Must have Twitter tools


By Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter is a freelance writer and editor with 15 years of journalism experience. Dan blogs via

Like most savvy small business owners, you understand just how important social media is in promoting your bakery, landscaping company, insurance office, or real estate brokerage. But are you using one of the most important social-networking sites, Twitter, as effectively as possible? These five Twitter tools can help you boost your business.

1. Twitoria: This deceptively simple tool allows you to easily discover how active the companies or people you are following have been active in the Twitter world. As the Small Business CEO Web site reports, by using Twitoria you can easily purge your  inactive “friends.”

2. Klout: You don’t want to be just a tweeter, right? You want to be an important tweeter. Klout can help you determine just how significant your small business tweets are to your followers. As the Small Business Trends Web site reports, Klout lets you determine if your influence in the world of Twitter is on the rise or on the downswing. This site will analyze more than 25 variables — such as the number of engaged followers you have and the percentage of your followers that are actually spam bots or dead accounts — to create a Klout Score. This number gives you a good idea about how influence potential of your small business tweets.

3. Recommended by Webopedia, the tool helps entrepreneurs find Twitter users who are most important to their business’s success. Users can search tweets for specific keywords. They can also use this tool to separate tweets by factors such as the gender of the people sending the tweets and the positive or negative nature of the tweets.

4. Bubble Tweet: The Small Business CEO site recommends this tool as an easy way for small business owners to introduce themselves and promote their goods or services. By using Bubble Tweet, small business owners can create a short video message for their Twitter profiles. The message pops up in a bubble-shaped video player, hence the name Bubble Tweet.

5. Optify: As Small Business Trends says, the Optify Twitter tool provides a host of applications that can help small business owners more effectively market their services and products. Optify lets users create real-time alerts to track keywords. The site also allows owners to organize their tweets into campaign, enabling business owners to determine if their focused marketing efforts are bearing any fruit.

If you want to use social media to boost your client list, sell more products and build a recognizable brand name in your community, Twitter can help. You just need the right business tools to accomplish these goals.

Make a Connection


By Julie Bawden-Davis

A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Julie blogs via

Running a retail establishment is a challenging undertaking,
but you don’t have to go it alone. A wide variety of organizations
offer support, helping you market and grow your business. The following groups advocate for
small businesses and are dedicated to ensuring they thrive.

1. National Small Business Association (NSBA)

NSBA Facebook Page

NSBA on LinkedIn

Founded in 1937, the NSBA is the oldest small business
advocacy group in the U.S. The organization has a diverse membership covering
all industries. The NSBA promotes free enterprise and advocates state and
federal policies beneficial to small business. Every two years, the NSBA
hosts the Small Business Congress. 

2. National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)

NFIB Facebook Page

NFIB Twitter Page

NFIB LinkedIn Page

NFIB YouTube Page

The NFIB promotes and protects the right of small
business owners to run their businesses, shares useful, timely information and provides
access to a wide variety of business products and services. The organization holds
annual webinar conferences, as well as on-site state seminars. 

3. National Business Association (NBA)

NBA Facebook Page

NBA LinkedIn Page

Created to help small business owners and the
self-employed reach their professional goals, the NBA’s collective buying power
provides members with a variety of business, lifestyle, health and education support

4. U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page

U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Twitter

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents 3 million
businesses throughout the U.S., with more than 96% of members
comprising small companies. The organization strives to give small business
owners a voice and to help companies grow. The chamber holds an annual America’s
Small Business Summit.

5. U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce on LinkedIn

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce on Twitter

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce on YouTube

U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce on Vimeo

Designed to empower women entrepreneurs to take charge of
their financial futures, the USWCC provides its members with information,
education, resources and connections throughout an extensive regional network. The
group holds a leadership conference and Women-Owned-Small Business (WOSB) National
Council meeting each year.    

6. Women’s Small Business Association (WSBAPA)   

Women’s Small Business Association on Twitter

WSBAPA was founded to unite women business owners so that
they can serve as valuable resources to one another. Emphasis is placed on
small and startup businesses. The group’s goal is to foster women’s economic
independence by helping them develop skills, education and networking
experience. The organization holds an annual Entrepreneur Conference and Trade Show.

7. National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

NAWBO Facebook Page

NAWBO on Twitter

NAWBO on LinkedIn

NAWBO strives to encourage women entrepreneurs to empower
themselves economically, socially and politically. The group works toward
economic development in the small business community by building strategic alliances
and influencing public policy. The organization holds the Women’s Business Conference each year.

8. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)

NASE on Facebook

NASE on LinkedIn

NASE on Twitter

NASE on YouTube

Founded to provide self-employed entrepreneurs with the necessary
tools to succeed, the organization offers support and access to experts,
benefits and consolidated buying power. 

Now that you know where to look for assistance and
support, you can choose the best organization to help you meet your business



By Vivian Wagner

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio. Vivian blogs via

It’s become all the buzz in the mobile payments world: Isis.  But what is it? And how did it get where it is today?

Rumors first started flying about a joint venture between
AT&T Mobility, T Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless to create a nationwide
mobile payment infrastructure back in August, 2010.

No specifics were yet
available, and no one knew what this venture would be called or how it would
work, but that didn’t stop bloggers and reporters from speculating about what
it would mean for the industry. And universally, they thought it would shake
everything up.

The official announcement of the venture – and its name,
Isis – came on Nov. 16, 2010. At that time, the company also revealed that
Michael Abbott, who had previously worked for GE Capital, would be named CEO. 

Over the next few months, Isis executives traveled the country to speak
at conferences, conventions, and summits about the company’s mobile payment
system plans.

On April 6, 2011, Isis
announced that Salt Lake City would be one of its first trial markets, and that
it would be working with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to allow payments for
public transportation using mobile devices.  By June, Austin, Texas had been added to the list of early
launch markets.

On July 19, 2011, a partnership was announced between Isis,
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. “Since the formation of Isis
in November, we have been committed to building a mobile commerce platform that
aligns and advances the interests of consumers, merchants and banks,” Abbott
was quoted as saying in the press release. “By working with the nation’s
payment networks – Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express – we
significantly advance the vision of an open and secure platform that provides
banks and merchants with a new and highly relevant way to connect with

Selling the Public

In August, 2011, Isis ramped up its public relations,
releasing a brochure explaining how the Isis Mobile Wallet would allow consumers to make payments, use loyalty cards,
and redeem coupons.

In late September, 2011, Isis made another big
announcement: HTC, LG, Motorola
Mobility, RIM, Samsung Mobile and Sony Ericsson would introduce NFC-enabled
mobile devices implementing Isis’ NFC and technology standards. 

“Isis’ technology standards provide the
direction and certainty needed for the development and deployment of NFC
devices and the mobile commerce ecosystem,” the company’s chief technology
officer, Scott Mulloy, said in a press release. “Working together with the
device makers and our founding mobile carriers, Isis can provide the consumer
choice and scale necessary for widespread adoption of mobile commerce.”

There you have it: a brief history of the company that promises to change the payments world forever. Thanks to Isis, 2012 promises to be the year when a wallet filled with credit cards will become, finally, a thing of the past. 

Introduction to Near Field Communications


Unless you’ve been living in a tech-free bubble, you’ve probably heard rumblings about near field communication (NFC). This technology is hoping to completely change the way consumers pay for goods at both major retailers and small Mom and Pop shops. 

If you’re a business owner looking to upgrade, or just a tech savvy consumer, don’t be left in the dark about how this technology can change your day to day transactions.

What’s NFC?

NFC is a way for two devices to send and receive data from about four inches apart. This means that you the consumer can pay for goods and services by simply swiping your smartphone. With NFC, there’s no more toting a wallet full of credit cards or a wad of cash.

Though this technology has been around since 2003, it’s only really risen to the forefront in the last year. As with any new technology, it suffered some fits and starts. According to an article in, trials conducted between Citibank, Cingular Wireless and the New York City subway, as well as a trial between Nokia and San Francisco’s BART system went nowhere. NFC has been hard to get off the ground because it requires competing wireless carriers and banks to come together. Another issue is that not many phones currently have an NFC chip.

But that’s all about to change. 

Not only are more smartphones being armed with NFC chips, but several wireless companies have recently paired with banks to develop NFC apps. AT&T and Verizon wireless have teamed with Discover Financial Services to develop ISIS. Rumor has it Apple, always at the forefront, is developing its own NFC technology that would link the phone’s credit card information back to the users iTunes account. 

Google has also jumped into the game. According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the company ran a trial in Portland, Ore. called Hotpot. Kits were handed out to local businesses with window decals that used near field communication technology. Any customer with a smartphone that contained an NFC chip, including Google Android users, could scan the decal with their phone and get information on the business, like reviews and operating hours.

So far so good. Sarah Heise of Voodoo Donut, a local business participating in Hotpot is quoted as saying, “It’s something that helps local businesses. It’ll allow us to interact with our customers more, especially the younger, texting generation.”

Working out the Bugs

That’s not to say there isn’t a downside to NFC. While it’s super convenient to have a chip that holds bank information, coupons and loyalty cards, what do you do if you lose your phone? There’s also concern for how secure it is to transmit your information. 

That said, no technology is perfect. Only time will tell whether NFC technology really is the wave of the future, or just another fad that never got off the ground. 

How to Make Black Friday Work for Your Store


By Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman is a writer primarily covering business and technology, but also experienced in food, entertainment, the outdoors. Erik blogs via

As you know, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the day that retailers move into profit, or into the black. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and one that your
small business can take advantage of,

Here are three steps to use to get a great start to the holiday retail season.

1. Be savvy about sales items

Shoppers have adjusted their behavior to a new economic
reality, shying away from free-wheeling credit card use. Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist and chair of the Psychology Department at
Golden Gate University, says the new
watchword for consumers is frugality.

That means stores with aggressive pricing will do well. But rather than offer storewide promotions, smart merchants will carefully decide on which items to put on sale.

Create door
, items that are priced so well they’ll bring people in en masse. Prepare your staff with potential
up-sells and cross-sells that can build margin and make up for these loss
leaders. Display them around the door busters. 

If possible, choose items that are not being offered by competitors. Make them available in limited quantities. That way, you’ll capture the interest of “treasure hunters” and still limit the number of
margin-losing specials you sell. 

Put together gift packages that bundle several items together. Offer
them at a lower price than each would be individually. To make them even
more appealing, save busy shoppers time by having them already gift

2. Outfox super early sales

The big retailers have been competing with each other to see
who will open earliest. It’s gotten so competitive that some stores unlock
their doors on Thanksgiving
 to catch people who can’t wait until after the holiday for a

Rather than meet them head-to-head, why not outfox
the big stores, and smaller competitors, as well? Contact your best customers
and let them reserve items on special sale. Then, set appointments for them to pick them up at their convenience over the weekend.

When you open, make it special for shoppers by offering pastries and coffee. Hand out discount
coupons to early birds
. This tactic has proved useful to major department stores like Lord &
Taylor, Sports Authority, and J. C. Penney.

Free gift wrapping is another incentive to bring in shoppers. How about keeping customers’ purchases at your store? That way, they can be sure that family members won’t  find out in advance what they’re getting.

The point is, you need to provide the extra services that your customers would
appreciate. Then you need to let them know, through both social and mass media, that they’re available, and that you have their best interests at heart.

3. Get the word out

Even the smartest promotions and best pricing won’t bring
people in, if they don’t know about them in advance. In addition to your normal advertising
channels, leverage email lists and
social media to reach people directly.

Be sure you have a clear marketing message. Start
the communications  process early
, so that people are open to it. 

Finally, make sure you can be found on the Internet,
not only by name, but by location and product type, because consumers are
increasingly going online to research products and sellers. Also, if possible, have your website enabled for smartphone browsers.  Google is projecting that 15
percent of Black Friday searches
 will likely be done on a mobile

With the right strategy, you can compete and win business on
Black Friday. That way, your holiday shopping season, as well as your customer’s, will be a profitable one..

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