Herald-Tribune’s Best Places to Work Annual Ranking

Is your company one of the best places to work in our region?  Now is your chance to find out!

Nominate your company for the Herald-Tribune’s 2018 Best Places to Work. Registration is open through July 13 and can be entered at HTBestPlacesToWork.com.BestPlacestoWork_2018_logos

Best Places to Work is a survey competition to determine which participants are the best employers in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The two-part survey process recognizes companies that demonstrate workplace excellence and are known for retaining and recruiting the best and brightest employees.

Independent firm Best Companies Group evaluates the selection and ranking of entries and winners are published in the Herald-Tribune. The contest is open for for-profit or nonprofit companies as well as those publicly or privately held entities. All must maintain a facility in Sarasota or Manatee and maintain a minimum of 15 permanent, non-contract employees working locally.

Companies that choose to participate are assessed on two factors: A questionnaire about company policies, practices, demographics and benefits; and, a survey of randomly selected employees at each firm. The employees will respond anonymously to 78 statements on a five-point agreement scale, as well as a handful of open-ended questions and demographic inquiries.

Best Companies Group analyzes and ranks participating firms in eight areas: leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; role satisfaction; work environment; relationships with supervisors; training, development and resources; pay and benefits; and, overall engagement.

The Herald-Tribune will recognize the 2018 Best Places to Work in a special section that publishes in November. A celebration luncheon will be hosted on Nov. 7 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota to announce the results of the surveys and list the Top 25 local employers.

Apply today!

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7 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business

Grow your small business with LinkedIn by using these seven proven tactics.

There are nearly 30 million small businesses in the United States, but only half of them will make it past five years. To ensure your small business is in the successful half, we encourage you to capitalize on the various ways LinkedIn can evolve your business.

With LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you can generate leads, produce sales, and hire top professionals to fuel your growth. Here are seven ways to grow your business using LinkedIn:

  1. Create a LinkedIn Company Page

We’ve found that LinkedIn members are 50% more likely to buy once they’ve engaged with your business on LinkedIn. But they can’t connect with you if you don’t have a LinkedIn Company Page. According to Forbes, only 57% of companies have pages. The remaining 43% are missing out on a free opportunity to generate leads, talent, and, ultimately, revenue.

If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn Company Page. Personal profiles don’t have the same marketing, advertising, and recruiting features as Company Pages, making them less effective at promoting your business. As you create your page, think about the kind of impression you want to create among potential customers and employees. This will help you select the right photos and messages to use on your page.

For a step-by-step guide on how to create an above and beyond Company Page, view our LinkedIn Company Page Best Practices.

  1. Promote Your Company Page

Once you have a Company Page, announce it to your clients, employees, and personal network. This will help you gain your first followers, who in turn will help to promote your Company Page on the content you post to it.

Promoting your page on other platforms or via email is also a great way to grow your audience. Here are some simple ways to get the word out:

  • Announce the launch of the Company Page on your personal LinkedIn profile
  • Encourage employees to follow the Company Page by making it a part of your onboarding process—Social Media Today reports that content shared by employees receives eight times the engagement as brand shared content
  • Link to your Company Page in the footer of your marketing emails or newsletters
  • Embed a Company Follow button on your website so visitors can easily follow your LinkedIn Company Page
  1. Share Content Regularly

The more you post, the more people you can potentially reach and convert. Best-in-class LinkedIn Company Pages are consistently updated to ensure that visitors have plenty of new content to consume and share.

To get started, try posting at least once per week. It’s not uncommon for companies to post three or more times per day. Post whenever you have something worth saying. Posting consistently shows Company Page visitors that your company is active on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn’s Company Page analytics to see your top performing updates, your best times to post, and which members of your audience are the most engaged. With this information, it’s easy to make data-driven decisions to optimize your Company Page content.

In addition to posting often, here are a few more stats to help you boost engagement:

  • Posts with links receive up to 45% more engagement
  • Images see an incredible 98% increase in engagement
  • Posts that have relevant “best-of” lists get almost 40% more amplification

When a post gets good engagement, consider promoting it to a wider audience with LinkedIn Sponsored Content. Take the Sponsored Content Tour and discover how Sponsored Content amplifies your best content.

  1. Showcase Thought Leadership

Seventy-nine percent of buyers say thought leadership is critical for determining which companies they want to learn more about. To get started with thought leadership content, try to provide a unique perspective on your industry, product, or organization. Sharing your opinion on the future of your industry or creating a definitive guide to your product are just two ways to demonstrate your expertise and position your company as a credible partner.

For more ideas and advice on expanding your brand’s authority, download our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership to learn more.

  1. Target Sales Prospects

LinkedIn has over 500 million users to date. That may seem like a lot to sort through, but LinkedIn also provides you with tools to identify and target your ideal audience.

LinkedIn members are more likely than other social media users to keep their profiles up-to-date, making it easier for you to find the right people. Use LinkedIn profile data to search for LinkedIn members based on geographic location, education, experience, and even connections. Once you’ve found prospects using the search feature, visit their profiles. Their endorsements or recent profile views might surface additional qualified prospects, too.

For more ways to reach your ideal audience, learn how to advertise on LinkedIn.

  1. Build an All-Star Team

LinkedIn has helped 75% of job switchers make informed career decisions, making LinkedIn a top recruiting network. What are candidates looking for when making those decisions? Our research shows that 66% of candidates want to see company culture over everything else. To take advantage of this preference, consider enhancing your Company Page with a LinkedIn Career Page.

Career Pages allow you to target audiences with a personalized look into your company, culture, and career opportunities. They give you dedicated Life and Career Information Tabs on your Company Page that attracts and engage relevant professionals.

In addition to creating Career Pages, encourage employees to share job postings and “day in the life” content as well. This gives visitors a genuine idea of what it’s like to work for you and adds to your authenticity. If you have a few employees who lead the pack in sharing content, consider linking them to your Company Page’s Life Tab. Their shared articles and recent updates will automatically populate, providing visitors with up-to-date information. Watch our video below on how to use the Life Tab to attract the right talent for your company.

When building an all-star team make sure to do a salary comparison to help with hiring decisions.

  1. Hire Freelancers

You’ve probably had an employee who took on a task outside of their domain. You might have even done it yourself a few times. While the effort is commendable, learning on the fly can also be detrimental.

Fortunately, finding the right talent for the task at hand isn’t as tricky as it once was, even if you can’t afford the salary of a full-time employee.

LinkedIn ProFinder enables you to post your projects, receive free proposals, and hire trustworthy professionals all in one place. ProFinder will even pair you with local professionals to ensure you have the best experience possible. With 172 professional services available on ProFinder, it’s easy to find the perfect professional for any task.

LinkedIn vets all the professionals on the platform to ensure they are qualified and leverages your network to find entrepreneurs your connections have used, so you’re never in the dark about who you’re hiring.

By encouraging entrepreneurship, you get access to outside perspectives & broad experience of professionals of all kinds, from creating websites and designing logos to managing your books or crafting your marketing strategy. Plus, with none of the management or competitive salary overhead of a full-time employee, you can focus solely on the job at hand.


Article by LinkedIn Careers

Member Tip Monday: How to Create a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Social media can be a nice distraction and a considerable time suck. But if you’re doing it for your business, you need it to be much more. So how do you make sure that you’re using your time there efficiently?

This article offers you the steps you need to create a solid social media marketing strategy for actionable items.

1. Know Why You’re There

Before any campaign, whether it’s marketing, social media, or even a military campaign, it’s important to know why you’re there. What are you trying to accomplish? The answer to this will help you create the tactics that will get you there. You can’t forge a path without some idea of where you’re going.

Action item: Create 1-2 SMART goals around what you’d like to accomplish with social media for your business.

2. Understand Who You’re Trying to Reach

Marketing messaging is very personalized these days. But it’s impossible to personalize your messaging without knowing your target audience. You don’t need the world to love you. You just need to focus on those who would have a need for your product or service. And to do that, you must know who they are.

Action item: Create buyer personas so you know who you’re talking to.

3. Do Research on Your Demographic

Now that you know who they are, find out where your customers are on social media. If you’re fortunate enough to have an email list, you might be able to use emails to locate where they are online but if you don’t, take what you know about your buyer personas and match them to the demographics for each social media site.

You have a limited amount of time in your day so don’t try to be everywhere on social. You’ll likely spread yourself too thin. Instead, concentrate your efforts on where your customers and potential customers are.

Action item: Find out where your ideal customers are on social media by doing research on demographics on the most popular social media sites.

4. Create Tactics That Move You Towards Your Goals

Having goals isn’t enough in social media. Let me show you why. Let’s say your goal is to increase blog shares by 50% by the end of October 2017. That’s a nice measurable goal. It has a deadline and a number assigned to it. You can easily figure out how you would assess whether you were successful or not.

But how in the world are you going to do it?

Tactics move you towards that goal. Perhaps you will:

  • Post more frequently changing from once a week to every day.
  • Share your content to a newly-formed LinkedIn group.
  • Ask for the shares.
  • Approach 5 industry influencers every Tuesday.
  • Start accepting guest blog posts and asking them to share their posts with their network.

There are many ways to get there. You just need to choose a few and get to work.

Action item: Review your goals and map out tactics of how you will get there. Assign them dates, times, and ownership. If no one owns them, they won’t get done.

5. Implement and Analyze

After you have a social media plan constructed from your goal(s) and tactics targeted at your ideal customer, it’s time to take your business’ current pulse and begin tracking your work and its effectiveness towards meeting your goals. Social media is not an exact science. It requires experimentation and adjusting your path according to what you deduce about your audience’s preferences. This type of analysis is ongoing so make sure you budget in both time and money for it.

Action item: Set up Google Analytics and create social media campaigns to be able to watch how your strategy implementation is moving you towards your business goals.

Finally, get a little help from your friends. Social media is always changing. Today’s best practices could make you look like a rookie tomorrow. It’s important to stay on top of social media and assess your strategies periodically not just to ensure they are effective at helping you reach your goals but to make sure they are still best practices in the industry.

Keeping up on all of this while managing your business isn’t easy. Turn to your friends at the chamber for social media curriculum, knowledge, or assistance that can help you stay on top of changes without the time involved in researching them on your own.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Member Tip: Is Your Unique Value Proposition Doing Its Job?

Your business needs a unique value proposition (UVP) to differentiate you from your competition and to get you more customers. If you don’t have one, or you have one that’s not working, the foundation of your marketing is shaky at best.

The problem with creating a UVP begins with the name itself. It’s smothered in marketing garbage lingo. It turns people off. No potential customer will ever ask you “What’s Your Unique Value Proposition?” before making a purchase, but they will ask you what makes you different and that’s what you have to concentrate on when defining this concept for your business.

Unique-value-proposition

What Makes Your Business Different?

Most companies are quick to say what differentiates them from their competition. Usually, it’s service or quality. For the most effective UVP, it must be two things – valued by your ideal customer and hard to replicate by your competition. While most customers value good service, every one of your competitors probably believes they (too) are providing excellent customer service, so it’s not a strong differentiator in the market unless you bolster it with specifics that can’t be imitated.

How to Stand Out

Regardless of what you call it, a unique value proposition is all about standing out. If you’re lucky you do something no one else does. But in today’s crowded global markets, it’s harder to find something that no one else is doing. Instead, you need to discover, and market, how you’re doing it differently.

Explore Your Business Model

The fortunate will take one look at their business model and immediately recognize a differentiator, such as their giving 10% of proceeds to a childhood cancer charity or providing college scholarships for employees. As in these examples, you can see it’s not always your product or service that differentiates you. Sometimes it’s how you conduct your business or your company culture that stands out.

Examine the Needs of Your Ideal Customer

If you have a buyer persona or an idea of who your ideal customer is, ask yourself what that person needs? If you’re not sure, listen to what your loyal customers are saying about you in reviews or testimonials. What makes an impact in their lives? Read reviews of your competition. What are the key themes that keep surfacing?

Define the Impossible

Ideally what makes you stand out is something your competition will have difficulty duplicating. Using the themes you identified in what your ideal customer likes or values, you’ll construct a promise your business can make that would be hard for others to replicate. “The best service” is not a differentiator unless you pair it with specifics like “best same-day service” or “service with a smile or your meal is free.” Take for instance Dawn Dishwashing Soap. Marketers had a hard time finding the right niche for the product. It cleaned well but so did its competitors. Nothing seemed to work in differentiating it until they did a commercial showing how it was used in oil slicks to clean birds. Suddenly the dish detergent is known for taking “grease out of your way” was also saving the environment.

Even if your competition eventually offers the same thing you do, if you can bring it to market and become known for it first, you will have a successful differentiator.

Make Your Process Unique

Sometimes what makes your business unique is actually a flaw in other’s eyes until you define it as something intriguing or fun for your customer. For instance, Dum Dum lollipops by Spangler Candy Company produces a mystery flavor. At first glance, this appears to be a fun marketing stunt but it is really an efficient operations tactic. The mystery flavor is the combination of two flavors of lollipops. Instead of taking the time to strip the production machines between flavors and make a solid switch, the company decided to leave the machines running between flavors and thus the mystery flavor, a combination of the two. This saved huge amounts of time and resources but appeared to be a product marketing decision. Sometimes the efficiency with which you bring your product to market is your differentiator.

Differentiating yourself from your competition is essential to helping potential customers select you over other businesses in your town and across the globe. An effective difference lies in marketing something your prospective customers’ value and calling attention to something your competition can’t easily replicate (or hasn’t thought of).  If you don’t know or establish what makes you different, there’s no way for a buyer to know.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

MEMBER TIP MONDAY: 4 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS MORE LIKEABLE

LikeablePeople buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likeable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation.

Share Your Reason

Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.

Find Commonalities

In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you.

Ask Questions

If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.

Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again.

In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog.  She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

4 BEGINNING TWITTER TIPS FOR BUSINESS

Twitter-art

From 2014-2015 the number of Twitter users grew by 50 million, and it’s estimated that close to 1/5 of Internet users have Twitter accounts. The average Twitter user follows 5 businesses so if you’re not trying to reach your customers on Twitter you’re missing an opportunity.

Twitter is easy enough to understand, just share something 140 characters or less. You can share links, images, or videos. Here are a few other tips for businesses just starting out on Twitter:

Use Hashtags

Twitter is as hard to follow as the ticker tape on a stock page. It’s a constant barrage of messaging, particularly for those accounts that follow a lot of people. Hashtags, or pound signs (#), help people search for the information they want.

Using an appropriate hashtag can expand your business’ reach and help potential customers find what they’re looking for. Employ one specific to your business and use hashtags that are relevant. For instance, Jake’s Jewelry Store might use all, or any, of the following hashtags in tweets with images of gifts for mom: #jakes, #mothersday, #gift.

You can also use popular hashtags of trending topics, when applicable, like #marchmadness or #50shadesofgrey.

Share Images

This tip applies to most of social media but Twitter will display images prominently in the stream so it’s a good way to get your followers’ attention.

Rise Above the Noise

Find ways to stand out from others who are merely posting articles they’ve written. Ask questions. Have conversations. Thank people for sharing your content.

One of the easiest ways to create loyal followers, at least initially, is through commenting on what they share – either by providing your own opinions or asking them follow-up questions.

Avoid sending out automated thank you messages to new followers. While the concept seems nice – thanking them for following you – they come off as exactly what they are, robotic. Plus many Twitter users don’t check their messages box because of a large number of these they receive.

In addition to finding customers and potential customers on Twitter, it’s good to connect with influencers in your industry or audience such as mommy bloggers or niche bloggers.

Follow the Golden Rule

To follow back or not to follow back. That is the question and the answer for business is follow back, or do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Twitter will cap you at 5,000 following (people you follow) if your followers (number of people who follow you) are not fairly equal. For instance, if you followed 2,000 people but only 500 followed you, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until those numbers get within (about) 200 of each other. Twitter won’t tell you the exact number that it takes but you will be limited until those follower numbers rise.

You also don’t want your followers and following number too far off of one another because:

  • If you are following too many people, and a relatively equal number is not following you back, it looks like you’re not sharing worthwhile information.

On the other hand,

  • If a lot of people are following you and you’re only following a handful, you look like a bit of a jerk. That’s okay for reality TV stars but people who are using Twitter for business should be a little more congenial.

You can manage your Twitter followers through tools like ManageFlitter, Followerwonk (a Moz app) or Friend or Follow. Many of these tools can help you tell which accounts are spambots or fake accounts or inactive accounts. (You don’t want to spend time engaging those.) They also help you isolate influencers in your area.

There are pages and pages of tips written on topics like Twitter for business but the best thing to keep in mind is your humanity. Don’t make it all about your business and be gracious. Find ways to connect with people on a more personal level and imagine every tweet you’re sending could be seen by your grandmother, unless you’re in the type of business you don’t want your grandmother to know about.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Memberclicks.

Member Tip Monday: HOW TO FIND TIME FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Build Your Visibility

Small business owners, especially those businesses with under 10 employees, find it extremely difficult to justify the time on social media because it doesn’t lead to predictable, measurable cost savings or revenue.

Social media and content marketing is about becoming an engaging resource for your customers. What’s the yield of a relationship? If you can figure out what a relationship is worth in revenue dollars, you should be blogging about it.

The truth is, we can’t. Not exactly at least. But we know people buy from people they know, like, and trust and that’s why it’s important to invest time in building these connections and affections.

Finding that time is easier said than done. Still here are a couple of suggestions on how to carve out some time to increase your efforts on social media.

Keep Content Handy

The first thing you’ll need is a place to keep content you find. Not all content will be applicable for sharing the moment you come across it. We’ve all seen people on Twitter who post 10 tweets at a time and figure they are done for the day. It is better to deal out your posts at multiple times than all at once. Often you’ll find content that you’ll want to share later so select a system in which you can easily access your content gems in the future.

Upload content to DropBox, use Evernote or keep a notepad handy (paper or electronic). Doesn’t matter if you keep fortune cookie messages in a shoe box. Never let what you deem to be a valuable piece of content escape. Keep it somewhere handy and build a cache of it.

Find a Scheduler You Like

There are many options to help you pre-schedule posts. Scheduling is important because you can’t spend your whole day posting, nor do you want to be that person who bombards others with a firehose worth of content once a day.

Find a scheduler you’re comfortable with. Many systems allow you to control when you post and often give you the ability to do it several days out. One of the most basic is Buffer. It allows you to schedule across multiple platforms. It offers a free and paid version, but even the paid is only about $10 a month.

The most popular is Hootsuite, and while I use it occasionally because it offers greater capabilities than Buffer, I do prefer Buffer’s minimalist design. Hootsuite’s interface is busy but allows you to monitor in real time. If you’re developing relationships, this is a powerful ability to have.

Multi-task

I’m not telling you to turn off the TV when you get home, but there is no reason if you’re “vegging out” that you can’t use that time to schedule a few posts for the next day. Don’t let mindless tasks, like television watching, steal your productivity.

“Steal” Time

We all have moments where we’re waiting – before doctor’s appointments, before meetings, on the phone, while the kids finish up with practice, you get the idea. Many of us fill this time with other mindless tasks like scanning pictures of our friends’ pets on Facebook. Instead, use this time to be productive by finding content, scheduling it, or responding to people on social media.

I am a firm believer in scheduling posts but the interacting cannot be scheduled, so use this stolen time to reach out and connect with people.

Look for Content Everywhere

Content ideas are everywhere – airplane magazines, overheard conversations, commercials, popular TV shows, as well as all over social media. Use the many messages that bombard you daily to find gems you’d like to share. Retweets are only the beginning.

Take Pictures

Along that line, take pictures of everything that moves you and some ordinary things that don’t. Pictures you take can be used in blogs, memes, and image quotes without concern over cost or copyright. Links with pics are more likely to get shared and clicked. Encourage staff to do the same.

You don’t need huge chunks of time to make connections on social media. The key to success in this area is the same in most business- or relationship-building. Give people what they want/find valuable; do so without expectation. Become a resource for them and help them. Be consistent in your efforts so they know they can count on you. This takes minutes a day. Schedule good content and steal time for interacting. Then watch your relationships grow as people share your resources with others.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.