How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Business

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A Facebook page is a must-have for any small business these days. Your customers and potential customers are as likely to look for you on Facebook as they are to seek out your own web page. Having a presence on Facebook allows you to build relationships with customers in a unique way.

Facebook makes it easy for businesses to get started on the platform. Let’s walk through what’s involved in setting up your own Facebook business page.

Setting Up Your Facebook Page

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When you create a new business page on Facebook, start out by choosing the correct category. You can label yourself as a local business, a company or organization, a product or brand, an artist or public figure, another type of entertainment, or a cause or community organization.

Depending on the choice you make, Facebook asks you for more information. For example, if you say you’re a local business, you then provide information including your hours of operation and parking locations.

You also need to provide your company’s name. If you’re commonly known by more than one name (“Howie’s Bar and Grill” vs. “Howie’s,” for instance), decide how you want to appear on Facebook. It’s possible to change your name once you’ve published your Facebook page, but it’s far from simple to do.

Facebook then walks you through a template to get all the information needed for your page. Be ready with a compelling description of your business and a link to your website. You also need a profile picture, which might be your logo, and a cover photo that exemplifies your business.

Add any admins to the page to help you edit and manage it. Don’t choose admins on a whim, as any admin has full control over the page. You don’t want to add someone who might later decide to lock you out of the page.

You can also add a call-to-action button to your Facebook Page. This button lets your visitors take a simple action just by clicking. You might want to use this button to link to your e-commerce website or to place a phone call to your store.

Facebook makes it easy to handle all these steps through its interface. If you prefer, you can also customize your Facebook page. If you have the tech skills, you can use iframes to build a custom page, or you can opt for a third-party app like Pagemodo.

Publishing Your Page

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Once your page is designed, it’s tempting to publish it right away. Hold off, though! Keep your profile private until your page is truly ready for the grand unveiling.

Now is the time to add content to your page. Use a variety of types of posts as you populate your page. Add text status updates to point out deals and exciting news. Captioned links are helpful to get visitors over to your website or e-commerce page. Many Facebook users are captivated by photo or video content, so start creating and adding visuals to your page. If you’re planning a big sale or a special event at your store, add it as an event to Facebook so users can click to say whether they’re attending.

If you have big announcements to make, pin them to the top of your Facebook page so any visitor sees them first. If you already have a blog tied to your business, use the Networked Blogs app to link your blog to your Facebook page. This app will republish any of your blog posts to your Facebook page, making it easy for your fans and customers to gather in one spot to see what you’re thinking.

Turn on Facebook Messaging so your customers can contact you directly via Facebook. This easy customer service connection lets your customers and potential customers know that you’re listening to them and helps build rapport with your brand.

Once you have enough content on your page to make your business look well-established and to give a casual visitor something appealing to scroll through, you’re ready to publish your page. As soon as you set your page to Public, start inviting people you know on Facebook to Like the page. This drives activity toward your page.

As you move forward with your Facebook business page, you can continue to post intriguing content that attracts more visitors and turns them into customers.

Seven December Marketing Ideas for Your Business

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Looking to give your year-end sales a boost this holiday season? Want to create a captivating, seasonal marketing campaign that’s both fun and effective?

Here’s seven simple ways to market your business this December:

Deck the Halls

Whether you have a retail outlet, an office space, or an industrial location, a little time and effort spent decorating your space can help make your business more noticeable, and more inviting. With just a few sprigs of evergreen branches, a couple strands of garland and some colorful LED lights, you can easily add a welcoming, festive vibe to your shop, office, or store.

Be Charitable

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Consider partnering with a local charity this year to create a campaign that benefits people in your community.

Contact your local toy bank, children’s hospital, or other non-profit group of your choice to discuss how your business can help. For example, you could run a promotion that gives customers a discount off a product or service in exchange for an unwrapped toy to be donated to a non-profit, or food items that can be given to a food bank.

Print Calendars

Despite the wide-spread use of smart phones and other tech gadgets, many people still love to use a simple, old-fashioned calendar to keep track of their day-to-day appointments.

A customized calendar that’s branded with your business name and logo makes the perfect customer appreciation gift at this time of year and it’s a great way to keep your company front-and-center for your clients throughout the year.

Decorate Your Social Media Pages

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If you maintain a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts for your business, it’s easy to decorate your pages with holiday-themed backgrounds, fonts and photos. You can even update your pages with a new design each day to keep your audience engaged!

Offer Holiday Promotions

Regardless of what type of business you operate, chances are good that your customers and clients will expect to get a deal during the holiday season.

Consider offering a promotion on gift cards (such as buy a $100 card, get 10% off your next purchase), and look for ways to encourage your customers to come back to your business in the new year by creating time-limited deals that are good in the month of January.

Send Real Greeting Cards

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Although ‘snail mail’ is on the decline, people still love to receive cards in their mailboxes – after all, a card is better than a bill!

If your company has a mailing list of loyal customers, why not take the time to mail out a personalized, hand-signed greeting card to each one? Sure, it can be a bit time-consuming, but with all the e-mails and digital marketing materials flooding consumers these days, a traditional, old-school holiday card is sure to make a positive impression on the recipient.

Host A Holiday Social

Everyone loves a great party, right?

This year, consider creating a holiday-themed open house as a thank-you to your neighbors, customers, and fellow business owners. Make sure to serve up lots of finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks, and if possible, source your supplies from another local business.

When it comes to making the most of the holiday season, it’s easy to make your business stand out with just a little bit of effort and some creative marketing efforts!

Enjoy your holidays, and have a safe and Happy New Year!

Top Five Small Business Scams

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Written by Kirstin Davis, BBB Marketplace Director

The Small Business Administration reports the percentage of self-employed seniors has been steadily on the rise since 2000. The data shows the percentage of individuals 62 years and older who were self-employed increased from 4.2 percent in 1988 to 5.4 percent in 2015. Better Business Bureau knows scammers often target seniors, so it is important senior business owners stay adept to common scams occurring to small businesses. Here are a few tips for small business owners and local nonprofit organizations who have a lot to think about and ways to avoid these common scams.

Internet & Phone

Watch out for ransomware, phishing, URL hustle and spoofing scams. Scammers play on fear, convenience and lack of technical knowledge. BBB receives complaints each year from business owners who have been scammed out of money or important business information by people who know how to speak in business terms.

Directories

A business owner or office manager may receive an invoice for a printed or online directory renewal notice. Scammers are counting on the fact that business owners have a lot on their plate and will make these notices appear legitimate, local or industry targeted. Keep a list of directories you are published in and evaluate the values of those directories on an annual basis.

Office Supplies

Business owners may receive a box of supplies as either a “gift” or with an invoice included.  Scammers are taking the opportunity to see if a busy owner will pay the invoice with no questions asked. If the “gifted” items are sent back, the business may receive a bill for a high percentage restocking fee. Another red flag is a contact describing a “going out of business” sale offering significant discounts on supply items that are misquoted or never arrive at all.

Overpayment

A scammer may over pay for the item or service and then ask for a refund to be sent by wire or cashier’s check. Most likely the form of payment was fraudulent and the scammer is trying to pocket the over payment. The business owner is then out of the product, if sent, and additional revenue.

Vanity Awards

“Best of” or “Who’s Who” in your industry are great recognition. Business owners want to be sure the award is legitimate and that it isn’t just a way to pay very high prices for plaques to display in your office.

Follow our blog for more consumer protection tips and information on BBB investigations.

Workplace Gift-Giving Dos and Don’ts

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It’s that time of year where companies are preparing for the holiday and gift-giving season. Giving and receiving gifts may be enjoyable, but it is important to understand proper workplace etiquette before going shopping.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips for gift-giving in the workplace:

Follow Office Policy

Before you do anything check with your manager or human resources department to understand the inner-office gift exchange policy. There might be certain stipulations on what you can and cannot give for gifts. For example, it might be against company policy to give cash or alcohol out during business hours.

Skip Your Boss Unless Its Baked

While it’s tempting to give your boss a gift as a thank you for his leadership, it’s not actually appropriate to give a higher-up a gift. If you are set on giving your manager a gift, opt for baked goods or something homemade that doesn’t cost a great deal. You can also pool your money with co-workers to give a present that’s from the entire department.

Stick to the Agreed Upon Amount 

Office gift exchanges usually have a price limit to avoid overspending. Don’t try to impress your colleagues by going over the agreed upon price. Shaming co-workers is not the best way to create office camaraderie. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to participate in any gift exchange, simply bow out. It shouldn’t be a requirement in your company to partake in the festivities. So don’t feel bad if you sit this one out. Again, you can always bake cookies and bring those to your office mates instead!

Avoid the Risqué 

Pass on any gifts that come across as sarcastic or vulgar. Even if you know the gift recipient very well, crude gifts have no real place in the office. Stick to something appropriate that compliments the receiver to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.

Say Thank You

Mind your manners and be sure to thank the person who took the time to get you a gift. You can do this by either sending a thank you note or by shooting over an email of gratitude.

8 Ways Your Small Business Can Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

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Small Business Saturday has gained plenty of steam the past few years as a great way to promote local “Mom & Pop” shops that don’t benefit from the Black Friday mega-retail crowd and the Cyber Monday e-commerce traffic. The “shop small” and “dine small” day was initially started as an American Express campaign in 2010 and many small businesses have begun to embrace the day with their own marketing campaigns and promotions.

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Here are eight ways your small business can benefit from Small Business Saturday:

Spread the Word

Print Small Business Saturday signs to hang by your point of sale or inside your business’ window. Consider creating postcards to send or pass out to remind customers about Small Business Saturday. Also, be sure to update your website. Small businesses with high quality online stores have a distinct advantage. Make sure your inventory has been updated online and special promotions are prominently displayed. Be sure to cater to the busy shopper by ensuring your website is fast, processes transactions quickly, and is optimized for mobile use.

Use Social Media

Social media can be your greatest promotional asset when used correctly. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook has more than three million fans, so use it as a resource. Always use the official #SmallBizSat or #ShopSmall hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to highlight special offers or discounts since the topics will be trending.

Email Your Customers

If your business keeps record of your current customers’ email addresses, then send them all an email blast to inform them of any events or promotions you are running for Small Business Saturday. Your most loyal customers can become your greatest marketing advocates since they will help spread the word for you.

Advertise Online

Even though many small businesses have a limited budget to spend on online advertising, you can take advantage of ad credits offered by many advertising platforms. If you already spend money on online advertising, be sure to adjust your messaging for Small Business Saturday. Also, keep track of what you spend so you can calculate your Return on Investment (ROI) to see if the advertising was worth the increase in sales.

Offer Coupons and Discounts

Nothing drives more customers to your store than incentives. After all, incentives are the reason Black Friday has become the behemoth that it is. Take advantage of this by offering coupons or discounts for your products or services. Make sure to include your coupons or discounts in your promotional material leading up to Small Business Saturday.

Expand Your Hours

Extend your shopping day for customers on that Saturday by opening earlier or staying open later to make it even easier for customers to shop at your business location. Be sure to include your one-day-only hours in your promotional materials so your customers know they can fit your business into their busy holiday schedule.

Make it an Event

You can create even more excitement for your local small business by doing something different to draw attention. For example, serve free coffee in the morning, display balloons outside your store, hire a musician to play music in your store, or create a contest for a drawing. You can also partner up with other businesses. Build on each other’s customer base by having multiple businesses in the same line of stores or area actively participating in Small Business Saturday with promotions to increase visibility and attention for all local businesses.

Promote a Cause

Small Business Saturday is the perfect time to give back to the community that has given so much to you. Consider donating a portion of your sales to a local charity of your choice, and display this for your customers to see. You may also consider matching donations from your customers to your chosen charity.

 

Holiday Weekend Statistics Infographic

Thanksgiving weekend is just over a week away! BBB has compiled statistics for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday in the infographic below.

Which statistic(s) stands out to you the most? Let us know in the comments section!

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How Businesses Can Utilize Twitter Polls

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Businesses are using social media to gain exposure and convert interactions into sales. This can often be challenging, but the tools on social media help to make it easier to figure out how to keep clients and customers engaged. One extremely effective tool is the Twitter poll.

Since Twitter’s inception, the website known for short tidbits of information has been updated in some significant ways. Twitter polls are one of the biggest updates business owners can use to drum up interest in their company.

Here are a few possibilities for how your business can utilize Twitter polls:

Find Out What Clients Want or Need

No matter what type of business you own, your main goal is to meet the clients’ needs and unfortunately, those can change often. The easiest way to keep up with the current needs and wants of potential customers is by simply asking what they need most. This will give you the information you need to tailor your advertising and improve on the programs, services, or products you offer.

For example, a plumbing business might create a Twitter poll asking what plumbing problem seems the most concerning. The options might include a broken hot water heater, a busted pipe, or a clogged toilet. Another example would be if a toy company asked what kinds of toys kids want for an upcoming holiday.

Bring the Human Touch to Your Company

You don’t have to stick to polls that only target your business. You can add humorous polls or polls that are about current events. These polls show potential clients that you care about more than just the services or goods you provide. They add the human touch to your business. However, if you opt to do polls on current events, be careful to avoid topics that might provoke negative reactions.

When you add this human touch to your company, you are also opening your company up to more people. Be sure to add hashtags in the introductory text of the poll so anyone who searches those tags has a better chance of finding your poll.

Let Customers Play a Role in the Company

A Twitter poll can make your customers feel like they are an important part of your business. Consider asking people what they think your upcoming discount of the month should be or gauge their opinion on a certain product.

If the Twitter poll is asking the voters to choose something, make sure you have options you can provide. For example, don’t include a free trip to France as a promotional contest prize if your company isn’t prepared to cover the costs of the trip.

Using Twitter Polls is Easy

It doesn’t take a lot of time to set up a Twitter poll, which makes them a great option for busy business owners. After you choose a question and answers, all you have to do is select how long you want the poll to run, which can range anywhere from a few minutes to seven days. Once the poll goes live, be prepared to interact with respondents if they comment or retweet the poll.

Overall, you should use Twitter polls and other social media avenues as a way to interact on a personal level with the clients and customers your serve.

Be Mindful of Scams Targeting Veterans

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As families honor former military personnel on Veterans Day, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest urges consumers to remain vigilant against scammers targeting veterans.

The  Consumer Sentinel Network reports nearly 100,000 military members complained of being targeted by financial crimes in 2015, with identity theft and impostor scams topping the list. Con artists often use malevolent tactics to steal the money and identities of veterans and their families.

Better Business Bureau reminds service men and women to watch for these common military scams:

Phone Scams: Impostors pose as Veterans Administration employees and call veterans to request they update their credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA. Fraudsters use scare tactics by threatening cancelation of benefits to collect birthdates, Social Security numbers and bank account information.

Rental Listings: Cyber thieves create bogus online rental listings and lure in potential victims by offering military discounts. Victims are asked to wire deposits and first month’s rent to “landlords” who happen to be out of the country.

Military Loans: Sketchy lenders promise “instant approvals” and no credit checks, but loans often carry extremely high interest rates and hidden fees.

Insurance Policies: Solicitors make false statements or inflate claims regarding the benefits of policies they offer, using high-pressured sales pitches to sell expensive—and often unnecessary—life insurance policies.

Donors looking to give to a military-affiliated charity this Veterans Day are urged to use Wise Giving Alliance in finding a trustworthy charity.  Consumers are also advised to research businesses through bbb.org before giving out personal information, making payments or giving donations.

Since 2012, service men and women have been utilizing BBB’s Military Line, a program that provides free resources to all branches of the U.S. military, including financial literacy information, scam alerts and access to BBB services such as complaint handling and dispute resolution.

Thanksgiving on a Budget

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Are you dreaming of a giant and succulent turkey, buttery rolls, mashed potatoes swimming in gravy and warm belly filling stuffing?

Thanksgiving is just weeks away and while you may still be knee deep in Halloween candy, it’s never too early to begin planning out your holiday menu. That includes figuring out how much you’re willing to spend on Turkey Day.

On average, Americans spend $2,875,000 on Thanksgiving dinner food each year. That’s according to Statistic Brain, which also shows that amount to be an estimated $56.18 per household. That’s a lot of food and if you’re already tightening your belts for the upcoming gift-centered holidays it might be causing you a bit of stress.

To help families have a frugal but fun Turkey Day, we offer 5 Tips for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Budget:

Plan the Menu, Stick to the Budget

This may seem obvious, but it really is the most important tip out there. You need to know how much money you want to spend and what you want to spend it on. You also need to know how many people you will be cooking for. If you can only afford a 10lb turkey, but are set to feed a dozen or so people you may need to rethink the rest of the menu.

That’s where our next tip comes in…

Make it a Potluck

Who says you have to do all the cooking by yourself? Enlist friends and family to help put the meal together. If you are playing host, offer to provide the turkey and drinks and then let everyone else fill in the rest. Not only does this help with the last-minute cooking stress, but it ensures that everyone will have at least one thing they like to eat at the gathering.

Bake from scratch

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It might feel like a hassle to spend the hours in the kitchen making pumpkin pie from scratch, but it is a cheaper alternative to buying the pie. You likely already have many of the ingredients sitting in your pantry, which instantly saves you on cost. Desserts are perfect dishes to get out of the way a day or two before Thanksgiving as many taste just as good —if not better —the next day.

Shop Second Hand

Don’t fret if you’re hosting for the first time and don’t have fancy chinaware to serve your holiday meal on. There is an easy way to host an appealing and cheap dinner party without resorting to paper plates. Consider doing your shopping at Goodwill or another second hand store. You may luck out and come across a complete dinnerware set that looks like it has been in in the family for years —in a charming way. If you can’t find a complete set, consider mix-matching pieces to create a Bohemian theme for your Thanksgiving dinner.

And this brings us to our next tip…

Natural Décor

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Professionally done holiday décor and floral arrangements are a perfect way to capture the spirit of the season. But if you can’t quite afford the linen tablecloths or season-appropriate flower centerpieces, there are other options. Decorating with gourds and pumpkins is inexpensive and easy, but you can do more if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and pull out the glue gun. Try going for a woodsy theme by bringing in twigs, branches and fall leaves from outside. Decorate them with glitter spray or beads for a whimsical look to keep the autumn theme going. Forgo tablecloths for runners by cutting a strip of burlap to give the table a rustic look. And you can never go wrong with mason jars filled with wildflowers or berry branches.

Need help creating a personal budget or want more financial assistance? Visit BBB’S Financial Building Blocks page to learn more.

October Scam Wrap-up

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The following are scams that were reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in October. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

Healthcare Scam

An Anchorage woman reported she was contacted about healthcare services that may have been a scam. She states she got a phone call from someone asking for her Medicaid information to see if she qualified for healthcare services. The woman believed the call to be a scam to obtain her personal information and reported the call to Scam Tracker.   

Lottery Scam

A Haines man reported he received a card in the mail stating he had an unclaimed reward worth up to $100. He was told to call a toll-free number to claim the winnings or they would be forfeited. He called the number and was told he needed to pay $4.95 over the phone with his credit card. They offered to drop the price to $2.95 since he was a senior. The man did not report whether he paid the charge, but he did report the incident to Scam Tracker.

IDAHO

Government Grant scam

An Idaho Falls man lost $2,300 in a government grant scam. The man states he was told to purchase two iTunes gift cards for $299 and $1,999 and read the numbers over the phone. The caller claimed this would release $11,800, which would be placed in his account. After doing this he was told he needed to purchase another one for $1,200. He has since quit communicating with the caller.

Jury Duty Scam

A Nampa man reported he lost $189.30 after he received a call from someone claiming there was a warrant out for his arrest for not reporting to jury duty. The man believed it to be true as he did ignore a jury duty notice. The man was told to purchase a Green Dot card at Walgreens for $189.30 and go to the Canyon County Court House. He purchased the cards and relayed the Green Dot card number to the caller. The caller told him the card did not work and he needed to go back and get another one. That is when the man realized it was not a legitimate call.

MONTANA

Medical Equipment Scam

A Belgrade Montana woman reports her mother lost $350 after she was contacted by a company selling medical alert systems. The woman states her mother paid $350 over the phone and never received the system. All calls made to the number go directly to voicemail.

Advertising Scam

A Great Falls woman reports the company HS Backers tried to sell her advertising on athletic scoreboards at local high schools. The company claimed to be representing Great Falls High School and C.M. Russell High School. The woman did not purchase advertising and later learned the company does not do business with those schools.

OREGON

Malware Scam

A Salem woman reported she lost $200 to a malware scam. She states she was using her laptop when a notice appeared on her screen advising her to call tech support. Her computer froze so she called the number. The person who answered claimed to be with JRG Ventures LLC. They told her she needed to pay $149.00 for a “one-time fix” and an additional $50 to help with any further issues.  She soon realized she downloaded malware and was tricked into paying for assistance.

Puppy Scam

A Coos Bay woman reported she lost $600 in a puppy scam. She states she purchased a St. Bernard puppy from www.maxwellsaintbernards.com. After making her payment she was told she needed to send $670 for pet insurance and travel. The company refused to refund her money and she ceased doing business with them.

WASHINGTON

Online Business Scam

A Kirkland man reported he lost $30 when an online business failed to send him his product. The company website, http://www.slumber.la, ceased communication with the man after his purchase failed to arrive.

Fake Kitten Adoption Scam

A Seattle man reported he came across a fraudulent cat adoption site. The man states the site www.kittensforadoption.us is a phishing scam posting fake numbers and cat pictures to obtain customers personal information.