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5 Tips to keep your business thriving digitally during COVID-19 shutdown

Here are five tips for keeping your businesses digitally productive during the coronavirus shutdown.

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Photo by Johnson Wang from Unsplash.com

COVID-19 isn’t only a global health crisis. As the lockdowns continue to stretch, its socio-economic impacts are also being highlighted, with millions of companies worldwide at risk of being forced out of business. This is particularly more apparent among MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) and their workers.

But being stuck at home (or wherever you may be, as a business owner) need not be entirely futile. True North Social, an L.A.-based digital agency that specializes in small to medium-sized businesses – and that is constantly testing new ways of reaching potential customers for clients – shares five tips for keeping your businesses digitally productive during the coronavirus shutdown.

1. People are home, and they are shopping online.

No one wants to go into a public place if they can avoid it. Consumers who are used to consuming, and still have the means, are prepped for digital spending.  E-commerce brands should have ads ready to coincide.

2. Take Advantage of the “work from home” users.

Currently there are 113 million Instagram accounts active in the US alone. In a 2018 survey, 29% of US workers said they could work from home without any issues. Double that number during this pandemic and you get a potential 65.5 million people staying home using their devices and reachable with your message/product.

3. Stay the course.

In the words of the 1999’s comedy classic, Galaxy Quest, “Never Give Up. Never Surrender.”  Even if your business is shut down temporarily you can keep its message alive online. Positivity is an immune booster. Pivot and be creative. When the dust settles, plan to come out kicking. 

4. Do all those digital marketing tasks you’ve been meaning to.

You definitely have a website, have you posted a blog recently? Maybe do two?

We know you listen to podcasts. If you always thought, “I could do that” – draft useful info from your field of expertise; set up a microphone and post your audio links to social media!  

Haven’t yet spent money reaching out to Influencers?  They’re home now too.  Direct message targeted influencers and get some conversations going.

5. Try new avenues to increase your reach.

Did you know for about $20; you can reach around 18,000 Facebook users? You have time now to test and scale ads – and reach people hiding from the virus. 

Need to spruce up or create Facebook ads?  Try apps like Mojo, Story Art, or Unfold.  Did you know video on Facebook has a whopping 86% higher reach than YouTube?

Google too complicated for you? Third party tools like SEM Rush are user friendly and can help you determine keywords that are less competitive, thus less expensive to compete over.

BizNews

Emojis make tourism advertising on social media more effective, appealing

The use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

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The use of congruent messages and emojis when promoting tourist destinations on social media leads to greater user attention. This strategy helps users to process the information effectively and reduces their cognitive effort. More specifically, the use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

This is according to a research – “The effect of online message congruence, destination-positioning, and emojis on users’ cognitive effort and affective evaluation” – that was published in the Journal of Destination Marketing & Management.

The study, which was carried out at the University of Granada’s Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre (CIMCYC), consisted of an experiment using eye-tracking techniques on 60 users of the social network Facebook. These individuals underwent a series of experimental procedures in which the researchers manipulated the level of congruence between the messages of those posting and the users, the use or omission of emojis in the content, and the way in which the tourist destination was positioned in the media (natural environment, gastronomy, hotels, sun and beach).

The UGR research team, which includes Beatriz García Carrión, Francisco Muñoz Leiva, Salvador del Barrio García and Lucia Porcu, point out that the study “clearly illustrates the benefits in terms of the effectiveness of using congruent messages in marketing communications in general, and especially in digital communications via social media, as well as how the use of emojis contributes to improving users’ information processing, increasing their attention and reducing the cognitive effort involved. Moreover, congruent messages not only facilitate users’ information processing, but also improve their affective evaluation — a crucial aspect when it comes to making a decision on a tourist destination.”

The key findings included:

  • Importance of maintaining a high level of congruence in the information they convey through social media. As the researchers explain: “This involves systematically reviewing and managing comments across all communication channels to identify any comments that do not align with the destination’s desired positioning, with a view to mitigating potential negative effects.”
  • Pictorial representations (emojis) significantly enhance the overall comprehension of the information. However, the study did not find a significant impact of emojis on the formation of affective evaluations.
  • Tourism managers should focus on information related to the destination’s gastronomy and natural environment, rather than more conventional aspects such as sun and beach facilities or hotel offerings, as the former attract more attention and are perceived more favorably, even under low levels of congruence.

The research findings suggest a shift in the preferences of potential consumers towards more nature-based tourism. “Therefore, tourism managers should place greater emphasis on communicating aspects related to the environment and sustainability of the tourist destination in their social media posts, thereby reaping benefits in terms of visual attention and affective evaluations,” the researchers stressed.

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BizNews

Cultivating relationships with former employees important – study

One of the biggest mistakes employers make is not supporting workers on their way out, and then turning around and saying they want to stay in touch.

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For many people, leaving a job can be like leaving a family — and because of the personal and professional bonds they’ve forged, many naturally stay in touch with their former coworkers and keep apprised of what’s happening in the organization.

But what happens when companies make a concerted effort to bolster those bonds, help former employees in their careers and keep them in the loop? According to new research from the UBC Sauder School of Business, it can have big benefits for both employees and employers.

For the paper, researchers studied a wide range of businesses — from top law firms to Starbucks — to understand why organizations are putting time and resources into solidifying ties with ex-employees, also known as alumni.

The researchers propose that alumni-organization relationships (AORs) are particularly important to companies because alumni have a unique mix of insider knowledge and outside-world information and contacts. This can be valuable if employees return as contractors, or move on to companies that might do business with their former employer. Companies can also gain a boost to branding and reputation because maintaining these relationships shows they support employees even after they move on.

“Traditionally, AORs were most common in professional service firms. But as it becomes more common for workers to job hop over the course of their career, we are seeing more organizations investing in relationships with alumni,” said UBC Sauder assistant professor Dr. Rebecca Paluch.

For some organizations, AORs help generate new business. Many law firms support AORs because junior lawyers move on and end up in general counsel roles new organizations. If they need to hire outside counsel, the continuing relationship with their former employer may encourage them to hire that firm.

Companies like Starbucks appreciate the fact that AORs boost their brand image in the community. “They call all of their stores ‘third communities’ because they want to make people feel welcome and like they’re part of something when they visit the stores,” said Dr. Paluch, who co-authored the study with Dr. Christopher Zatzick of Simon Fraser University and Dr. Lisa Nishii of Cornell University. “AORs are in line with the overall branding of building community and keeping people connected.”

Programs that support AORs can offer a variety of benefits to alumni, including newsletters and updates about alumni and the company, career resources, job boards, training and development opportunities and in-person networking.

One of the primary challenges in forming AORs is there is no set playbook, said Dr. Paluch. There are established norms for employee management when it comes to practices like hiring, compensation and benefits, but standard practices don’t exist for managing relationships with alumni after they move on.

In order to develop successful AORs, organizations need to think about their outreach to alumni through broad communication with a wide-range of alumni as well as strategically target alumni who can bring back the most value to the company. It’s also important to encourage current employees to stay in contact with alumni so they can help bring knowledge and resources back into the organization.

The most successful programs, she adds, involve input from former workers. “It’s important to make sure the organization is getting alumni feedback so they’re meeting their needs and not just offering things because some other company is doing it,” advised Dr. Paluch.

One of the biggest mistakes employers make is not supporting workers on their way out, and then turning around and saying they want to stay in touch. “If employees are having terrible exit experiences, then it shouldn’t be surprising if they don’t want to stay in touch after they leave.”

The idea of cultivating relationships between alumni and organizations might seem counterintuitive because it can make leaving more palatable, said Dr. Paluch. But savvy companies realize today’s workers are highly mobile, so it makes sense to keep a positive relationship even after they’re gone.

“We’ve been seeing tenure decline over the past few decades, and most employees move on to a new company after four or five years,” said Dr. Paluch. “Strategically, organizations might as well consider, ‘If we can’t keep them in the organization, how can we at least keep them connected to the organization?’”

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Strategies

Top tips to help businesses prepare for spring

Here are steps for businesses to ensure their readiness for this spring.

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QBE North America is sharing best practices to help businesses navigate the potential challenges ahead. With a season expected to alternate between late snowfalls and severe weather events, businesses must be well-prepared for a range of weather-related risks.  

“As we transition from the colder months into a notably unpredictable spring season, businesses need to recognize potential risks and strengthen their preparedness,” said Ted Cabaniss, AVP, Field Surveying, QBE North America. “Effective planning and preparedness are key to mitigating potential disruptions and accelerating recovery efforts in the face of adverse weather events.”

QBE North America recommends the following steps for businesses to ensure their readiness for this spring:

Plan

  • Ensure access to and clearly mark all utility shut-off valves (e.g., water, sprinkler, gas, etc.) and know when and how to use them.
  • Reassess and update your business continuity strategies to include alternate suppliers for a swift recovery from potential disruptions.
  • Create an emergency plan and conduct regular drills of the plan with all team members.

Inspect and Maintain

  • Schedule comprehensive fleet maintenance service checks on company vehicles, including brake systems, wiper blades, tire pressure and oil levels and filters.
  • Evaluate and prune trees and landscaping to mitigate risk of damage to structures and/or power supply.
  • Inspect plumbing and pipes for signs of wear or damage to prevent water leaks.
  • Assess walkways, ramps and outdoor spaces for any damage and address as needed.
  • Perform maintenance on any electrical systems, including backup generators and exterior lighting.
  • For facilities with recreational areas, ensure all equipment is safe and operational.
  • Verify the functionality of sump pumps and water removal systems.
  • Conduct a thorough test of fire safety and security systems.

Clean

  • Remove accumulated clutter and debris inside and around the exterior of the property.
  • Safely dispose of unused flammable materials and ensure proper storage of necessary chemicals.
  • Clear and clean gutters, surface drains and grates and conduct a roof inspection of roof drains and HVAC condensate lines.
  • Address any landscape erosion and/or modifications needed to maintain effective drainage.
  • Maintain air quality by cleaning or replacing HVAC filters and ensuring systems are professionally serviced.
  • Organize and store winter equipment and properly secure flammable materials.

In the aftermath of property damage, prompt and efficient actions can help businesses address the issues quickly and safeguard against further harm. Here are tips from QBE if a disaster were to occur:

Respond

  • Conduct a damage assessment as soon as the area is safe to enter.
  • Inspect all fire safety systems, including sprinklers, fire extinguishers and related components, for any signs of physical damage.
  • Document the extent of the damage using photos and/or videos and secure any damaged parts/equipment for examination before initiating any cleanup efforts, restoration or repairs.
  • Ensure damaged equipment is properly cleaned and dried and have its electrical integrity professionally assessed.
  • Arrange for a certified technician to inspect and service heating and cooling systems before they are reactivated.
  • Exercise caution when using portable or emergency generators and avoid locations near air intakes. Monitor for carbon monoxide buildup, power backfeeds and improper fueling.

“Unforeseen losses can occur despite the best preparations,” said Monique McQueen, VP, Property Claims, QBE North America. “Check in with your insurer to review your insurance policy and discuss any operational, property and/or workforce changes to ensure you have the right coverage.”

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