List of Higher Education Resources Published by Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

 

ApplyTexas.org

The Texas Common Application is accepted by every Texas Public University, as well as participating community and private colleges. Students can use the same saved application to apply to multiple schools.

FAFSA.gov

This is the official homepage for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This site has been set up to simplify filling out the FAFSA. Learn what to do before filling out the FAFSA, while filling it out and what to do for FAFSA follow-up.

Scholarship Scams:

The US Federal Trade commission has valuable information on how to identify scholarship scams. Check out this website for simple ways to avoid common scams.

All in One Websites:

StudentAid.ed.gov: This is your source for free information from the U.S. Department of Education on preparing for and funding education beyond high school.

MyFSA: MyFSA is a tool on Studentaid.ed.gov where students create a personal portfolio to keep track of everything they do to prepare for college. MyFSA has many interactive features ranging from tables with the date and confirmation number of all submitted applications to automatically filling in applications with information provided in your profile. Be sure to check out what else MyFSA has to offer.

Collegeboard.com: Find information on almost every step in preparing for college. This site features timelines and calendars for both college applications and financial aid. You can also utilize the free online organizer to help keep all of your information and progress in one place.

CollegeforTexans.com: This site provides in depth information on applying to schools in Texas. It also has an extensive financial aid section for both state and federal opportunities.

EveryChanceEveryTexan.org: Find information on future jobs in Texas, see how to pay for college based on your age, find scholarships and interest free loans, and research Texas schools.

AIE.org: Adventures in Education has college planning resources, financial aid information, career guidance, and money management tips to help students and families achieve their goals.

KnowHow2Go.org: This site focuses on finding mentors to help you through the process of preparing for college. There are also resources and tips for students as young as middle school all the way through senior year.

College.gov: This site is intended to provide inspiration, hope and encouragement for all students to continue their education. Find resources about planning, preparing and paying for higher education.

OnlineUniversity.net: Resource information on financial aid, majors and online education.

AccreditedOnlineColleges.org: Resource information with a complete list of Accredited Online MBA programs

Scholarships/Financial Aid Information:

Scholarships4school.com: This site has information on many different types of scholarships and financial aid. You can search based on area of study, the name of the scholarship, or the type of aid you are looking for.

StudentAidAlliance.org: You can find general information on federal financial aid programs.

FastWeb.com: Use this free scholarship matching service to find the right scholarship for you.

Compare Schools:

Texas Monthly College Guide 2014: Texas Monthly profiled 72 schools who award bachelor's degrees, own their own facilities, are SACS accredited and are Texas-based. Use this site to compare schools based on different criteria, including undergraduate enrollment, tuition per semester hour, and student to teacher ratios.

NCES College Navigator: Use this website to find the right college for you. Start your search with general information and then use additional search criteria to narrow your results and build a list of schools to compare side by side. You can even export results to a spreadsheet and save your session.

College Prep:

PrincetonReview.com: Find out more information on college entrance tests as well as locations for free test prep courses near you.

What To Do When Your E-mail Goes Unanswered

Excerpted from CareerRealism.com

J.T. O'Donnell
November 16, 2015

Anxiety from unanswered e-mails is especially prominent in job seekers. At least once a day, a client contacts me in a frustrated panic because the e-mail they sent days ago to a colleague, perspective networking contact, online application, recruiter, and so on hasn’t been answered. Each time, I walk them through the three tips that should be followed to increase the chances we get a response. They are:

1. Wait One Full Business Week Before Following Up

While it feels like months to you, to the person you sent the e-mail to, a week feels like a day. If they didn’t answer you yet, it just means you weren’t viewed as needing an immediate response. It doesn’t mean they are saying “no” to your request, they are just saying “not now.”

2. Never Send A Nudge On A Monday

Even the happiest of people feel a little off on Mondays. We call it the Weekend Flu, you might call it the Monday Blues. Regardless, it puts people in a mood to say “no” more quickly. So, even if it’s been a full business week, if it’s Monday – don’t do anything.

3. Send Value Next Time, Not Another Request For Help

When you finally do follow up, don’t send a, “Just wanted to check in and see if you got my request…” note. That’s like taking a hot poker and pushing it in their back. They know they haven’t responded to you, and they most likely don’t feel good about it. They don’t need you to point it out.

Instead, find an article online that you think they would find interesting and pass it along with a simple note like this: “Saw this article and thought of you – hope you enjoy it!” That’s it. You’ll be respected for your restraint from asking the obvious. Moreover, you’ll be appreciated for offering up something of professional value. As they say, you gotta give to get!

Follow the tips above and I guarantee more of your e-mails will get answered. While some may still ultimately say “no,” or never respond, the chances the folks who failed to respond initially will finally follow up increases when you are patient, polite, and most importantly, focused on helping them, too.

Expert Advice on How to Effectively Respond to Online Reviews

online review advice

In today’s digital revolution, you can assume people will be saying things about your business on the Internet, even if you don’t have a website, and especially if you are participating in social media.  So, maintaining a positive reputation is critical. One major ramification of being online is the potential for a bad review.  Although, some say it creates a sense of truth among those reading the reviews, we all know that a bad review definitely negatively impacts buyers’ decisions. 

When used proactively, social media is the perfect channel for establishing connections with your customers, communicating with them and providing excellent customer service.  The difficult thing for business owners to realize is that this requires full-time attention from a professional.  Business owners should be hiring and training a team to do the daily monitoring, however, the owner should be alerted to anything extremely positive or negative and should be personally responsible for responding to those reviews.

1).  The first proactive step business owners should be taking is to create their own social media accounts so that they are in control over what reviews are displayed online.  The most common social media platforms that facilitate positive customer interactions are Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.  Facebook and Google+ business pages allow business owners to add a Review tab.  Business owners are in complete control of these reviews.  Twitter is often used by businesses to deal with customer service issues in real time as well. 

2).  Business owners should be actively seeking “influencers” within their clientele and asking them to provide positive reviews.  This ongoing work of asking for positive reviews seems to be the biggest obstacle for today’s business owners, even though the more reviews a business has, the more established they seem to be to the reviewers.  The more positive the reviews, the higher the business’s ranking becomes.  One negative review won’t necessarily take you off of a buyer’s list, unless, however, the owner does not respond to it at all or if they do not respond to it well.

3).  Another method business owners should be taking is to publish positive reviews and testimonies on their website.  There are many widgets that will automatically post reviews from your social media to your website.   

4).  Business owners should ensure that a team member is regularly searching the web for opened accounts under their business name and are on top of ensuring an appropriate and effective responses are delivered to all reviews, in real time.

This is especially important because there are also many industry specific, review apps and websites that are known for providing decision-making data for buyers.  Unfortunately for business owners, some of these apps and websites allow customers to create or start an account for your business, without their permission, like Yelp.  This access creates a high risk for unmonitored negative reviews.

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR RESPONDING

When responding, make sure you always:

1.     Respond promptly and accurately.

2.     Show gratitude and respect.

3.     Never respond in an offensive or defensive way.

4.     Include facts instead of opinions and link to factual reference materials to support your case.

5.     Respond in a tone of voice that reflects the company’s culture and values.

6.     Let the person know how you’re connected to the company.

ADVICE FROM HUBSPOT ON WHEN AND HOW TO RESPOND TO REVIEWS

POSITIVE REVIEWS

a)    If the review is positive, but false, you need to respond.

b)   If the review is positive and true, you might either just listen or respond with thanks.

Responding to positive reviews should be easy, right? It does sound easy, but it's also surprisingly easy to get this wrong.  When contacting a positive reviewer, your purpose should be simply to deliver a human thank you and let them know you care. That's it. No gift certificates. No mailing lists. No event invites. No reactions to the minor complaint in their review. No requests for them to tell more friends about your business.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but just try to put yourself in the reviewer's shoes and think about whether you would really want anything other than a simple thank you. While a gift or invitation sounds like a nice idea, it can also be misinterpreted as a bribe or payment for the review. Remember, this customer already likes your business -- just use this opportunity to thank them and introduce yourself.

NEGATIVE REVIEWS

a)    If the review is negative and you feel like the reviewer is a troll you might just listen.

b)   If the review is negative and the reviewer is not a troll but they are ranting or making a joke, you might just listen.

c)    If the review is negative and the person is not a troll and it is not a rant or a joke but it is erroneous information, you should respond.

d)   If the review is negative, the reviewer is not a troll and it is not a rant or a joke, it is not erroneous information but they are unhappy, you should respond.

e)    If the review is negative the reviewer is not a troll, it is not a rant or joke and it is not erroneous information and they are not unhappy, you might just listen.

This is a difficult process for many business owners.  Before responding to a negative review, take a deep breath and think very carefully about what you are going to write. Or even better, don't think too much: just keep it simple by thanking your customer for the patronage and feedback.

Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.

The good news is that by contacting your reviewer and establishing a genuine human relationship, you have a chance to help the situation and maybe even change this customer's perspective for the better. There are lots of success stories from business owners who were polite to their reviewers and were accordingly given a second chance.

But please be very careful here: if your reviewer perceives that you are being rude, condescending or disingenuous in any way, there's a chance he or she could get angry and make the situation even worse. Keep in mind that this is a vocal customer who could well copy and paste your message all over the Web.

So just keep your message simple: thank them for their business and the feedback. If you can be specific about the customer's experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust.  

ADVICE FROM YELP FOR RESPONDING TO REVIEWS

 Posting a Public Comment

Public comments are a way for business owners to add a helpful comment to a user's review. Responding to reviewers' concerns shows that you value their feedback and that you're always striving to improve.

Getting Started

Go to the "Reviews" tab after logging into your business account. From there you'll be able to add a public comment to any review of your business.

Where your Public Comment will appear

Your comment will appear directly following the review that you've commented on.

What should I say in a public comment?

Just keep it simple and polite. Yelpers appreciate honesty and like to know when businesses are making changes based on their feedback.

Are there times when it's better not to comment?

Yes, sometimes it's to your advantage not to comment at all.

If you're upset, you might write something that will reflect poorly on your business. Wait until you've had some time to think about a review; there may be legitimate concerns brought up in the review that you can address in a constructive way.

If you want to thank someone for a positive review, send a private message instead. Comments that simply thank users without providing new information can be perceived as overbearing.

What if a review is completely false? Can I say so?

Sure, though we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.

Public Comment Reminders

As with private messaging, we ask that business owners upload a clear photo of themselves to help personalize their message. You can use Public Comments to tell the community what you've done to address a specific concern raised by a reviewer, provide correct information when a review contains inaccurate or outdated information, or provide your version of a difficult situation when you're unable to resolve a dispute through private messaging. Remember to be polite and stick to facts since your comments are public and can be seen by potential customers.

It is never wise to use public comments to launch personal attacks, advertise, or offer an incentive to change a review.

Hope this helps!  Feel free to comment below on your experiences.

10 Reasons Why Branding Yourself May Strengthen Your Business

10 Reasons Why Branding Yourself May Strengthen Your Business

Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, even if it may put heat and pressure on you as a business owner. As a business owner, creating the following petition helps brand me as a person who cares and is actively involved in my children’s lives and my community.  I walk the walk.

There is much research indicating the more PE time our kids have in school, the better their academic performance, self esteem and discipline will be.  Therefore, I believe it is critical for our schools to implement PE everyday.  I also believe that parents should play an active partnership role in decision-making in the health programming of our schools.  

I recently created a petition urging our schools to not reduce PE from 5 to 3 days in our elementary schools.  Besides the obviously problem of reducing PE, is the underlying problem that the schools did not allow parents to be a part of conversation when determining they needed to reduce PE time.  Even more disturbing than that, parents were not made aware of the safety issues due to overcrowding in the schools in the first place. 

All Texas schools are mandated to have a Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC), made of a majority of parent representatives, which participate in health related curriculum decisions. I am a SHAC member and SHAC was not informed of any upcoming changes or issues in our schools prior to this petition. Texas mandates parental involvement for two reasons:  to hold schools accountable and to ensure that community values are instilled in school health and wellness programming.

By taking this risk and initiating this petition many positive results occurred.  1).  It prompted our school administrators to have a parent meeting.  2).  Administrators got creative and initiated other forms of structured play and movement in the classrooms to substitute for the deleted PE minutes.  3).  The petition gained publicity from the local newspaper, which interviewed the school administrators and some of us parents on the issue and allowed further communication to occur.  4).  The petition brought parents together who approached the School Board of Trustees regarding the issue.  This made the board aware of the issue and educated them on SHAC and it’s responsibilities.  5). The petition prompted the SHAC Executive Board to immediately and actively solicit parent members.  6).  SHAC immediately scheduled regularly occurring SHAC meetings for the next upcoming year, in advance.  7).  SHAC immediately solicited parental and community involvement in the planning process for the 2nd Liberty Fit Festival (a community wide event).  8).  This petition also created a platform for the School Superintendent to write an article for the newspaper explaining the future building of an additional elementary school 9). The petition also created an opportunity for the  Superintendent to launch a campaign proposing an election bond to fund the new school. 10).  Most importantly, it made parents realize they need to be actively involved in their children’s education and it created a unified voice for them to stand up for future issues!

I would describe this petition as success!  As a result of my calculated business and personal risk, our children will maintain their good health because parents stood up for their best interest.  Parent involvement and communication has been opened and hopefully, administration and teachers will see that parent and school collaboration is a good, healthy process! 

As a business owner, this petition helps brand me as a person who cares and is actively involved in my children’s lives and my community.  I walk the walk. Therefore, you can trust that as my future client, I will do what is right for you too. 

You should become a parent representative for SHAC too!

To download a SHAC member application, click here.

UPCOMING SHAC Meetings 

All meetings will be held at the new LHISD Administration Building, 301 Forrest St., from 6:30 pm until 8 pm.

SHAC Mandatory Orientation Meetings (You must attend one of the following meetings Only, if you plan to become an official SHAC member.)

Tuesday, July 14

Thursday, July 23

Regular SHAC Meeting

Wednesday, August 19th - REGULAR SHAC Meeting

Liberty Fit Festival Planning Committee Meetings

Wednesday, September 23rd - Physical Education

Wednesday, November 18th - Child Nutrition

Wednesday, February 17th - School Safety

Wednesday, April 20th - Health and Wellness

If you are interested in forming a parent advocacy group for Liberty Hill, please sign up at the bottom of page www.fullpotentialbusinessconsulting.com/libertyfit/.

My Cause: Physical Education in Public Schools

Print

One of my number one causes in life is to help support and link resources to our public schools in order to ensure fitness, wellness, and health curriculum is actively and consistently taught to our children so that they develop positive and healthy values and habits that will last their lifetime.   The major reason we moved to our district is for our children to benefit from what is considered a luxury (5 days a week of PE and recess).  I could list a multitude of research studies that demonstrate the scientifically proven benefits of physical activity and it's positive correlation with academic performance.  In fact, research shows that if you reduce PE time;  grades and health gradually decline.  Research also shows that if you increase PE time; grades and health improve.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  If you'd like to read these articles, I will provide the links at the end of this blog.

As an adult, I know how much I need exercise everyday in order to feel and function well.  If I don't exercise regularly (at least 5 days a week), I get grumpy, constipated, my back back tightens up, I get acne and my energy, motivation and self-esteem suffer.  As a parent, I know that my children actually enjoy and want to be active.  They have fun running around and playing games.  They learn new skills.  They learn about the importance of rules.  They learn how to function as a team, and most importantly they learn that you don't always win.  These are life lessons that will help them transition into successful, productive and happy adults.  If they are forced to sit for too long, they feel like they are being tortured.  It goes against what is natural to their bodies.  I am tired of training our children to be sedentary.  It doesn't benefit them short or long-term to sit in a classroom and learn for 7 hours a day.  They need active and fun breaks and physical activity.  They also need the curriculum that accompanies physical education.  They need to understand how their bodies work, how to fuel them, how to use them, and how to protect them.

So, when the word "leaked" out that the elementary school was considering reducing PE from 5 to 3 days a week, I became very disheartened.  Since my children were school age, I have been a very active member of the Parent Teacher Organization, the Chamber of Commerce and the Student Health Advisory Council.  For the past 4 years, I have successfully created collaborations that promote my cause.  I now that we face the possibility that some of these resources will be taken away from our kiddos due to overcrowding in the schools, my soul sinks a little.  I feel like our community as a whole agrees with me of the importance of keeping PE in the curriculum every day.  We don't want to see the negative effects of not having PE now and in the future and not be able to undue this decision.

We feel like most of the teachers and principals really care about our children.  My only frustration with the school district has been the way they keep parents at arms distance.  I understand politics, professionalism and relationship boundaries but I feel like their tone towards parental and/or community involvement may be a little elitist.  Let's face it, the administrators are intelligent people (socially and academically).  They know the rules and they know how to play the game.  They naturally have an advantage over most parents because they specialize in education and they definitely use their position to keep things as they like them.  Sure, our schools will always comply with the basic, minimum legal responsibilities but who wants to be average?    Why go way beyond what is expect from you if you aren't going to be compensated or appreciated for it? 

Sure, we parents need to be supportive of our schools.  However, like a business, schools have customers-----parents.  And parents should be demanding excellent customer service for our children.  We are in fact, paying teachers and administrators to serve our children.  So, why aren't most parents in the U.S. demanding excellent customer service?  I don't like paying for the minimum amount of effort in something so important as my child's foundation in life.  I would never tolerate anyone else slacking off when taking care of my child (babysitters or relatives).  I would set the standards and rules and if they didn't respect me, communicate with me and do as I wished, I would fire them.  That's the bottom line.

One more thing, not all kids have a solid foundation with healthy resources at home.  These kids rely on schools to get a meal or two, to get an education, to be taught right from wrong, to learn what love is.  I know this to be true from my personal experiences as a child of divorce and neglect.  I know this through my experiences working with at-risk children as a social worker, school psychologist and mental health counselor!!!   We need to be the voice for these children.  School might be their only chance to understand what normal and right are.  School might be the only chance they get to succeed in America.  That is a huge responsibility but I assume that is why teachers become teachers and principals become principals....because they actually care and want to make a difference----to help these children achieve their FULLEST POTENTIAL!

Research Studies and Useful Resources

3 Critical Questions to Ask and Answer Before Marketing Your Business

ValerieZapien

A great consultant and/or business owner will ask and answer three questions before they begin implementing an effective marketing strategy. 

1.  What are your goals?  More specifically, what do you hope to accomplish with an effective and comprehensive marketing plan?

GOAL:

To increase your client/customer base

CONCERNS:  Is your business going to be able to effectively handle the added workload? 

a.      Can you afford the staff?

b.     Can you afford to buy additional product?

c.      Do you have customer service policies in place to handle these new clients/customers needs?

GOAL:

To increase sales

CONCERNS:  Who is going to be the salesperson?  If you are a small business owner, more than likely it will need to be you or an existing staff member. 

a.      Do you have time to produce more new content, new products and manage your personnel and sale your product?

b.     Do you or any of your staff have a marketing background or marketing experience?

c.      Does your staff want to sell or market for you?

d.      Is your staff good at selling?

Do you want to take the chance of bringing in new clients if you are going to neglect and potentially lose your current clients? 

Do you want your current clients to negatively review you because you are not serving them well? 

Do you want to invest your time and money in an ineffective marketing plan due to inexperienced or unmotivated staff? 

Do you want to commit yourself to this additional workload? 

2.  How big can your business get while still allowing you to balance your personal life? 

CONCERN:  Balance

As a psychologist, I am very concerned with business owners and their ability to balance their priorities in life.  Businesses usually do not thrive if they do not have the full attention of their owners, as families tend to disconnect with overly worked parents. 

So, it is imperative that business owners choose which is their first priority.  If it is family, you will need to make sure staff members are going to give your business their full attention.  Bottom line is, someone has to do it.

Are you willing to sacrifice .........? 

How long are you willing to sacrifice........? 

Will you enjoy doing the specific tasks involved with the marketing and the increase in clients and/or sales long term? 

Will you trust someone else to do those tasks for you? 

Who else is negatively effected by your decision?

3.  Are your staff and family going to support you with this growth and commitment?

CONCERN:  Support

Your business is less likely to achieve and sustain success if you do not have a VERY strong support system in place.  In fact, almost every endeavor in life fails, if you do not have a support system in place.  Let’s face it, we are not able to accomplish things on our own.  We need help.  It takes a community.

I realize these are tough questions and they are not fun to think about, but they are critical nonetheless.

If you are ready to increase your sales and client/customer base, call me, I want to help.  If you need to get some systems in place in order to create a support system at home and at work, call me, I want to help.  If you need help creating a trustworthy, trained and motivated staff, call me, I want to help.

 

Valerie Zapien, M.Ed.

24 Interesting Things about Valerie Zapien!

24 Interesting Things about Valerie Zapien!

I am the first generation in my family to go to college.

I secretly still want my Ph.D.  I was enrolled in a Ph.D. program but stopped after receiving my Master's degree in order to have my first child.

My parents divorced when I was 8 years old and I was raised by my dad in a trailer house.

I am a total night owl, so I stay up late and like to sleep in the morning after I take my kids to school.

I am half Mexican American.

I used to binge eat Blue Bell ice cream.  I am in total withdrawal because it's not on the shelves!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I get very grumpy when I don't exercise regularly.

I grew up a Baptist and I am a Christian who loves to do yoga and meditate.

I was never in athletics in school.  I started working out in college when I had to take 4 PE credits.

I have a HUGE birthmark on the side of my belly.  No one ever gets to see it except for my husband and daughter.

I have lived with my husband longer than I have lived with anyone else in my life.

I have to use a calculator to do simple math.

I am constantly searching for the meaning of life and my calling.

I speak French better than I do Spanish and Texan.

I love my heels, running shoes and cowgirl boots equally!

I love cats and I am allergic to them.

I pretty much always cry when someone else starts crying, especially at the movie theater.

I have a herniated disk in my back and the neurosurgeon told me I would never be able to run again.  I showed him!

My mommy is the best grandmother in the whole world, in my opinion.

I hate seafood!

I hate monotony.

I have lived in Liberty Hill, Texas longer than I have lived anywhere else.

My kids are my everything.

My husband truly is my best friend.  That's why I torture him so much.

7 Tips for Achieving Balance in Your Life Now!

*Tip 1

One tool I use with my clients to achieve balance is walk and talk.  We go for a walk outside to brainstorm and discuss plans for your business.  This allows us be productive with our work, exposes us to fresh air and Vitamin D, and serves as exercise.  If we don't physically feel well, our business will never achieve its full potential and neither will we.

*Tip 2

Actually plot out the number of hours you want to spend each day doing specific tasks.  For example, I want to sleep 7 hours a night.  I need to exercise and get ready for the day, 2 hours.  I need to eat meals, 1 hour.  I need to run errands and take kids to extracurricular activities, 3 hours.  I need to work, 6 hours.  I need to spend quality time with my kids, 1 hour.  I need to spend quality time with my husband, 1 hour.  I need to get kids ready for bed and clean house,  2 hours.  I need time to myself to do whatever relaxes me, 1 hour.  This equals 24 hours.

*Tip 3

Take a sub-lingual B12 supplement, twice a day, instead of drinking caffeine for energy.  I lied.  I drink caffeine too.

*Tip 4

Buy a HydroFlask water bottle off Amazon.com.  Believe me, it will be the best water bottle you will ever find and is well worth the $40 investment.  The water tastes so great because it stays cold.  If you are like me, you need water to be cold in order to enjoy drinking it!

*Tip 5

Listen to podcasts on your phone, if you don't have a walking buddy.  You can actually listen to free trainings about social media or anything you are interested in while you are exercising.  The podcasts usually have show notes you can download too, so you don't have to worry about writing anything down.

*TIP 6

Stretch.  As I have aged, I have come to realize, my body works a lot better, if I stretch after exercising everyday.  I do it while I watch something I have recorded on tv or while I look at Facebook or my emails on my phone.  My cat loves to cuddle with me when I am sweaty for some reason!!

*TIP 7

Give back to your community.  We all have a gift and/or passion.  Share it with the people in your community.

 

More to come.....In the meantime, feel free to sign up for my newsletters or email me tips to share with everyone!

The Best Marketing Tool is....

Business owners might hope that there is a special app or social media platform or consultant they can hire that will magically and successfully market your business.  However, the key to growing your business is revealed in this article.

Social Media Trends in 2014--Facebook, YOUtility, and Online Reviews

 

FACEBOOK Business Tools

Of course Facebook is going to find a way to get money from businesses, since businesses are profiting from Facebook. So there will be a growing need for businesses to "Boost" ads and create "Ads/Offers/Events and Milestones."

It was not the original intention of Facebook, however, the amount of content being produced in Facebook is outnumbering the amount of space that the Newsfeed allows for, making it difficult for businesses to get their posts seen by their own fans. One option for getting your information seen is paying for Facebook Ads. According to Brian Neal, Client Partner at Facebook, 70% of the campaigns reviewed on Facebook are seeing a 3x return on investment. The only good thing about this is that Facebook does not seem to be overly eager to overprice their services. You can invest in as little as $1 a day for your ads. Also, note that Facebook really does have unique access to people and businesses intimate information, so you really can target your audience.

If you decide to invest, make sure you determine what the goals of your ad is. Are you wanting people to visit your website? Wanting them to engage in your posts? Like your page? Register for an event? Take advantage of a discount? Purchase something from you?

Tip: Always include a picture with the ad (use Canva.com). Remember, Facebook will not approve the ad if it is more than 20% text.

Use a page Like ad when you create a new Facebook page and you are trying to increase the awareness of your business.

There are two ways of creating a Facebook Ad.
1). You may create a post and then simply click “boost” my post which will allow your ad to be seen higher in the Newsfeed or
2). You may create a more in-depth post on Facebook.com/ads/create. This tool gives you greater control over choosing your audience, budget and campaign duration.
Next, you decide whether you want you ad placed in the Newsfeed or on the right hand column (this option is only seen on desktop computers not mobile devices). Newsfeed ads allow for bigger images, more visibility.
Right hand side ads work better to test offers targeted to different audiences and to supplement your Newsfeed ads.

Important! You should spend some time really “targeting” who you want your audience to be. Facebook has the ability to forward your ad to people with specific interests, geographic locations, demographics and lifestyle/life-stage. This makes your investment worthwhile. This can be done by doing a Graph Search. This involves typing narrowing information into the Facebook Search box at the top of your Facebook page. For example, you may type in "Pages liked by fans of Full Potential Consulting." Then all of the pages will come up. Note those pages liked and consider liking them from your page. This links those fans to yours automatically. This also gives you hints to the types of interests your patients have. You may then use those interests as categories when you create your own ad.

Facebook has also added a “create an offer/event/milestone option” while you are posting, which is extremely handy and such a great idea. You can literally create a coupon in your Facebook account in the moment. Obviously, there is a price attached, but it is actually quite reasonable and affordable.

What's even more helpful and scary is that Facebook is automatically tracking everything you do and its effectiveness for free and has been all along. Facebook has a tool called Ads Insights, which allows you to stay on top of how your ads are performing. Go to facebook.com/ads/manage.

GENERAL EDUCATION ABOUT DIGITAL ADVERTISING

What is Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising?
You may purchase ads through Google for instance on a PPC basis meaning you only pay when viewers click through to your website from the ad. Consumers are using this type of advertising less though. "People do not trust ads anymore (14%). People trust reviews and social media". -Eric Qualman, Socialnomics.

What is SEO? Really?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your Web content so that it ranks high in search engines. This is done by, including within your content, the specific keywords or phrases people are most likely to use when searching for the information. I highly recommend spend some time brainstorming these with your content and marketing person or myself. You may also increase SEO by building quality back links-links from credible sites to your site. I can help you with this, if needed. Google and other search engines change their algorithms to ensure authentic and real and credible content is being used. It’s good to combine SEO and PPC so that when Google does change its algorithms you are still being seen by your PPC. SEO takes longer to be applied whereas a PPC will work immediately.

Google Analytics has an attribution modeling function, which allows you to track and better understand how many points of contact your readers have with your site before they decide to make a purchase. Pretty sophisticated technology!

You or your marketing person must make sure you fill out your Meta description tags and your headlines with your tested to be good keywords. This is done through your CMS (word press, etc..) Let me know if I need to show you how to do this or make your Webmaster prove to you that they have done it by showing you.

ANOTHER STICKY SUBJECT:
HOW TO MANAGE OUR ONLINE REVIEWS

2013 study by Bright Local, says about 8 in 10 people trust online reviews as much as word of mouth recommendations. 95% of respondents said they use internet to find local establishments which is an 85% increase from 2012.’

So, you need to devise a plan for evaluating your reviews (Yelp, Google Places for Business, HealthGrades, TopDentists, etc... Pay attention to when they are reviewing and of course what they are saying. Then, you must develop a clear process for reviewing the feedback and form a clear action plan. Always respond quickly, ask follow-up questions and clarify when necessary. Don’t forget to also incorporate this feedback into your face-to-face interactions.

Most of the time, consumers understand that it’s impossible to please everyone so don’t worry about one or two negative reviews. Do, however, respond quickly and help mitigate any situation that has gone wrong. Acknowledge it, thank the reviewer, apologize for the fault and clearly explain what you are going to do to make the situation better. Try taking the conversation offline if possible, by making a personal phone call. Never respond out of anger.

Be authentic, do not ever hire fake review writers or write phony reviews of your own. Instead give your current customers an incentive and easy and convenient way to leave you positive online reviews, which you have done with your patient rewards program.

7 TIPS FOR BUSY BUSINESS OWNERS ON HOW TO DEVELOP GOOD CONTENT FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

1). Write about what you know. What do people always seem to like to hear you talk about? What are you good at? What excites you?

2). Find good sources. Find websites, blogs, books, journals, and other material that contain the best writing and reporting on your topics.

3). Read everyday, within your topics, by the sources that matter. Read the good ones to keep up with the good but also the bad to see why it is bad. What’s missing? What could’ve been done better? This will help you generate your own ideas.

4). Save Things-you must have a system. Have your marketing person hold an editorial meeting to share ideas between you and your colleagues, employees, etc... Make them give you deadlines, make them public deadlines and hold yourself accountable.

5). Write. Don’t censor yourself in the early stages, quote from sources and link back to them, add your take and value, have an angle, share an anecdote that helps illustrate your point, share a personal experience. Be clear and useful, not really funny or outrageous.

6). Get Edited. Tell someone to be ruthless in the name of ensuring what you’ve written is clear and has a point

7). Repeat this whole process.

GOOD READING RESOURCE

YOUtility is a good book about effective marketing written by Jay Baer. The point of his point is to make sure your marketing strategies are USEFUL. He feels people respond better if you are informing them of things rather than promoting yourself directly. Baer advises always including a call to action in every marketing piece you create. Just one. Examples include: please add your comment, share this post, and click on this link to sign up.

"If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life." Jay Baer