The decision to lift a restriction requiring real names on Google+ will have implications on small business users and marketers too. Google+ has announced a decision to rollback its ‘real names’ policy. Since it started three years ago, Google+ has pushed heavily for the use of real user names on its platform. Last November, Google pushed even harder by making it mandatory for all YouTube commenters to sign in with a Google+ profile. This was done in an attempt to clean up and remove all unwanted and otherwise vulgar content from the YouTube commenting system. The move sent YouTube users into a frenzy almost immediately. Many of them claimed Google’s real names policy and forced integration on YouTube was part of a war on anonymity . However, with lifting the ban on pseudonyms, it seems Google+ is becoming more open to the idea of having anonymous users. In a post on the official Google+ account, the company explained : “When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.” More Youth Please! At a time when younger users were fleeing big networks like Facebook for more private social apps like Kik and Snapchat, it seems Google+ was pushing in the wrong direction. It could be this realization that has given Google+ its newfound acceptance for anonymity. Google+ has received a lot of criticism in the past for its lack of members. Some have even speculated about the future of Google+ after the resignation of Vic Gundotra, Vice President of Social for Google earlier this year. While it may not be the ‘zombie’ it’s often portrayed to be, the network does lack the number of users some of the older platforms have. That’s especially true when it comes to younger users. And this is where the removal of the “real name” requirement may impact small business users and those who use Google+ for marketing the most. If Google+ wants to grow, it will definitely need the help of the younger generation. Removing restrictions like the real names policy should help to do that. What This Means for YouTube The policy change means that YouTube is once again open to anonymous comments too. That’s exactly why Google forced integration on YouTube users in the first place. So does this mean YouTube Comments will go back to what they were before? Yonatan Zunger , chief architect at Google+ says, “I don’t think so:” “I spent two years working closely with the YouTube team on comments, and I think we have a much better understanding of what turned them into the wretched hive of scum and villainy we all know. It had to do with more subtle aspects of the interface there: things like top comments rewarding people for getting the most interaction, rather than the most positive interaction.” YouTubers may be the ones affected most by this policy change at first. Existing Google+ users aren’t likely to change their usernames, especially since many of them are growing brands. And new users will never have to deal with it, unless of course, Google+ changes its mind again. The question is whether the move will spur growth in Google+ membership or simply lead to more spam and other bad behavior that will ultimately make it less useful as a networking and marketing tool. Google Photo via Shutterstock The post Google+ Lifts Real Names Only Policy appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Google’s latest earnings call was a bit mixed – while Google saw a 22% increase in revenue over last year, bringing earnings to $15.96 billion in the second quarter of 2014, and the search giant narrowly beat analyst projections of $15.6 billion in revenue, their ad sales in the US and the UK, their two major markets, have slowed. Non-US revenue (excluding the UK) of $7.7 billion accounted for 48% of total revenue. Their earnings per share were considered a miss as well, at $6.08. The proliferation of ads in emerging markets worldwide drove profits to $3.42 billion for the period, up from $3.23 billion in Q2 2013. More people are clicking on Google ads – a lot more. Total paid ad clicks were up 25% over last year and up 2% over the first quarter of 2014. However, the average cost per click is falling as CPC is down 6% from the same period last year (click graph below to enlarge ). This is a continuation of a two-year trend. If you’ll remember, most of the PPC industry believed Enhanced Campaigns would drive up average cost per click, but that hasn’t panned out . The fact that CPC’s continue to fall is great news for advertisers. But is it good news for Google? They’re showing impressive growth, but it’s still an earnings miss, so you can bet that they’re going to continue aggressive monetization of the SERP: Sponsored results, AKA paid search ads, no longer have a colored background , but rather a small label. When ads are less obviously ads, they can take up more of the SERP without users noticing. Again, this is actually beneficial for advertisers – good for you if they think your ad is a natural result. The recent deletion of authorship photos from the SERP , followed closely by the loss of video snippets might point to a larger trend: Is Google going to remove all visual elements from the organic results, so that only the paid ads have eye-grabbing images? If so, that sucks for SEOs. Here’s the old ad look: And here’s the new ad look: That yellow background stood out more than the yellow label, wouldn’t you say? Since greater mobile adoption and increased penetration into international markets are continuing to drive average CPC down, Google has no choice but to look for growth in increased overall impressions and clicks. You know what that means: More ads – everywhere. You can read the rest of the earnings results  (PDF) straight from Google. Mobile Photo via Shutterstock The post Q2 Earnings Show CPC Down, So Where’s Google’s Growth Coming From? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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How many entrepreneurs would forsake a lucrative market and a well-established business model for a less established but ultimately more satisfying niche? That’s what photographer Olesha Haskett-Basma did when she abandoned wedding photography. Here’s more of her story in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE THE BUSINESS OFFERS: Boudoir and portrait photographs. Yep, you heard us right. Haskett-Basma was on a safe and secure path to success, it seemed, when she launched Oh Experience Photography seven years ago. She booked her very first wedding gig the same month she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Shepherd University. But eventually, she would feel creatively unsatisfied. As a result she decided to take her career and business in a more…er…intimate direction. Haskett-Basma’s photos are very tasteful. But clearly the market she was aiming at now is less established and ultimately more risky. THE BIGGEST RISK THE BUSINESS TOOK: Leaving wedding photography behind. It probably goes without saying that the biggest risk Haskett-Basma took in her business was leaving the safety of wedding photography behind. Though she admits it was lucrative, she also admits her heart was no longer in it. Leaving wedding photography proved to be an extreme risk and it turned out there was plenty of reason to be concerned. But ultimately, Haskett-Basma believes the decision has made her better at her craft…and perhaps a more effective marketer too. She recalls: “I almost went out of business when I traded in weddings photography for boudoir photography about 3 years ago. I had to build a new clientele. I stayed in business by using models to get better at my craft and built a blog.” WHAT THE BUSINESS IS BEST KNOWN FOR: Personality and rapport. Perhaps the thing that has changed the least about Haskett-Basma’s business is the thing that has ultimately made her succession. She explains: “I am known for my ease with my clients. I make everyone feel beautiful and comfortable in my boudoir sessions. In my portrait sessions I am known for going the extra mile, especially in children’s photography. I never pose the children, I allow them to be who they are. That way, I am able to capture their personality. I do everything they do, even crawl on the ground.” BIGGEST WIN: 39th Assembly for the Links, Inc. Among her greatest wins, Haskett-Basma lists being asked to photograph the 39th Assembly for the Links, Inc. recently, an international non-profit organization for professional women of color. The assignment came about after a photographer Haskett-Basma had worked with years ago became unavailable to do the event. The other photographer remembered Haskett-Basma for her winning personality and asked her to sit  in. The event became not only a plumb assignment but a great opportunity to network. WHAT YOUR BUSINESS WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY: Start with her first love. Despite the risks and the rough patch she went through, the one thing Haskett-Basma insists she would change if she had it to do all over again, is to start with what she loves. That would have meant starting in the portrait and boudoir niche and bypassing the wedding photography business completely. The reason, says Haskett-Basma, is simple. While she insists that weddings are, in some ways, not only more lucrative but also easier, she also believes the work she does now plays more to her strengths. She explains: “I would have done this because I love to work one on one with clients. I love building a session around a clients personality.” * * * * * Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program. Image: Oh Experience Photography The post Entrepreneur Quits Wedding Photography for a Different Focus appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Recently, a client of ours asked us to recommend a structure to integrate design competency into their organization. We performed a quick audit of existing structures. From this audit, we developed this graphic that associates structural integration to role of design and impact to business. Continue reading →

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The importance of words can’t be understated when you’re trying to attract today’s would-be franchise business owners. People looking into franchising have many (3,000+) choices along with many different ways to find out about them. Some of them include: Franchise and business opportunity publications Franchise opportunity portals and directories Local franchise expos Local franchise seminars Franchise brokers There are others, but you get the idea. The trick is to get them interested in your franchise offering. And, you need to do it skillfully. Bombarding today’s consumers with message after message doesn’t cut it anymore. So, how do you do it? With words. Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Are you using them for maximum advantage? Do the words on your franchise website (and in your literature) take readers where they want to go? Or, are you simply listing features and benefits…hoping they’ll be enough to entice readers to request more information about your amazing opportunity? Your readers want (and need) to be able “see” themselves in your business…to see themselves as owners. Are you helping them do that? You Need A Good Writer Who’s been writing your web copy ? Who’s in charge of writing your sales literature? Is it someone from your marketing department? Is it an outside agency? Is it a freelancer? Is it you? The real question is this: Is your copy being written by the best writer you have – or, is it just being written? A Future Entrepreneur A couple of weeks ago, my “little” cousin from Florida was in town. Noah is 15 years old, stands 6’3 and throws a mean fastball. Sources within my family told me that he had “a few questions about business for me,” on this trip, so I made sure to set aside some time for him. He asked some questions about franchising-like which ones are the hottest now , how much they cost etc. Next, came a few career questions. We talked about college and the kinds of courses he may want to consider taking as they relate to business…entrepreneurship. I ended our conversation with a tip – the same one I gave his older brother who’s in the process of selecting a college this year - learn how to write. I told both of my cousins about the importance of writing these days. That’s because if you can write, a lot of doors can open up for you. Then I encouraged them to start a blog about something they’re interested in to get ahead of the game…to hone their talents. And I hope they do. Speaking Of Blogs Creating a blog for your franchise opportunity website can be a great way to get the word out (pun intended) about your offering. If you already have a blog setup on your franchise website, are you updating it weekly? If not, you need to. If you can’t, hire someone to help you keep fresh and relevant content front and center. There are several good companies around that specialize in providing blog content. If you don’t have a blog, you need to consider starting one. While it’s true that there are lots of blogs around these days, millions of them actually, most of them aren’t very good and a large number of them aren’t even active. Having an active blog attached to your current website can help visitors get to know your concept and your brand. With a blog, you can write about your opportunity, as well as the products and services your franchisees offer, in a super-conversational style, allowing readers to feel like you’re talking to them. For example, if you offer a healthy-food franchise , you can write about the specific things you do to keep your menu healthy. If you offer a franchise that does disaster cleanup and restoration, you can share individual stories about some of the people you helped. If you offer pet-related services, maybe you can share some cute stories about the pets your franchisees have worked with. Better yet, feature some adoptable pets on your blog, and their stories. Can you think of specific topics you can write about as they pertain to your opportunity? I hope I succeeded in getting you thinking about the words you’re using to promote your opportunity and how you’re using them. Take some time to look over your website. Does it need some freshening up? Is it finally time for you to start a blog? Is the right person doing your writing? Burger King Photo via Shutterstock The post The Importance Of Words in Franchising appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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This presentation introduces the 21 coolest internet of things gadgets – connected smart devices you would want to own. Continue reading →

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Sponsored Post If you’re in the market for a new, full-feature business phone, look no further than the AT&T Syn248 business phone system. This system is ideal for small to mid-sized businesses that need a robust feature set that won’t break the bank. Syn248 is a cost-effective solution with broad functionality, enabling businesses to do more for less. One of the highlights of the Syn248 business phone system? Installation is a breeze. As a business owner, you don’t want the hassle of tearing through a bulky manual to get your phone system working. With Syn248, you can have your phones up and running in mere minutes. With only two components to order and set-up – a gateway and desksets – it sets the bar for simplicity. And if you need to add more users, that’s not a problem – just add more desksets! The system can grow with your business, supporting up to 24 extensions and eight analog lines. Syn248 system components integrate directly with your existing local area network, eliminating the need for additional hardware or cabling. Say goodbye to that extra wiring and clutter. No headaches or heavy equipment to get this system up and running. Additionally, by setting up the system independently, you can forego ongoing support contracts or fees. The do-it-yourself installation is just one of the many highlights of the Syn248 business phone system. Small and medium businesses desire the same top-of-the-line technology that larger businesses utilize, but affordability can be an issue. With AT&T’s Syn248, you won’t need to skimp on features that keep your business thriving. Features like music on hold, a dual-mode auto attendant, and DECT 6.0 technology are all included. Built-in sophisticated call routing allows you to set up ring groups so you’ll never have to worry about missing a call or losing a sales opportunity. And, Syn248 is backed by free customer service, free software upgrades and a limited two-year warranty, helping keep your peace of mind. You can learn more about Syn248 and watch an informational video here . If you’re looking for an affordable, feature-rich phone system that can grow with your company, the AT&T Syn248 business phone system is the perfect choice. Image: AT&T The post Getting More for Less: The AT&T Syn248 Business Phone System appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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When it comes to your small business website, responsive design can really give your online business a boost. A responsive website will automatically adjust to whatever device a visitor is viewing it on—whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. And with so many customers using mobile to access your website, responsive design makes it easy to ensure every visitor has a seamless experience. Pair responsive design with WordPress, the powerful—and free—web hosting platform that powers countless websites from personal and small business to international corporations, and you’ve got a winning combination. Here are ten of the best free responsive WordPress themes that have responsive design built right in. Simplify Designed especially for small business, the elegant Simplify template is a responsive theme with more than 100 custom theme options and features. The template includes a 3D slider, customizable header, background and menus, widget-ready right sidebar and footer, and a tool for inserting customer quotes, among other features. There’s also a paid version with extra themes, built-in WooCommerce functionality, and other additional features. Revera Built on the mobile-ready Bootstrap 3 framework that powers Twitter, the Revera WordPress theme includes a custom homepage template and custom menus, widget-ready areas, portfolio page templates, featured images, a homepage slider, customizable ad banner settings, and more. This template is great for web designers, freelancers, and other small businesses with online portfolios to showcase. Corpo With a clean, simple design and lots of features, Corpo is a responsive website theme that can work well for any small business. The theme features filterable portfolio tools, as well as a homepage slider, custom widgets, two menu locations, a contact page template, and several theme options that let you change the look of your website with a few clicks. Business Lite 4 A touch-friendly theme with a configurable drag-and-drop interface, Business Lite 4 lets you create an incredibly responsive and interactive website. The responsive WordPress theme is fully customizable, allowing you to add drag-and-drop elements on a per-page basis to build a unique, mobile-friendly website for your small business. Enigma A large header with a jQuery slider header and a custom site intro tool make Enigma stand out. This responsive WordPress theme lets you display featured images from selected categories on the home page, and comes with customizable widget areas, custom menus, and a configurable banner sidebar. Vantage A flexible and multipurpose responsive WordPress theme, Vantage is ideal for eCommerce stores. This free responsive and retina-ready theme comes with built-in WooCommerce functionality. Additionally, Vantage is integrated with Page Builder and MetaSlider, and includes a custom background and custom menus. Attitude Clean, responsive design and a retina-ready display are the hallmarks of Attitude , a free WordPress theme that comes packed with options. Attitude includes a variety of template options with both narrow and wide site layouts, a featured slider, four widget areas, back-end webmaster tools, and plenty of customizable content—background, menus, logos, CSS, webclip icons, and more. BizFlare Easy to use out of the box, BizFlare is already set up for your business with two ready-to-use color schemes, or you can customize your own. The home page template features a welcome section, three products/services blocks, and a section for client quotes and testimonials. Additional features for this responsive WordPress theme include widget areas, two different page layouts, and built-in, customizable social media icons in the footer. Rolex An upscale theme with premium features, Rolex gives your small business website an elegant and professional look. The home page includes a jQuery slider and a custom widget section to showcase products or services, and the blog page template features a grid layout for a polished, easy-to-read appearance. Opulus Sombre The modern, cleanly designed Opulus Sombre template for WordPress is extensively customizable, with an extensive collection of free custom themes to choose from. This responsive WordPress theme comes with a custom homepage layout, custom headers, and up to 20 custom widgetized sidebars. You can also adjust the colors, fonts, page templates, and more. Responsive Design Photo via Shutterstock The post Best 10 Responsive WordPress Themes for Small Business – All Free appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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More and more people want to build a company in Berlin, and if it fails, well, it’s OK. Let’s discover two Berliner hot-spots which support innovation: Axel Springer Plug & Play and Ideas, and Berlin Partner Continue reading →

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Can you be sued for publishing public records on your website? The obvious answer might seem like “no.” But in a rapidly changing landscape in which many online businesses rely on public records for some of the services they provide to visitors and customers, it can still become an issue. Consider the instance of frivolous lawsuits filed by author and journalist Kenneth Eng against websites like Techdirt and a site called PACERMonitor , which monitors and publishes public court findings. In the suits, Eng claimed that his personal information, including name and address, are private and cannot be published or shared online, even though they were part of his own public court filings. TechDirt and PACERMonitor were only making available public documentation from Eng’s own lawsuits against another author when they were sued the first time. These lawsuits were quickly dismissed by Judge Eric N. Vitaliano of U.S. District Court in New York. Eng sued TechDirt again for releasing “personal information” in his public suits against both websites and these were again dismissed. It seems unlikely the latest suit filed again as a result of the ongoing coverage, will be any more successful. If it were actually illegal or a violation of privacy to publish public documents or information, any local newspaper or publication that prints police reports, news from government meetings or trial coverage would likely be sued constantly. But, as Techdirt Publisher Mick Masnick pointed out in a note on the website, even frivolous suits can have damaging effects: “No matter how confident you are in prevailing in a lawsuit, getting sued is still both a waste of resources and a massive distraction. Thus, we’re quite pleased with Judge Vitaliano’s handling of the case in this manner.” So could online publishers face frivolous lawsuits when using public information in the future? The Techdirt lawsuit and others like it haven’t made it far. But any lawsuit at all can be too much for many small businesses. For now, all businesses can really do is be aware of the possibility and try to avoid publishing documents or information that might lead to frivolous lawsuits, if they don’t have the resources to deal with them. Fortunately, courts have a low tolerance for the kind of lawsuits filed by people like Eng. The key is to know the law as it applies to use of public documents. Make sure you abide by the law so that any action filed against you will have no real merit and can be dismissed quickly. Gavel Photo via Shutterstock The post Can Your Website Be Sued for Publishing Public Records? appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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