Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to get people to follow your small business on Twitter

Smart small business owners are aware that branding and social media marketing aren't something that only Fortune 500 companies do and are reaching out to their clientele and potential customers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and other outlets to let them know about who they are and what they offer.  Social media is about engagement, primarily, not sales, although every business hopes and plans that engagement will in some way convert to sales and profitability.  Here are some tips for engaging and succeeding on Twitter.

  • Be famous - Famous people will have followers, lots and lots of followers, no matter how dull their feeds are, just because people find them or their work interesting. Famous people often follow only other famous people on Twitter, so, from a small business point of view, following them is only useful if you are personally enriched by their Twitter feeds.
  • Be polarizing - People feel that there are a number of truths that cannot be expressed in our society and are irritated by the many rules and double standards of discourse. So when someone tweets these inexpressible things, those people find a nice Twitter niche fast. It's safer to retweet something someone else says "ironically" or "informationally" than it is to go out on a limb and tweet it yourself. "Retweets are not endorsements," after all.  However, Twitter has had a significant amount of vigilantism lately, so polarizing is only something you want to be if your brand is built around it. Say, if you're a comedian, or a politician, or both. Others may tweet anonymously with some safety, but that's not possible for the small business.  Be outlandish or overly political with caution.
  • Be funny - Funny people, famous or not, will gather a following on Twitter because they're rare and humor is appreciated.  
  • Be an expert - People who have in-depth knowledge of some science, art, or practice also get plenty of followers. These people border on being famous without being really famous. Most of the world may not know about them, but if they are the foremost expert in the field of anything, a large number of people worldwide will be interested in reading their thoughts.
  • Know a lot of people in real life - A socially expert, gregarious person can develop a decent Twitter following just by informing the people she knows about her Twitter feed. Put a link to your Twitter account in your Facebook status or on your Pinterest page. If you're a likable person, you can easily get followers this way.
  • Join in a passionate Twitter conversation - the #FF (Follow Friday) hashtag has been used to make connections and advertise interesting Twitter accounts, but this is overused and not very interesting. Does anyone really care if you follow someone else? Only if you're famous or otherwise very unique. However, participating in Twitter conversations can get your followers if you offer something novel, relevant or insightful to the conversation. You'd be surprised by the bump in followers one good conversation (or argument) can bring you.
  • Tweet interesting, real, helpful, original content - Pictures, jokes, fun facts, reportage of interesting events, opinions (cautiously). People are looking to be entertained and informed.  Think of what entertains and informs you and people like you and how you might put that into 140 characters and/or an image - that's good stuff.  
  • Any combination of the above - If you're famous, polarizing and funny, you can tweet pretty much whatever you want and it will get favorited and retweeted ad infinitum. If Jon Stewart were to tweet a picture of his dog's new puppies - well, we'd better hope Twitter has the bandwidth.

What if you aren't famous, polarizing, funny, or a widely recognized expert in your field?  What if your business is, say, an orthodontist in a small city? You're not famous, you're not the foremost expert in orthodontic practice, and being polarizing would only cost you customers, not earn or keep them. Look to the last tips then. See if people you know in real life will connect to you, particularly people in your field.  Converse with them on Twitter. Offer some useful knowledge that you have about tooth structure or managing the expense of braces. Answer questions people have about crooked teeth. Give a few tips and tricks away, and generally show that you know what you're talking about and can solve real problems. Tweet Before & After pictures of your successes. Give your patients and their parents an incentive to connect with you on social media.

Most importantly, regularly update your Twitter feed and answer any questions or solve any problems that your patients address to you on social media.  You want to be seen as involved, responsive, interesting, and three-dimensional. That is the way to get your name out there and to turn Twitter users into patients.  

Twitter - and the rest of social media - may seem like a waste of time, but more people, and especially more young people, are using online methods of experiencing and communicating with the world. You definitely want to be a part of that.

Friday, January 10, 2014

5 Ways to Create a More Sustainable Workspace

Do you know which materials went into producing the desk chair you sit in every day or how energy efficient your office building is? Sustainable interior design has not had as much time in the green spotlight as hybrid or electric cars, but it has a much larger impact on our everyday lives than many are aware of. With the impressive increase of LEED-certified buildings in previous years, architecture and design companies have been making massive strides to ensure interior sustainability, creating healthy and sustainable interior designs for workers to benefit from.
What is sustainable interior design? Green or sustainable interior design focuses on the elimination of harmful environmental elements through thoughtful and skillful design in a room. Sustainable interior designers aim to create rooms that are safe for occupants to establish long-term relationships with their surroundings. Designers are mindful of the health, wellness, and user-efficiency of the room’s occupants. They are aware of how the furniture was manufactured and how they can increase energy efficiency in the design and flow of a room. They strive to ensure the long-term preservation of indoor atmospheres so occupants remain healthy and productive. Five aspects they focus on to make a space greener are:

  • Lighting. There are now many industrial and commercial lighting options that are considerably less energy intensive and meet international standards for environmental impact. LED lighting utilizes Light-Emitting Diodes as the source of light. These diodes emit large amounts of lumens while conserving wattage. Another way of conserving energy is to incorporate as much natural light into a space as possible through the use of windows, skylights, and clear or opaque walls. 
  • Furniture. Many manufacturers use greener methods of production, making the office furniture itself greener. Responsible companies offer their clients the specific details of how their products are produced and delivered. They build from the scrap generated by other industries; some of it is 100% post-industrial recycled content. Designers who care about sustainability check to see that any chairs or desks a business uses are not made from endangered rainforest wood species, but only from sustainably forested wood. Non-wood pieces can be sustainable as well. BioFlex is a chair foam that is made with soybeans grown by American farmers. Leather supplied should be 100% recyclable, and synthetic fabrics are vetted for health consciousness. Metal products should not emit unfriendly waste, as plated chrome does. Stainless steel is better. 
  • Walls. In today’s workspaces, many of these are portable instead of fixed, allowing for more flexibility of design and better use of architecture and light. Movable walls can be made from recycled glass, wood and metal. 
  • Heating and cooling. Much of a building’s energy efficiency is determined by its architecture and systems, but designers with an eye on future costs and comfort will pay attention to window treatments, seasonal ambient temperatures and worker placement within a workspace. 
  • Water. By using low-flow toilets and automatic faucets in an office setting, thousands of gallons of water can be saved. One toilet can consume as much as 7 gallons of water per flush. Multiply this by the number of employees in a large office, and that is a lot of wasted water and money. Improperly designed bathrooms can also be breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. Designers who monitor employee use can help create continuously healthier spaces. 

Why is sustainable interior design important? Designers who focus on sustainability have advanced knowledge of the furniture and other materials that are incorporated into floor plans as well as employee habits of use. Creating greener workspaces can be a time and paperwork intensive venture, but the rewards will pay out for years to come in health, safety, money, and conservation of our natural resources. These are the offices, classrooms and other rooms that we spend much of our time in - they should not be toxic to our physical and mental health, but should inspire us to work better and more productively.