Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SmugMug Acquires Flickr, What Small Business Account Holders Need to Know

SmugMug Acquires Flickr -- What You Need to Do with Your Flickr Account

The online photography industry has been consolidated further with the acquisition of Flickr by SmugMug. The good news for Flickr users is, both companies will be working as separate entities after the deal closes.

SmugMug Acquires Flickr

SmugMug bought Flickr from Yahoo for an undisclosed amount. Yahoo itself is now owned by Verizon. This acquisition will give SmugMug a large user base which currently stands at 75 million registered photographers and more than 100 million unique users who post billions of photographs. And as far as unique visitors go, comScore says the site had 13.1 million in March 2018.

For small businesses looking for images or photographers wanting to showcase their work, it now means Flickr users will be getting an update, at least that is what they are hoping. Account lock outs and Yahoo authentication were problems user complained about on Flickr. The SmugMug platform looks to change many of the operational issues Flickr users don’t like about the service.

In the press release, MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug, said, “Since day one our passion has been empowering photographers to tell the stories they want to tell, the way they want to tell them, and our investment in Flickr reaffirms this commitment.”

No Major Changes

The company announced Flickr users can still continue using their current credentials to access their accounts and nothing will change. On its blog, Flickr posted an FAQ which said SmugMug and Flickr accounts will remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future and there are no plans to merge the products.

The one change is Flickr accounts will be moved to SmugMug’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. If you want to opt out, you have until May 25, 2018. The FAQ says if you don’t want to make the change, you can delete your Flickr account.

What are SmugMug and Flickr?

As a photography platform, SmugMug allows photographers to showcase their work by creating portfolios, use its e-commerce platform to sell their images, and preserve their work. SmugMug prides itself on providing 24/7 support from real people as well as events to teach the art of photography through tips, tutorials, training events and hosting webinars and forums with leading photographers.

Flickr is a community of photographers who share their images. The site has two million groups and tens of billions of photographs in its archive.

Alternative Services

Whether you plan on staying with Flickr and/or SmugMug you have many other options. Each of these companies has their pros and cons when it comes to pricing, functionality, community and more. But with most of them offering a free option or trial, you can try them out before you opt for the paid version.

You can try Shutterstock500Px, Imgur, DeviantArt, ThisLife, Photobucket, and many others.

Image: SmugMug

This article, "SmugMug Acquires Flickr, What Small Business Account Holders Need to Know" was first published on Small Business Trends



SmugMug Acquires Flickr, What Small Business Account Holders Need to Know

53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing

Content Marketing Statistics: 53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing

Content marketing has become one of the preferred methods for engaging with customers in the digital age. And according to the latest survey from The Manifest, an online business guide, 53 percent of business are spending their time and money on the creation of this content.

The report points out how content marketing allows businesses to engage with their customers by becoming thought leaders in their respective fields. If your customers can rely on you for accurate and timely information, you will increase the level of engagement with them.

For small businesses, content marketing is one of the best and most economical ways to drive customers to your site. By sharing your expertise in blogs, videos, research and original data, you can become a source they can rely on.

What Exactly is Content Marketing?

Content marketing, as the name implies, is the marketing of valuable content to attract an audience by providing information they can use while promoting a business.

A great example of this application comes from Benjamin Franklin. According to Kristen Herhold, who wrote the report for The Manifest, Franklin created Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732 in part to promote his printing business. People got some valuable information, and in return, they knew who published the content.

The only difference with today’s content marketing is in the format or formats used to deliver the message — blogs, infographics, video, podcasts, for example.

The survey for The Manifest was carried out with the participation of 501 digital marketers from companies with more than 100 employees across the U.S. 36 percent of the group were managers, 15 percent associates, 13 percent C-level executives, 12 percent senior managers, and 12 percent directors.

Content Marketing Statistics from the Survey

The type of content businesses publish will vary based on target audience and product. Across the board, video now makes up the largest subdivision of content businesses create at 72 percent. This is followed by blogs at 69 percent, research or data at 60 percent, infographics at 56 percent, product reviews at 54 percent, and interviews at 50 percent.

Content Marketing Statistics: 53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing

As to the frequency of the publications, 51 percent of respondents said they publish content every day and close to one-third or 31 percent do so weekly. Respondents who said the businesses they worked for published content every other week or monthly made up seven and eight percent respectively of all those surveyed, while two percent said they publish less than monthly.

Content Marketing Statistics: 53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing

The businesses in the survey value and rely on content marketing, which is why they want to improve the content they publish. Asked what they would like to improve, an equal number of respondents at 22 percent said they would like to provide both more original content and more visual components. Eighteen percent of percent of respondents listed content optimization across devices as a top priority, while 13 percent listed increased search engine visibility, and 13 percent stresses the importance of more actionable content.

Content Marketing for Small Businesses

What makes content marketing so valuable for a small business is the reach it provides. With minimal capital investment, you can create blogs, infographics, research and videos. Granted you can spend a lot of money, but the point is you don’t have to.

You can write blog articles on your laptop and record the video on your smartphone then post it on a website and social media channels. As long as the information you provide delivers value to your customers, you will find your audience, which in turn will lead to more conversions.

Charts: The Manifest

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing" was first published on Small Business Trends



53% of Businesses Use Content Marketing

How to Help Your Small Business Grow

How to Help Your Small Business Grow

How do they do it?

You know who I’m talking about. Those entrepreneurs who make building a business look easy. It almost seems as if they think of an idea, launch their business, and then they are rolling in wealth the next day.

But that’s not really how it works.

The success of your small business depends on your efforts to grow profits using proven methods. From employee training to marketing, every aspect of the business should be taken seriously.

Ways to Make a Small Business Grow

Changes won’t happen overnight, but you can take the right steps to keep the company moving forward. It takes time and effort. Once you start reaping the benefits, you will realize that your effort is worth it. Here are some tips to consider if you wish to see your small business grow.

Understand your customers

You can only develop products and services that will delight your customers if you have met their needs. You can’t meet their needs if you don’t know what they are.

There are several ways to gain a better understanding of who your customers are and what they want. Research and surveys can help.

Encourage them to provide honest feedback. This makes it easier for you to develop products and services that are suitable to the current demands of the market.

Improve Your Customer Service

Having the highest-quality products is excellent, but if you don’t have quality customer service, it will be difficult to satisfy your customers. Your customers want to have a positive experience when they deal with your company.

This aspect of the business is about taking the extra step to make them feel special. Let them know that they are valued. If they have problems, make sure you address them right away.

If they have questions, take time to answer them. They should not feel like they can’t get simple issues resolved. If they are happy with the level of your customer service, they might even recommend others to also buy from your business.

Establish Loyalty

It takes time to encourage customers to buy what you’re selling. Once you earn their business, make sure that they continue to buy from you. If you’re not taking care of your customers, your competition will be happy to take over.

You want your customers to remain loyal to you. Don’t become complacent just because you already have a lot of loyal customers.

They can be easily attracted to other options, and could go elsewhere. Provide loyalty rewards. If there are discounts and promotions, let these most loyal customers be the first ones to know. Find a way to build on the trust that you have already established.

Maximize Your Social Media Strategy

Without a doubt, social media is a very powerful tool. It allows you to reach thousands of people at once. Make sure your business has an effective social media strategy. This helps you stay relevant.

Listening to people and reading their comments will give you an idea on how to provide them with what they want. You will also understand their behavior and find a way to meet their demands. Social media is a great way to bring in new customers and to keep the ones you already have.

Focus On Professional Development

The success of your business also depends on the quality of employees you hire. You need to build a winning team that will work hard to grow your business.

The key to building a great team is giving your employees a purpose beyond just making money. People don’t want to work for the sake of working. They need to feel as if they belong to something bigger than themselves. They must understand the bigger goals. They should also feel that they are heard.

There are plenty of team-building activities that could help them perform well as individual employees and through collaborative tasks. Investing in training sessions and seminars will help them improve on the current bank of knowledge that they already have.

Spend Time Attending Networking Events

Do not — I repeat — do not forget to network. Yes, it’s hard to get away from your daily tasks, but networking is too important to ignore. Certain types of events give you the opportunity to extend your networks.

Through networking events, you can build relationships with influential people. It’s a great way to make sure that they know about your company. You can even find potential investors. Attending such events, can also make it easier for you to get referrals.

Focus On Corporate Social Responsibility

It is no longer enough to build a company that is only about making money. Your business must stand for something more than profits. It must have a purpose — something that inspires passion in your employees and customers.

Purpose helps you project the right image for your business. People will patronize your company because they know that the money they are spending goes to a cause in which they can believe.

Most companies focus on having a unique product or service. This is beneficial to any business. However, it’s also vital that you have a unique brand perspective. This means that your company has a purpose that transcends the profit motive.

Find out what problem you want to solve. Make your company your platform for making people’s lives easier. That’s what will attract potential buyers.

Don’t Hesitate To Get Loans

If you are starting out as an entrepreneur, you need capital to help fund it. The same is true for those who have been around for some time and have decided to take things to another level. If you need small business loans to make your plans happen, don’t hesitate to take advantage.

Just make sure you partner with the right banks or lending firms. You should also have a good credit score, so your application is quickly approved. There are other ways to get loans if you are always denied.

One of them is to look for another party to serve as your guarantor. This is how SBA loan program works. The SBA will guarantee the loan you take from a bank. If you default, the SBA will reduce the risk of the lender.

Of course, they won’t just do it without anything in return. You need to understand their requirements. You should also read the terms and conditions before getting started.

Find Out What Works

They key to becoming a successful business owner is always to be learning. Ultimately, you will figure which approaches work well. Take note of these tactics and continue to refine them.

In the end, you will see your business grow. You just have to be patient. Don’t let the inevitable obstacles prevent you from moving forward. Soon, you will see the positive results you have always hoped for.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Help Your Small Business Grow" was first published on Small Business Trends



How to Help Your Small Business Grow

Stats Suggest North Dakota Might be a Great Place to Start a Business

States with the Best Economies

If you haven’t looked at North Dakota for your next business venture, you should reconsider doing so now. According to a new infographic based on research conducted by PlayUSA, the state gets high marks.

The infographic, “The States With The Best Economic Prospects” asks which states you should gamble on when making your decision to set up your life. PlayUSA researched the 10 Best US States for Young Pioneers based on key metrics to determine the best prospects for young entrepreneurs.

For young entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for better opportunities, a new location can make all the difference.

In a release, the company explains,” The economic environment of where you live is deeply connected to your own financial success in life.”

The research was carried out with metrics across the most recent 10 year period available for each state. The percentage growth year-over-year was then evaluated to come up with an average, which was ranked from 1 to 10 and measured.

Six economic metrics were evaluated over the last 10 year period 2007-2017. If this wasn’t available, due to data release, the most recent 10 year period was used, such as 2004-2014. Metrics used include employment, GDP, house price, college admission, household income and number of new businesses started.

States with the Best Economies

North Dakota was number one and it arrived at this spot because of the recent boom in the oil industry before the price hit record lows. But the reversal in oil prices hasn’t stopped the state from growing, making it a great place to both live and start a business.

Low housing and college admission prices make North Dakota a great attraction, along with a high 7.36 percent GDP for the state. And when it comes to unemployment, it has a low 0.81 percent.

Washington and Massachusetts completed the top three with similar GDPs at 4.47 percent and 4.10 percent respectively. The unemployment numbers, however, are vastly different as Massachusetts boasts a great -0.49 percent, and Washington is on the high side at 3.07 percent.

The remaining top 10, according to the research, are California, Missouri, Oregon, Kentucky, Texas, Colorado and Iowa.

You can take a look at the infographic below for a detailed breakdown.

States with the Best Economies

Images: PlayUSA

This article, "Stats Suggest North Dakota Might be a Great Place to Start a Business" was first published on Small Business Trends



Stats Suggest North Dakota Might be a Great Place to Start a Business

Influencer Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Which is Right for your Brand?

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Content marketing is perhaps the most cost-effective method of building brand awareness. So it’s no wonder why the use of content marketing has been steadily increasing over the past several years. In 2009, content marketing strategies generated revenues of over $87.22 billion, and in 2019 it is expected to generate more than $300 billion in revenue.

Given how effective content marketing is, it naturally poses the question — should you focus on content or influencer marketing? Here’s your answer. Content marketing and influencer marketing are different pieces of the same puzzle. In fact, influencer marketing is an integral part of content marketing.

Influencer marketing is not a new concept. Earlier, brands would collaborate with well-known personalities to promote their products and services. However, now that times have changed, people find it difficult to trust brand messages from celebrities. And so, businesses have started collaborating with influencers — people who have large, engaged social media followings and who are experts in their niches.

From 2016 to 2017, there has been more than a 325% increase in searches for the term “influencer marketing.” According to an Influencer Marketing Hub study, more than 200 new agencies have been established who focus on influencer marketing. The same report states that 28% of marketers found it to be the fastest method of acquiring customers.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of both influencer and content marketing. And why they need to be integrated for the best results.

The Benefits of Influencer Marketing

1. Builds Authority and Brand Awareness

Influencer marketing is the best way to boost your authority and brand awareness. Followers of an influencer trust brand messages when they’re shared by the influencer. Why? hey trust the opinions and recommendations of the influencer.

By leveraging this, brands can increase their authority and boost their brand awareness when the followers of influencers engage with branded influencer content on social media platforms.

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to spread awareness about National Donut Day. For this, they partnered with Collab, a digital network studio, and eight well-known influencers for a campaign.

On National Donut Day, these influencers took over the company’s SnapChat profile and posted content for more than 24 hours. The campaign was immensely successful, and the company gained 10X more followers on their SnapChat account. The campaign reached 3 million people and generated 40K engagement.

To make your influencer marketing truly successful, you need to collaborate with relevant influencers. People who have a genuine group of followers, who post authentic content, and whose niche aligns with yours.

Many brands still face challenges in getting connected with the right influencers for their campaigns. This is where influencer marketing platforms can be very useful. Vetterview, an emerging platform, provides a user-friendly process to discover and collaborate with relevant influencers. The team at Vetterview can also step in to help you to run and manage your influencer campaigns based on agreed upon standards and objectives.

2. Strengthens Customers Trust

If an influencer believes in your product, they can create compelling stories around your product or brand. When their followers come across such content, they’re likely to trust it and consequently, your brand too.

To strengthen customer trust, you need to invite influencers to experience your services or products. Explain your products, including their benefits and features to your target influencers. Make sure to let them know your value-proposition and unique selling point. They need to know why your product is worth mentioning on social media.

For example, Sephora has a community called “Beauty Insiders.” Popular beauty vloggers and bloggers share their genuine feedback about the brand’s products.

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Image Source – Sephora.com

The reviews are original and authentic as these vloggers and bloggers have actually experienced the products. Customers appreciate the honesty, which leads them to trust the brand more.

3. Increases Brand Reach

With influencer marketing, it is easier for brands to tap into new markets, which are otherwise not so easy to capture. Brands gain greater exposure to their potential customers, who trust the feedback and recommendations of influencers.

Nearly 75% of people search for advice or product recommendations on social media before they make a purchase decision. Collaborating with an influencer, you can get your brand in front of your potential customers – people who are relevant to your brand given their interests and trust in the influencer’s recommendations.

For example, Motorola collaborated with YouTube influencers to promote their Moto Z and Moto Mods. Their target audience was millennials. So they collaborated with 13 YouTubers to create 13 different videos for the campaign.

You may be surprised to know that these videos were able to generate 11.6 million views. This resulted in 122K clicks to Motorola’s website, out of which 80K were visiting the website for the first time.

4. Boosts ROI

By leveraging influencer marketing, brands can increase their returns many fold. According to the Bloglovin’ Marketers Survey Report 2017, 53% of companies practice influencer marketing to boost their sales.

It can be safely said that investing in influencer marketing truly pays off. Companies have been known to earn $6.85 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing campaigns.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the incredible ROI that influencer marketing can generate.

Pepsi developed a limited-edition packaging as they wanted to increase their sales at Walgreens. So, they created a #SayItWithPepsi hashtag for their social media promotions. The message they wanted to deliver through this campaign was – summer activities can be even more exciting by adding cool Pepsi emojis to it.

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Image Source – Instagram

Pepsi collaborated with influencers and created content for 200 Pepsi emojis and shared it on social media. The content was powerful enough to attract teenagers to Duane Reade and Walgreens to buy Pepsi bottles with emojis on them.

5. Helps with SEO

When influencers link to you in their content, you get more traffic as well as backlinks that help your SEO efforts. Influencers having a high Domain Authority (DA) can have a considerable impact on your search rankings. This is good for your brand as the odds of people trusting organic search listings is higher than paid ad results.

Jaclyn Hill, a professional makeup artist and influencer, has more than 5M followers on YouTube. She posts her makeup tutorials on her YouTube channel. On her website as well as on her YouTube channel, she always mentions the brands she shops from.

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Image Source – Jaclynhillmakeup.com

Not only do such mentions drive more customers to these brands’ websites but also help improve their search rankings.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

1. Increased Brand Credibility

You can build credibility for your brand by creating and sharing high quality and valuable content with your audiences. Testimonials and reviews are some of the best forms of content that can drive audiences towards making a purchase.

Your target audiences will always be eager to learn about your products or services from people who have used them. They’d like to know about the performance of your products before they invest in them. So make sure to include reviews and feedback in your content strategy as this will help you build credibility.

Here’s a great example of how product reviews can be used as a successful content marketing strategy. Glossier has less than 30 products to their name. However, they still generate amazing engagement on Instagram.

The founder of the company, Emily Weissman, describes it as a “content-first” company. Their Instagram account showcases influencer content and information related to any new releases. But largely, their Instagram account is driven by user stories or user-generated content.

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Image Source – Instagram

The company turns real and genuine feedback from customers into content to be posted on Instagram.

2. Improved Customer Relationships

It’s essential to cultivate strong relationships with customers if you want to turn them into loyal advocates of your brand. Content is a great medium to answer any queries about your products and address the needs of your customers.

Informative and engaging content can help to build great relationships with your customers. So keep your customers updated on a regular basis about your services and products using emails, blog posts, or your FAQ page.

Cox Media Group, one of the largest digital media, publishing, and broadcasting companies, leveraged content marketing to build their brand online. The company launched an online “Success Kit” which provided useful information for businesses to become successful. It helped them reach small and medium-sized businesses, which their advertisements could not.

They produced the content in the form of videos and ebooks, which helped them expand into untapped markets. The “Success Kit” was downloaded more than 5K times and it helped them generate more than 2K leads.

3. Positioning Your Brand As An Expert

You can position your brand as an expert in your niche by creating appealing content for your existing customer base. Consumers often search for industry experts to get useful and pertinent information, which helps them make better decisions.

You need to produce great quality content, which is of value to your customers. But what if there are already a lot of competitors in your industry? Put your efforts into developing content by using key differentiators like design, components, innovation, or target market.

For example, Domino’s used content marketing innovatively to stand out among other companies in their niche. In February 2017, Domino’s Pizza introduced Domino’s Wedding Registry – a wedding registry for pizza. You can even register for bachelorette and bachelor parties, or honeymoon pizza.

Content Marketing and Influencers: Does the Rise of Influencer Marketing Mean Content Marketing Is Dead?

Image Source – Domino’s

This created a lot of buzz all around and the company received nearly $1 million worth registrations. The content managed to get 3,000 registrations and generated 1 billion impressions in just a week.

4. Generate Website Traffic

You can boost your website traffic consistently with quality content. Users can find your content when they search for something related to your products or industry. And if you post valuable and relevant content, they will keep coming back for more.

According to HubSpot, companies publishing, 16 or more blog posts every month can generate 4.5X more traffic. You need to create blog posts which can continually generate organic traffic to your website, even after they’ve been published. To succeed with this tactic, the key is to create posts on a topic that’s relevant and optimize them for searches.

5. Can Be Used Across All Platforms

Managing multiple social media accounts can be pretty taxing. Here’s where your content can act as a binding agent, which holds everything together. You can use and repurpose your content on all your social channels. By doing so, you can also ensure that your marketing goals and messages are always in sync.

Content Marketing and Influencers

Content marketing and influencer marketing are not fundamentally different from each other. Marketers need to understand that influencer marketing is a key part of content marketing. And they should integrate influencer marketing into their content marketing strategy.

Ebooks, white papers, or webinars are all useful ingredients of content marketing. But none of them can possibly bring the human touch to a brand like influencer marketing does. No wonder why it is the most effective form of content marketing.

Let’s have a look at the top 3 reasons why influencer marketing needs to be a part of content marketing.

1. Originality And Authenticity

Relevance and authenticity are the key benefits of influencer-generated content. Because of their close interactions with their followers, there’s probably no one else who understands the market better than them. So brands can benefit immensely if they collaborate with influencers as part of their content marketing strategy.

2. Influencers Sell Experiences

One of the biggest benefits of working with influencers is that they share their personal experiences of using your products. These experiences are real and authentic. They don’t look like paid advertisements. And so, customers can relate to them easily and trust their recommendations.

Remember, people trust people. Take advantage of it. According to 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer Global report, 78% of people ask their family and friends before making any purchase. And, 65% of people trust experts. So, brands need to collaborate with influencers to promote authentic experience instead of just selling their products.

3. Access New Audiences

Regardless of whether your brand is new or already established, influencer marketing will never disappoint you. Why? Because getting the attention of people remains one of the core objectives of marketing. Influencers can make brands visible to new audiences which they might not have been able to reach otherwise.

Final Thoughts

Content marketing and influencer marketing need to go hand in hand. Content alone cannot generate exceptional results without the involvement of a trusted voice. The voice of influencers.

Even if you have excellent content, it won’t be truly effective unless influencers can promote it to their audiences. Content marketing and influencer marketing are both powerful strategies. If integrated, however, they can generate unbelievable results.

Do you think it makes sense to integrate influencer marketing with your content marketing strategy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Influencer Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Which is Right for your Brand?" was first published on Small Business Trends



Influencer Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Which is Right for your Brand?

Spotlight: SellApp Enables Chat and Sales on One Platform

Spotlight: Commerce Messaging Platform SellApp Brings Payments to Mobile Chat

Messaging apps have become commonplace for a lot of consumers. But for businesses, many of these apps lack the ability to actually complete sales and get paid without leaving the conversation. That’s where SellApp comes in.

The company aims to provide a solution that actually works for businesses and their customers alike. Read more about the offering and the business behind it in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers a commerce messaging platform with instant mobile payments.

Founder and CEO Keith White told Small Business Trends, “Think WhatsApp and PayPal together or WhatsApp and Venmo.”

Business Niche

Helping businesses connect with customers and get paid.

White says, “Connecting businesses and customers by instant text messaging and enabling instant debit or credit card payment transactions to happen right in the chat window.”

How the Business Got Started

After connecting with clients via mobile chat apps.

White explains, “For the 2016 Rio Olympics I setup a VIP hospitality service called RioVIPPass to help foreigners going to Rio for the Games that needed accommodations, transportation, tours, security and getting tickets. We noticed that 80 percent of the first contact came by email and 20 percent by phone calls. Negotiations of the clients needs mostly took place by email. And payment were sent by PayPal. As our clients got closer to coming to Rio for the Games, we started moving them over to WhatsApp for communications and once they were on the ground in Rio the communications was 100 percent WhatsApp. What started happening next, was clients started asking for new things, like opening tickets, etc. All the back and forth negotiations, pricing, etc. happened over WhatsApp. This happen with several clients. We even had a CEO from India request a private jet to fly to the Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina for two days. The entire negotiations including photos and video of different jet options all got done over 12 hours by text messaging. The one common problem or pain-point that all our clients had was when it came time to pay. We had to send them outside of WhatsApp to perform a traditional payment the old-fashion way (i.e., PayPal, ATM, bank wire, meet in person) this made no sense in today’s digital and mobile payments world. Why have instant messaging and traditional payment?”

Biggest Win

Winning an award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Electronic Transaction Association.

The award came when White was working on his first mobile payment platform and app solution. He created a mobile payment app prototype to enable the unbanked participation in mobile e-commerce shopping and payments. This led to him being awarded the 2013 E-Innovator Award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Electronic Transaction Association.

White adds, “That was a big deal.”

Biggest Risk

Betting on bringing a new tech solution into a big market.

White says, “Failing is not in my DNA. We just kept going and going until we got it right. End result is we developed a business chat solution that takes text messaging to the next level.”

Spotlight: Commerce Messaging Platform SellApp Brings Payments to Mobile Chat

Lesson Learned

Find the best developers, and make them prove themselves.

White explains, “Developers will tell you they can do everything, they want the job of course, but it’s like looking for a needle in haystack to find the right talent. Don’t tell me, show me.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Growing the team.

White says, “I would put 80 percent on hiring the best software developers or team I could find for the best price.”

Favorite Quote

“Move fast and break things.” -Mark Zukerberg

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: SellApp; Top Image: Jitesh Vadodariya – Web Lead, Nirav Javia – friend of company, Dipali Buddhadev – Android Lead, Sachin Gohel – Web Developer, Mohit Joshi – UI Designer, Keith White – Founder & CEO of SellApp, Bhavik Talpada – iOS Developer, Rohit Tank – iOS Developer; Second Image: Keith White

This article, "Spotlight: SellApp Enables Chat and Sales on One Platform" was first published on Small Business Trends



Spotlight: SellApp Enables Chat and Sales on One Platform

12 Things You May Need to Update NOW in Your Employee Handbook

Is Your Employee Handbook Up to Date? Employee Handbook Updates

Have you updated your employee handbook recently? If not, it could be out of date in regards to changes to local, state and federal laws, as well as other areas such as operations and company policies.

An outdated employee handbook can put your business at financial risk if you’re ever hit with a lawsuit from an employee. It can also put your business and your staff at risk literally if safety policies or procedures are incomplete or outdated.

Employee Handbook Updates

In addition to the basics, such as overtime, minimum wage, paid time off and benefits, here are 12 areas of your employee handbook to review and, if necessary, update.

1. Criminal record: An increasing number of states and cities are passing “ban the box” laws. These laws restrict businesses from asking job candidates if they have a criminal record until an actual job offer has been made.

2. Salary history: Some cities and states are also passing legislation that prevents employers from asking job candidates about their previous salary history. The rationale is that basing wages on previous wage history perpetuates the gender pay gap.

3. Remote work: If your business has started offering employees the option to work remotely in recent years, be sure your remote work policy is clearly explained and current in your employee handbook.

4. LBGTQIA employees: Whether or not your state has passed laws prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification, it’s a good idea to include nondiscrimination policies to that effect in your employee handbook.

5. E-cigarettes: As e-cigarettes become more popular, any no smoking policies or policies restricting where employees can smoke should be expanded to cover vaping.

6. Medical marijuana: Has medicinal use of marijuana been legalized in your state? Last year, the Society For Human Resources reports, several courts ruled that medical marijuana users could sue employers for discrimination after they were fired or not hired based on medicinal marijuana use. This is one area where you should definitely consult an attorney for guidance in creating your policy.

7. Maternity/paternity leave: Estée Lauder was recently sued for discrimination for giving new fathers less parental leave time than new mothers, HR Dive reports. One solution some companies are using is to change their leave policy to distinguish between medical leave (for recovering from childbirth) and parental leave (for bonding with the new infant).

8. FMLA and ADA: If you have employees who have used up their leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or if your business is too small to be subject to FMLA, be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require you to offer them leave anyway as a way of accommodating disabilities such as mental health issues.

9. Weapons: If you live in a state that allows gun owners to keep a licensed firearm in their cars, you’ll need to set a clear policy on bringing firearms into the actual building.

10. Active shooter plan: Businesses of any size can be confronted with an active shooter situation. Develop an emergency plan for how to handle this situation.

11. Disaster plan:  Make sure your plan for what to do in a natural disaster is current, including contact information for employees, how to evacuate the building if necessary and how to keep the business operational.

12. Independent contractor vs. employee: If your business uses independent contractors at all, your employee handbook should be very clear as to how you differentiate independent contractors from employees.

Many of the issues above are still unsettled based on lawsuits and pending court decisions. Others may change under the Trump administration. It’s wise to consult an attorney familiar with employment law in your state when revising your employee handbook.

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This article, "12 Things You May Need to Update NOW in Your Employee Handbook" was first published on Small Business Trends



12 Things You May Need to Update NOW in Your Employee Handbook