How Can Businesses Use Facebook Continuous Live Video?

Facebook continuous live video API

When it comes to social media, Facebook is undeniably king. That’s why businesses bend over backwards to try and engage with users via the social media platform — and it’s also why they’ve been working hard to take advantage of Facebook’s video capabilities.

With the launch of the new Facebook continuous live video API, those capabilities have drastically expanded.

Announced in April, this latest expansion of Facebook Live will enable users to stream 24-hour live coverage of anything and everything — from a window filled with adorable puppies to the backstage goings-on during an awards show.

Facebook Continuous Live Video Growing

A few weeks on, the new Facebook continuous live video API has grown by leaps and bounds. Over 100 broadcasters have already hopped on the bandwagon, and global brands are leveraging these new platform capabilities in order to reach users in new and engaging ways.

Disney has used Live API to hand fans sneak peaks from the red carpet, CSPAN has used it to bring viewers closer to this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Bleacher Report has been using it to answer questions about the NFL Draft.

“We’ve already seen some interesting use cases — for example, it was used by explore.org to power nature cameras — and we’re looking forward to seeing what Live API developers come up with in the future,” Facebook video head Fidji Simo told TechCrunch. “We expect developers and publishers to get creative with this new capability.”

That being said, there are plenty of ways that smaller businesses can get creative with the new Facebook continuous live video API.

According to Simo, restaurants can utilize Facebook Live in order to walk diners through a typical service, cottage manufacturers can showcase their processes and B2B companies can stage live tutorials. Weather-driven industries like ski resorts or surf shops can even host a continuous stream of local weather conditions so that customers from across the globe know when it’s time to come in.

Better yet, businesses can then directly interact with those viewers in order to generate leads and forge stronger consumer relationships.

“Live video on Facebook is truly interactive ,as broadcasters engage with their commenters and respond to their suggestions and questions,” Simo said. “In fact, from initial data, we’ve seen that people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.”

Continuous streaming isn’t the only new addition Facebook is making to its Live API. The social media giant will also enable businesses to post videos that are only visible to users based in particular locations that are relevant to that business.

Businesses can also select a video to expire after a certain amount of time in order to generate a sense of urgency around their continuous stream — and Facebook has introduced an age-gate that ensures underage users cannot view certain videos. That will prove a huge benefit for alcohol brands or local bars looking to leverage Facebook’s Continuous Video Live API capabilities.

“We’ve been humbled by all the amazing and creative ways that people have used Facebook Continuous Live Video so far, and we’re committed to creating the best experience for everyone who wants to create, watch and interact with live videos on Facebook,” Simo said. “We’ll keep working to bring you the best ways to broadcast, interact with, and discover live video. Stay tuned.”

Image: Facebook

This article, “How Can Businesses Use Facebook Continuous Live Video?” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-can-businesses-use-facebook.html

Website Content: Your Biggest Sales Driver

quality website content drives sales

If you have a small business or startup, you’re probably an all-in-one shipper, customer representative, and web developer. While you want a flashy website with video, audio, and all sorts of other material, marketing research finds quality website content drives sales and is the biggest factor affecting online traffic.

Quality Website Content Drives Sales

Ninety-two percent of marketers report that content creation is either “very” or “somewhat” effective for search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing love high-quality content. In fact, their newest algorithms direct web surfers to the most relevant, high-quality websites. Superior, frequently updated content equals higher rankings on search engines.

Posting relevant information in the form of blogs, articles, or whitepapers can help develop closer customer relationships. The relevant information you’re providing gives them your perspective as an industry expert. Customers may be more willing to do business with you because you’re a thought leader who provides valuable content.

Knowing Your Audience

Before we begin any conversation on the types of content to put on your webpage, know your audience. You can have all the content in the world, but if you’re missing your target audience, it’s not going to have the desired results.

First, determine who your high-value customers are. This can help you find a persona for your website and determine how to target an audience. For example, if research shows that your target customers are 20-something millennials, retirement villages in Florida aren’t going to be relevant. You may have to design your site with a minimalist aesthetic and post about the latest technological trends.

Types of Quality Website Content That Drives Sales

Once we establish a target audience, then we can talk about types of content:

  • Think of each blog as an opportunity to provide your audience with relevant information and a way to subtly work in your sales pitch. They also provide an excellent opportunity to boost organic search rankings.
  • Products and services. When discussing your product or service on your site, provide enough information to generate interest. Then, insert a clear, compelling CTA.
  • Show the audience your business is growing. Share interesting content, and then position your business in the subject matter. It’s an opportunity to look like the industry expert and insert your sales pitch.
  • Social media. Do you want a successful social media presence? Then have interesting, fresh content with a mix of entertaining and serious material. This content then becomes sharable content, and those shares boost brand awareness.

Simple Tips for Good Web Copy

  • Web surfers are usually impatient. Give them just enough to satisfy them, and then provide a clear directive (such as a contact form) if they want to know more.
  • Let your content create a smooth transition from the conversation you’re having with the customer to the CTA.
  • Don’t misspell or use bad grammar. This hurts your credibility.
  • Let your content have energetic and descriptive words. Active writing engages your audience.
  • Do your homework. Use analytic tools to research what people want to know more about, and then write on these topics. Cater to your customer with your content.

As a new small business, realize the biggest key to your success online is your content. You don’t need a huge budget to create quality content. High-quality website content drives sales and gives you a great SEO boost. Know your audience, and see that every blog post or news article is just another opportunity to educate and subtly sell to your audience.

 

Writing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Website Content: Your Biggest Sales Driver” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/website-content-your-biggest-sales.html

Smart Locks Provide Easier Access to Offices of the Future

smart locks

Basic security is crucial for any small business. Yet, as non-traditional work patterns become more and more commonplace, the inconvenience of cumbersome and old-fashioned security methods is turning out to be a major hindrance for more forward-thinking business owners.

A solution to that problem seems to have emerged with the launch of the second-generation August Smart Lock.

New And Improved Smart Locks

August has always been an industry leader in smart home security — and so when the company announced the impending release of its new-and-improved August Smart Lock last October, tech-savvy users were left on tenterhooks.

Fast-forward seven months, and the company has finally delivered. According to critics, it’s been well worth the wait.

With integrated support for Apple’s HomeKit, this latest version of the August Smart Lock enables users to lock, unlock and check the status of their home security using Siri voice commands.

The August Smart Lock is also compatible with a range of various third-party HomeKit apps like iDevices, Insteon+ and Lutron. That means you can also use the system to ensure all of the lights in your office automatically shut off whenever the doors are locked.

“We are committed to providing value by partnering with companies such as Apple to deliver the features our customers are asking for, including HomeKit integration and support for Siri voice commands,” said Jason Johnson, CEO of August Home.

August has definitely hit home in providing the most heavily integrated smart lock to date. That being said, there are quite a few rising stars within the smart security sector that definitely merit a second look, too.

To give you a crash course in this up-and-coming market, here are a few of the top smart locks on the market:

Top Smart Locks Available

Kwikset Kevo

The Kwikset Kevo is one of the oldest smart locks on the market, but it’s still one of the best. The Kwikset Kevo is a Bluetooth, touch sensitive deadbolt lock that can be opened using either a fob or an iOS app — so you don’t actually need your iPhone handy in order to get into the office. Users can also send ‘ekeys’ to others via the Kevo app — allowing you to grant access to friends and co-workers from anywhere on the globe.

Lockitron Bolt

The Lockitron Bolt is an affordable and easy-to-install smart lock. Rather than fit over your lock, it completely replaces your deadbolt. The Bolt is quiet, can be accessed and controlled via an accompanying app and is fully connectable using an external WiFi bridge.

Schlage Sense

The Schlage Sense is a secure, single-cylinder deadbolt lock that’s Bluetooth enabled and features a well-designed accompanying iOS app. Unlike most of its competitors, the Schlage Sense has also got a built-in tamper alarm, and allows you to send friends access codes and set up schedules. You will need Apply TV in order to take advantage of all of its remote controls.

RemoteLock 6i

The LockState RemoteLock 6i is an easy-to-use smart lock that’s WiFi enabled and a good fit for shared offices or rental properties. Using its accompanying browser software, you can extend and monitor access remotely — and can also control other WiFi connected devices like thermostats.

Keyless Connected Smart Lock

Yale is another big industry player, and its Keyless Connected Ready Smart Lock is definitely worth a look. It completely replaces your existing rim cylinder lock, and features a touchscreen , tamper alarm and a three minute lock feature if the wrong code is entered five times in a row. It’s also compatible with Yale’s Smartphone Alarm and CCTV systems — making for a fully-integrated smart home security solution.

Haven

Expected to ship later this fall, Haven is a new breed of smart lock. Unlike its deadbolt competitors, Haven is floor-anchored in order to fortify your door at its strongest points. The Haven is built of military-grade materials, Bluetooth connected and features an FIPS compliant encryption system. The Haven can be controlled via an accompanying app.

QF01SN

If you’re in search of something a bit smaller, The Morning Industry Locks QF01SN Keypad and Remote Deadbolt may prove a smart alternative to a clunky deadbolt system. It does feature a more old-fashioned keypad lock, but it also comes with a key chain fob remote. At a relatively low price, this is a reliable, entry-level smart lock.

Mul-T-Lock ENTR

The Mul-T-Lock ENTR is undeniably the most advanced commercial biometric smart lock on the market. It can be pre-programmed to admit only certain finger prints; however, you can also grant temporary access to others using an accompanying app or PIN code.  A cheaper, non-biometric model is also available for half the price.

Master Lock

Master Lock Bluetooth Smart Padlocks aren’t designed for a front door, but they’re ideal for cabinets, lockers or garages. These are heavy duty Bluetooth padlocks featuring touch control, and can be accessed via an accompanying app that’s available on both iOS and Android. Using the app, you can also gain access to multiple padlocks, share digital keys and grant scheduled guest access.

Sesame

Sesame very well may be the easiest smart lock to install. It fits just about every deadbolt lock on the market, and comes with all of the connectivity tools you would expect from a well-equipped smart lock. What sets Sesame apart is that it will automatically grant entry to anyone who’s been taught a bespoke, secret knock.

At the end of the day, smart locks are still somewhat of an emerging technology. That means it’s always worth doing your homework before taking the plunge and investing in your very own smart security system. But for many small business owners, the features that accompany these products are simply too good to pass up — and like it or not, it looks like the future is definitely here.

Image: August Smart Lock

This article, “Smart Locks Provide Easier Access to Offices of the Future” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/smart-locks-provide-easier-access-to.html

12 Tips for Pinning on Pinterest After the New 2016 Changes

pinning on Pinterest

Pinterest has been rolling out a steady stream of updates this year, including changes to its algorithm and affiliate policy. If you use Pinterest as a marketing channel for your business, then you need to be aware of those Pinterest 2016 changes to really make the most of the platform. Here are some tips for pinning on Pinterest in 2016.

Helpful Pinning on Pinterest Tips

Create an Affiliate Strategy

One of the biggest changes that Pinterest recently announced is that the site will again allow users to share affiliate links on the platform. So if you’re a blogger or influencer, you can use Pinterest as a way to increase your affiliate income. And you can now actually share those links directly on Pinterest, instead of just posting links to your website or a landing page that includes your affiliate links.

Connect with Pinterest Influencers

If you’re a small business that wants to increase sales through an affiliate program, this new change also offers a new opportunity for you. You can potentially connect with influencers who are popular on Pinterest with your target audience. The fact that they can share affiliate links directly on the platform could make your affiliate program even more attractive to them.

Take Your Branding into Account

Another change to Pinterest, at least on some of the mobile apps at this point, is how your boards and pins appear on your profile. For example, instead of just showing each of your board names and cover images, profiles on the iOS app now shows each board title over a sort of collage of the images you recently pinned to that board. So since Pinterest users will be able to see more of your actual pins when visiting your profile, it may be worth it to put more care into choosing pins that fit, or at least don’t totally clash, with your style and branding.

Don’t Rely on Repin Counts

On the web version of Pinterest and some mobile apps, the repin counts of each pin also appear differently. So if you’ve noticed much higher engagement numbers on your pins, it’s not because they all went viral overnight. Pinterest has just changed the repin counts to now display the overall engagement numbers for each pin, rather than the engagement each pin has gotten just since you repined it to one of your own boards. So you can no longer use those repin counts under each pin as a measure of engagement.

Utilize Analytics

For that reason, using analytics on Pinterest has become even more important. If you have a Pinterest business account, then you have access to analytics that can show you which of your pins are performing well and which ones are getting lower engagement. You can also use services like Tailwind to measure that engagement. Having that information can help you determine which pins might be worth promoting further or if there are any that you may even want to delete from your boards. It can also help you determine general trends in what’s popular so you can better determine your strategy for pinning on Pinterest going forward.

Keep International Users in Mind

One of Pinterest’s big goals with the recent changes is to appeal more to a wider base of users, including those outside of the U.S. A lot of those changes so far have simply been design and usability tweaks. But if all goes as planned for Pinterest, that means there could potentially be a larger base of international consumers on the platform going forward. So if that fits with your target audience, it could be worthwhile to create pins that are more geared toward international consumers, rather than only focusing on those based in the U.S.

Consider Promoting Popular Pins

Like other social media platforms, algorithm changes for Pinterest can make paying to promote certain posts a more viable option. If your pins aren’t getting as much engagement as you’d like to see, you can pay to boost a pin or two to increase your reach.

Optimize Boards for Search Engines

In addition, getting your posts found on search engines also becomes more important thanks to algorithmic changes. So if you don’t already, change the names and descriptions of your board to include some relevant descriptive keywords. The captions of each of your pins should also include some relevant descriptions so people can better find the content that is going to interest them on Pinterest.

Don’t Solely Rely on Group Boards

Pinterest continues to offer the opportunity for pinners to invite other pinners to their boards, creating group boards that can help increase the reach of your pins even further. However, group boards aren’t as powerful now as they once were. You can still use them, especially if you use just a few with just a few different pinners. But don’t rely as heavily on them. And make sure you pin valuable content to your individual boards as well.

Treat Likes More Like Pins

Also in some of the mobile apps, you’ll notice what appears to be a separate board that includes all of the pins you’ve liked on Pinterest. Before, users could still view the pins you liked on Pinterest, but they had to actually click on that part of your profile. Now, it shows up on your profile like the rest of your boards. So make sure that you’re okay with those pins appearing on your actual profile.

Share Genuinely Helpful Content

One thing that hasn’t changed about pinning on Pinterest is that users want to find and save valuable content. So the pins that you share should always be relevant and helpful to members of your target audience. If you take that into account, you’re more likely to get higher engagement on Pinterest. And that higher engagment can lead to even more reach on the platform.

Don’t Rely Completely on Pinterest Traffic

If anything, the Pinterest 2016 changes and changes or any other social platform serve as a reminder that you don’t have full control over how you’re able to reach people using those tools. Pinterest can be an incredibly useful tool for reaching certain audiences. But that doesn’t mean that you should only focus on Pinterest and discount every other marketing channel out there. Pinterest is likely to keep making changes to its platform – some of them will likely help your reach and some might hurt it. So be prepared by not focusing too heavily on any one platform, including Pinterest.

Do you have any additional tips for pinning on Pinterest?  Please share in comments!

Pinterest Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “12 Tips for Pinning on Pinterest After the New 2016 Changes” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/12-tips-for-pinning-on-pinterest-after.html

Ooma Office Adds IP Phones to Analog, Mobile Lineup for Small Business

 Ooma Office IP phone

Ooma, a cloud-based phone service provider for small business, just announced on its blog that it intends to include IP phone support for its Ooma Office phone system, which means that businesses can now use analog phones, fax machines, mobile and IP phones in combination.

Initially, the company plans to sell and support three phones — Cisco SPA 303, Yealink SIP-T21P E2 and Cisco SPA 504G — but will increase selection in the future.

Ooma Office Changes

The IP phones will be sold exclusively by Ooma as part of Ooma Office, the blog post said, and will come with “enterprise-level” features, such as blind transfer (1-step transfer), supervised transfer (2-step transfer), extension dialing and a “Do Not Disturb” function, in addition to caller ID, call waiting, three-way conference calling and others.

Regarding the addition of IP phones, Ooma CEO Eric Strang, in an interview with Small Business Trends, conducted via telephone, said, “Until now, we weren’t able to grow with the small business. With the addition of IP phones to our lineup of analog, mobile and fax, we can.”

Strang said the phones will come preprogrammed to work with Ooma, so they are literally plug-and-play. The company also provides 24/7 365-support, based in the U.S.

Enterprise Solution at Small Business Price, Company Says

The addition of IP phones aside, through the Office product, Ooma prides itself on providing what it says is an enterprise-grade solution at a price small businesses can afford. And at $19.95 per user per month with no contract required, the company is well on its way toward fulfilling that promise.

In a separate release, dated May 18, 2016, Ooma stated that the average business saves more than $1,800 per year. The company provides an online calculator, which businesses can use to estimate cost savings compared to their current supplier.

“Most small business of the size Ooma serves — 10 employees or fewer — get a couple of phones from AT&T or a cable operator and are pretty much stuck with that,” Strang said in the interview. “Ooma brings the power of the full PBX, including features like music on hold, extension dialing, and virtual receptionist, all at a price that saves the business as much as 75 percent over a traditional system.”

Each business receives a local and toll-free phone number, a virtual fax extension and a conference extension, Strang said. Subsequent users each get a direct personal phone number and virtual fax extension.

Additional features include:

  • Unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada
  • Low international rates
  • Caller-ID and name
  • 9-1-1 service
  • Free number transfer
  • Toll-free numbers

Ooma’s System: On-premise and in the Cloud

Ooma’s system, which combines on-premise and cloud architecture, is built around a small, network-managed, secure Linux computer (shown below) that sits on-site and acts as a router, connecting to the Internet. It also has a fax mode built-in.

Ooma's System: On-premise and in the Cloud

Extension devices hook up to employee phones wirelessly, linking them to the network. Hardware costs start at $199, which includes the base and two extensions, and is available from Ooma or through retail outlets such as Staples, Best Buy and Amazon.

In addition to its business products, Ooma offers a home phone service that includes free calling within the U.S. and a free mobile app. The service also integrates with Amazon Echo, enabling users to initiate phone calls by number or contact name and check voicemail.

Cloud-based Security and Redundancy

Ooma backs up all data in the cloud, ensuring a level of security and redundancy not available in on-premise PBX systems.

It is this redundancy that enables Ooma to also guarantee excellent voice quality, so users never experience garbled communications, a problem endemic among Internet-based services.

“Ooma lumps four technologies together into something we call ‘PureVoice,’” Strang said, explaining how the system works. “It gives us the ability to ensure excellent voice quality. Our systems actively monitor voice packets. If there is a delay in one, thanks to our adaptive redundancy, the next one has the information.”

Previously, Small Business Trends reported on Ooma in 2013, when the company announced the launch of its small business product, Ooma Office, and again in 2015, when it unveiled an addition to Office called Ooma Office Business Promoter, a marketing service aimed at increasing a small business’s online presence through promotion to search engines, mapping sites, business directories and location-based advertising.

Image: Ooma

This article, “Ooma Office Adds IP Phones to Analog, Mobile Lineup for Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/ooma-office-adds-ip-phones-to-analog.html

What is Gboard for iPhone and What is it For?

Gboard for iPhone

The rift between Apple and Google is well documented, but in reality they need each other more than they let on in order to give their customers the solutions both companies provide. The latest evidence of this is the new Gboard for iPhone keyboard app Google just announced.

With tens of millions of customers on the line, the Gboard is a no brainer for Google.

So What is Gboard For iPhone?

Gboard is a keyboard app made for the iPhone (an Android version will be coming soon). It has been developed to appeal to the design sensibilities of Apple product customers, while ensuring Google search remains a prominent feature.

gboard_gif_regularSearch

The app lets you search and send information, GIFs and emojis. By now you are probably saying to yourself, I can already do that from the keyboard I am using. The difference is, you can do all of these things and more without leaving the app.

No More App Switching With Gboard From iPhone!

Even though you might like the keyboard app you are currently using, switching apps back and forth is not the most efficient way to get the information you need when you are doing more than one task. With Gboard for iPhone, you can tap the Google button on the app while you are texting to find a restaurant, a movie theater or anything else.

Search and send anything from Google

You can search anything you would search on Google, including videos and images, news and articles, sports scores, nearby stores and restaurants, and more.

Additionally, it also lets you search GIFs and the perfect emoji to quickly express what you are feeling.

Gboard 1

Gboard 2

Gboard5

Gboard 3

Glide Typing

Another smart feature of the app is glide typing. Let’s face it, using your thumbs on a small keyboard is probably causing some serious damage to our opposable digits. With glide typing, all you do is slide one finger from letter to letter.

This feature might sound like it would be prone to errors, but the auto-correction works just as fast for an all-around smooth experience.

Gboard for iPhone glide typing

Privacy

If there is one thing Apple is known for it’s privacy, and Google made sure it kept your private information private on Gboard.

Google said when you search for something on the app, it sends your query to Google’s web servers to process it, along with anonymous statistics to diagnose problems when the app crashes, and features that get the most usage. The company said that is all it sends, nothing else.

Conclusion

Apple users are leery when it comes to using third party vendor products, especially when it is from the parent of Android. But by all accounts, Google has done a great job on this app. Reviews have been very positive so far, but let us wait and see until more people download it.

If you want to try Gboard for iPhone, you can go here. Once you have it up and running, please let us know if it the improvements Google has made introduced are better than the app you are currently using.

Images: Google

This article, “What is Gboard for iPhone and What is it For?” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/what-is-gboard-for-iphone-and-what-is.html

30 Top Cities for Minority Entrepreneurs

Cities for Minority Entrepreneurs

 

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For minority entrepreneurs, choosing a business location that includes a diverse community and business friendly services can make a huge difference.  Business ownership in the United States is varied and reflects our diverse and growing population.

However, minority businesses are also found concentrated in communities with strong tourism, fashion, fashion, finance and food service industries — among many others.

In an effort determine the different kinds of entrepreneurs drawn to different communities, Small Business Trends conducted a study drawn rim U.S. Census data beginning last week with the 30 Top Cities for Women  Entrepreneurs.

The 30 cities listed below represent the cities with the most minority entrepreneurs, according to the U.S. Census Survey of Business Owners in 2012, which is the last year that the Census gathered this data on entrepreneurship.

30 Top Cities For Minority Entrepreneurs

Read on to see which cities have the most minority owned businesses and the industries they are in.

New York City

As the biggest city by population in the U.S., it shouldn’t be too surprising that New York City also has the largest number of minority entrepreneurs, with 539,447. In addition to the large population, the large base of minority entrepreneurs can be attributed to booming industries like tourism, fashion, finance and food service.

Los Angeles

los angeles

The second largest city in the U.S. is also boasts the second largest number of minority business owners, with 247,710. Due in part to the large entertainment industry in L.A., there’s a huge need for businesses in a variety of different creative fields. Hospitality, tourism, transportation and food are all large industries in this city.

Houston

The fourth largest city in terms of population is third on the list of most minority entrepreneurs, with 155,654. Aside from the population, Houston also has Texas’s lack of corporate income and personal income taxes on its side. Houston also has a number of incentives and programs, such as enterprise zones and industrial districts, aimed at getting business owners to start or relocate their businesses to the city.  Key industries attracting minority business owners are engineering, construction, technology and medical.

Chicago

With 140,109 minority business owners, the third most populous city in the country has the is fourth in terms of minority owned businesses. Chicago’s large number of professional and educational institutions, along with tourism, retail food, technology and creative industries, are key reasons why the Windy City is one of our top cities for minority entrepreneurs.

Miami

miami is one of the top cities for minority entpreneurs

Although Miami is 44th in the U.S. in terms of population, the city has 77,125 minority entrepreneurs. Aside from the warm climate and diversity of the city overall, Miami also offers business incentives such as enterprise and empowerment zones.  Tourism, cruise, retail food, entertainment and construction attract minority businesses to Miami.

San Antonio

San Antonio has about 71,287 minority business owners and ranks seventh in terms of overall population. Aside from Texas’s lack of business and personal income taxes, San Antonio also offers some property tax programs that could benefit local businesses, along with foreign trade zones, industrial districts and more incentive programs to bring businesses to the area. Manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and engineering opportunities attract minority business entrepreneurs here.  The community also has the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is one of the oldest chamber organizations servicing the hispanic community.

Dallas

Dallas is another city that has Texas’s tax structure on its side when it comes to attracting business owners. The ninth largest city in terms of general population has 65,749 minority entrepreneurs. Aside from the tax structure, Dallas’s infrastructure, cost of living and available workforce may contribute to the large number of minority business owners. Target industries such as building, food manufacturing, sports, media, and IT make Dallas a prime top city for minority entrepreneurs.

Detroit

detroit is one of the top cities for minority entpreneurs

The city with the 18th largest population in the U.S., Detroit, has 50,946 minority business owners. Aside from the overall diversity of the city, other contributing factors include the city’s large number of engineers, construction and manufacturing professionals, along with a growing tech sector that’s attracting business owners to the area. Some of the city’s organizations and businesses have even banded together to form the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to support minority owned and run businesses in the area.

San Diego

With 50,762 minority entrepreneurs, this popular city ranks ninth on this list. San Diego draws in entrepreneurs from a variety of industries, including aerospace, maritime, cybersecurity and manufacturing, through research, advocacy and similar support programs.

Philadelphia

philadelphia

Philadelphia has the fifth largest population in the U.S. and about 48,743 minority business owners. The city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts, skilled workforce, centralized location and corporate support initiatives are draws for businesses in the tourism, sports, retail food and technology fields. Philadelphia also has a minority led entrepreneur accelerator program.

San Francisco

With 46,128 minority entrepreneurs, the city with the 14th largest population has a larger than average entrepreneurial community thanks to a diverse and innovative community. San Francisco’s research centers, universities and business leaders make it an attractive option  for tech business owners and those in creative industries.

San Jose

The 10th most populous city in the U.S. has about 45,686 minority owned businesses. San Jose works to attract entrepreneurs through workforce development, real estate and cultural programs. Minority business owners in the area also have access to organizations like Yes We Code, which help African Americans and other minorities find entrepreneurial opportunities in Silicon Valley.

Hialeah

hialeah

The sixth largest municipality in Florida and 88th largest in the U.S., Hialeah boasts a minority entrepreneur population of about 45,245. The city has a large Hispanic population, proximity to major transportation and a vibrant community of independently owned shops and restaurants contribute to Hialeah being one of our top cities for minority entrepreneurs. city.

Memphis

Memphis ranks 20th in the country in terms of population and has 43,949 minority entrepreneurs. The city offers tax incentives, site selection assistance, research services and similar resources in order to attract businesses to the area. Target industries include bioscience, manufacturing, green business, and music and tourism.

El Paso

El Paso has about 43,311 minority business owners and is the 19th largest city in the country. In addition to the lack of corporate and individual income tax expenses for entrepreneurs in Texas, El Paso offers foreign trade zone incentives and is home to the second largest Army base in the US.

Phoenix

The sixth largest city in terms of general population has 39,596 minority business owners. Technology, manufacturing, bioscience and advanced business services are all growing industries in Phoenix. In addition, the city also has a diverse talent pool and proximity to several high profile educational institutions as well as an Entrepreneurial Training Program for African Americans.

Fort Worth

With 33,952 minority business owners, Fort Worth attracts entrepreneurs with its low cost of living, business friendly tax structure and talented labor pool. The city, which is 16th in terms of overall population, also offers enterprise zones, public improvement districts and neighborhood empowerment zones to increase entrepreneurship in the area.

Charlotte

charlotte

Charlotte ranks 17th in terms of general population and has 32,449 minority owned businesses. The city draws in minority business owners with programs and incentives like tax credits, financial programs and even contracting opportunities. The city also has several business districts that it is working to revitalize making it an attractive option in our list of top cities for minority entrepreneurs.

Atlanta

Ranked number 40 in terms of overall population, Atlanta boasts 30,104 minority entrepreneurs. The city works to attract business owners and grow its business community by providing small business loans, issuing bonds to spur commercial development and promoting other relevant business incentives. The city also offers plenty of affordable housing options and other quality of life perks, like a large number of sporting teams.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital has about 29,983 minority business owners, and is the 24th largest city by population. Government contractors and political service providers are of course more popular in Washington, D.C. than they are in many other cities. But the city also offers business improvement districts, community development corporations and similar programs to improve and grow its business community.

Austin

one of the top cities for minority entrepreneurs is austin texas

Austin ranks 11th in overall population and has 28,888 minority entrepreneurs. The city offers the same tax benefits as the other Texas cities on this list. And with a vibrant music, arts and creative scene, it’s a big draw for diverse, creative and young entrepreneurs.

Honolulu

With 28,092 minority entrepreneurs, Honolulu has the 54th largest population in the U.S. The city’s booming tourism, hospitality, agriculture and film industries lead to it being a top pick for entrepreneurs in many different areas.

Baltimore

The 26th largest city in the U.S. has about 27,673 minority owned businesses. With business friendly features like steady tax rates, counseling and talent recruitment, Baltimore’s local government and business community works to create a diverse and tight-knit business community.

Jacksonville

jacksonville

Jacksonville currently has about 27,446 minority entrepreneurs and ranks 12th in overall population. The city is working to redevelop some of its economically distressed areas and promote private capital investment for businesses in the area. In addition, the largest city in Florida offers huge local festivals and a growing cruise industry, part of what might draw some of those business owners to the city.

Long Beach

With 25,159 minority owned businesses, Long Beach is the 36th largest city in terms of population in the country. The city’s business friendly tax structure, improved city services and a number of other incentives make this a popular community for business owners to settle in.

Laredo

Laredo is the 81st largest population in the U.S. and boasts a minority entrepreneur population of about 24,727. Aside from Texas’s business friendly tax structure, Laredo also has a large Hispanic population and close proximity to Mexico.

Oakland

oakland

Oakland’s 22,217 minority owned businesses make the 45th largest city in the U.S. one of the top choices for minority entrepreneurs. The city’s innovative and diverse community, along with its proximity to several other cities that are popular with entrepreneurs, make for a large minority entrepreneur population.

Columbus

Columbus is the 15th most populous city in the U.S. and has about 21,926 minority business owners. The city has some very specific goals for adding capital investment and creating jobs in the community. So it is working to attract investments for local businesses, connecting startups with local resources and helping existing businesses to expand.

Las Vegas

The booming tourism industry in Las Vegas is part of what attracts some business owners, including the 20,882 minority business owners, to the city. Tax credits, financing and other state and local incentive program also attract some entrepreneurs to Las Vegas.

New Orleans

neworleans

With 20,400 minority owned businesses, New Orleans, the city with the 51st largest population in the U.S., rounds out the list. A vibrant arts and tourism scene, diverse population and a talented workforce that’s dedicated to revitalizing the community.

Images: Discover Los AngelesMiami and the BeachesVisit DetroitVisit PhiladelphiaCity of Hialeah, FloridaCharlotte NCAustin, TXVisit JacksonvilleNew Orleans 

This article, “30 Top Cities for Minority Entrepreneurs” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/30-top-cities-for-minority-entrepreneurs.html

24 Cloud Storage Options for SMBs

Cloud Storage Options

From sales collateral to documents, signed contract scans, and even expense receipts, almost everything that crosses our desks these days is contained in a digital file. Like their paper ancestors, these files need to be put somewhere safe where they can be found and referenced easily.

This need is the driving force behind the explosive growth of cloud storage options for SMBs. These vendors enable SMBs to cost-effectively centralize their files on remote servers while taking on none of the hardware, software, and management costs that building a homegrown solution would entail.

In addition, cloud storage solutions offer functionality above and beyond a spot to hold your files. These can include the ability to:

  • Access your files from anywhere;
  • Work across multiple devices, both desktop and mobile, by synchronizing your files;
  • Share files with coworkers and clients in a controlled manner;
  • Safeguard your confidential files; and
  • Tag and search your files in a manner that suits your needs and operating procedures.

Cloud Storage Options

To help you find a cloud storage option that fits your needs, we’ve compiled a list of solutions and broken them out across three primary categories:

  1. Straightforward file storage options;
  2. File storage options that offer synchronization; and
  3. High-security file storage options.

Straightforward Cloud Storage Options for SMBs

If you’re looking for an easy way to store, share and access your files from anywhere, consider the four online storage options below.

MediaFire

Launched in 2006, MediaFire is one of the original cloud storage options. Offering robust features at a variety of pricing levels, the solution remains close to its roots as an easy-to-use storage system with sharing and anywhere, cross-device access.

Google Drive

When it comes to features and functionality, Google Drive is the king of cloud storage solutions for SMBs. Aside from storing your files, if you need word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software, Drive has all three, and more, built right in. Want to work on Microsoft files instead? Drive enables you to work with them directly within the system.

Drive’s sharing features are robust, offering comments and tracking as well as simultaneous access and collaboration. Overall, drive is easy-to-use and priced well for SMBs.

iCloud Drive

Once you store a file on iCloud Drive, you can access it from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. Like Drive, you can work on your files directly within iCloud.

In fact, one of the handiest features of iCloud is the ability to work on one file using multiple apps. As Apple explains, “Your apps can now share files, which means you can access and work on the same file across multiple apps. For example, you can create a drawing in a sketching app, then open it in a painting app to color it in. Or create a chart in one app and place it in a slideshow using a presentation app.”

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon is a big player in the cloud business and its Cloud Drive is a solid option for SMBs. You can store any type of file and access it on most devices whether in the office or on the go.

Cloud Storage Options for SMBs that Offer Synchronization

While the cloud storage solutions above offer the ability to access your files from anywhere, you need to be connected to the Internet to do so.

Synchronization eliminates that need, enabling you to work on your files offline. When you reconnect, these files automatically sync with (overwrite) their older online versions and from there, they are updated on all the other devices that you’ve set up to sync.

This is a key feature if you truly wish to work on the go whether you have access to the Internet or no.

Dropbox

One of the most well known cloud storage options, Dropbox is as easy-to-use as it is affordable. It offers solid features, including synchronization, and while those features are basic, they keep SMBs from getting overwhelmed.

Box

Another heavyweight, Box‘s metadata feature is hard to beat. Using templates you can customize to fit your business, Box enables you to store information about each file that can be used during an advanced search. This makes finding your files much easier and, thanks to the templates, you can standardize the metadata your employees use.

Box Metadata

Cubby

If you want more control over your cloud storage solution, check out Cubby. Combining an easy-to-use interface and a robust back-end, Cubby offers features like unlimited versioning, remote device wipe (in case a device is stolen), and DirectSync, a feature that syncs files locally without taking up your cloud storage space.

Microsoft OneDrive for Business

OneDrive is very similar to Google Drive except that it offers file sync so you can work offline. As part of Office 365, Microsoft’s online software suite, you can work on all your documents in OneDrive. Throw in a approval workflow system and this option is worth a look.

4Synch

If you use a Symbian or BlackBerry device, you should consider 4Synch as it’s one of the only solutions that has an app for those brands. Aside from that, 4Synch is an easy-to-use cloud storage solution that’s priced well and offers lots of storage.

Other Cloud Storage Options for SMBs that Offer Synchronization

In addition to the options above, these cloud storage solutions also offer synchronization:

High-Security Cloud Storage Options for SMBs

Before we dive into this section, we want to make one thing clear: all of the cloud storage options for SMBs on this list take security very seriously. The solutions in this section however, go above and beyond and should be considered if you need to store regulated or particularly sensitive client and customer data.

These solutions offer end-to-end encryption and more to protect your data. As far as other features such as synchronization and metadata, follow the links below to assure a solution will meet your requirements in those areas.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to store, share and secure your digital files, check out the list of cloud storage options for SMBs above.

With features like synchronization and end-to-end encryption, you should be able to find a solution that fits both your needs and your budget.

Cloud Storage Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “24 Cloud Storage Options for SMBs” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/24-cloud-storage-options-for-smbs.html

SAP Ariba For Small Business Provides Technology to Connect With Customers

SAP ariba

One of the biggest challenges small businesses face is access to resources. Whether it is getting funded, acquiring the best talent or developing the necessary networks to help their company thrive and grow, they have to work that much harder compared to large enterprises. Digital technology has made this much easier, and one of the solutions making this possible is SAP Ariba for small business.

The SAP Ariba Network has a clear objective in adding value on all the shared aspects of business commerce with proposals, contracts, orders, invoices, and payments to save you time, money and resources. And as a small business, being able to access these features with a real-world proven solution can be the catalyst to get your company to the next level of growth.

In an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, Eric Self, Global Vice President, Seller Account Management, SAP Ariba, highlighted many of the benefits this technology solution provides small businesses as they navigate today’s digital ecosystem.

First thing first. Let’s get down to brass tacks; why should a small business use SAP Ariba? The answer Self gave was compelling for any business, large or small. He said, every hour, more than $434,000 in new business is posted to Ariba Discovery. And in 2015, alone, more than 33.1 million leads were matched through the service.

This type of lead is what gave Ergo Works, a small, woman-owned business in Palo Alto that sells ergonomic products access to more customers. According to the company’s president, Anne Kramer: “SAP gives us direct access to large corporations and provides a vehicle through which they can purchase specialty products from us while staying compliant within their procurement guidelines.”

Small businesses that connected to the Ariba Network were able to increase the efficiency of their sales and marketing activities by 20 percent, increase sales from new customers by 15 percent, boost wallet share with existing customers by 30 percent, and realize customer retention rates of 99 percent or more while getting paid 15-20 percent faster.

It is a given business has gone digital, which is responsible for opening incredible opportunities for small businesses. Traditional lead generation tools made it much too difficult if not impossible to find, qualify, and bid on opportunities for small companies.

The Ariba Network is a place where a small business can go beyond simply listing their products and services and create profitable connections with buyers who are ready to buy and efficiently manage both their sales cycle and cash flow.

This is the largest, most global B2B network where more than two million buyers and sellers — including over two thirds the Global 2000 — in 190 countries connect and collaborate. The amount of money SAP Ariba transacts annually in commerce is higher than Amazon, eBay and Alibaba combined at more than $1 trillion.

Those numbers might overwhelm some small businesses, so how does SAP Ariba for small business simplify the process. As Eric Self said, “It all starts with desire.  Are you serious about growing your business, competing with the best, and winning new customers – and who isn’t?”

If there is one thing small business owners have is desire, and the Ariba Network takes that desire and helps it flourish with a platform that is as easy as creating a presence on social networks. The detailed information about your business and capabilities, products and services enables you to put your best foot forward with buyers at some of the world’s leading and largest corporations. This means the passion you have for your company will be on display without faceless catalogs or middle men.

A great example of this is Quentin McCorvey, Sr., President and COO of M&R Distribution Services, a small, minority-owned firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Before creating his profile on Ariba Discovery, MCorvey found it difficult to get his company in the door for getting the business of large enterprises. After being in the network, M&R Distribution bid on a project for Caesars Entertainment through the network — and it is now a vendor of choice for the entertainment giant, providing drum liners and gloves to all its properties.

McCorvey said, “There is often a stigma associated with awarding large contracts to small, minority-owned firms. But I am not looking for a handout, I am looking for a handshake — an opportunity to earn the business of a customer. Ariba provides me with a platform from which I can do this.”

He went on to say, “There are some very powerful purchasing organizations who use Ariba. And when they hear that I am connected to the network, it gives me added credibility because there is a level of respect.”

There are countless technology solutions in the market place addressing the needs of small businesses. This has allowed these companies to extend their reach not only nationally, but also internationally. When asked how the Ariba Network differs, Eric Self said it facilitates opportunities in every region of the world — not just with global, multinational buyers, but also with smaller companies looking for quality partners.

The network connects businesses in one place to find and fully engage with new partners across multiple channels to create opportunities. You can choose the markets, industries, and opportunities you want to compete in. So you will be able to generate intelligent transactions with partners around the world and manage the connections that matter to you most with greater efficiency.

As for how SAP Ariba for small business delivers tools that address their specific needs, Eric Self said it starts out by simplifying the complex nature of the entire ecosystem. First of all, it’s free to sign up and begin tapping into these opportunities to deliver real, measurable results.

The next step is even better, because you don’t have to invest in any software to be up and running. With just an Internet connection, your company can connect to the network and begin transacting anytime, anywhere, using any device. Your small business won’t need the technology solutions or infrastructure of a large enterprise, but you will have the same capability. With just a few clicks you can receive purchase orders, send order confirmations and invoices to buyers without any portals to manage.

As M&R Distribution’s McCorvey says, “I used to prospect with a full tank of gas and a pocket full of quarters.  With Ariba Discovery, the leads just show up in my inbox.  My world has changed.”

So the question isn’t why join the Ariba Network, but why not? If you are currently part of the network or decide to join, please let us know how the connections it provides has increased the visibility of your company.

Image: SAP

This article, “SAP Ariba For Small Business Provides Technology to Connect With Customers” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/sap-ariba-for-small-business-provides.html

The Ups and Downs of Running Your Own Business

running your own business

Freedom and control are common factors that motivate people to leave traditional employment to start a new business. If you yearn for the opportunity to be in charge, set your own hours and design your daily activities, prepare yourself for some of the harsh realities of finding entrepreneurial success. Here are a few key things to consider as you evaluate whether running your own business is the right move.

The Long Hours

True, you should be able to control your hours as a business owner. However, entrepreneurs who desire to generate revenue and profit work almost always work more hours than they had before. In fact, your business owns you, you don’t own your time. In a small business where you play a pivotal operational role, the amount of time and effort you put in directly impacts how much money you make. If you employ any staff, your work ethic sets the tone for the company. It is hard to earn the respect and dedication of your team if you clock in at 9:00 a.m., clock out at 5:00 p.m., and take a two-hour lunch break each day. This point is especially true in a start-up environment where you rely on workers to go above and beyond the traditional eight-hour day as well.

Problems Must Be Solved

You can’t control when problems arise that demand your attention. Sure, you have the freedom to pretend they don’t exist, or that someone else will handle them. However, your customers and employees will look to the boss during times of stress or uncertainty for an answer. If a major distributor experiences a delay, for instance, you may need to travel to reassure ensure a positive experience for your customers. Power outages, technology malfunctions, and equipment breakdowns are a few of the other problems that could demand attention and prevent you from getting to the golf course or the beach.

Money and Freedom Go Hand-in-Hand

Kevin O’Leary, of “Shark Tank” fame, often says, “Money equals freedom.” In his case, he has enough money to freely choose which companies and investments to spend his time on. In the case of a new business owner, true freedom typically only comes when you go through the pains and frustrations of building up a profitable enterprise. This process usually takes three to fours years, until your business can afford to pay you a regular salary. If you want the freedom to make decisions on how to spend your time, plan to work harder and smarter on your own than you would as an employee.

The Owner’s Job is Overwhelming

Many people leave employment to get out of a boring, monotonous position. The logic is that you can design your own activities and focus on a diverse mix of things you enjoy as a small-business owner. In reality, as start-up business, you are taking on 10-14 jobs at once, so you will often spend hours trying to figure out which task to take on first each business day. Making products, setting up your website, generating leads, shipping packages are among the common roles of a start-up owner. Until you build up your business, and can add staff, it is common to take on many tasks that you intend to get away from once you build up your business.

The rewards of running your own small business often far exceeds anything you could achieve as an employee. However, the process to earn those rewards are typically much harder than you thought. Plan to work hard for years, tackle major problems, and carry out many activities everyday without complaining.

Business Owner Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “The Ups and Downs of Running Your Own Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Brent Lecompte Blog http://brentlecompte.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-ups-and-downs-of-running-your-own.html