Social Media Basics: Gain a Following on Facebook

Social Media Basics: Gain a Following on Facebook
By Heather Gooch

Facebook is so ubiquitous in our culture these days that it’s hard to believe it’s only less than seven years old. According to its official timeline, Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launched Facebook from their Harvard dorm room in February 2004. By December of that year, it reached nearly 1 million active users. Compare that to February 2010, where it hit the 400 million mark.

So what is Facebook, and why does your business "have” to be on it? Put quite simply, this giant of social media can translate into free branding for your business on a worldwide platform. All it requires of you is to be proactive, savvy, honest — and consistent.

AAB member Chris Campbell currently has 85 people who "like” her page. (Having members "like” your business profile is a spring 2010 update of what used to be known as "becoming a fan” of a page.) As a digital scrapbooker for Oscraps, Facebook originally was a way for Campbell to keep in touch with her colleagues after a trip to Mexico two years ago.

Establishing a personal profile is the first step to gaining a business presence on Facebook. From there, you can build a page that is devoted to your business and updated independently from your personal profile. In other words, your recent observation to friends and family about what you did last weekend won’t show up on your business page — unless you want it to.

Most of the artisans interviewed for this article joked that they started on Facebook as a way to keep an eye on their teen-aged or grown children. But although the platform was created by and for college students, studies find that the under 25-crowd doesn’t use Facebook as much as older adults. A study by Royal Pingdom, for example, estimates that the average user is 38 years old.

That’s just fine with AAB member Marty Vanslette, whose DewOnAPetal Custom Soy Candles and Home Fragrance Facebook page is bringing in business. Vanslette points to a few instances where the page, currently with 96 "likes,” is selling to customers long after show hours have ended.

"I literally just had a customer who found me on Facebook and said ‘I have to have these!’” she recalls, noting that graduation time earlier this summer brought another wave of online business via Facebook.

Getting Started
On your business page profile, you can share as much or as little information as you feel is useful to existing and potential customers. Most business at least post their year founded, business mission, contact information, logo and product photos/descriptions.

Lisa Glaser-Ziegler uses an Etsy-sanctioned template for her Echos Art page. She notes that the template makes updating easy. It even has the ability to accept credit card orders right on the page — not something she’s currently doing, but is looking into doing eventually. Instead, her page points interested customers to her online store URL, where she can accept payment.

DewOnAPetal’s Vanslette not only uses her Facebook page to spread the word about upcoming shows at which she’s exhibiting; she uploads photos during the events, which mix nicely with her new product introductions and basic life observations.

"It’s important to balance personal and professional posts, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see,” she notes.

Members Only
Exclusive offers are always appealing to consumers, and using Facebook is an easy way to make that happen. Here are four member-interaction avenues to explore for your Facebook business page:

• Special discounts: Patricia Gusman, an AAB member, uses her Natural Bathtime Essentials Facebook page, primarily to post new listings and offer follower-only discounts to her 183-and-counting followers.

• Contests: At press time, Echos Art’s Glaser-Ziegler was just 10 followers shy of her goal of getting 200 "likes.” To keep the interaction going, she even asked on her page’s wall what the 200th person should receive as a prize.

• Feedback: Campbell notes that Facebook has been particularly useful to her Faery-Wings Apothecary business because of the instant feedback she can receive about a product in progress — or even yet to be thought of. For example, it was a follower’s suggestion to get a fragrance "like a Hollister store” that led Campbell to introduce her Venice Beach scent last year.

• Interaction with fellow artisans: AAB member Cindy Jones Helgason has 229 followers of Soapourri Natural Bath & Body’s page, and she finds that many followers are fellow artisans. She likes the idea of supporting one another — and sharing new innovations in marketing online. "It reminds me of the old webrings we used to have on our home pages,” she adds.

Site Maintenance
Like Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media platform, it’s important to visit your Facebook profile frequently to see whether anyone has posted, or whether there’s any outdated links or information. Don’t let your page go neglected with the "see us at the August county fair!” message still hanging around in November. Successful users agree that at least a weekly update is the norm. It doesn’t always have to be about a new product, either.

"People like to see your personal side, they like to read about how you cleaned your studio,” Glaser-Ziegler says.

The biggest advantages to Facebook are that your business name and contact info are easily accessible by a huge population of potential customers. Unlike Twitter, your updates can be more than 140 characters long. Adding photos and web links can enhance the updates, as well.

Best of all, because it’s such a popular platform, any question you may have or challenge you might run into while using Facebook is more than likely already answered in an online forum. A simple Google search can usually turn up a plethora of information about any aspect of Facebook from users who have been in the same boat.

If you haven’t started with Facebook yet, now is the time to start: The platform is free to use, there is plenty of online support (not just from Facebook, but from other users), and it’s an easy way to gain new customers.

Even if you only sell at shows, Glaser-Ziegler notes, many attendees will go home and search for your business name on Facebook — "and they’ll be surprised if they can’t find you on there!” 


HEATHER GOOCH  (http://www.postiveyarn.com/) is vice president of Gooch & Gooch LLC, an editorial marketing services firm.  She specializes in marketing for the needlework and craft industries. Heather wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Proprietary Data and Trade Secrets

Proprietary Data and Trade Secrets
By Michael Sanibel


Overview

The United States has laws and regulations to protect other business from stealing your products and ideas.  Among the most common are patents, copyrights, trademarks, service marks, and registered marks.  However, you may have information that you want to protect that doesn’t fall into any of these categories.  Or, maybe you don’t want to go through the effort and expense of getting the government to grant you the protective license you are seeking.

The terms most often applied to such information are "proprietary” and "trade secret.”  When information is labeled with these terms, it provides a method of limiting who can view or use it.  The government issues security clearances and classifies certain documents to accomplish the same objective.  Unless a private company is working on a government contract, it can’t use that classification system as a means of shielding the contents of important documents.


Definition

A trade secret is a design, process, formula, or any collection of information that:

  • Enables the holder of the information to derive a current or future economic benefit
  • Is not generally known to the public, and that lack of knowledge is the underlying reason for the economic benefit
  • Is subjected to reasonable efforts to protect it by the holder of the information
While the precise language may vary by jurisdiction, these three factors are required in order to establish legal protection for your proprietary data.  If you own your own company, you hold the power to determine what information you want to protect within the above criteria.  

Unlike a patent that is disclosed to the outside world when you sell a product, a trade secret is kept secret.  Another difference is that a patent expires at some point, but a trade secret is protected indefinitely.  One of the best-known and most valuable trade secrets is the formula for Coca-Cola.  If it had been patented, the protection would have been lost decades ago.  However, without a patent, there is no minimum period of protection and the formula could be legally discovered through other means such chemical analysis.


Examples

Some or all of these examples of proprietary information may not apply to your small business, or you have no compelling reason to worry if it’s compromised.  It pays to be aware of the different types of data in case you do engage in work that you want to keep confidential.

  • Marketing data, statistics, strategy, and competitive position analyses
  • Customer inputs, comments, complaints, and surveys
  • Financial information including sales, profits, costs, budgets, and order quantities
  • Business forecasts including sales volume, income targets, and product quotas
  • Production data such as current inventory, supplier list, unique processes, unit capacity, and chemical formulas
  • Technical documents including product specifications, performance data, research & development results, and code names
  • Future plans including new products, release dates, target customers, and expansion plans


Laws

Misappropriation or theft of a trade secret became a federal crime when the Economic Espionage Act was enacted in 1996.  It covers protected commercial information, not classified government documents and information.  It applies criminal penalties to two activities:

  1. Misappropriation of a trade secret with the intent that the theft benefit a foreign entity
  2. Misappropriation of a trade secret related to a product that is placed in interstate or international commerce, causing injury to the owner of the secret
In addition to possible fines and imprisonment, the act also mandates forfeiture of all property used in the commission of the crime and all proceeds of the crime.

Most states have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act which imposes civil liability for misappropriation of trade secrets and provides a private cause of action.  The available remedies include money damages, injunctions, and punitive damages.


Protecting Data

If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, the protection of your data is greatly simplified.  Mark important documents as "proprietary” or "confidential” and lock them up.  Only dispose of such documents with a high-quality shredder.

If you have employees, you can require them to sign agreements that restrict the disclosure of information during their period of employment.  You can require them to sign over rights to any intellectual property or proprietary data that is created during their employment.  In addition, you can impose a non-competition agreement that further restricts disclosures after leaving your employment, so long as it is reasonable in geographic and time scope.  These agreements can include financial penalties in the event they are violated.

You can control who has access to the combinations or keys to confidential files.  Computer files can be controlled by passwords and secure access restrictions.  If you occupy an open office area, be careful with visitors who may inadvertently be exposed to proprietary data.  When possible, meet them in an area that does not house such information.  Important files should be stored safely away from prying eyes.


Dealing with Customers and Suppliers

If you are in a situation where you must disclose trade secrets in order to do business with another person or company, you should implement a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).  This is a legal contract that defines the material to be shared, the purposes for which it is to be shared, exactly how it is to be protected, and how long the agreement remains in effect.

Most NDAs are unilateral, where one party has information to be shared with the other in order to complete a business transaction.  However, the agreement can be multilateral if more than one party is disclosing trade secrets.  Free NDA templates are available for download from the internet.


Summary

Unlike a patent, a trade secret does not protect you from someone independently duplicating what you have done and using it to their own advantage.  The important point is to avoid helping competitors figure this out.  Be careful with the type of information you put in your catalog, website, trade journals, professional association newsletters, press releases, and conference papers.

In the digital age, it’s more important than ever to protect your information.  Put systems and firewalls in place to secure your computer network, and make sure you have a secure data backup.  Industrial espionage is more prevalent than ever, so use caution in all your business endeavors.


Michael Sanibel (http://www.michaelsanibel.com/) is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire.  Michael
wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Back from Vacation? 5 Tips on How to Cope

Back from Vacation? 5 Tips on How to Cope
By Marcia Passos Duffy

Vacations can be relaxing and offer much-needed respite from the stresses of running a business. But coming back to your artisan business—after a week or two of vacation—can be a lot like experiencing culture shock.

The fast pace and demands of your business may hit you full-force as you must contend with hundreds of unanswered emails, dozens of telephone messages, and a pile of unopened mail. You may feel like you’re moving at a snail’s pace while the rest of the world is speeding past you at 100 miles an hour.

This after-vacation phenomenon is so common that goes by several names: post vacation blues, vacation hangover, and even post-vacation depression disorder. In a nutshell it means that you are having trouble concentrating on work, feel "down” about getting back to business, and miss your time off.

While it isn’t always possible to avoid post-vacation blues, here are some effective ways to cope:

1.    Don’t be hard on yourself and give yourself time to readjust.  "Yes, I cry as I get on my flight back home after leaving my favorite vacation spot, Maui,” says Janet Spurr (http://www.janetspurr.com/), author of "Beach Chair Diaries: Summer Tales from Maine to Maui.” To help transition herself back into her work life, Spurr says she makes a schedule for some creative time so that the business part of her work does not overwhelm her.  "A half an hour, hour, or a few hours on the weekend…for artist-time,” she says.  Also try to schedule your vacation return on a Saturday (rather than a Sunday) to give you an extra day to readjust or catch up on sleep if you have jet lag.  Even take an extra day or two off and make your first week back shorter; go a step further and treat yourself to something special when you get back, such as a massage. Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about easing yourself back into work—consider it re-entry therapy!

2.    Clear out correspondence clutter.  Probably the worst part about coming back to your business is all the emails, letters and other correspondence that has built up while you have been gone.  Nancy Giere, owner of NGlassworks, LLC (http://www.nglassworks.com/), a jewelry-making business in Williamsburg, Va., suggests dedicating one to three hours when you return for going through correspondence. "Getting everything organized and scheduled makes work reentry seem less overwhelming,” says Giere.

3.    Delegate tasks.  If you can, hire an intern or temporary help to tackle some business tasks that you find overwhelming, such as bookkeeping or order entry.  This will help you get up to speed faster and decrease feelings of overwhelm.

4.    Relive your vacation.  While it may seem counterintuitive to revel in your vacation memories when you are trying to get back to business, it can actually help with reentry. Your vacation memories are meant to be savored and reliving special moments can help you readjust.  Author, speaker and trip wellness specialist, Elaine Masters of Solana Beach, Calif., (http://www.drivetimeyoga.com/) says that after her 10-day scuba diving trip to Fiji—and a 13 hour return flight—she was not enthusiastic about being home.  It helped Masters to relive her vacation by journaling about the trip, posting entries in a blog, and sharing pictures online with friends. "This helped me feel complete, sated, and ready to get back into the flow of life.”

5.    Plan to make reentry easier next time.  If you take time now to do a little reentry planning for next year it may help minimize future post-vacation blues.  For example:

•    Post a "to do” list on your desk before you leave to help you pick up where you left off.

•    Make arrangements with a colleague or an artisan friend to be on "standby” in case of a business emergency (you can return the favor when he or she goes on vacation).

•    Check your email midway through your vacation—but don’t take any action on items unless absolutely necessary.  If it does need action, delegate it to your designated "standby” associate.

•    Don’t leave loose ends with customers or clients. 

•    Make a date with a fellow artisan when you get back to talk about new ideas for your business.

Coming back after a vacation is never easy, but it can certainly be made less painful if you incorporate your work into your trip, suggests artist Pablo Solomon (http://www.pablosoloman.com/

"When I am on a trip I never cease to be an artist,” Solomon says.  While on vacation, view the trip as not a respite away from your business, he says, but an opportunity to incorporate into your work new ideas and inspirations experienced while on vacation.


MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state’s artisan and business organization, NH Made.  Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She is also the publisher and editor of Our Local Table magazine (http://www.localtablemonadnock.com/) and The Heart of New England magazine (http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/).  Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.blogger.com/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Ingenuity By Divine Design?

Ingenuity By Divine Design?
By Cynthia Bull

Faith often plays a role either directly or indirectly in the success of a business. While faith-based business owners may feel comfortable speaking about its positive and supportive effects, some others might shy away from openly expressing their "faith” and extolling its influence on their approach to business. Artisans possess traits that are reflected in their work ethics, challenges and commitments, all of which ultimately contribute to their successes and which sometimes include elements of divine design.  

The Association of Artisan Businesses recently awarded a business grant to one of its exceptional member artisans, Dominican Nuns/Seignadou Soaps (www.nunsopsummit.org), a faith-based business. When asked about the greatest challenge for their business, Dominican Nun Sister Mary Catharine Perry said, "Our greatest challenge is figuring out how to have sufficient liquidity to grow our small business” and "how to manage production more efficiently and in such a way that our contemplative lifestyle of prayer isn't compromised.” She cites one of their greatest business achievements as "a wonderful vehicle for people to get to know about our monastery, about our life of prayer.” She adds that the business "has become a sort of ‘conversation piece’ for people to get to know us.”  

Small business owner and AAB featured artisan Mariann Smith (
http://www.justbubbly.com/) founded her business in 1984 after the birth of her daughter. She says that her greatest challenge "has been trying to maintain a balance between family and business…I strive to maintain an equal balance between my home life and my family life.” What keeps her going in hard times? Ms. Smith says: "My faith in God keeps me going. Despite the fact that I am a hardcore business woman, I do have a very strong faith in God. I have turned to Him in some of the darkest times of my life…What also keeps me going is the knowledge that I have a family to support and that better days are always ahead. I try to see the glass as half full, not half empty.”  

Whey Better Farm, LLC owner Patricia Magaldi (
http://www.bemadeclean.com/) is also an AAB featured artisan. Ms. Magaldi fashioned her website after the words taken from the gospels when Jesus cures a leper. She is one of many business owners who cites the present economy as the biggest obstacle she currently faces, but offers this encouraging advice: "Don’t get down when things don’t turn out the way you wanted…Someone will eventually notice and you'll be rewarded.”       

AAB featured artisan Denise Rodgers (
http://earthtouchdesigns.com/) offered the following general advice when asked what has contributed to her success in business: "Desire, passion, determination, focus, the willingness to work long hours, and a good support system of mentors.” Her advice to other artisans is, "Work at building a solid foundation for your business from the start. Your business will only be as strong as your foundation.”  

Whether your approach to business is influenced by divine design or with a more nuts-and-bolts, secular flavor, here are ways to bolster your business acumen:  

  • In addition to the Internet, go to a library and look up topics and references including subject matter, authors, books, articles, etc., anything you can think of that exposes you to new information that you can add to your knowledge base.  
 
  • Ask associates, coworkers and mentors for materials and references outside of what is already available to you. If you don't ask, they won't know you're interested and make it available to you, and they won’t know that you are serious about your work, your business. 
 
  • In today's poor economic and business environment, initiate and seek information in order to exceed your own expectations.  Design and create your own educational programs to stay ahead of the pack, especially in your niche. As you earnestly put forth the energy and effort to excel, make certain that you've left no stone unturned, and eventually your aspirations can become your reality. 
 
  • Avoid getting caught up in mental games with yourself that are easy to play and avoid being around those who are not putting forth their best. They and that type of mental attitude will only adversely affect your self-discipline, your expectations, your energy and your results. Only you are in charge of that, so seek to be self-reliant as much as possible.  
 
  • Don't doubt yourself despite disappointments and make it a habit to never dwell on disappointments. Process them and move forward as quickly as possible. Readjust and use your time to find paths to the knowledge you need in order to achieve your goals. 
 
  • If you're a believer, remember that it never hurts to say a prayer and allow yourself to be influenced by divine design.  

CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.blogger.com/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.