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In Latin, it's called consensus ad idem, meaning "meeting of the minds." In layman's terms, or in the case of Mitch Berliner and Peter Buttenwieser, it's simply two guys who turned a chance occurrence into an uber-successful business partnership that has exceeded their wildest dreams.

 

Although Their Paths Crossed By Chance,

Synergy Has Propelled Biz Partners To Top


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Berliner and Buttenwieser are managing partners of CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT, which for the past five years has earned the status of being the No. 1 residential business within the 400-plus offices of CertaPro Painters, America's largest and most-referred painting company. 

What makes their story interesting is that neither ever thought he would be in the painting business, but by happenstance - and most importantly, a lot of hard work - they have turned what Buttenwieser calls a "very synergistic partnership" into a thriving business that has been one of the most successful in the CertaPro Painters' franchise system.

"We refer to ourselves as managing partners vs. owners," said Buttenwieser of the pair, who each hold a 50 percent stake in the franchise. "While we each have our own areas of expertise and specialty, we are always seeking the other's advice and consulting in each other's domains."

In 2004, Berliner was an IT sales executive when he hired CertaPro Painters to stain the cedar siding and paint the trim on his home in Somers. When Berliner's general contractor said the finished work was some of the best he had ever seen, Berliner was so impressed... he bought the company.

Flash forward to 2005 and Buttenwieser was an advertising and marketing executive who hired CertaPro Painters to restore and paint his circa 1908 house in Bedford. Buttenwieser was so impressed... he called Berliner and ended up buying into the company.

"When I got a message to contact Peter, my assumption was that he was calling to complain about something. It turned out he wanted to discuss how we were marketing the company and if I would be open to selling him equity in the business," Berliner said. "I was initially hesitant to take on a partner, but in hindsight, I made a pretty good decision."

Buttenwieser had done his due diligence on CertaPro Painters and the painting industry as a whole. Three things caught his attention: 1) it was a relatively low overhead business; 2) the competition was mostly mom-and-pop businesses with no definitive branding; 3) as people increasingly turned to the internet to make home-improvement decisions, a national brand such as CertaPro Painters was well-positioned to capture internet market share.

Despite their bullishness on the industry, in the early going neither Berliner nor Buttenwieser quit their day jobs: Berliner with Hewlett Packard and Buttenwieser with his marketing firm, I Before E Marketing. "We started out thinking it would be a fun side business and we might make some great vacation money every year. But things kept getting bigger and bigger," Buttenwieser said.

That is an understatement.

Today, CertaPro Painters of Westchester, NY and Southern CT has a management staff of 14 and more than 150 painters and tradespeople on its team. Two of those team members - Shawn Gallagher and Alex Ramos - who were the account manager and job site supervisor, respectively, when Berliner and Buttenwieser had their homes painted, are still with the company, Gallagher as Senior Residential Accounts Manager and Ramos as Senior Job Site Supervisor. In 2014, the entire team was honored with the Certa Cup, an award given to the top franchise throughout the CertaPro Painters' network.

"We are very proud of what we have built and for how many families we are putting food on the table," Buttenwieser said.

The majority of CertaPro Painters' franchises are single owner/operator businesses. While there are some husband/wife partnerships and a few where two businesses have merged operations, very few have grown organically as Berliner and Buttenwieser have done with their franchise.

Berliner is general manager, overseeing all sales and operations, while Buttenwieser manages all marketing and customer relationship management.

"It is a rare day when we do not speak at least two or three times," Berliner said. "One of our keys is that we can be really honest with each other because we trust each other, which really says something, given that 10 years ago we had never met. It's quite a remarkable relationship. During this whole time, I can't remember a single situation where we have had a major disagreement."

That being said, each business partner knows how to deliver a subtle message to the other when the circumstance warrants. You know... just the slightest little jab - with a nod and a wink - to get a point across.

"One thing we use with each other is the 'two strokes and a poke' method when we provide feedback to each other," Buttenwieser said. "The other day Mitch gave me some feedback on a piece of promotional literature that went something like this... 'Great job, looks really sharp; though I believe we discussed adding in a minimum job size, but I don't see that in the fine print.'"

More than a decade has gone by since their paths crossed, but the relevance of that meeting has never been lost on the pair. It's something Berliner certainly didn't forget to mention when talking recently about his two keys for running a top-tier CertaPro Painters franchise.

"Follow the system; that is why you bought into a franchise business. You can tinker here and there for your local market conditions, but don't try to outsmart everyone else who is doing this all over the country," Berliner said. "There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of and landmines to avoid. And the best way to succeed is to get yourself a partner."


CertaPro Painters' best-in-class operational systems and procedures make it the most professional business model in the industry and its satisfied residential and commercial customers are the direct benefactors within the estimated $40 billion industry in the U.S. and Canada. CertaPro has been consistently ranked No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine in its category and boasts a customer referral rate that exceeds 95 percent.

         Founded in 1992, Audubon, Pennsylvania-based CertaPro Painters is the largest painting company in North America. With more than 350 independently owned and operated franchises worldwide, CertaPro provides a customer-driven painting experience for both residential and commercial properties that is unparalleled in the industry. The company's stellar service and proven business system have made CertaPro North America's most referred painting company. 


For more information, visit CertaPro Painters 


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A few years ago, Brad Cowan made the switch from dealing with sets of wheels to wet basements. 

However, it was a natural transition for the 52-year-old Cowan, who in 2015 retired from his position as a Corporate Vice President in the Insurance Replacement Division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car to become Senior Vice President of Business Development with Paul Davis, the one-stop disaster and reconstruction franchisor based in Jacksonville, Florida.

 


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While one business deals with moving vehicles and the other with stationary buildings, Cowan found many similarities that dovetailed with the business experience he earned during a 24-year career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where Cowan started as a manager trainee in a rental branch fresh out of college in 1991. 

In his role as a Corporate Vice President at Enterprise, Cowan worked closely with insurance companies and body shops to support customers during the auto claims process.

Likewise, Cowan now oversees Paul Davis' national business partnerships, as well as the national business development team, while also developing new programs for the Paul Davis Network.

With more than 375 locations in the US and Canada, Paul Davis is continually growing with a business model that Cowan said is very similar in scope to what he experienced at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "The rapid growth here feels like Enterprise did 25 years ago when I first started there," Cowan said.

While always looking for qualified franchise candidates, Paul Davis is also expanding its geographic footprint of company-owned territories, recently completing two acquisitions, one in Kentucky and the other in Seattle. The first provides additional service coverage and capabilities between the Eastern and Midwest regions of Paul Davis company-owned operations, while the acquisition of the Seattle franchise adds a presence in another major metropolitan market which will serve as the foundation for a new regional platform on the West Coast.

"Paul Davis and the property industry are in a growth mode and we are in a great position to support our customers and provide opportunities for great people," Cowan said. 

"Our decision to build a network of company-owned locations illustrates our dedication to providing additional support to our clients and expanding our brand. As we continue to grow, we are always looking for A-grade players who will provide great service to our customers and who want to be part of a dynamic and growing industry. It will be real win for everyone working along with our network of experienced franchisees out there."

More About Paul Davis Restoration

 For more than 50 years, Paul Davis Restoration has restored residential and commercial properties damaged by fire, water, mold, storms and disasters. 

The experts at Paul Davis understand the complex process of recovering from property damage and provide complete services; there is no need for the expense and confusion of hiring multiple contractors. Paul Davis is a one-stop shop for disaster damage and restoration.

 Paul Davis Restoration has more than 375 independently owned franchises in the USA and Canada. The professionals at Paul Davis are certified in emergency restoration, reconstruction and remodeling. 

For further info go to Paul Davis Restoration


 

What's in a Ranking? Plenty.

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Clients ask me all the time how important rankings are.

Franchise Times, Entrepreneur, Franchise Business Review among others, all publish several franchise ranking lists per year. Here's my response.

Everything positive you can show about your system is a plus, clearly. The important thing is to participate-answer emails from publications or entities that tell you you are being considered for this list or that.

You can forward to your PR people, but much of the information will likely have to come from your CFO.

As a PR firm for franchises, we keep a list "alarmed" for the most popular and (and this is important) the most credible rankings.

Four months before the list is published we remind clients to look for an email, form or link that they need to go to in order to be considered for inclusion on the said list.

We will also happily vet a request for legitimacy which you can ask your firm or PR person to do as well.

You can Google the list and publication in question yourself.

Then I recommend you do this below: not with every one but certainly when you have amassed as many as this Number One in Home Inspection franchise has.

Go ahead. Toot your horn, but putting out a press release for every list you are mentioned on minimizes the weight of the honor. Announce two-three awards or rankings at a time and soon you will become the SuperStar in your category like Pillar To Post!

PILLAR TO POST HOME INSPECTORS® RECEIVES TOP

RANKINGS FROM ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE IN SIX CATEGORIES IN 2016

They Will Raise Veterans Discount from 10% to 20% on Franchise Fees

(TAMPA, FLA.) -- Pillar To Post Home Inspectors has achieved the highest position in the Top Franchise for Veterans ranking in Entrepreneur Magazine for 2016. This prestigious honor is the sixth such ranking from the famed business publication for Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The company ranked as follows in the magazine's January edition of the Franchise 500: #1 in their category of Home Inspection, Best of the Best, Fastest Growing Franchise, Top Home Based Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchises. In addition, the booming chain has already awarded 70 additional franchises since January of this year.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with this honor," said Dan Steward, President & CEO of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. "It says so much not only about how hard we've worked but how hard our franchisees have worked and maintained absolute integrity in their home inspections."

In addition, Pillar To Post ranks high in Franchise Business Review rankings. Franchise Business Review is a national franchise market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction and franchise buyer experiences, examines the critical areas of a franchise system including training & support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations, financial opportunity, and more. Its survey results deliver the unbiased facts about the overall health of a franchise system directly from today's franchise owners.

Pillar To Post has been named by Franchise Business Review's rankings of Top 50 in Franchisee Satisfaction, Top 30 among Home Service Franchises and Top Low Cost Franchise for 2016.

"We have been doing so well and are so honored to be named among Entrepreneur's Top Franchises for Veterans," said Eric Steward, Marketing Manager for Pillar To Post. "The veterans who join our system end up as top performers. Our business model and structure and culture seem to be a perfect fit for those leaving the military. As a result, we have recently added an additional 10% discount on our franchise fees for veterans, going from a 10% discount to a 20% discount for them.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with over 550 franchisees, located in 48 states and nine Canadian provinces. Long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com/

I personally could not be more excited. And I don't want to brag but I nudged Ms. Moss or ([email protected]) to do this the day some very misguided International Franchise Association board members allowed an even more misguided then president Stephen Caldeira to relieve Debbie Moss from her amazingly successful run as Convention Director.

After 18 years of being widely credited with the turnaround of the association's educational programs, convention and ultimately, their bottom-line financial performance, that was her goodbye. Well, now meet Debbie Moss, The Meeting Boss.

I always say everything happens for a reason and this situation is no different. It's what one makes of his/her bumps and lumps in life that determines one's future.

Now this world-class event expert has launched a meeting consulting business for franchise systems. MeetingBoss.com services will include in-office training for meeting staff, development of an exhibit hall or creating a sponsorship program, maximizing sales efforts or program development for any event.

The signature service will be the MBoss Assessment, which takes a comprehensive look into 13 key components of any meeting to evaluate how to improve KPI's without sacrificing the registrants' experience.

"Events can be executed so much more efficiently and profitably with an experienced professional. Even a small board meeting can realize $10-$15k in savings with savvy contract negotiations and experienced on-site management of food & beverage costs," Moss said.

As most of the readers here know, Debbie has more than 30 years of expansive experience from upscale board meetings for 50 to city-wide conventions of 7,000+. At IFA from 1995-2014, in her last 10 years, overall revenue at the Annual Convention soared from $1.7MM to $4.4MM and bottom-line surplus grew from $900,000 to $2.4MM.

I have some personal knowledge having served a year on the Board of the IFA and as Supplier Forum Chairman that Debbie brought the association from the red to the black.

Her efficiency in holding fantastic, organized and flawlessly orchestrated events accounts also for the savings realized during each convention; and further the rise in registrations because people want to attend a good, educational and well planned function.

Debbie Moss' career didn't start with the IFA. She was Convention Director and then Vice President of Industry Affairs for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association for nearly 10 years before she was recruited by Don DeBolt, the then president at the International Franchise Association, to build the non-dues revenue at IFA in 1995.

Said Don Debolt, ""Debbie Moss is a meeting and event planning professional creating exceptional results, which I have personally experienced over the past 20 plus years. As Past Chairman of the International Franchise Association I saw first-hand how Debbie's meeting and events were produced on budget, on time and achieved impact for both large & small programs. Her approach combined vision, creativity, writing and staging general sessions to lead our association's revenue growth. High attention to detail, personal commitment, accountability, and communications are the hallmarks of her organization."

Another fan is the terrific Mike Isakson who we all remember as building giant ServiceMaster and who now is Managing Partner at Insight To Execution, "My opportunity to work with Debbie began a few years before I became IFA Chairman. In those volunteer roles, which included Convention Committee Chair, I had a front row seat to observe her ability to multi-task at an extremely high level -- always striving for flawless execution, better than better performance and rock solid efficiency & effectiveness. She demonstrated an affinity to look around corners for both challenges and opportunities and often took the lead to address those issues. Her commitment to build conferences revenue, while maintaining high standards, allowed the organization's finances to grow exponentially over her tenure."

Since I have known her I have always said that any meeting I ever attended would have been so much better had Debbie Moss in charge. Now she can be!!

Visit meetingboss.com for a complete look at the services offered by this long-time industry expert.

Wellington, Florida based LED Source is considered one of the top innovators in franchising. (See Entrepreneur Magazine October 2015 issue) Not only is the company a franchisor itself, but many of its customers are also franchise chains looking for awesome lighting designs and for a vendor that will outfit all new stores with the lighting of the future; LED lighting. In less than a decade it will be a "must have".

Many systems and large box store chains are already hiring LED Source to retrofit all of their old locations and to install all the lighting in their new locations.

ledsource-logo-211.pngFASTSIGNS and Massage Envy are just a couple of examples.

But CEO Marcel Fairbairn realized he needed to streamline the process between his franchisees and his vendors.

He generously shares his knowledge with you here in a Q&A.

  • Describe how your franchisees originally got all their materials when you first began the franchise program.

Our system was one where our zees were "forced" to buy ALL products through the "head office". In fact, we had a two-stage royalty where it would cost them twice as much if they were buying product from an approved vendor other than our office.

Our internal team would help the zee determine what to buy, process the order, place an order with our vendor, bring the shipment into our office, re-package the shipment to complete for the zee, send to the zee, carry the A/R, then process any returns that might happen as well. It was a crazy amount of administration and we eventually realized we were losing money on our franchise business due to this.

  • When did it occur to you that this was not the way to go?

Very early on we could see it was problematic but we felt there was no other way to do it. Our vendors are very big old lighting brands who are also finding themselves in this new, disruptive business called LED. They had enough on their plates with that to then delve into a whole other world.

The world of franchisees or small business owners as it was. It took my team more than a year to convince all of our suppliers to do business directly with our franchisees and to help design an expedient method for doing so.

  • What was your first real issue that opened your eyes?

The short answer is the impact it had on our financial performance. Since we were not making a margin sufficient to cover all of the support needs of our franchises, we were mounting losses each month.

Additionally, we were carrying inventory for our suppliers who never seemed to have what we needed when we needed it.

So we'd cover their deficiencies as best we could which never really seemed to be enough.

In the end, we were hurting our zees, ourselves AND our suppliers and I really took a hard look within to come up with a very obvious answer.

  • What was the very obvious answer?

If it's broke, fix it. First we pushed very hard on our vendors to create a model they had never used before. Again, we are talking multi-billion dollar businesses with 50 or 100 years history.

Change does not come easily and there is a tremendous amount of time and work involved so this was an enormous task. The fact is we never really had to admit anything because it was going to be such a positive change for our vendors and our zees. There was very little, if any pushback.

  • What exactly IS Vendor Direct and does it have steps that you put in your manual now so franchisees can follow easily leaving you all out of the fray?

Vendor Direct is quite simple. When a franchisee signs on, we provide them with a list of vendors, contacts, links to training videos and materials, etc. We basically introduce the franchisee to their suppliers.

The franchisee goes through the process of signing up as a dealer, applying for credit, etc. It has been a huge update in our manuals and processes, but well worth it in the end!

  • What was the reaction from the franchisees as you transitioned to this plan?

Initially there was some hesitation. Having us supply them gave them a certain comfort factor. They didn't have to deal with many other individuals.

The real issue was one we helped with to make sure that the franchisees receive credit from these large suppliers who often had very strict standards.

The truth is we were acting like a bank even to some who were not very solid credit risks.

But we worked through that and the affected few did very well in the end and now have solid credit and a solid business to go with it. Since then we've received nothing but praise.

We've got a stack of testimonials from happy zees who are discussing everything from the choices now available to the speed of shipping, wider availability, etc. Some of our zees have created very good relationships with their new suppliers and many of these relationships have already been quite productive.

  • How's it working for you and them now?

Even on my side, my finance team was at first skeptical towards the idea. Because we were, in reality, lowering our revenue, how could this possibly be a good thing?

The facts are the facts.

While yes, our gross sales have been impacted; our bottom line has already increased and will continue to. In addition, we've been able to re-purpose people who had been glorified order placers or trackers to now support franchisees in other, more productive ways.

We've allowed the manufacturers to discuss process and support THEIR products, and we support our zees on application, training, marketing and general business management.

As our business continues to scale, we do not have to borrow money or tie up resources toward massive inventories or administrative costs. Plus, our franchises have proven very quickly that the program works by rewarding themselves and us with growing revenues!!

  • You are clearly happy with the decision. In one sentence sum up what you learned from it.

It's hard to put such a laundry list of lessons and bumps on the head into one sentence, but for sure the one thing that comes to mind is that you should always play to your strengths. In this case, we were a challenged, even deficient supplier to our zees, and it showed in their numbers and our own.

So I looked at what we were doing and said to myself, "we are very good at what we do but this is not it. So let's get out of this role!" And that's precisely what we did.

About LED Source

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

For 22 years Matthew Byrne worked in the building automation controls industry, where he last managed a $20 million branch contracting business. There he worked with energy efficiency products, gaining a keen insight into an industry that has a demonstrated impact on energy use and utilities. That, he said, is what drew him to LED Source. According to LEDinside retrofitting and other LED lighting projects will be a $25 billion industry by the end of this year.

"When I learned about the energy-efficiency capabilities of LED lighting, the excellent quality of the light produced and the longevity of the products, I became truly enthused," said Byrne. "Because LED lighting is an emerging technical industry, it reminds me of the early days of the direct digital controls revolution that occurred back when I first started. It was very exciting; with LED Source, I found I could recapture that magic."

The magic that Byrne seeks was further inspired by work with current partner Nate Byelick, Byrne's brother-in-law. Together the two worked with an LED startup company where they installed LED fixtures. Inspired by this experience, they decided to reach out and find an LED business they could own and and control.

"After 22 years in my previous industry I realized it was time for a change," said Byrne. "I became determined to never again let my financial stability be determined by someone else and I wanted to be involved in an industry that was rapidly growing before my eyes. I also felt that because of this new technology we could actually have a real affect on the environment while enjoying making a living. At a certain point in your career, you say to yourself, "'what can I do to give back' "? For Byrne and Byelick, the answer was LED Source.

Founded in 2005 by Marcel Fairbairn and Gavin Cooper, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions. In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit.

With decades of experience in building automation, Byrne is keenly aware of the difference smart technology can have on a company's bottom line. "Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," said Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too."

Now operating LED Source of Raleigh Matt Byrne says every day is Earth Day. That's because as the area franchisee of LED Source Byrne provides the kind of state-of-the-art lighting solutions that are becoming the standard for environmentally conscious businesses to the Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham areas.

Currently, Byrne and LED Source of Raleigh are working with GRACE Christian School in the Raleigh area transitioning all of their standard lighting into LED lighting. "We are outfitting three main components of the school's campus, the elementary school, high school and sports field. The high school campus used to be an auto dealership so excessive lighting throughout the parking lots had to be changed. We started the initial reach out via a cold call. The rebates the school received from switching from standard lighting to LED more than covered the switch over for the parking lot so they decided to refit the entire campus as a whole which is a big and exciting project for both the school and us," said Byrne.

"Businesses stand to save a lot of money when they employ LED lighting and quicker than they may think," shared Byrne. "That's one of my favorite parts of being with LED Source: dispelling preconceived notions and helping businesses save money, while doing it in such a way that they're helping the environment, too. It's also great to go to work and know you are not only decreasing your carbon footprint but are helping others do the same."

For more information about retrofitting your business or franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com

Recently I was helping some friends get their social media accounts set up for their new coffee shop.

A local business like a coffee shop is not going to get a lot of value from many techniques used by content and inbound marketers.

Their new coffee shop, Café Love in Olympia, Washington, is not going to generate customers with a blog. (Well, they could generate customers with a blog but it would need to be special and that would not be the first thing I would suggest.)

Café Love will benefit from a social media presence and getting found on internet searches.

As I was working with Vanessa and Marty I thought it would be good to have a quick list of the accounts that should be set up.

This list would be great for any business but especially for location based businesses that depend on local traffic and people actually coming into their business.

This could include any type of restaurant, or business in the food and beverage industry; services such as barbers and beauty solons; automobile services, pet services, grooming and supplies; dancing schools and music stores; any type of brick and mortar stores; private businesses; franchise businesses; government offices and services; charity and non-profit services; and medical and health services.

The exact mix of accounts and what works best for you and your customers may vary a bit but this is where I would start.

Remember to experiment, see what works best and to try new things.

1. Facebook

With Facebook practically ubiquitous in North America it would be silly to ignore this. Remember to set up a personal account first then set up a business page. Once that is done you can invite others to help you administer the page. A few things to be sure to do:

  • Pick the correct category for your business
  • Set up your address so you show up on the map location
  • Put in your contact information
  • Learn about setting up Check-in Deals
  • Create and promote events
  • Adds can be targeted to your locations and to your customer profile
  • Update with photos of your space, products and events

2. Twitter

You can set up a Twitter account for your business and use it to promote your business, sales and events and connect with your customers and fans. Twitter may not be for every local business but there are a number of things you can do to make it more effective:

  • Follow and promote other local businesses
  • In Twitter Search use the Advanced Search to find people and business in "places" near you
  • Act like a person people would want to do business with, not an advertising broadcaster
  • Tweet about specials and coupons featured on your other accounts like Facebook and Foursqure
  • Send photos of events, regular customers and products

3. Foursquare

It is easy and free to set up Foursqure for business and Foursqure keeps track of your fans and check-ins for you.

  • Make sure the address is correct so you show up on maps and searches
  • Reward the mayor and frequent customers
  • Set up check-in specials
  • Post new images and photos
  • Connect to your other social media accounts
  • Foursqure Badges are connected to certain activities and businesses and are half the fun. What badges can your customers earn and how you can you make it fun?

4. Myspace

The obituaries for myspace have been written but I wouldn't nail the coffin shut yet because it is reinventing itself as the social media location for bands and entertainers. If your location business features live bands and entertainers then set up a Myspace account and connect and promote the bands, singers, comedians and dancers who will perform at your business.

5. Google+ and Google Locations

I've written that Google Places is now Google+ Local and published an eBook on the importance of Claiming Your Google Places. Google is such a big player now that it is important for any location based business to set up a Google+ Business Page and to claim their Google Places. Not only will this help you get found on Google searches you will show up on searches for Google Maps. This is essential especially when people do searches on their smart phones and that is exactly where you want to show up, when people are out looking for your services or product. A few things you should be sure to do:

  • Put in your contact information
  • List your hours of operation
  • Put a link to your menu or web site
  • Follow statistics about views for your listing
  • Use offers and coupons
  • Share updates about events, specials and more

6. Google Express Ads

In a recent blog I wrote that Google AdWords Express was a great solution for small business marketing. If you have thought about Pay-Per-Click ads but were intimidated by setting up Google AdWords or you do not have a website then this may be a great solution. This is specifically designed for small, location based businesses and is aimed at walk-in customers. It is worth checking out. If you need help we have a free Google Adwords consultation.

7. Yelp

Yelp is the other big location search engine and it is defiantly worth setting up an account and putting in your business' location and information. Yelp is famous for its reviews and this is something you want to be aware of and to follow.

8. Punchcard

I do not often push paid solutions but punchard is one that I have recently looked into that I like. It is a loyalty punch card system optimized for mobile applications. Your customers take a photo of their receipt and can redeem coupons and specials from you along the lines of buy 10 lattes and get the 11th latte free. As the business you get an amazing amount of information from your customers who check in so that you can tailor specials, coupons and promotions directly to the customer. For example set up specials for the customer who loves muffins, only comes in on Friday or never seems to spend more the $5. It is worth a look if rewarding loyal customers is important to you.

Another paid solution that I do not have a lot of experience with but I know others who swear by it is Groupon and similar coupon services.

9. Local Listings

There are a number of other places your business can be listed depending upon your location. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, local newspapers or your city's official website. There is often a place to list local businesses. Depending on what is going on locally there may be a website devoted to local businesses or certain types of business such as restaurants or nightclubs. Search for businesses similar to yours and see where they are listed. Most of these sites will at least have a free listing and many will have enhanced services for a fee. What is important to you will determine what will be the best option.

10. Keep Track and Reward

Remember to keep track of what is bringing customers in. With Foursqure and Facebook you will be able to see who checks in but ask your customers what they are doing and how they found out about you. Run different specials and coupons on different sites and see what generates business. Remember to reward your customers who connect with you on social media and promote your business. If a customer is telling others about you, that is free advertising so thank them from time to time.

What have I left off the list that you think is good for local advertising and social media promotion? Tell us what you are doing in the comments below. If you are a small or local business we can give you a free social media marketing evaluation. Let us know how we can help.

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On Lawyerist.com, a blog for lawyers. Sam Glover writes

"Somewhere your there a social media consultant must be blogging about how important it is to have a Facebook page for your law firm, because 'Follow my firm's Facebook page!' updates seem to pop up in my feed every day or two.

That consultant is a moron."

Perhaps Sam was talking about me, because I think that having a Facebook page is an excellent idea for practically any small business who focuses on a local market.

I also think law firms should have Facebook pages, despite the concern that many attorneys have over the risk of stepping outside ethical guidelines when engaging communities through social media.

Sam goes on to describe his own experience with creating a Facebook page. He had a couple dozen likes from friends and a few strangers, and he really didn't do much with it. He said that he tried to keep it active for a while, but nobody cared, so he deleted it. Poor Sam. He doesn't get Facebook.

Most law firms do not get Facebook, and it's a rather curious puzzle to me why these super-smart and savvy expert people-readers would completely miss the mark on social marketing. I suspect it is because they are listening to the wrong advice.

LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell offers social media advice to law firms using examples that are reminiscent of what most other businesses were doing five years ago, using the platform as a soapbox instead of an opportunity for creating one-to-one conversations. But their advice is still more progressive than what most firms are doing.

By surveying more than 1,300 law firm Facebook pages, I determined that more than 80% were unsuccessful in their social media effort. Most of the unsuccessful pages have an automated feed from their blog to their Facebook page, which doesn't even register on the "fun and social" scale.

Really, who, besides other lawyers, subscribes to law site blogs? The only reason most law sites have blogs is to improve their search rankings. This is not exactly cocktail conversation.

Sam, I want you to repeat after me. "It's all about connecting with my community".

Did you get that? If you want to be successful on Facebook, you have to stop thinking about your own page and start thinking about how you can connect with people, promote events, promote your community, and create opportunities for engaging conversations. You have to be social.

It really works. Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff has over 2,000 fans on their Facebook page. They promote a variety of local causes like Junior Achievement and local food banks. They rally their fans to drum up more support, and gain more fans in the process. This is just one example of dozens I came across in my research.

Facebook provides a great opportunity for law firms to connect with their community and create valuable top-of-mind awareness. Done right, it's highly effective. But it takes effort to make social media work for you.

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LED Source- the Franchisor's Vendor

My client LED Source is an awesome company that has now been valued very highly by the "right people".

They are a franchisor & also a vendor to franchisors, retrofitting lighting for great chains like Massage Envy and Starbucks.

We will ALL eventually need LED lighting so they are out there promoting themselves on both levels. They are a terrific futuristic franchise opportunity and at the same time franchisors and chains, such as Starbucks, need to be retrofitted with all new lighting.

But how to go after a Starbucks type entity when you think "hey I'm just a small company?"

Be a small company that ROARS!

If you can make an intelligent presentation as to the whys, wheres, how tos and in LED Source's case, the tax credits the customer will receive, you can pitch anyone. It just takes tenacity and an intelligent, succinct "pitch".

Window Genie- 3M Partnership

Another great example is another terrific client of Sanderson & Associates: Cincinnati based Window Genie.

Window Genie has reached an agreement with 3M Company to provide a residential window film solution as part of the company's lauded Envision™ line of films. The partnership will provide Window Genie, a franchise chain with over 200 units that provides window cleaning and window tinting to homes in more than 24 states, an opportunity to service over 125,000 residential customers with window film that reduces fading, heat and glare and can help lower utility bills.

Beginning April 1, Window Genie franchisees will offer the residential Envision™ film options that include clear view, glare control, sun block and shade offerings. The film options range from 70%-40% for total solar energy rejection (TSER), a quality which stands to save homeowners significantly on their utility bills.

Window Genie's partnership with 3M is the result of two years of discussions between the companies, initiated by Window Genie.

"We approached 3M two years ago actively seeking the partnership," said Ken Fisk, vice president of operations for Window Genie.

"We believed Window Genie's reputation as an established residential home service business put us in a great position to illustrate to 3M the value of forming a partnership with us.

Through two years of conversations pertaining to the opportunity 3M had to penetrate the residential market through a partnership with Window Genie, a company with over 125,000 residential customers in our database, both parties agreed it was mutually beneficial to move forward."

"The partnership is mutually beneficial," said Fisk.

"While Window Genie is able to further customer satisfaction by providing a highly recognizable brand of top quality window film, 3M is able to successfully penetrate the residential market and build brand awareness for their line of residential film among Window Genie's customers that span over 200 markets in 24 states."

For years 3M's line of Envision™ Wrap Films has been an industry favorite, earning commendations for its high performance, sustainable materials and comprehensive warranty.

Founded in 1994 by Rik Nonelle, Window Genie recently appeared on Inc. Magazine's 2014 Inc. 5000 list and on Entrepreneur Magazine's list of top 100 home-based franchises. The partnership stands to benefit Window Genie franchisees every bit as it will benefit customers," said Fisk.

"We look forward to improved training and support by providing one brand of film to our franchise partners," said Fisk. "We believe it will help streamline systems and enable growth with a more successful method of coaching throughout the entire Window Genie system."

ABOUT WINDOW GENIE

Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing.

Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating more than 200 units in 24 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

ABOUT LED SOURCE

Founded in 2005, LED Source® is North America's first franchisor of LED lighting. The company supplies high quality LED lighting products to a variety of spaces, and specializes in design, support, development, project management and financing through its Retrofit, Architectural, Entertainment and National Accounts divisions.

In 2012, LED Source launched LouMan Money®, a private-labeled finance program that affords companies an LED lighting upgrade without tying up capital or using existing lines of credit. For more information and/or about franchising opportunities, please visit www.LEDsource.com/franchising.

The good news in PR during the '90s? Clients on magazine covers, Wall Street Journal columns, 900 word stories in their major dailies. The bad news? Lots of mistakes, lots of jockying for space, bad photos appearing, misquotes.

2015-Content Management. I'm liking this better. Here's what we can do now and make sure it's seen by thousands of people. With photos, graphics and artwork.

WINDOW GENIE CLEANS HOUSE IN 2014

National Brand Partnerships, Technology Enhancements, Franchisee Growth Planned for 2015

(Cincinnati, Ohio)---If 2014 was any indication, Americans are appreciating home cleaning services the likes of which Window Genie provides more than ever. The 21 franchise locations opened throughout the year--with three additional locations pending an early 2015 opening--are proof enough of the growing demand for the mobile cleaning service famous for window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. Now, heading into 2015, the company that celebrated its 20th year in business in 2014 is gearing up for even greater growth, spurred in large part by the multiple programs and partnerships set to take off in the year.

Beyond franchisee growth in 2014, Window Genie was also lauded by a number of business journals throughout the year. Inc. Magazine recognized Window Genie as the 13th fastest-growing business in the Cincinnati metropolitan area in addition to placing it on the upper half of its annual Inc. 5000 listing of fastest-growing companies in the United States. In addition, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Window Genie 195th on its annual Franchise 500 list, cementing its place as one of the fastest-growing and top home-based franchises.

In 2015, says Window Genie founder and CEO Richard Nonelle, the company has big plans to benefit franchisees and customers alike. "We will continue to focus on improving the experience between franchisee and customer," says Nonelle. "We'll do this both through new partnerships we've founded with a number of national brands, including Yelp and Home Advisor, as well as by enhancing our technology." Window Genie's mobile search strategy, adds Nonelle, will be in full effect in 2015, which will entail an improved online presence and SEO enhancements to benefit owners.

Window Genie aims to continue its growth in 2015, and Nonelle points to years of consistent annual expansion as proof that his plan is a sustainable one. In the last three years, 60 franchisees have joined the Window Genie system. Window Genie franchisees can be found all throughout the United States, with target markets for growth for 2015 in the East and West coasts and throughout Florida.

###

About Window Genie

Founded in 1994 by Richard Nonelle, Cincinnati-based Window Genie is a mobile cleaning services company focused primarily on its "big three" services: window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing. The company also offers, among many other services, dryer vent cleaning, chandelier cleaning and gutter cleaning and re-securing. Window Genie services primarily residential customers, as well as small offices and commercial spaces. The company currently has 72 franchise owners operating 140 units in 28 states, and expects to grow to 100 franchisees by the end of 2015 and over 300 within five years. Target markets include California, New York and Florida. For more information, visit www.windowgenie.com.

6 months ago I met with the Head of Digital at a major movie studio.  

He was recounting a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook in which he explained that they didn't need Facebook advertising.  

They had already built such massive audiences around their movie brands and their characters that all they had to do was coordinate posts across these to reach and saturate their audience on Facebook.  

It was an owned media channel so they didn't need for it to be paid.  

That's part of what made Facebook such an appetizing choice, and brands flocked to leverage it to communicate with their customers.

But, Now Facebook Wants It's Piece of Your Pie

News reports have been surfacing that Facebook is testing updates that would make your Fan Page posts seen by even less people, unless of course you pay their advertising fees to boost the reach of sponsored posts.  

Last year, there was a lot of fan fare made out of the algorithm change that reduces it from 12% on average to 6%.  It meant that if you had 100 followers, the average post would be seen by only 6 people instead of 12.     That doesn't seem like a lot.   But it's about to get worse.  A lot worse.

Recent reports are stipulating that a brand page's organic reach is going to drop even further from 6% to 1-2%.   Now you really have to pay to reach your own "Owned" audience.

On one hand, we all knew Facebook would become an advertising medium.  

Free services almost always end up charging brands to reach the audiences they aggregate.  

But at the same time, brands and media outlets are fuming.  

They have effectively paid and invested heavily in building an audience that they then have to pay again to send messaging to - effectively they feel Facebook is double dipping.

What Does This Mean For Social Media Advertising?

The question is what is a fair compromise and frankly, I don't have a good model for saying whether 12%, 6%, 2% or 1% is fair.  

In the end, Facebook will determine what's fair by maximizing revenue - making sure there is enough return for people to keep investing en masse and then making the paid rates manageable enough that there is a positive ROI.

In the meantime, what it means for brands is that they should be cautious of audiences they don't control.   Email is still great.  

There is no middle man and it's still the number one rated marketing channel in terms of ROI, returning $38 for every $1 spent.  

Organic search and your content footprint continue to deliver incremental value over time.  

That's why content marketing is so crucial.   You should continue to build your Facebook audience organically, but it is time to reconsider the value of a Like.  Is it worth the cost-per-acquisition plus the cost in reaching them?   Time to update that marketing ROI spreadsheet.

I do believe Facebook advertising does provide better audience targeting (geographic, demographic, retargeting, etc.) and in many cases is extremely cost-effective.

A Monetization Guide for Other Social Media Channels

A fellow marketer said to me, that's why Instagram and Twitter is great.   You can still message for free.   To that I respond, it's only a matter of time.  

Facebook bought Instagram and will run the same playbook, and Twitter's Dick Costolo and Adam Bain inevitably will as well.   They are running the same playbook.

So think about what you own in marketing.  What you really own.   Otherwise, you might be betrothed to a third party who owns your audience.

The post Your Facebook Reach Is About to Drop Considerably. Now What? appeared first on LocalVox.

That is a question we should all be asking.

Then we should decide if the answer matters to us or our business. 

If you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shops and a Subway franchisee is going to several of your locations buying and tasting your sandwiches, there isn't much you can do about that.

But if you are Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shop and Subway's HR person calls your best development person, or contacts them through LinkedIn for an interview, you need to ponder that dilemma and decide if and how to combat it.

We are in an age of lots of connection!  Do you have employees sending out resumes from the office computer? You can track that. Are they posting their resume on LinkedIn with notes such as "Looking for Job Opportunities"?  That's another matter. 

There is always the standard non-compete agreement which you can ask an employee to sign upon hiring.  Make sure the agreement is legal and protects you from the things that matter.  No need to put a bunch of items in that you can't enforce and do not matter to you and your business. 

I've always found in my thirty years in franchise PR, that an employee that is gone should be gone.  In other words, even if they seemed ideal, if they can be stolen, they shouldn't be in your shop. If you've let them go and they end up at a competitor, well that's his/her new headache, and no longer yours.  You know why you terminated them. Let your competitor find out too!

Then there is the matter in our case of clients stealing employees. I use the word "steal" but can they really do that? It's a human being.  Is it ethical? No   Is it legal? Yes, unless you have a non-compete agreement worded properly that forbids that action.  Even then you can ask for no more than a year-long reprieve. The upside? You got rid of a client with questionable character and an easily bought, disloyal employee.

My favorite is when you have been working with a company for years; they see how well you are doing and decide to go into your industry, in our case PR, by shopping your business or your competitors' for people.  

This scenario teaches you so much about people, loyalty and business that any possible damage that can be done by the occurrence is totally exceeded by the brilliant lessons you learn from it.

In this scenario, they likely end up with all the industry misfits that couldn't make it at the competitors' shops and really, when you look at all the pieces together, what's missing is the burning passion and talent that drove you to start your own PR firm, franchise service business, restaurant chain, consulting business, whatever you have created that built a name for you to begin with.

In other words, don't sweat it. The joke's on your competitor!

Social media giant Facebook is constantly updating its algorithm to keep users happy. The latest change is a crackdown on "like-baiting."

Even if you don't recognize the term, you've seen this technique used by a lot of marketers: brands will often post a picture or video that's unrelated to their business or original content, and ask fans to like, share, or comment on it. The idea is to make such posts appear in users' News Feeds, so that their friends see the business page, and hopefully, start following it.

For a social media marketer, this technique sounds like a dream - it's an easy way to get more likes on your page and hopefully drive more people to your website.

At Ripley PR, we encourage strong social media engagement to our clients as a part of their B2B public relations strategies, and there's no doubt that effective social media marketing can drive website traffic and increase your business.

So why is "like-baiting" such a problem?

Often, it's used in a way that Facebook sees as spamming users.

According to the site, "like-baiting" posts are those that explicitly request likes, shares, and comments.

Many times, these posts are frequently-circulated photos, videos, or memes, and end up cluttering users' News Feeds.

Facebook users have complained about the number of unwanted posts that make it harder to see the content from friends and family - and even brands - that they really want to see.

What, then, does the crackdown on asking for likes and shares mean for social media marketers? Well, there's no doubt that it can be used in legitimate ways. Some brands use the technique to ask followers to help them win a contest or award; others use it as a way to track followers and offer a prize or discount in return. There is value in running such a campaign.

However, the crackdown means that most companies will probably have to find more creative ways to encourage this engagement. It doesn't mean that companies are discouraged from social media marketing; to the contrary, Facebook wants brands to continue using its site for that purpose. But companies will have to begin placing more of an emphasis on relevant, original content - and ask questions to encourage engagement, rather than just fishing for likes.

We think that social media marketing is an important part of any brand's marketing and PR strategy, and chances are that finding more creative ways to encourage engagement on Facebook will actually work to your benefit, rather than your detriment.

So, your partners are getting their content out into the world wide web, now what?

Spreading it around and making sure people read it is the next step! Social media is a great platform to fulfill this goal because, as you may be aware, it has completely revolutionized the way we interact!

That's why, in this post, we'll review why social media is important for your partner local units and what it entails! Just so you get an idea of how big social media is, Facebook has over 400 million users; while "Tweeters" produce over 1 billion posts per month!

This is a big market for your business since potential customers are mingling and looking for local answers to their needs in there! Join several social media sites (the ones that make sense to your business), and get some of the benefits they have to offer:

  • Participating in Conversations about Your Business

  • Building a Relationship with Customers

  • Getting Feedback About Your Business

  • Raising Brand Awareness

  • Greater Exposure Online

What Partner Social Media Management Entails

Sharing in All Your Accounts

Partners should have their own social media profiles so they can share their customized content through them. Plus, the more social media they are a part of, the more exposure they'll get for their brand! Remember that the main objective for your posts is for them to be read, so make sure your partners are sharing them throughout their local social media accounts as soon as they're published!

Engaging the Audience

On top of that, you should think of social media as a way to start conversations about your company. This is a great way to start building relationships online. By sharing interesting news (for example) through local social media accounts, you're engaging audiences outside of your business! They'll get a sense of trust that will, more than likely, encourage them to join in on the conversation!

Answering Comments

Social media is a great space for you to get feedback from your customers because interactions are immediate. Just make sure you're answering back! Questions and concerns may rise from time to time and your customers could use social media as a way to reach out to you. A big part of managing social media is making sure that your partners are there for their customers when they need them!

Conclusion

I'm sure you've noticed it: people are constantly connected to social media. So much so that they not only use it as a way to interact with peers, but as a way to find solutions to their needs! They're talking about your business in there and your partners should join in on the conversation! Spread the word about your company at a local level and gain exposure in the vast sea that is the world wide web!

 

How Empowerkit Can Help

Again, social media is all about engaging recurrent and potential customers. It sounds like an easy and laid back task, but for those in a tight schedule, simply sharing content on social media can be perceived as a nagging task. Alas, local social media accounts are left dry and don't produce any results! If you or your partners don't have the time to be active on Twitter and Facebook to produce a successful web marketing program, we'll publish their latest content updates to their Facebook and Twitter profiles for them! This way, they'll have more time to interact with users at a local level!

Plus, if they don't have the interest, time or knowledge to keep their partner sites up, we'll be more than happy to help out! Partners can call us at 510.859.8452 to make new content updates!

To see what the other 5 key elements of a successful partner web marketing program are, click on the links: SetupDesignContent MarketingOff Site SEOAnalytics. Have any questions about this post or Empowerkit? Let us know in the comments! We'll be happy to reply! Try Empowerkit for Your Partner Web Marketing Program!

The post 6 Key Elements to Launching a Successful Partner Web Marketing Program: Social Media appeared first on Empowerkit - Local Websites for Franchisees.

We spend a lot of time at Wired Flare teaching others about effective ways to engage on social networks.

Sometimes, in order to get a clear picture of how best TO communicate, you also need to understand how NOT TO use social networks.

Keep in mind that our thoughts are our own and intended only as a starting point for your thoughts.

Ultimately each organization (and each individual, for that matter) in Facebook conversations must define its own unique and fitting "rules of engagement."

So, in no particular order, here is the Wired Flare list of Top 10 Business Facebook No-No's:

1. Don't post promotions for your business on other business pages. Even if you're trying to be "helpful" (like promoting your free business listing opportunity or offering them a free service), this is just bad form. If you sincerely want to help another business, reach out to them personally through email or phone (or at least through private social message)...NOT on their public business page. This comes across as very self-serving, even if you did it with the best of intentions.

2. Do not add people to promotional business groups without their permission. This is a very unwelcome practice. It forces the "friends" you have added to the group into this position where they must risk offending you to leave the group...OR they get notifications each time someone posts in the group. (Of course, they can turn off those notifications, but do you really want to put them in that position?) Groups are intended for just that - groups of people who want to communicate with each other about a certain interest. Think of them more as support groups. Adding people willy-nilly to your business group comes across again as very self-serving. If you want to invite people to join your group, send them private messages or emails that have the link to the group that they can click on to request to join.

3. Don't send messages to a huge group of people at once. For example, if you send a message to everyone invited to an event, it comes through as a group chat. Every person then gets notifications every time someone responds to the message thread. This forces your friends to leave the message thread in order to prevent receiving notifications each time. If you want to get messages out in bulk, we recommend using a contact manager to send personalized email messages to your contacts. To use the Facebook message feature, send emails to individuals, not to groups.

4. Do not double-post. Many solopreneurs, for example, tend to post content on their business page and also on their personal profiles. This should only be done on rare occasions, and the best way to do it would be to share the content from the business page onto the profile. We recommend doing this only for special posts and only rarely.

5. Do not send promotional messages to your friends on Facebook. Promotions should be kept to a minimum, anyway, but sending unsolicited promotional messages through Facebook is just another form of spam. If you want people to see your business content, ask them (only on occasion) to like your page. You can also setup a regular monthly newsletter to go out to subscribers that would have promotions as well as helpful information. Spam, whether it's on Facebook or email, is never welcome.

6. Do not constantly post promotional content on your business page. Facebook is about building relationships and engaging with your audience. No one wants to see coupon after coupon, sale after sale, featured product after featured product. If you want them to fall in love with your brand, give them a reason why. Show them you truly care about them by offering them value...not only promotions. The 80-20 rule is a good standard to follow: keep promotional posts under 20% of total content. (We actually recommend much less than that.)

7. Do not connect Facebook to Twitter or Twitter to Facebook. When your tweets go to Facebook, it is very obvious and it devalues your brand. When your Facebook posts go to Twitter, they are most often shortened and cut off...and again, this devalues your brand. Users on Facebook and Twitter want different things. Find out what they want and give them that in unique ways.

8. Do not make negative comments about other businesses on your business page or personal profile. Whether it's the competition or simply a company that you're unhappy with, this is not a good practice. Consider how you would want your unhappy customers to approach things. If you have a beef with another company, it's best to contact them directly in a private way in order to resolve your issues. If you handle professional conflicts with other organizations in a negative way, what does this say to your audience? Perhaps it indicates to them that you will handle any issues they have with you in the same, negative manner. This definitely isn't the image you want to portray.

9. Do not complain about a customer on your personal Facebook profile (and certainly not on your business page). Even if you think this is "private" - IT ISN'T! One way or another, the message will get back to your customer and it will work against you. Plus, everything is a reflection of you. If you're complaining about your current customers to your friends, why would your friends want to become your customers? If you have an issue, it is better to deal with it privately with your customer.

10. Do not "borrow" the content that another company posts and duplicate it as your own. Whether it is a picture or content, this conveys that your company does not have its own original thoughts and does not offer unique value. Take the time to develop your own unique content, and your audience will come to have more respect for you and look to you as an expert in your field. SHARE content from other pages but do not pass it off as your own.

When you want some help with your Facebook strategy & learning effective ways to engage on social networks, give me a call and connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

Facebook use continues to rise, and many lawyers are using Facebook in their personal lives to connect with friends and family, but Facebook can be a valuable business building tool, and another way to communicate and engage with colleagues, law firm employees and even clients.

One way to do this is by creating a Company Page for your law firm and follow these six steps.

1. Define Administrator Roles

In the past, Facebook pages had only one level of administrator, but Facebook has recently created administrator roles, allowing firms to give different levels of permission to different people who have access to the firm's Page. This avoids the problem that arises if only one Page administrator has access to the Page, and that administrator leaves the firm.

It also will aid firms who have employees who are interested in contributing to the firm's Facebook presence, but who the firm may not want to have access to all aspects of the 'back end' of the firm's Page.

2. View insights

It is often difficult to determine whether your social media and other efforts are reaching the audience you would like them to reach, or if your are engaging your audience. Facebook administrators (depending on the Role they have been assigned) have the ability to see 'insights' that show how many people your Page is reaching on a weekly basis, and how many people are "talking about this" or engaging with your content by liking, commenting or sharing it with others.

In addition to these 'big picture' stats, page administrators can see how many people have been reached with an individual post. For each post, you can find out:

Reach: The number of people who have seen your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Engaged Users: The number of people who have actually clicked on your post (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Talking about this: The number of people who have liked, commented, shared, responded to an event or answered a question you posed in an update (within the first 28 days after the post was published)

Virality: The percentage of people who have engaged with the post in any of the ways mentioned in 'talking about this' above, out of the number of people who have seen the post.

3. Schedule posts

Another relatively new feature of Facebook pages is the ability to schedule posts in advance. F irms can create a number of posts about newsworthy issues, happenings or events.  They can schedule the posts to be published in the  future.

Since batching or 'chunking' similar work together is one of the best ways to be productive, this can help firms to ensure that their message is getting seen by their connections and colleagues - or to their employees - without needing to constantly go back to update the Page.

Page administrators can concentrate on engaging with others by spending only a few minutes a day on Facebook, with one weekly time set aside for creating updates.

4. Offer Valuable Information to Your Audience

With Facebook's "apps" or "tabs," you can create calls to action. For example, if you offer free information or downloads from your website, such as a personal injury guide, FAQs on divorce in your state, a guide to the court system, etc., you can direct Facebook visitors to your website by creating a custom App.

Upload an appropriate image and a link that directs visitors to a landing page you designate.

5. Use Your Timeline Effectively:

Create Milestones, which are to Pages what Life Events are to personal Profiles. Milestones are designated with a flag icon and are the full width of the page (843 x 403 pixels), rather than the smaller size of regular posts (520 pixels wide).

A Milestone must include a title, but it can also include other details. Mergers, office moves, and the addition of a new partner are events you might want to include as Milestones.

6. Star stories to expand the post to widescreen and make it more prominent.

Pin a post to the top of your Timeline for up to a week--after that, it returns to its chronological place in the Timeline.

Backdate posts for special events in the life of your firm that occurred before you started your Page.

Want more tips on what lawyers can do with Facebook - both as individuals and with law firm Pages?

Take a look at Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers, my latest book with co-author Dennis Kennedy, now available for pre-order, with a 15% discount.

I'd love to hear how you and your firm are using Facebook, too! Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know your ideas.

I may be the only person up to this point to not have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It's not that I don't support either. In fact, I encourage our sales team to utilize social media.

I'm on LinkedIn and have found the groups I interact with to be extremely informative. So, why have I resisted diving into others? Part of it is my commitment to communication or, in some cases, the lack thereof.

My biggest concern was not being able to keep up. I have personal and business e-mails, texts, and voicemails. I wonder if I would be able to keep up with it all if I added a Facebook and Twitter to the mix.

While it's all pushed to one device, I still have to respond to everything.

My second and greatest concern is the lack of personal communication. I labeled one of the chapters in my book "Put Down the Blackberry Before You Dot Another 'I' Bob Cratchett" for a reason.

I believe electronic communication has altered the way we communicate, and while there are many advantages, I am concerned with the smart phone replacing face to face contact.

My co-author and I went around multiple times during this chapter. Why? He's in his early twenties and has grown up in an electronic computer world. I believe an e-mail or text saying "I can't make our breakfast meeting" is great compared to the call when you are five minutes from the restaurant.

It's terrific to send an e-mail at 11:00 pm, without the worry of waking someone up, and have the person shoot back a response when they see it. However, I am a firm believer that nothing replaces face to face meetings or phone contact when possible.

Call me old fashion, but I believe you build a better, stronger relationship when communicating in person.

In fact, I had a mobile phone when they were still attached to the car. It was the size of a house phone, and it cost about $500 a month in minutes, and something we called roaming.

What concerns me about becoming more social is watching everybody becoming less social. Sometimes I am watching a game, my kids and I are all on our laptops. I'm working. They're socializing with their friends on both their laptops and phones. I remember a day when you watched a game and talked about what just happened, not texting or tweeting about it.

One of the guys on my sales team said, "Tim, my kids are watching what their fantasy team is doing while watching a game."

I'm no better. I receive an e-mail during lunch, while in the field, and I answer it. The person I'm traveling with is doing the same thing. I'm not alone in my concern.

I hear from people all the time about how they are concerned with our next generation, their relationships, and lack of personal contact. I believe that electronic communication can be misinterpreted as easier than a call or in person conversation. Today people break up in text messages, but let's face it , back in the day people sent a break up letter.

Are we different, more advanced, too advanced, too connected, or not connected enough? I can't answer that question, but I'm diving in to find out.

Friend me, follow me, I will follow you and maybe we will find out some answers together on how to remain "social" in the world of social media.

Facebook: facebook.com/tim.burns.98478 Twitter: twitter.com/TimBurns212

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In light of the recent news that Facebook admitted a bug in the Insights data, there has been quite a bit of conversation on the topic. Somehow, I missed the original news item last week when it was first discussed, but I've caught up to speed today.

My first reaction was "It's about time!" There have been grumblings since numbers started decreasing, with some originally blaming the new Timeline design rollout and others blaming the new algorithm updates a few months back.

Now that Facebook is admitting to noting the issue and fixing the "critical bug", conspiracy theories are popping up all over the place.

Had they listened to user feedback when the numbers first started tanking, they might have gained consumer confidence and possibly noticed the bug earlier on.

At any rate, the top two schools of thought are:

1. The stats have continued to drop over time, with more and more users complaining about it, so Facebook "found" the bug in the system, explaining away the lower numbers, promising for more accurate (read = higher numbers) information starting this week.

2. This was intentional on the part of Facebook - if business pages are showing decreased number of people seeing posts, it will encourage them to promote posts or advertise more heavily on Facebook. This of course means more money for the company.

At any rate, whether it's a conspiracy or not on the part of Facebook, it remains to be seen what the "real" numbers will look like as the bug has been fixed and more accurate data is on its way.

I will be watching our Facebook page closely to see if we notice any differences.

What has been your experience with Facebook insights? Are you noticing any change in numbers this week?

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