How to use IT Tracking Systems To Flag Upcoming Problems in Your Network

We use tools and machines to take out errors from the workplace as much as possible. For this, we turn manual work into programmed work, and that is somehow not adequate for all tasks. It is not possible to remove external factors like environment, power outages, and network visibility, apart from human errors.

IT tracking systems

Read on to know more about how you can use IT tracking systems to determine what problems are upcoming in the network and thus be able to avoid the same.

Checking physical connectivity

Simply, you need to make sure time and again that all the connections that are supposed to stay in place, are in place.…

The post How to use IT Tracking Systems To Flag Upcoming Problems in Your Network appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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The data speak: Stronger pandemic response yields better economic recovery

The research described in this article has been published as a working paper but has not yet been peer-reviewed by experts in the field.

With much of the U.S. in shutdown mode to limit the spread of the Covid-19 disease, a debate has sprung up about when the country might “reopen” commerce, to limit economic fallout from the pandemic. But as a new study co-authored by an MIT economist shows, taking care of public health first is precisely what generates a stronger economic rebound later.

The study, using data from the flu pandemic that swept the U.S. in 1918-1919, finds cities that acted more emphatically to limit social and civic interactions had more economic growth following the period of restrictions.

Indeed, cities that implemented social-distancing and other public health interventions just 10 days earlier than their counterparts saw a 5 percent relative increase in manufacturing employment after the pandemic ended, through 1923. Similarly, an extra 50 days of social distancing was worth a 6.5 percent increase in manufacturing employment, in a given city.

“We find no evidence that cities that acted more aggressively in public health terms performed worse in economic terms,” says Emil Verner, an assistant professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings. “If anything, the cities that acted more aggressively performed better.”

With that in mind, he observes, the idea of a “trade-off” between public health and economic activity does not hold up to scrutiny; places that are harder hit by a pandemic are unlikely to rebuild their economic capacities as quickly, compared to areas that are more intact.

“It casts doubt on the idea there is a trade-off between addressing the impact of the virus, on the one hand, and economic activity, on the other hand, because the pandemic itself is so destructive for the economy,” Verner says.

The study, “Pandemics Depress the Economy, Public Health Interventions Do Not: Evidence from the 1918 Flu,” was posted to the Social Science Research Network as a working paper on March 26. In addition to Verner, the co-authors are Sergio Correia, an economist with the U.S. Federal Reserve, and Stephen Luck, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Evaluating economic consequences

To conduct the research, the three scholars examined mortality statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), historical economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and banking statistics compiled by finance economist Mark D. Flood, using the “Annual Reports of the Comptroller of Currency,” a government publication.

As Verner notes, the researchers were motivated to investigate the 1918-1919 flu pandemic to see what lessons from it might be applicable to the current crisis.

“The genesis of the study is that we’re interested in what the expected economic impacts of today’s coronavirus are going to be, and what is the right way to think about the economic consequences of the public health and social distancing interventions we’re seeing all around the world,” Verner says.

Scholars have known that the varying use of “nonpharmaceutical interventions,” or social-distancing measures, correlated to varying health outcomes across cities in 1918 and 1919. When that pandemic hit, U.S. cities that shut down schools earlier, such as St. Louis, fared better against the flu than places implementing shutdowns later, such as Philadelphia. The current study extends that framework to economic activity.

Quite a bit like today, social distancing measures back then included school and theater closures, bans on public gatherings, and restricted business activity.

“The nonpharmaceutical interventions that were implemented in 1918 interestingly resemble many of the policies that are being used today to reduce the spread of Covid-19,” Verner says.

Overall, the study indicates, the economic impact of the pandemic was severe. Using state-level data, the researchers find an 18 percent drop in manufacturing output through 1923, well after the last wave of the flu hit in 1919.

Looking at the effect across 43 cities, however, the researchers found significantly different economic outcomes, linked to different social distancing policies. The best-performing cities included Oakland, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, which all enforced over 120 days of social distancing in 1918. Cities that instituted fewer than 60 days of social distancing in 1918, and saw manufacturing struggle afterward, include Philadelphia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lowell, Massachusetts.

“What we find is that areas that were more severely affected in the 1918 flu pandemic see a sharp and persistent decline in a number of measures of economic activity, including manufacturing employment, manufacturing output, bank loans, and the stock of consumer durables,” Verner says.

Banking issues

As far as banking goes, the study included banking write-downs as an indicator of economic health, because “banks were recognizing losses from loans that households and businesses were defaulting on, due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic,” Verner says.

The researchers found that in Albany, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; Boston; and Syracuse, New York — all of which also had fewer than 60 days of social distancing in 1918 — the banking sector struggled more than anywhere else in the country.

As the authors note in the paper, the economic struggles that followed the 1918-1919 flu pandemic reduced the ability of firms to manufacture goods — but the reduction in employment meant that people had less purchasing power as well.

“The evidence that we have in our paper … suggests that the pandemic creates both a supply-side problem and a demand-side problem,” Verner notes.

As Verner readily acknowledges, the composition of the U.S. economy has evolved since 1918-1919, with relatively less manufacturing today and relatively more activity in services. The 1918-1919 pandemic was also especially deadly for prime working-age adults, making its economic impact particularly severe. Still, the economists think the dynamics of the previous pandemic are readily applicable to our ongoing crisis.

“The structure of the economy is of course different,” Verner notes. However, he adds, “While one shouldn’t extrapolate too directly from history, we can learn some of the lessons that may be relevant to us today.” First among those lessons, he emphasizes: “Pandemic economics are different than normal economics.”



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How to Run a Social Media Contest That Gets Tons of Engagement (11 Contest Ideas)

There are so many rules and guidelines and so much planning and preparation involved. A contest could be the best tactic you’ve ever introduced to grow your reach, drive site traffic, and generate leads, but you want to ensure you're doing it right. 

Here's how you can set yourself up for success with contests on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

How to Run a Contest on Facebook

Facebook is the most widely used social media platform, so running a contest on Facebook makes sense. After all, your prospects most likely hang out here. Here are some best practices:

Follow the Rules

Before you start your Facebook contest, make sure you can actually run it legally. Facebook has cracked down on contests due to liability issues, so read through their strict rules ahead of time. Some of those rules include: 

  • The onus is on you to communicate the terms of the contest. 
  • You must acknowledge that Facebook has not sponsored the contest and is not liable in its administration. 
  • You cannot use personal timelines as an entry mechanism for the contest (e.g. sharing, tagging, etc.).

In general, you can assume you're responsible for the legal and logistical portions of your contest; Facebook just provides the people.

To learn more about Facebook’s contest rules, visit their Page Guidelines.

Include a Form on a Landing Page to Generate Leads

If your goal is to generate leads from your contest, you might want to include a form directly on your landing page. This will make the process much easier for people trying to register for the contest. Avoid making your entrants dig through mountains of rules or a maze of links to get to where they want to go.

Create Your Own Terms & Conditions / Official Rules Page

Facebook makes it very clear that you must provide the official terms, rules, and eligibility requirements for your contest. You need to “include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant and include acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.” In addition, it is important to provide disclosure information — that if the participant is filling out a form and giving you personal information, that information is going to you and not to Facebook.

Make Use of Third Party Apps

The most common and effective way of managing Facebook contests is by using third party apps — some good ones are ShortStack, Woobox, and Offerpop. All of these make it easier to track participation and measure engagement.

Give Away Something Awesome

If you’re asking people to fill out a form, tell a story about their first experience with your brand, or explain why they love your product, a lousy keychain will not incentivize many entrants. If you have an amazing prize, people are more likely to put some serious effort into your contest.

Remember Your Goals and Measure Your Results

You can create the most impressive contest in the world, but if it doesn't align with your goals or if you didn’t measure it correctly, who really cares? If you want to generate leads from your contest, for example, you know you need to collect entrants’ information via a form. If you're looking to build reach and brand awareness, have entrants engage with the contest in some way. Whatever the objective is, Facebook Insights can let you know how much your reach has grown, or you can invest in closed-loop marketing software to track the number of leads generated and the growth of your reach.

How to Run a Contest on Twitter

Nearly 330 million people are active on Twitter, and 40% of Twitter users purchased something after seeing it on the platform. This makes it a great platform to spread brand awareness through a contest.

Follow the Rules

When you’re running a contest, just like any day on Twitter, make sure you’re following Twitter's rules. Discourage dishonest behavior such as the creation of multiple accounts or posting the same tweet repeatedly. However, do encourage good behavior such as topic relevance and creativity. Your entrants must also comply with applicable laws and regulations — Twitter makes it clear that this portion is your responsibility. In other words, you write the official rules, and any legal backlash will be your problem, not Twitter’s.

Set Your Goals

If you don't know what you’re looking to achieve with the contest, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? Plus, your goals will help you figure out how to run the contest. If you’re looking to promote a specific event or offer, for example, have your entrants tweet a link to it; just make sure you’re using tracking tokens to measure your leads and clicks to see exactly how successful the contest was. If you are trying to improve reach, on the other hand, have entrants retweet the original tweet you sent out about the contest. And if you’re looking to build awareness of your brand, require your entrants to follow you in order to be eligible.


Iron Out the Details, Including Contest Type and Timing

There are several types of contests you could choose from, so make sure you pick one that aligns with your goals. Popular types of contests on Twitter include: 

  • Sweepstakes-style contests - Great for generating leads if you have them sign up on your site or reach if you require a follow and retweet for entry.
  • Caption or creative answer contests - Great for improving engagement. 
  • Photo contests - Great for spreading awareness for your contest if you require them to post the photo to their own Twitter feed.

You also need to figure out when the contest will take place, how long it will run, and when the announcement of the contest will take place — will it be days before via your blog and other social media networks, or just minutes before the contest? Once you have your goals set, details like these are the easy part.

Direct Users to Mention You or Create a Specific Hashtag for the Contest

It’s impossible to honestly select a winner for a contest if you can’t find and weed through all the submissions. Make sure you set yourself up for success by creating streams specifically dedicated to the contest.

When tweeting the announcement that you’re having a contest, ask users to include either an @mention to you in their tweet or a specific hashtag dedicated to the contest or campaign you’re running at the time. This way you can clearly see all the entrants, making your life much easier when the time comes to select a winner.

Measure Your Results

Track your contest hashtag over time using a third-party app, use a contest-specific bit.ly link, or view any contest-generated traffic using an analytics platform or your marketing software.

How to Run a Contest on Pinterest

Pinterest has more than 322 million monthly active users, and about 70% of them are female. If your target audience is women, and you're in a creative or visual industry, Pinterest is a great choice for your contest. Here are some tips to knock it out of the park:

Follow Proper Pin Etiquette

Pinterest has relaxed guidelines for running contests

  • Don’t suggest that your contest is endorsed by Pinterest.
  • Don’t require users to save a specific image. 
  • Don’t allow more than one entry per person. 
  • Follow the Pinterest brand guidelines and terms of service. 

 In a nutshell, Pinterest encourages users to be respectful and authentic. For a more in-depth understanding of their rules, access their Community Guidelines. 

This contest from Garnet Hill falls right in line with what pinners love to do.

Pinterest Contest Example Country Living

Make an Announcement

Leverage your social networks. Don’t just announce that you’re having a contest on Pinterest; tell your followers on Twitter, your fans on Facebook, and your following on Instagram, too. Depending on the length of the contest, you should make social promotion a regular part of your social media schedule to encourage participation.

Clearly Articulate the Rules of the Contest

Whether you’re asking entrants to create a whole new board for your contest, like Garnet Hill, or you want them to simply repin one image, let participants know so they can follow your rules properly. Include a bullet point list of the rules right on a repinnable image. Behind the image, include a link to more details about your contest using a landing page on your website.

Remember Your Goals and Measure Your Results

Tailor your contest to suit your goals and measure your results accordingly. For example, if you are looking to generate leads and you could care less about engagement, you wouldn’t measure reach. If you align your goals and metrics with your contest, you'll be much more successful in the long-run.

Use a Pre-Defined Hashtag to Find Submissions

Use a hashtag so people can follow the contest entries on Pinterest. This will help spread the word about your contest, and it can also help you find participants. If you’re requiring entrants to create a board for your contest, have them use a pre-defined hashtag on their images so it's easy to find. Or are they simply repinning the original contest image? That’s easy -- just click on the pin to see who repinned it!

Have a Prize Your Audience Will Love

If participants are creating an entire board on their Pinterest account dedicated to your company, you’ll need to give away something really awesome. The more effort your participants need to put in, the better the prize should be. You will get fewer participants with a contest giving away a koozie than a contest giving away an entire bedroom set. Plus, a prize like a beautiful new bedroom set plays right into the interests of Pinterest users — beautiful, visual items.

How to Run a Contest on Instagram

Like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual social media platform. If you have aesthetic products or are creating a striking campaign, it will do well on this platform. Here are some tips to get the most out of your Instagram contest:

Follow Best Practices

Instagram, now owned by Facebook but independently managed, has similar rules for running contests. The big one being that Instagram does not want any language that implies endorsement, and they do not want to be involved in the administration of the contest. You can read more about Instagram’s contest rules here.

Set Your Goals and Clearly Articulate the Rules

Your goals should be directly correlated with how you run your contest. If you want to drive traffic to your website, make participants go there to enter. If you’re more interested in boosting engagement, have them leave a comment. You are the owner of your contest, so only you get to decide what is required for entry.

Instagram Nail Contest

Make an Announcement

Photos on Instagram fly through the feed so quickly, you might have trouble being successful with only one contest announcement. Promote the contest on your website and other social networks to get as many participants as possible. You can certainly post about the contest multiple times if you keep it creative and always craft unique updates.

Follow a Theme to Inspire Excitement in Your Followers

Are you currently running a campaign that you want your contest to run alongside of? Follow the same theme. Your Instagram followers are certainly a creative bunch, so even if you’re a B2B company, they will find a way to add excitement to your brand. For example, GE ran a contest on Instagram using the hashtag #geinspiredme. After the contest, they featured the top photos as a board on their Pinterest account.

GE Inspired Instagram Contest

Consider a Hashtag or RSS Feed to Filter Submissions

Using a hashtag, like GE did, is a great way to filter your contest. However, if you get thousands of submissions, it might be tough to weed through them all. So in addition to the hashtag, try filtering with an RSS feed. Webstagram allows you to search a hashtag, and you can view every Instagram photo using this tag with the original caption and comments. 

Measure Your Results

Statigram is a great site for management, measurement, and promotion on Instagram. And lucky for you, it even has a "Contest" section with a toolkit for running photo contests. Now that you have all the tools working for you, match your measurement tactics with your goals and rules, and your contest should be a breeze.

Social Media Contest Ideas (With Examples)

Once you have determined what channel(s) to run your contest on, the fun part begins: outlining the details and rules for entry. Below are some contest ideas to help you get your creative juices flowing:

1. Ask them to tag a friend or share to win.

209magazine's tag contest on Instagram

This is one of the most common types of social media contest because it necessitates entrants to spread the word, which in turn attracts other entrants. 

209 Magazine used Instagram to promote their contest so they could take advantage of hashtags. Notice that they used local hashtags, which means that they'll likely get participants in their local area, making for a more targeted approach to the contest. The end result being new local followers who may be interested in additional content from the magazine.

2. Ask them to showcase their creativity.

Tony Hawk's creativity contest on Twitter

Many people are inherently creative, but unless they work in a creative field, they may not have the opportunity to indulge in artistic endeavors as often as they'd like. This is why coloring, poetry, and art contests are a great choice for social media — participants are incentivized by both the prize and the means to get it. 

This Twitter contest by Tony Hawk, SkateJam, and Adobe is an excellent example for a few reasons: 

  • It's a partnership between multiple brands who can cross-promote. 
  • The rules of the contest require using one of the brand's products to enter. 
  • Not only are entrants eligible for a cool prize, but they also could see their art featured in the game! How cool is that?

3. Ask them to get on camera. 

Torrid photo contest on Facebook

Photo contests are a great option because many people access social media platforms on mobile devices. That means the camera is likely built into the device they're using when they first see the contest announcement, making for a frictionless entry. Plus, it can be fun to be a model for a day. 

Torrid, a plus-size clothing brand, is on a mission to make their customers feel confident and beautiful when wearing their products. With this in mind, photo contests like this one they held on Facebook are greatly aligned with their overall brand.

4. Ask them to share their opinion. 

nanu's opinion contest on Twitter

If you've ever read the comments section of a trending social media post, you know that people are social and love to share their opinions. Consider prompting participants with a question they must answer in order to enter the contest. By asking them to share their opinion, you're getting them to think about a topic related to your brand, and you benefit from the engagement and interaction that happens as a result. 

Nanu, a company that offers personalized pillows, decided to ask Twitter users about their napping habits for the chance to win free product. This spreads awareness about their product while staying on topic, bringing their offerings top of mind.

5. Ask them to contribute and be featured.

NASA contribute contest on Pinterest

Recognition is a common motivator, so contests where being featured is the prize can have pretty decent success. These types of contests are a great idea because: 

  • You get free content in the form of contributions. 
  • The prize is promoting the best contribution. 
  • You get amazing brand awareness as entrants must think about how they want to contribute. 

In some cases, just being featured might be a good enough accolade to motivate people to enter. In others, you may want to consider an additional prize similar to the way the Tony Hawk example does. 

This NASA example on Pinterest is particularly neat because it targets K-12 students as entrants, spreading interest for the STEM field. The prize is pretty cool, too: The winner gets to brag that they contributed to a space project.

6. Ask them for laughs. 

BYU's caption contest on Twitter

They say that laughing takes years off our lives, and incorporating it into social media can bring some of that energy into your marketing. One of the best ways to incorporate humor into a social media contest is with caption contests. Post a photo with no context, ask participants to caption the photo to enter the contest, and then crown the funniest submission as the winner. 

The BYU Alumni department held one of these contests on Twitter. It works particularly well not only for the humor factor but also in that it serves to remind alumni of crazy college antics. The more that BYU is able to tap into this nostalgia factor, the better their relationships with the alumni get.

7. Ask them to vote. 

Inked Magazine voting contest

Contests that have a voting element are great for engagement because it prompts users to interact in order to win, and it's in the contestants' best interests to spread the word. 

This Facebook contest by Inked Magazine is a great example of this. The winner gets featured on the cover of this prominent publication in addition to some pretty serious monetary winnings. Inked Magazine asks for followers to participate by voting, and the final contestants will also likely be asking their circle of influence to participate. This drives awareness of Inked Magazine's brand. 

8. Ask them what they know. 

asymptote essay contest on pinterest

One of the coolest things about social media is how quickly information can be shared. One contest idea is to tap into this by prompting people to demonstrate their knowledge. This can be done by asking them to answer a trivia question, solve a puzzle, or pen an article.

Asymptote Journal taps into this category by promoting their essay contest on Pinterest. Entrants get the chance to win prizes by spreading awareness about an author they want others to know about. 

9. Ask them to share a part of their lives with you.

PetSmart's sharing contest on Instagram

Brands that have the most success on social media are the ones that build a community. That begins with humanizing the brand and also demonstrating compassion for its followers. What better way to do that than not making your social posts about you? Instead, fashion a contest that makes it about the individuals in your community. Ask them questions. Prompt them to talk about things that matter to them. Create discussions.

If there's something that people love to talk about, it's their furbabies. For many of us, pets are a big part of our life, and PetSmart taps into this by asking Instagram followers to share that passion. In addition, this type of contest is on topic for their brand, which keeps people aware of PetSmart and what they offer.

10. Ask them to demonstrate your product.

Converse's product demonstration contest on Facebook

One of the best ways to engage people with your products is by incentivizing them to do it with a contest. By requesting customer product photos, you benefit from free product placement and social proof, demonstrating that real people use and benefit from them.

Converse is a brand that runs a lot of contests, and they do it magnificently. This example is one they ran on Facebook, and there are a few reasons why it works: 

  • They've partnered with another brand to benefit from cross-promotion. 
  • They are targeting existing customers (those who already have Converse shoes) in an effort to engage and delight them. 
  • Converses have always been an extremely photogenic shoe with mass appeal, and they are emphasizing this appeal to spread brand awareness.

11. Ask them to participate in a challenge. 

Central Lacrosse challenge contest on Instagram

Have you ever been determined to do something because you were dared to? Maybe you became even more adamant about doing it because someone told you that you couldn't. This sentiment is one reason why challenge contests are so popular. Entrants are motivated both by the dare and the vision of victory.

This Instagram contest by Central Lacrosse is interesting because they run the contest over 14 days. That gets people engaged with the challenge over a longer period of time, which extends the effectiveness of the contest's goals. The longer it sticks around, the more people are likely to participate.

Now that you’ve been inspired by all of these ideas, here’s our challenge to you: come up with a great contest that reflects your brand, choose a social channel, come up with an amazing prize, and start earning those sweet, sweet engagement numbers.



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Handmade Crafters Make Face Masks for Medical Professionals

Handmade Crafters Making Face Masks for Medical Professionals

The COVID-19 epidemic is disrupting the nation’s medical facilities and individuals who work there. Consequently, they are facing shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In recent weeks these protective gears have become scarce and in short supply.

As a result, health care workers are being forced to ration their N95 masks. These are the masks the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides maximum protection form the disease. While those who don’t have access to N95 masks are resorting to surgical masks.

Making Face Masks

In a bid to curb the shortage of these protective gear and stifle the infection rates, businesses and individuals are working towards bringing about homegrown solutions.

Among these are masks. And the nation needs an estimated 3.5 billion masks to cope with the outbreak this year alone. In response, apparel companies and fashion designers are working towards addressing the shortfall. They are doing so by retooling their production line to produce these essential protective gears.

Do It Yourself Gets in Vogue

The national shortage of N95 masks and depleting stock of surgical masks has induced creative solutions. Designers are also contributing towards the cause by making masks and experimenting with designs. One designer Michael Costello has created a washable face mask in a black, cotton-nylon stretch fabric. And has started working with manufacturers to make the masks available.

Crafters too have joined by setting up communities on social media like Facebook to create a community as well as provide DIY videos on how to produce PEPs such as Crafters Against COVID-19 Seattle. The call to arms seems to be helping reinvigorate American crafters and bringing back badly needed skills to communities.

For those who have a sewing machine and have forgotten, there are tutorials on how to make masks.

Something Vintage rentals have collected donated money and fabric, to make masks for medical professionals and hospitals. These events and rental company not only supply the masks but also coordinates volunteers to deliver the masks to hospitals. For those who want to make their own masks they offer free fabrics and tutorials. They are encouraging customers who can make face masks at home to donate to hospitals as well.

How are Businesses Reacting

As stocks of PEPs turn scarce a number of companies and retailers have shifted their operation. The goal is to help manufacture masks, gowns and other protective gear. Others are working with small business partners by producing masks and gowns to revitalizing US producers and suppliers. Gap and others like it have announced they will pivot their operations to produce much needed masks, scrubs, and gowns for healthcare professionals on the front lines.

Equally, there are many small businesses who are retooling their production lines to meet the growing demand for PEPs. Hatch Exhibits, a colorful displays and pop-up exhibition booths maker whose clients includes YouTube, Under Armour and Google is one of them. With cancellations on events, owner Chris McCormick looked inwards to look for solutions.

By designing and producing medical gowns and masks with the same type of materials and techniques they used for their products, he found out the company can contribute to the nation’s COVID response. Hatch Exhibits has collected donations to buy supplies for the masks and gowns to be donated to medical centers.

Hedley & Bennett aprons manufacturer, has developed the Wake Up & Fight Mask. This washable, reusable cotton mask is going to be available under the company’s ‘Buy 1, Give 1’ plan.

In the same manner Fanatics CEO, Michael Rubin has converted a factory that makes jerseys into one that makes masks and gowns for health workers. Part of the production will be for donations to medical facilities and first responders.

With the global supply chain challenged by the outbreak, homegrown solutions like these might help bring back jobs into the economy. As craftsmen are the soul of all small businesses providing them with much-needed support not only allows them to stay in business but also contributes to the fight against COVID-19.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Handmade Crafters Make Face Masks for Medical Professionals" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Handmade Crafters Make Face Masks for Medical Professionals

Handmade Crafters Making Face Masks for Medical Professionals

The COVID-19 epidemic is disrupting the nation’s medical facilities and individuals who work there. Consequently, they are facing shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In recent weeks these protective gears have become scarce and in short supply.

As a result, health care workers are being forced to ration their N95 masks. These are the masks the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides maximum protection form the disease. While those who don’t have access to N95 masks are resorting to surgical masks.

Making Face Masks

In a bid to curb the shortage of these protective gear and stifle the infection rates, businesses and individuals are working towards bringing about homegrown solutions.

Among these are masks. And the nation needs an estimated 3.5 billion masks to cope with the outbreak this year alone. In response, apparel companies and fashion designers are working towards addressing the shortfall. They are doing so by retooling their production line to produce these essential protective gears.

Do It Yourself Gets in Vogue

The national shortage of N95 masks and depleting stock of surgical masks has induced creative solutions. Designers are also contributing towards the cause by making masks and experimenting with designs. One designer Michael Costello has created a washable face mask in a black, cotton-nylon stretch fabric. And has started working with manufacturers to make the masks available.

Crafters too have joined by setting up communities on social media like Facebook to create a community as well as provide DIY videos on how to produce PEPs such as Crafters Against COVID-19 Seattle. The call to arms seems to be helping reinvigorate American crafters and bringing back badly needed skills to communities.

For those who have a sewing machine and have forgotten, there are tutorials on how to make masks.

Something Vintage rentals have collected donated money and fabric, to make masks for medical professionals and hospitals. These events and rental company not only supply the masks but also coordinates volunteers to deliver the masks to hospitals. For those who want to make their own masks they offer free fabrics and tutorials. They are encouraging customers who can make face masks at home to donate to hospitals as well.

How are Businesses Reacting

As stocks of PEPs turn scarce a number of companies and retailers have shifted their operation. The goal is to help manufacture masks, gowns and other protective gear. Others are working with small business partners by producing masks and gowns to revitalizing US producers and suppliers. Gap and others like it have announced they will pivot their operations to produce much needed masks, scrubs, and gowns for healthcare professionals on the front lines.

Equally, there are many small businesses who are retooling their production lines to meet the growing demand for PEPs. Hatch Exhibits, a colorful displays and pop-up exhibition booths maker whose clients includes YouTube, Under Armour and Google is one of them. With cancellations on events, owner Chris McCormick looked inwards to look for solutions.

By designing and producing medical gowns and masks with the same type of materials and techniques they used for their products, he found out the company can contribute to the nation’s COVID response. Hatch Exhibits has collected donations to buy supplies for the masks and gowns to be donated to medical centers.

Hedley & Bennett aprons manufacturer, has developed the Wake Up & Fight Mask. This washable, reusable cotton mask is going to be available under the company’s ‘Buy 1, Give 1’ plan.

In the same manner Fanatics CEO, Michael Rubin has converted a factory that makes jerseys into one that makes masks and gowns for health workers. Part of the production will be for donations to medical facilities and first responders.

With the global supply chain challenged by the outbreak, homegrown solutions like these might help bring back jobs into the economy. As craftsmen are the soul of all small businesses providing them with much-needed support not only allows them to stay in business but also contributes to the fight against COVID-19.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Handmade Crafters Make Face Masks for Medical Professionals" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How Restrictive Legacy Technology is Holding Your Business Back

Remember your favorite old pair of jeans that you wore everywhere just because they were comfortable? Legacy technology is something similar to that. Any form of an old method, technology, or system used in a working space comes under this category.

Legacy technology

photo credit: Uncle Saiful / Flickr

With the technological world progressing so fast, sticking to the legacy technology may attract more cons than pros.

Apprehensive to change

The industrial systems for the longest time have survived without being a part of continuous and consistent changes. The evolution of the industries can only be seen in chunks or distinct milestones. Fortunately or not, the world doesn’t move like this anymore.…

The post How Restrictive Legacy Technology is Holding Your Business Back appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

Businesses around the country are struggling to respond to the effects of COVID-19. Whether your operation has closed or you’re just struggling to stay relevant in the time of social distancing, communicating with customers is key. But do you know how to stay in touch with customers?

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

In all likelihood, you may need to reach out to customers in multiple ways to really get important messages across. Here are 25 tips on how to stay in touch with customers you might consider.

Send Email Updates

Send Email Updates

Probably the easiest and most direct way for many companies to stay in touch is by email. Most small businesses already have an email list where they send newsletters or updates about sales or new products. This can be a valuable way to let customers know any changes your business is making right now due to COVID-19 or any specials or updates that may be relevant to them.

Send Text Messages

If you have a small client list and want to keep everyone up to date personally, a quick text is an easy and non-invasive way to share short bursts of information. You can either reach out to people individually or send a text blast if you have customers who have signed up for text updates.

Make Phone Calls

If your business has a few important clients that you really focus on, you may want to reach out to them personally by phone. Make sure they know about any changes to your business and answer questions they may have.

Start a Video Chat

Video chat is another option that’s perfect for businesses with clients they work with regularly. This is ideal for communicating with those who you may otherwise meet with face-to-face or in instances where you may need to share visuals.

Use Chat Apps

If you need to provide virtual customer support to your customers in real time, chat apps like Facebook and WhatsApp can be very valuable. You can easily share the link to your chat profile so people can reach out to you when they have questions. Or you can send out individual messages if you have relevant updates.

Host Livestreams

Another real time option for communicating with customers, hosting a livestream allows you to broadcast video messages and interact with viewers. You might host a Q&A session, simple announcement, or some kind of demonstration to help customers during this time.

Post on Social Media

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

There’s a good chance your company has at least one social media account that you update regularly. This is the perfect way to not only share updates with customers but also to engage with them. Find out what they want from you during this time and build community around this shared experience.

Send Direct Mail

For local businesses or those that communicate with customers mainly offline, direct mail is still an option. Design a small flyer or write a letter that shares what your customers need to know.

Send Notes with Online or Delivery Orders

If your business ships or delivers products, use that as an opportunity to communicate. Share a handwritten or personally typed note letting them know how much you appreciate their business and include any other details they may need to know.

Create Video Content

Video can be an incredibly powerful tool for sharing complex thoughts or evoking an emotional response. There are tons of different ways you can use this tactic. You might share an honest take about what’s going on with your company on YouTube or go a more lighthearted route by sharing humorous content on TikTok.

Post in Online Forums

If there are any online forums that are relevant to your industry, posting or responding to others’ posts can help you stay connected. Just make sure to be responsive and don’t just spam people with your own updates.

Comment on Online Posts

Social media, blogging, and forum posting are two-way streets. You don’t need to create your own posts to communicate with customers. If you see other posts online that may be relevant, leave a comment.

Update Neighborhood Groups

For hyper local businesses, you may be able to reach customers in your immediate area through apps or groups like Nextdoor or your local neighborhood association’s website. This may be helpful for businesses like local restaurants that are offering delivery just within a specific radius.

Publish Blog Posts

Publish Blog Posts

If your website has a blog section, a simple blog post here and there can go a long way toward keeping your customers updated. This gives you a space to share long form messages, in case your company has any information to share that doesn’t fit into a tweet or Facebook post.

Start a Podcast

For those who are interested in sharing audio content with customers, a podcast could be the perfect solution. If you don’t already have one, this period where you have extra downtime may be the ideal time to get started. Or you could join another podcast as a guest and then share that episode with your online followers.

Add Live Chat to Your Website

If your business needs to answer questions or provide support to customers right on your website, a live chat feature may be the perfect solution. You can communicate back and forth without forcing your customers to ever leave your site.

Update Your Google Listing

Google is often one of the first places people go when looking for information about businesses. By updating your Google My Business Listing, you’re communicating the information that may be most relevant to your customers.

Respond to Online Reviews

Businesses should respond to online reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google regularly anyway. But since many entrepreneurs now have more time on their hands, it’s the perfect time to catch up. Thank people for sharing their thoughts and encourage even more people to do so.

Add a New Section to Your Website

25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Online

When people visit your website, they’re looking for up-to-date information about your company. If things like your hours, shipping times, or availability has changed, add a short section at the top of your site so people will clearly see those changes.

Host Virtual Events

For businesses that normally host in-person events, consider hosting an online event instead. You might make a Facebook group, start a mass Zoom call, or maybe even host a Twitter chat to get everyone talking and interacting.

Work with Online Influencers

If you want to cast a wide net and communicate with lots of potential customers in a particular industry or interest area, consider influencer marketing as a communication method. You can have people with a significant following broadcast a message to their network instead of just relying on your own contacts.

Host Webinars

Webinars are helpful for teaching new concepts or exploring complicated subjects. If you’d normally meet with groups of clients or host workshops, this is a perfect way to reach a large group of customers at once.

Offer Your Expertise to Other Outlets

If you have some insights that may be valuable to people during this time but don’t want to just rely on your own website or blog, share it with others. You can reach out to local press outlets or offer to guest blog for others in your industry.

Take Out Ads

If you have something really important to share, purchase ad space to make sure it gets seen. This can vary widely, from online ads on specific sites to ads in local print publications.

Provide Something of Value

Provide Something of Value

Actions speak louder than words, especially during a time like this. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do to really stay top of mind with customers is to provide them with something they really need or want during this time. This will look different for every business, and may not be possible for some. But for example, a carryout restaurant might offer free delivery to medical workers and first responders. Or an online business that sells virtual courses could make certain content free so people can learn a new skill while they’re sheltering in place. It may not make financial sense in the short term, but people may remember the gesture later on when they can afford to buy additional products or services.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Through the Coronavirus Pandemic" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

Businesses around the country are struggling to respond to the effects of COVID-19. Whether your operation has closed or you’re just struggling to stay relevant in the time of social distancing, communicating with customers is key. But do you know how to stay in touch with customers?

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

In all likelihood, you may need to reach out to customers in multiple ways to really get important messages across. Here are 25 tips on how to stay in touch with customers you might consider.

Send Email Updates

Send Email Updates

Probably the easiest and most direct way for many companies to stay in touch is by email. Most small businesses already have an email list where they send newsletters or updates about sales or new products. This can be a valuable way to let customers know any changes your business is making right now due to COVID-19 or any specials or updates that may be relevant to them.

Send Text Messages

If you have a small client list and want to keep everyone up to date personally, a quick text is an easy and non-invasive way to share short bursts of information. You can either reach out to people individually or send a text blast if you have customers who have signed up for text updates.

Make Phone Calls

If your business has a few important clients that you really focus on, you may want to reach out to them personally by phone. Make sure they know about any changes to your business and answer questions they may have.

Start a Video Chat

Video chat is another option that’s perfect for businesses with clients they work with regularly. This is ideal for communicating with those who you may otherwise meet with face-to-face or in instances where you may need to share visuals.

Use Chat Apps

If you need to provide virtual customer support to your customers in real time, chat apps like Facebook and WhatsApp can be very valuable. You can easily share the link to your chat profile so people can reach out to you when they have questions. Or you can send out individual messages if you have relevant updates.

Host Livestreams

Another real time option for communicating with customers, hosting a livestream allows you to broadcast video messages and interact with viewers. You might host a Q&A session, simple announcement, or some kind of demonstration to help customers during this time.

Post on Social Media

How to Stay in Touch With Customers

There’s a good chance your company has at least one social media account that you update regularly. This is the perfect way to not only share updates with customers but also to engage with them. Find out what they want from you during this time and build community around this shared experience.

Send Direct Mail

For local businesses or those that communicate with customers mainly offline, direct mail is still an option. Design a small flyer or write a letter that shares what your customers need to know.

Send Notes with Online or Delivery Orders

If your business ships or delivers products, use that as an opportunity to communicate. Share a handwritten or personally typed note letting them know how much you appreciate their business and include any other details they may need to know.

Create Video Content

Video can be an incredibly powerful tool for sharing complex thoughts or evoking an emotional response. There are tons of different ways you can use this tactic. You might share an honest take about what’s going on with your company on YouTube or go a more lighthearted route by sharing humorous content on TikTok.

Post in Online Forums

If there are any online forums that are relevant to your industry, posting or responding to others’ posts can help you stay connected. Just make sure to be responsive and don’t just spam people with your own updates.

Comment on Online Posts

Social media, blogging, and forum posting are two-way streets. You don’t need to create your own posts to communicate with customers. If you see other posts online that may be relevant, leave a comment.

Update Neighborhood Groups

For hyper local businesses, you may be able to reach customers in your immediate area through apps or groups like Nextdoor or your local neighborhood association’s website. This may be helpful for businesses like local restaurants that are offering delivery just within a specific radius.

Publish Blog Posts

Publish Blog Posts

If your website has a blog section, a simple blog post here and there can go a long way toward keeping your customers updated. This gives you a space to share long form messages, in case your company has any information to share that doesn’t fit into a tweet or Facebook post.

Start a Podcast

For those who are interested in sharing audio content with customers, a podcast could be the perfect solution. If you don’t already have one, this period where you have extra downtime may be the ideal time to get started. Or you could join another podcast as a guest and then share that episode with your online followers.

Add Live Chat to Your Website

If your business needs to answer questions or provide support to customers right on your website, a live chat feature may be the perfect solution. You can communicate back and forth without forcing your customers to ever leave your site.

Update Your Google Listing

Google is often one of the first places people go when looking for information about businesses. By updating your Google My Business Listing, you’re communicating the information that may be most relevant to your customers.

Respond to Online Reviews

Businesses should respond to online reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google regularly anyway. But since many entrepreneurs now have more time on their hands, it’s the perfect time to catch up. Thank people for sharing their thoughts and encourage even more people to do so.

Add a New Section to Your Website

25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Online

When people visit your website, they’re looking for up-to-date information about your company. If things like your hours, shipping times, or availability has changed, add a short section at the top of your site so people will clearly see those changes.

Host Virtual Events

For businesses that normally host in-person events, consider hosting an online event instead. You might make a Facebook group, start a mass Zoom call, or maybe even host a Twitter chat to get everyone talking and interacting.

Work with Online Influencers

If you want to cast a wide net and communicate with lots of potential customers in a particular industry or interest area, consider influencer marketing as a communication method. You can have people with a significant following broadcast a message to their network instead of just relying on your own contacts.

Host Webinars

Webinars are helpful for teaching new concepts or exploring complicated subjects. If you’d normally meet with groups of clients or host workshops, this is a perfect way to reach a large group of customers at once.

Offer Your Expertise to Other Outlets

If you have some insights that may be valuable to people during this time but don’t want to just rely on your own website or blog, share it with others. You can reach out to local press outlets or offer to guest blog for others in your industry.

Take Out Ads

If you have something really important to share, purchase ad space to make sure it gets seen. This can vary widely, from online ads on specific sites to ads in local print publications.

Provide Something of Value

Provide Something of Value

Actions speak louder than words, especially during a time like this. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do to really stay top of mind with customers is to provide them with something they really need or want during this time. This will look different for every business, and may not be possible for some. But for example, a carryout restaurant might offer free delivery to medical workers and first responders. Or an online business that sells virtual courses could make certain content free so people can learn a new skill while they’re sheltering in place. It may not make financial sense in the short term, but people may remember the gesture later on when they can afford to buy additional products or services.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "25 Tips on How to Stay in Touch with Customers Through the Coronavirus Pandemic" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How to Cut Network Downtime Through Network Monitoring and Management

The anticipation of errors always makes it easier to see one coming and prevent it beforehand or be prepared to actively manage to do so. When one is facing downtime, the business comes to a halt in most cases. Network monitoring makes it easier and more flexible in terms of productivity and management helps even the lows to be balanced with the highs.

Network monitoring and management

Read on to know more about cutting network downtime through in this kind of a situation.

Be knowledgable

To get the best out of your managed IT services, you must know both the good and bad, complexities that are present in your devices.…

The post How to Cut Network Downtime Through Network Monitoring and Management appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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How Franchise Managers Can Best Differentiate While Conforming to Franchise Standards

3 Local Franchise Marketing Tactics

It does’t matter if you run a fast food restaurant or a hardware store. A franchise owner gets the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship. But this happens without the higher risk levels generally experienced in traditional startups.

However, running a franchise gives several advantages. For example, you get less room for innovation than in a startup. The brand has an image that it needs to maintain, and that means that you won’t have the ability to make decisions regarding things like the product lineup, signage, décor or uniforms.

But it’s still possible to differentiate your location without jeopardizing your commitments to the franchisor brand. By improving your management skills and fine-tuning your approach to your local market, you can cultivate the sense that your business has something special to offer, while still delivering the standardized experiences that attracts people to do business with franchises.

3 Local Franchise Marketing Tactics

It’s a tricky balance. Here’s how you can pull it off.

Service Comes First

Most franchises live and die based on their ability to provide quality customer service. In fact, research from Gartner reveals that 64 percent of shoppers place greater value on the customer experience than the price they pay. This is especially pertinent for franchise owners, who often rely al-most entirely on in-store purchases and pickups – and who might not even have the option to differentiate with price points. As a result, creating a positive company culture that puts the customer experience first an absolute must.

A key part of this is delivering on the expectations customers have come to associate with your franchise. As Seth Lederman, founder and CEO of Let’s Franchise, explains, “If you walk into any of the 30,000 Subways or McDonald’s around the world, you’re guaranteed your meal will be the same (or nearly) no matter where you are. That’s the franchise proposition of uniformity and replicability. Customers know this and seek out the reliability and familiarity of their favorite brands, which have been established over years or decades.”

You don’t want to deviate from these expectations, but you can – and should – differentiate your franchise by training employees on how to engage with customers. From responding respectfully to an upset patron to having the know-how to address questions, these employee interactions are often key to creating a positive impression with your target audience.

Make sure your employees are well versed in the franchise’s product lineup and any brand guide-lines for customer interactions. You may not have much room to alter your products and services, but you will play a direct role in how good of a job your employees do at addressing the needs of your customers.

Get Involved in the Community

Your local community is what will ultimately make or break your business. As such, the best way to gain the goodwill of your community (as well as attention in the press) is to get involved.

One example of how a franchise’s community involvement can make a difference is the Ace Hardware franchise located in Maricopa, Arizona. In 2019, the franchise won the city’s Business of the Year award for the third year in the row, as well as a Retailer of the Year award for its legislative district.

A big reason for these awards was its community involvement. According to Maricopa Monitor, the local franchise collects monetary donations for the Phoenix Children’s hospital and provides materials to the hospital to make holiday wreaths, while also hosting Girl Scout cookie sales, veteran’s events and other community activities. The franchise even sponsors a youth baseball team.

Such outreach efforts spur additional engagement between the franchise employees and the community. It gets the brand’s name out in public on a consistent basis and generates goodwill with local customers.

Enhance National Campaigns with Local Franchise Marketing Efforts

Franchisors play a significant role in managing the marketing efforts for their franchisees. The U.S. Small Business Administration explains most franchisees pay ongoing monthly marketing fees to the franchise. And franchises typically base this off your monthly revenue. And your payment for the nationwide campaigns benefits all franchisees.

This helps alleviate some of a franchise’s marketing burden. But this doesn’t mean franchise owners get off the hook. Grow your presence. You must enhance these national-level efforts with your own localized marketing. Get involved with community events and sponsorships. A strong social media presence remains the place franchisees have the greatest autonomy.

Most franchises encourage individual locations to manage their own social media profiles. But lay down rules regarding the type and tone of the content. Carefully review these rules. Make sure you don’t say or post anything that would damage the brand’s reputation. Or you jeopardize your status as a franchised location. Keep posts relevant to your business and the local community.

Caitlin Bagley notes in Digital Examiner, “A steady flow of ‘corporate’ content makes it easier to update local Facebook pages regularly, while still allowing time for crafting posts that are tailored to each location’s footprint and following. Create events and promotions specific to the foot-print, associated with the local franchise’s Facebook page, to increase awareness with local clientele. Take advantage of direct access to engage with your location’s following.”

Building a Successful Franchise

Ensure your day to day operations run smoothly. This remains most important. But this makes up only one part of your job as a franchise owner. Use these and other methods to help your location stand out in your community. Thus you differentiate yourself and gain a loyal customer base.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "How Franchise Managers Can Best Differentiate While Conforming to Franchise Standards" was first published on Small Business Trends



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