Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World

Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled WorldData has transformed business. With data, businesses can market efficiently, engage on a deeper level with their computers, and deliver products and services faster than ever. Data has also given more power to consumers, allowing unprecedented access to a business with a click. All of this access, however, comes at a risk. Credit card numbers can be stolen, passwords hacked and complete websites taken over by hackers or trolls. Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You explores the implications of living in an always-connected and constantly changing,data-filled world.

What is Data for the People About?

For the past hundred years, we’ve cherished privacy, but the time has come to recognize that privacy is now only an illusion.”
– – Data for the People

In order to have information, you have to exchange something. If you want a product delivered to my home, you have to give your address to the store that will deliver it. If yoou want to get hired by a business, you have to provide confidential information (your address, Social Security Number, employment history, etc.) to the HR department or manager.

The majority of people today don’t think twice about doing this.

Data for the People argues that you might need to rethink this approach when it comes to things like social media, artificial intelligence, Big Data and the Internet of Things. Unlike previous generations, relationships in the new age of data are much more complicated. You reveal more about yourself, consciously or unconsciously, in this age than ever before. You aren’t just revealing your address, you’re revealing your interests, passions, habits, and more without even realizing it every time you go to the ATM, click “Like” on Facebook, or order something online.

The outdated idea that if you don’t share, you keep your information private no longer works in a world with Google searches, camera phones, analytics tools and social media. Instead, as author Andreas Weigend advocates, businesses should develop a new model of transparency that lets consumers know what they are gaining in exchange for their information so they can make an informed decision if they want to participate. Weigend argues that, if customers don’t fight for this, they may end up in a world where their data can be used against them rather than for them.

Weigend is a former Chief Scientist for Amazon and currently serves as a professor, consultant, keynote speaker and director of the Social Data Lab. Weigend teaches the popular “Social Data Revolution” course at Stanford University along with other courses at UC Berkely, and around the world.

What Was Best About Data for the People?

Data for the People emphasizes the responsibility businesses and customers share in this new world of data sharing. This is something many businesses fail to discuss at a deep level, despite the constant pressure for more transparency. The book actually breaks down what transparency could look like and how everyone, from the owner of Facebook down to the Facebook user and everyone in between, can be more proactive about protecting their rights to data.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Data for the People lays out a new set of data rights for everyone. It also specifically demonstrates how businesses have navigated the confusing world of data rights (like requiring ID for verification and accountability). Data for the People focuses most of its recommendations, from the consumer point of view. More discussion on the impact of data privacy and rights from the point of view of business (like a small business who wants to target customer user’s cell phones for a marketing campaign) would be even more helpful.

Why Read Data for the People?

Data for the People is written for everyone but offers different advice for the two basic groups of people out there, people who provide content (consumers) and people who use the data they provide. For consumers, the book is a call to urge businesses like Facebook or Google to adopt a higher level of transparency and access. For people who use the data (like businesses or government), this book is a rallying call demanding accountability and responsibility. Getting any piece of data from a consumer is risky (and potentially costly), so businesses need to take every precaution they can to keep the data they collect safe from danger while also providing access to the right people. This is a juggling act that businesses will continue to face.

This article, “Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bob’s Pickle Pops Proves Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Bob's Pickle Pops Proves That Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Think you have a weird product that no customers would go for? The story of Bob’s Pickle Pops might prove you wrong.

Bob’s Pickle Pops is a business that provides a really weird product — frozen pickle juice. Think freezer pops but with pickle juice instead of sweet, fruity flavors.

Sound gross? Maybe to you. But there’s actually a decent sized market for the product.

Co-founder of Bob’s Pickle Pops John Howard actually owned a roller skating rink before starting this latest business. Pickles were one of the most popular items at the snack bar. And when the pickles ran out, he started serving the juice. Then the juice became more popular than the actual pickles, and he started freezing it just to keep up with demand.

Now, Bob’s Pickle Pop’s are actually stocked in Walmart stores and have been featured on the Food Network.

Bob’s Pickle Pops Prove that Weird Products Sell

This doesn’t mean that every weird business idea is going to succeed. But there are some unexpected ideas out there that could surprise people. So the next time you’re considering a new idea for your business, don’t just dismiss something because you think it’s too weird. Do some research or testing to see if there’s a market out there for your very own weird business offering.

Image: Bob’s Pickle Pops

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In the News: iPhone Anniversary, Plunging Smartphone Bills and More

The iPhone made its official debut t 10 years ago. The device that changed the landscape of the smartphone industry offers some unique business lessons and of course — tools for business.

And businesses using these tools got some good news recently too. Bills for data streaming on the phones are going down. The reason? Smartphone saturation. What an appropriate bit of news as the device that started it all celebrates its first decade. Read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Mobile Technology

iPhone Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Shows Risks and Rewards of Creating a Whole New Product

This week 10 years ago, the original iPhone was released to the public. Now we know that the iPhone is a hugely successful and transforming product. But back then, Apple took a huge risk in creating something so different from what customers were used to. And the process for creating the product was far from easy.

Plunging Smartphone Bills Are Good News for Small Business Owners in Two Ways

U.S. cellular service costs are plunging. The consumer-price index for wireless phone service dropped 12.5 percent between May 2016 and May 2017, according to the Labor Department. That’s a pretty significant drop that could have an impact on consumers and businesses alike.

Economy

Half of All Small Businesses Fail by Year 5 – Here’s Why (INFOGRAPHIC)

Every business owner wants to succeed. But achieving success doesn’t come easy to most entrepreneurs. Fifty percent of small businesses, in fact, fail in their fifth year. This shocking revelation comes from new data presented by online insurance service provider, InsuranceQuotes.

Hear the Voice of Small Business in this Metlife #MetLifeSmallBiz Twitter Chat

Small business owners feel confident about their prospects, according to the latest Small Biz Index. The recent survey of 1,000 small business owners was conducted by MetLife (@Metlife) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce between April 30 and April 21, 2017. According to the data gathered, 60.6 percent of small business owners said they have a positive outlook for their company.

Employment

35 Percent of Employees May Take Your Confidential Information

Employees leaving your organization might be putting your business at risk. That’s if they are like the 35 percent of employees who say it’s common to take company information with them when leaving a company. This startling revelation comes from a new study (PDF) by tech giant Dell (NASDAQ:DVMT). The research has provided several other interesting insights too.

New Fiverr Pro Service Offers Handpicked Freelancers for Small Business

Hiring professional freelancers for your next project just got easier. Israel-based freelance marketplace Fiverr has announced Fiverr Pro, “the newest high-end initiative of Fiverr’s global marketplace for talent,” the company says.

Finance

40 Percent of Small Businesses Have Had Cash Flow Issues Within the Last Year

Small businesses have a tough time managing money and payments, a study has found. According to research conducted by WePay, an online payment service provider, 41 percent of businesses report having experienced cash flow challenges. Sixteen percent say they have experienced payment fraud — just in the last year.

One in Six Small Business Owners Set to Get Good Credit Score News on July 1

On July 1 there will be significant changes to consumer credit scores as America’s three largest credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will be dropping nearly all civil debts and some tax liens from their reports.

Banks, Other Lenders See Small Business Approval Rates Drop in May

May turned out to be a tough month for small businesses seeking funds. Loan approval rates at big banks, small banks, alternative lenders and credit unions declined, the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index has revealed.

Management

1 in 5 Small Business Owners Would Give up a Vacation Day Rather Than Their Smartphone

As summer kicks in, more small business owners and entrepreneurs are likely planning to pack up and go on a much deserved vacation. While conventional advice is to switch off the smartphone and step away from the office for that deserved break, a new study has found smartphones can actually help you relax while on vacation.

Marketing Tips

School Just Ended but Back to School Marketing Begins Now (INFOGRAPHIC)

Recent marketing insights from Bing reports students are planning their back to school purchases while still enjoying their summer break. So, when does back to school shopping begin? A look at search volume for back-to-school basics shows that it starts earlier than many small business marketers might have guessed.

Free eBook to Drive Summer Marketing for Local Businesses

There’s no denying it: Summer is here. To kick off the season, folks are uncovering their grills for the first time in eight or nine months and firing up some ‘shrimp on the barbie.’ A little corn on the cob, freshly-sliced watermelon and homemade cherry cobbler round out the all-American picnics taking place in backyards across the country.

Snapchat Introduces New Feature: Will it Help You with Marketing?

Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP) announced a new feature this week that could impact how your business markets to local consumers. Snap Map, as it’s called, is a location based service that shows Snapchat users where their friends are hanging out nearby.

BloomPro Offers Services to Independent Florists

Independent florists may be interested in a new offering from online floral marketplace BloomNation. The new service, called BloomPro, basically offers independent florists the option of having a dedicated floral commerce account manager at their disposal without having to hire one.

Retail Trends

Specialty Food Show Brings Some Unique Niches to the Forefront

The Summer Fancy Food Show takes place in New York this week, showcasing hundreds of specialty food makers with some really unique products. The Summer Fancy Food Show The Specialty Food Organization puts on the show each summer, along with one in California each winter.

Snap Poll: 76 Percent of In Store Shoppers Change Their Minds After Consulting Their Phones

An unscientific poll of a few dozen shoppers revealed that many consult their phones before they buy something. The poll — commissioned by Edgenet — was taken of 60 big-box store shoppers in Nashville between May 22 and June 5.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Millennial Couple Brings Clean Juice to the Masses

Clean eating isn’t just about improving health. It can be an entire lifestyle shift. And for one couple, it even led to a great business opportunity. The founders of Clean Juice decided to start their business after seeing just how much of an impact clean eating made for them personally. Read about their journey and more in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

How Will New Homeland Security Travel Requirements Impact Your Small Business? Be Prepared

The Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly this week announced enhanced security screening measures for all commercial flights to the United States.

Technology Trends

GoDaddy Introduces New Small Business Security Features

If you have a small business website, you know how dangerous malware and viruses can be. Open the wrong email and you can infect your entire network. It’s important to be protected against online attacks on your reputation too. Compounding the need for new security products is the evolution of malware.

What is Google Posts? If You Don’t Know, You’d Better Read This

There’s a new tool for establishing your digital presence on the web, but it isn’t available to your small business just yet. Google Posts lets your business create content on Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which can then be optimized to rank high in search results. When it was first launched in 2016, it was during the Presidential campaign, and it was intended for the candidates.

Could Robots Make Small Business Manufacturing a Reality?

Manufacturing offers opportunities often less known to small business owners. This is because these opportunities aren’t always viable for small businesses with limited resources. That could all be changing though, thanks to some high tech innovations

iPhone Photo via Shutterstock

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Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How Sensors, Data, Drones and Video Shape the Chase for the America’s Cup

Through this series I have the opportunity to speak with a variety of interesting people on a great many topics. But this week’s conversation was the first time I had the chance to do so sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Bermuda … watching Oracle Team USA compete for the America’s Cup against Emirates Team New Zealand. And while the end result wasn’t what we hoped for, with Team USA losing 7-1, It was still a great experience and an opportunity to learn how modern tech is changing the race.

Realtime Data Driven Strategies

Benedict, a member of Oracle Team USA, took a few minutes away from the race to share how the team is using an unbelievable amount of data they are able to collect during the race, along with video and pictures captured, to help change strategies in realtime to move the team forward. And while this is fascinating to see how modern tech is changing the race for The Cup, there are definite business lessons to take away. Plus, I get to bust out my cabana wear for the first time in a while. So I owe a big debt of gratitude to the folks at Oracle for inviting me down to see the races and learn more about technology’s role in the event.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the whole conversation check out the embedded video above and the audio player below.

* * * * *

Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How to Use Sensors, Data, Drones, and Video to Create Realtime Data Driven Strategies for the America’s CupBrent Leary: There was a tech talk around how Oracle Team USA is using technology to do what they do. One of the things that stuck me, was the statement that back when the race got started in 1851, it was about technology. People would probably think 1851, what kind of technology was that back there? But now today it’s definitely about technology. Maybe you could talk about kind of the evolution of how technology has played a role in this.

Benedict: Sure, so basically if you look at this Cup, and the previous Cup, the biggest news were the foiling systems. In the past, the boats were sitting in the waters, so you always had a lot of drag, and the drag stopped you accelerating. So in these two Cups we now have foiling catamarans. They lift out of the water, similar to an airplane, and they can go three times the wind speed, which is a different story basically. The hulls do not touch the water anymore. Therefore, they just go faster and faster.

Brent Leary: This morning we talked about, being there at the end of the day, taking this video, taking all the data that’s coming from sensors, and turning that into strategy. Talk a little bit about how you’re able to take all this data you have access to now, and how that plays a role in strategy.

Benedict: We have around 300 to 350 sensors on board, and they take measurements every 5 seconds. This data is being streamed right away to a boat, which follows the race boat all the time. Then they store it back on Oracle databases. We have a huge container over there, with services set up, and it’s air conditioned, since it’s pretty hot here, but it plays a huge role for the engineers because now they always can flip back, and combine the moving pictures, like the video pics, with the data. So you can see how the boat is performing.

Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How to Use Sensors, Data, Drones, and Video to Create Realtime Data Driven Strategies for the America’s Cup

There’s a drone always following the boat. So we always have drone pictures, and that’s a good thing that we have everything synced together. So all the engineers, they just can grab all this data, to see how the boat performs under which conditions. They see what changes it made, due to the changes they made on the boat. That’s the biggest challenge basically, because sometimes you don’t know if the change you’re doing is as good as the theory tells you. So they go back and forth, and back and forth.

Over the last week, they went out three times. Today they took the boat off the water, took all the data. They analyzed it. They made some changes, put the boat back in the water. So they had hectic times.

Brent Leary: Is that gonna be what happens tonight as well?

Benedict: I think they went out tonight, or this afternoon again to do some little testing again, but the boat performance wasn’t the issue today. We had two not so good stories I should say.

Brent Leary: Okay, well let’s talk a little bit maybe about the future. What do you think is going to happen with the use of technology and data two years from now, four years from now?

Benedict: So I’m not sure how familiar your audience is about the America’s Cup, the tricky thing is, the winner takes all the rights to decide what’s gonna happen. So right now, it’s a very technology driven game, because the boats are leading edge, they’re foiling, a lot of technology involved, so maybe in the next Cup, we might not foil, because the winner decides on what boats we’re gonna race. So that is gonna be a tricky thing.

For sure there’s also technology involved, in order to make the boat as fast as possible to the given rules they decide, but right now we don’t know. Is it a foiling boat? Is it a catamaran? Is it a monohull? Is it a trimaran? We have no idea. So if Oracle will win, there’s already a kind of set scenario which four teams agreed on, how to proceed, so there’s already a schedule, and they decided on boat designs. But if Emirates Team New Zealand keeps them going, you don’t know what happens. We don’t know. They might go back and say we’re going to race on monohulls as we did in 2007 with the America’s Cup class boats. So you don’t know.

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The Difference Between Loans, Cash Advances and Factoring

The Difference Between Small Business Financing Options

Getting the right financial product for your small business is important. However, entrepreneurs should be careful about which small business financing options they choose. Some make more sense for your company than others. Small Business Trends talked with Hanna Kassis an expert at Segway Financial about how to differentiate between loans, cash advances and factoring.

“The biggest difference is cash advances and factoring are not loans, although sometimes they’re disguised as loans,” Kassis says. The trick for small business owners is in understanding how to pick the financial product that works to make their situation better.  Choosing the wrong path can lead to deeper financial issues if your small business is in some trouble to begin with.

Here’s a chart showing the benefits of  the various types of financing depending upon your business needs:

The Difference Between Small Business Financing Options

Small Business Loans and FICO

There are some fundamental differences. For example, small business loans report to the credit bureaus about the credit of the business and not the owners. These are generally the way to go when you’re looking to make a long term investment in your business.

A good FICO score is required. All your company assets can be used as collateral and funding usually takes about 3-7 days. Use these when you’re on a stable footing financially and looking to grow or expand. Small business loans are a great way to replace outdated machinery and even build a new wing.

Miss a payment on one of these and it gets reported on your business credit. With the other two types, that kind of slip up gets reported on your personal credit.

Merchant Cash Advances and Factoring: For a Different Set of Business Needs

These other products have a different set of requirements. A merchant cash advance is a good product for an emergency financial situation. Factoring is the right tool to match income and expenses. With the merchant cash advance, cash flow history is required but your small business doesn’t need to supply any collateral.

Factoring, on the other hand, requires actual invoices and those receivables and invoices are used as collateral.

Kassis notes another difference between the two products.

“Companies that qualify for factoring are typically B2B under unfavourable terms,” He says. “That delayed payment could be a result of the seller offering it to get business or the vendor offering it because they’re spending enough money they can dictate the terns of the deal.”

Say you’re selling bolts to a manufacturer. They’re buying in volume and keeping you busy, buy not paying for terms of 30, 90 or ninety days.  Factoring can help you can over temporary cash crunches. These products generally take about  2-5 days to process.

Sending Invoices

If you send invoices, you have a wider range of options. Those choices are limited for enterprises like grocery stores that accept cash up front.

“Businesses with invoices will qualify for factoring, cash advances or a loan,” Kassis says. “Businesses that don’t invoice can only get a cash advance or a loan.”

Cash advances are the quickest solution to get but you need to be careful when you make a decision to go after one of these. There is no collateral needed here and the time to fund is quick at 1-3 days. However, Kassis is clear small business needs to take a good look at why they’d need this type of money before they act.

“The cash advance is the catch-all. With about $10,000 a month from any source, you can probably get one of these products.”

Cash Advance Catch-all

However, there’s a big caveat to this catch-all. Kassis explains this is a great product for seasonal businesses and restaurants in tourist areas. Both of these small businesses might need some cash ahead of their busy season.  He’s clear, however, a cash advance won’t stop a downward business slide.

“If you’re struggling, a cash advance will put you out of business,” he says.

Factoring Photo via Shutterstock
Chart courtesy of InvoiceFinancing.net

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Facebook Hits 2 Billion Monthly Users

Facebook Has 2 Billion Monthly Users

The meteoric rise of the number of active monthly users on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is nothing short of amazing. And when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has 2 billion monthly users, the company both appreciated the accomplishment, and the sense of responsibility that came with it.

Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox told TechCrunch, “We’re getting to a size where it’s worth really taking a careful look at what are all the things that we can do to make social media the most positive force for good possible.”

Facebook Has 2 Billion Monthly Users, But How Did They Get There?

Facebook has a methodical approach driven with a broad mandate, which includes titles such as VP of social good in addition to growth, marketing, analytics, internationalization and other positions. The systems the company has in place is proven, and it is being used to increase the numbers of its other brands: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

These brands also have the largest monthly users in social media, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp at 1.2 billion and Instagram with 700 million.

It took Facebook four years to hit 100 million users in 2008. The next milestone was half a billion in 2010, and one billion in 2012. And when the numbers seemed to be slowing down, it introduced Facebook Lite to make the platform more accessible in developing countries. In just two years the Lite version reached 200 million users.

Here is a graph of Facebook’s growth:

Facebook Has 2 Billion Monthly Users

Moving Forward

As Facebook looks to the next billion users, it reminded people why the platform is so popular in a news post.

People use Facebook to connect with each other. Whether it is celebrating birthdays and Valentine’s Day or sharing community stories. And the company says it is pushing the positive force for good with http://ift.tt/2uejx3j and Facebook Communities Summit to connect more people no matter where they are.

With every Facebook user connected to one another by an average of 3.57 degrees of separation, you can basically say Facebook has made it possible for 2 billion people to know each other.

For marketers and small business owners, of course, Facebook’s size is important because of the number of potential customers — or partners or collaborators — you can reach with the network.

But it’s also worth the effort to look at some of the ways Facebook has become such a powerful brand. The company filled a need — the need to connect — so basic that it is common to almost everyone. And it did so in a way that has never been done in quite the same before.

It then made itself quickly indispensable, not just to its users, but to advertisers seeking to reach them. Small business owners would be wise to do the same.

Images: Facebook

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Get The Benefits of a Remote Digital Marketing Team: Follow These 5 Steps

Tips for Building a Remote Digital Marketing Team

The modern workplace has evolved from what it used to be traditionally. The corporate world is more scattered today, with team members operating from different countries or continents, even. The internet and social media have facilitated remote work, enabling the existence of more diversity in cultures and ideas in a company.

There aren’t limitations anymore. You can recruit and work with people from anywhere in the world. If you are a small business looking for the best talent available within your budget, your potential candidate pool is wider than you might realize.

In 2016, 43 percent of American employees worked remotely, and the number seems to be gradually increasing.

Why you should embrace remote working …

  • Remote workers enjoy flexibility and are less stressed
  • Happier employees are more productive and responsible
  • They cost a company relatively lesser than onsite workers
  • Remote working saves companies and workers commute costs

Tips for Building a Remote Digital Marketing Team

Content and digital marketing is being impacted by this trend greatly. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are enabling remote work globally, and companies have begun to take advantage of this trend. You can too. Here’s how.

1. Use a Task Accountability Platform for Efficient Management

When managing remote workers, planning, communication and task accountability are slightly more taxing. You want to choose convenient communication platforms, so you can constantly be in touch with your team.

Asana is a great platform for task management, and Slack is excellent for general communication.

Even using a task management tool, you might find the exercise time consuming, so it’s important to plan for it. You could hire a task manager, or block that time on your own schedule. You could also consider hiring a virtual assistant.

2. Create an Accessible and Organized Editorial Calendar

Social media and content marketing are an essential part of digital marketing, and they involve the creation of a lot of content. Yearly or quarterly editorial calendars can be life savers, because they can help you plan for holidays, trends and even flexible, fun days when creating content, and that can earn your brand some serious traction.

By planning in advance, you’ll also retain a lot of control. It’s easier to account for unpredictable trends and make changes to a plan if you already have one in place. It’s also easier for remote employees to manage their work if they are privy to the plan.

Google Sheets, WordPress and HubSpot editorial calendars are solutions worth checking out.

Tips for Building a Remote Digital Marketing Team - HubSpot Editorial Calendars

3. Invest in Valuable Content Repositories and Resources

Your social media and content marketers are only as efficient as the resources you provide them with. They should ideally have access to research and content tools to spark great ideas. You will need a content editor, research tool and image/design repository for your team to function without any hindrance.

  • Google Docs is an excellent, free content editor that works just as well as Microsoft Word or Pages on iOS.
  • HARO is a great place to find original quotes from subject experts and influencers.
  • Plagiarism Checker does exactly what it’s name suggests, and does it quickly.
  • Pexels is a free image repository for HD pictures.

Tips for Building a Remote Digital Marketing Team - Pexels

Introduce your team to these tools early on in the game, so they can deliver great work.

4. Research and Commit to the Right Stack of Marketing Tools

It’s crucial to introduce your social media and content marketing team to a stack of tools that can amplify their efforts. As a small business, you may not have access to the same budget as larger firms, but certain tools can help you accomplish more with a limited working capacity and budget.

GrowthBot is a great Slack integration that helps you conduct content and marketing research at low cost. You can chat and ask the bot which keywords your competitors rank for or are targeting via PPC.

Tips for Building a Remote Digital Marketing Team - Slack GrowthBot

5. Establish a Smart Reporting Order and Means

When working remotely with employees, setting up a reporting order is critical. Who reports to whom, how often they are required to check in and how they should communicate on a day-to-day basis needs to be decided in advance.

Slack works well for this purpose. Using the tool, you can create channels for different teams and chat with each member one-on-one.

The tool has specific bots and integrations that support different types of job roles like developers, marketers and sales personnel. You can also share files from your computer and Google Drive securely on Slack.

It’s over to you now! Don’t limit your workforce by borders and distance. Find the best people to work with and get the most out of your digital marketing budget.

Virtual Team Photo via Shutterstock

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BloomPro Offers Services to Independent Florists

BloomNation BloomPro Offers Services to Independent Florists

Independent florists may be interested in a new offering from online floral marketplace BloomNation. The new service, called BloomPro, basically offers independent florists the option of having a dedicated floral commerce account manager at their disposal without having to hire one.

“If BloomNation is a gym for florists, BloomPro is the personal trainer,” explains BloomNation COO, Gregg Weisstein.

Inside the BloomNation BloomPro Service

Because of this, the service is basically customizable. For a flat fee of $299 per month, you can have your account manager offer a specific strategy for growing your online sales. This might include changing up your copy, obtaining press coverage, changing up product lines or anything else that you and your account manager think might be effective in growing your business. And your account manager can also track those sales over time so you can make adjustments based on what’s working and what isn’t.

Weisstein says, “Account managers can provide BloomPro users with a strategy to innovate their online business and the ability to track their performance with detailed monthly overviews. Further, BloomPro florists receive additional high-touch support from other departments within BloomNation, including PR placements, SEO features, merchandising, and ecommerce conversion expertise.”

Aside from BloomPro, BloomNation provides a plethora of other services aimed at independent florists. The most popular is the company’s online marketplace where florists can list their floral arrangements and other products for sale to get in front of more potential customers online. The company currently has more than 3,000 florists in its network across the U.S.

So you don’t have to sign up for BloomPro specifically to take advantage of the company’s offerings. But if you’ve been looking for a way to bolster your floral business online and don’t have the resources to hire someone full time, it’s an interesting option. You do need to sign up for a minimum of three months in order to use the BloomPro service.

Image: BloomNation

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The Hiring Process Was – Unforgettable

Grammar Business Cartoon

Cartoonists, like other humorists, are observers.

We pay attention to things — especially little things — that most people ignore.

For example, my family and I were recently on vacation and I saw an ad for a local pizzeria with the slogan “Best pizza … period!!!”

Do you see it? The whole point of their slogan is the “period” part, but they chose to end with not one, not two, but three exclamation points.

So one day when I saw on TV someone slowly slide over a piece of paper with a proposed salary on it to another character, I knew I had a good cartoon idea, period!!!

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PayPal Doesn’t Have to be Hard, Read This Overview

How to Get Started with PayPal

When it comes to turning your website into a money-making business, PayPal is a popular choice for handling transactions. The service is known for being secure, convenient and fast — payments can show up in your account within minutes of a sale. But there are costs associated with using PayPal to process payments, so you’ll have to weigh the options to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

How to Get Started with PayPal

Here’s a breakdown of the company’s offerings to help you decide.

PayPal’s Options for Online Businesses

First you’ll have to choose between a business and a premier account. Both carry a standard fee for online payments and invoicing: 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction within the U.S.

PayPal recommends a premier account for casual sellers — those who don’t rely on their site for a steady source of income and plan on purchasing as well as selling. To access this account type, you first have to get a business account and then downgrade to the premier account. The business account, on the other hand, requires you to operate under a company or group name.

Keep in mind that there are additional fees for each account type for things like chargebacks and refunds. And extras, like recurring billing, have costs associated with them as well.

After you’ve decided on an account type, you’ll need to compare PayPal’s payment and checkout products.

Key feature(s) Additional costs (beyond the standard 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction) Best for
Payments Standard Quick setup, lets you accept credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, and PayPal Credit. From there you can add a Paypal.me link and invoices to your payment options, at no additional cost None General billing
Payments Pro Works with credit cards, PayPal Credit, and PayPal; has a virtual terminal option (to accept phone, fax and mail orders online); it’s also compatible with many existing checkout systems $30 per month Keeping the checkout process on your site (rather than directing buyers to PayPal’s site) and customizing the checkout experience
Payments Advanced Works with many popular checkout systems $5 per month Housing the checkout process on your site, as long as you don’t need a virtual terminal (like the one offered in the Pro account)
Express Checkout Works with many popular checkout systems None Quick checkouts for sites that already accept credit cards

PayPal also has a partner service called Braintree that delivers a similar checkout experience to Payments Pro. It offers a standard checkout at no extra cost beyond PayPal’s basic transaction fees, with the option to upgrade to a higher-priced, but more customizable checkout service. If your customers prefer paying with virtual cash and accounts — think Apple Pay and Bitcoin — it’s your best bet.

Adding PayPal to Your Site

Once you have a PayPal business or premier account, you’ll need to give customers access to your products. Depending on which service you select, you may need to insert a link to your PayPal account, add a contact form, insert a bit of code onto your website or create a button through PayPal’s site.

Read more about adding PayPal to your site here.

Alternatives to PayPal

If you dislike the idea of paying fees or don’t want to use PayPal, there are alternatives that can get the job done.

If you already have a Google account, Google Wallet could be a solid option. There are no fees to send or receive money, but it’s only available for businesses that are sole proprietorships (rather than registered corporations). Otherwise, sites like Amazon Pay (which carries the same standard rate as PayPal for domestic transactions) and TransferWise (for international payments) are worth looking into.

PayPal Photo via Shutterstock

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