is Live on Facebook or Periscope. Now is the time to use livestreaming to your advantage. This helps to engage and interact with your audience as well as showcase your storefront, product, or service.

3 – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. Expiring Content on Instagram and Snapchat is very popular with the millennial generation. Your business can utilize it to share a special deal, showcase a product, or show off a day in the life of your operation. Don’t worry about it being perfect, it’ll disappear in 24 hours.

4 – Incorporate Brand Ambassadors. These are loyal customers or trusted employees that are speaking about your business on their social media platforms. From wearing clothes to showing how to prepare food purchased at a farmers’ market, these individuals tap into their networks to gain increased exposure to your business.

5 – Mobile, Mobile! From Nectafy, 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours! Is your website mobile friendly? Are you accepting mobile payments? If you aren’t, now is the time to make sure you can be found via a smart phone.

6 – Social Messaging. Using WeChat, Facebook Messenger or other social messaging apps allows your customers to instantly contact you. Businesses should take advantage of this by sending shipping information, answering questions about products/services, or offering customer support.

7 – Pay to Play. Unfortunately, Facebook Pages themselves are getting harder and harder to be seen unless the business pays for an ad or boosted post. The good news is, for relative low costs, your message can be seen to hundreds of people in your target region.

Looking to revamp your marketing strategies for 2017? Contact me (Melissa Carter) at carter.1094@osu.edu for more information.

Google is more than just a search engine – Part 3 of 3

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

If I haven’t completely overwhelmed you over the past couple of weeks, here’s just a couple more links a small business should check out through Google.

First, again, if your business has a website, be sure to test your site. https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/ allows you to enter your website URL. google-76517-2It will run a test and give three scores for your site – mobile friendliness, mobile speed, and desktop speed. Google will then email you a detailed report of how to fix the problems you have on the site. The scary statistic on this page of “nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds” shows just how important it is to make sure your site is quick and responsive on mobile.

Secondly, if your business is doing ecommerce on your site, consider setting up your business as a “Google Trusted Store”. If approved, your site will be able to display a badge that shows shoppers that your business is trusted to make a purchase. Shoppers are offered free purchase protection under this program and are able to provide a review of the experience. Here’s the link to that: https://www.google.com/trustedstores/

If you are looking for assistance with any of the information shared, don’t hesitate to contact me (carter.1094@osu.edu or call 740-289-2071 Ext. 222)

Google is more than just a search engine – Part 2 of 3

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

So last week, I shared about Google My Business, which is a great way to add your business in the search rankings. If your business already has a website, another way to increase your search rankings (SEO) is to utilize Google’s Webmaster Tools. https://www.google.com/webmasters/ This program allows you to verify your website with Google. Once your website is verified, Google will run tests on your page to determine if you have site errors, broken URLs, keywords, and much more.

Too confusing? No worries! Google takes care of that too. https://www.google.com/webmasters/learn/ has a couple “courses” that further explain how to utilize this program and boost your website. They also have a SEO starter guide which is very helpful for those trying to jump up in the search rankings.
https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

Now, if your business doesn’t have a website, please consider having at least a basic presence online. Contact me (carter.1094@osu.edu) if you want assistance with developing a website. It is a lot easier than it once was.

Google is more than just a search engine – Part 1 of 3

(Submitted by Melissa Carter, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

screenhunter_869-nov-30-13-48Google is a very popular search engine. Some people also use it for email. But there are many more programs that Google has that will benefit your business. Let’s start with Google My Business. This is Google’s free, yes FREE, program that allows you to list your business and essentially place it on the map.

This website: https://www.google.com/business/ allows you to start the process. This will require your business name, address, phone number and a category. Then, Google will “verify your business” by phone, in person or by mail. Once your business is verified, then you can complete your business profile with hours, photos, and website links. You can also read and respond to reviews that are made about your page.

Google’s data suggests that 80% of consumers used a search engine when looking for information about local businesses. And 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day. Why not use these numbers to your advantage and set up a page for your business?

Pro tip: If you have seasonal hours, make sure to update your Google page to reflect the hours.