Social Media & You

social media

These days, everybody has a Facebook page and an online presence of sorts. Most businesses also have a social media presence which comes with substantial advantages. Some businesses prosper a lot more with the internet than others, however, especially if you have a new business, it pays to have a positive representation online.

One of the most important benefits is connecting with your customers and shareholders. For a small and new businesses this is especially helpful as it makes more people aware of their existence and location, and allows friends and loyal customers to share information such as offers, events, promotions, business reviews and comments, although these can be both positive and negative, and can essentially allow the business to prosper and grow in ways that were not possible before. For larger and longer established companies, it allows their customers access to news and current progress which is not considerable enough to make it into news outlets.

Social Networking sites also allow your business to have an augmented voice that before their existences, would have been much quieter. It has become much easier to express the values of your company, to show people the projects that you support, to shine a new light on your business that before was unseen. You can promote articles that reinforce your principles and remind your audience why you are providing the right product for them. This can help to refine your target audience and to reach out to the people you believe will benefit the most from your product. You can connect with ease to other business within your community to expand your clientele through collaboration and support.

It takes a mere matter of seconds to make a post that conveys a message, which saves more time to focus on your business, providing you don't get distracted by the social media itself. If you have a gas leak and have had to close the cafe for the day, you can tell your customers before they've even left home. If you have a promotion on, it's free to tell your online audience.

Social networking for businesses does however also come with negatives. If you have an upset customer, they also have more of a voice and more power to express their dissatisfaction to your audience which can potentially damage your reputation or your business. Some review sites will not allow you to take down bad comments, even if unjustly and unfairly made against you. Customers can often rate you on a system and if a customer has a personal vendetta against your business it can have serious ramifications to your online presence and therefore have a knock on effect to your customers and overall income.

Also, tourists and new residents will often only judge a place based on it's online ratings which is an unfair and over simplified representation of everything you do, however people will still insist that the top rated attraction in an area is the only one worth seeing.

In the rare circumstance that there is any public scandal related to your business then absolutely anybody has the ability to anonymously vilify and slander you online. People tend to be more confrontational on the internet because they can hide behind their computer monitors.

Overall, a strong internet presence tends to be a positive thing and with a little bit of attention, it can provide a lot of extra benefits and income for your business.

Shorter Working Day Debate

office hours working

There are many articles online regarding a trend in Sweden to shorten the standard working day. The results have been somewhat ambiguous with some substantial benefits and also some substantial problems emerging as a result of this. Initially, the concept was introduced in an attempt to increase productivity and to improve the general quality of life by making people happier. The idea is that if people are in a better mood, they will get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Some companies have claimed that staying focussed on one particular task for eight hours is a difficult task, and that by shortening the time that their staff have to endure their concentration they have increased their productivity as well as reducing staff turnover and improving the happiness of the employees. An app developer - Filimundus, has reduced the working hours but also reduced meetings and distractions to allow their staff to concentrate more without interruption and has reported an increase in productivity because of this. The CEO also stated that staff had a greater control over their private lives with the additional time to spend doing what they enjoyed.

Some experts also claim that by shortening working hours it will improve staff health and, with a long term perspective, will make working until retirement age an easier task to accomplish as employees, particularly in labour intensive professions, would be less fatigued and maintain more energy for a longer time. These people argue that shorter working days creates a more sustainable labour market.

However, there has also been an experiment where the working hours of 68 nurses in an old people's home were reduced to the new working day in an attempt to improve staff satisfaction, health and patient care, and while initially this seemed successful, in the longer term it ended up costing the city considerably as they had to employ an additional 17 staff to cover the reduced hours of the original team, which, when looked at on a larger perspective, can potentially lower the costs of unemployment for the government, but not enough to cover the difference.

Dr Aram Seddigh, who recently completed his doctorate at Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute believes that the model can work for some businesses but not for others. He stated that the "sixhour work day would be most effective in organisations - such as hospitals - where you work for six hours and then you just leave [the workplace] and go home. It might be less effective for organisations where the borders between work and private life are not so clear" and suggests that employees with a set amount of work to complete each week might experience higher levels of stress as they try to fit in the same amount of productivity into a shorter time frame.

It seems that this the cost of improving staff welfare and productivity is too high for people with an economic mindset, but in the long term, the benefits could have a substantial positive effect on the work force.

7 Unusual Businesses

rent a cow

Business doesn't always means suits and ties, stocks and offices. It sometimes seems that people will do just about anything to accumulate money. Here are seven examples of unusual businesses which are, surprisingly, turning a profit.

1 -

Reserve a spot in Heaven

There is a website where you can reserve yourself a spot in Heaven, just in case you are scared that you might not make the cut. The company sends you a certificate in the mail to prove that you have your place, and offers a money back guarantee if you don't get in (whether or not it is possible to prove this is a different question entirely). A place in Heaven costs $15USD and there are discounts for large group bookings.

2 -

Hangover Helpers

Two people from Boulder, CO, have decided to lend a hand to their fellow partygoers by assisting them in their hungover states. The idea is that after the party you call them up and they will arrive with a burrito and some Gatorade to help cure the hangover. They will then proceed to clean every room in the house that requires it, including scrubbing the plates and recycling all the empty bottles. They're so successful they have been featured in Forbes Magazine and on CBS.

3 -

This service effectively allows you to send an anonymous message to your friend containing a fresh cologne wipe and a note stating that somebody thinks they smell bad. The company assures their customers that all packages are untraceable so if your friend really does take offence, there is no way to find out that it came from you.

4 -

Pet Rock

The concept here is that animals have been proven to reduce stress and to provide companionship, however some people are just too busy to look after and care for a pet. A rock doesn't require feeding, walking, grooming or neutering, so it is effectively the ultimate pet. The rock came with an instructional manual that informed owners how to teach it commands like "sit", "fetch", and even "attack". The original product was discontinued in 1976, however the owner had sold over 1.5million rocks at $4 each.

5 -

The Something Store

This is a website which will charge you $10 and then deliver a product to your house with a value of equal to or more than what you initially paid. The catch is that you have no idea what the "something" might be. This seems like a strange concept, however the company has sold over 200,000 somethings since opening in 2007.

6 -

Potato Parcel

This service allows you to send a message of fifteen words or less written on the side of a potato. Once requested, the potato with the message will be delivered to your chosen recipient. You can even print photos and postcards on the side of your potato. The company also filters all requests with hateful and threatening messages.

7 -

Rent a cow

In Switzerland it is possible to rent the services of a cow without actually owning one. This entitles the renter to all of the milk and cheese that the cow produces and allows them to visit and milk the cow if they so desire. They can also watch their designated cow over a webcam.

It just goes to show that although people may laugh at your crazy ideas, they still has the potential to become a profitable and functioning business. The absurdity of your business can even become a selling point, particularly now with platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to spread the message.

The Stock Exchange for Beginners

stock market

The Stock Market is a phrase we all know and use but many of us, when put on the spot, know absolutely nothing about. We all picture men in suits waving paper in the air and shouting at other men in suits in front of screens, when actually in reality the vast majority of stock trading on the market floor has been replaced by trading over a computer network. As a first time investor it often feels like walking into a casino and throwing your money on the nearest roulette table. Obviously people who immerse themselves into this world for years haven't perfected the art of trading stocks, and it takes a lot of time and wit to fall into flow, but here is a simplified explanation for those wishing to understand a little more.

Essentially, The Stock Market is the buying and selling, or trading, of stocks bonds. The Stock Market itself is the location that buyers and investors trade stocks and bonds, whether electronically or on the market floor, and it allows people to instantly make transactions. Stocks are units of ownership of a company, and a bond is a debt investment, or money borrowed for a defined period of time.

When you buy stocks in a company, you basically "own" part of the company, and so if the value of the company increases, as does the value of the stock that you possess. The goal of stock and bond trading is to make a profit, and this is achieved by selling the stocks and bonds for a higher price than you purchased them for. The general practice is to buy them when they are worth less and to sell them when they are worth more, however judging this is the "gambling" element as stock prices can both increase and decrease.

Companies sell stock to the public to create money for the company which they can then invest in trying to turn around a profit. The benefit of selling stock as opposed to taking out a loan is that the company would have to repay the loan with interest, and selling stock allows the company more freedom. The people who invest in these stocks have to believe that it will be beneficial to them and that the stocks will bring them a positive return. The more shares that the company offers, the lower the value of each share.

If a company provides bad results for the quarter then their value and the value of their stocks will fall. If a company is performing well or the market for their product is quickly increasing then their shares are likely to rise. Naturally, it's far more complex than this and a company's value fluctuates depending on a multitude of different factors, from politics and the news, the company's earnings, growth expectations and also general activity in the banks and other companies and much more. Because this is so unpredictable, short term investment is very high risk. Understanding how these factors effect a company's value is the key to making a profit out of intelligence instead of luck.

Owners of company stock get paid a percentage of the company profits on an annual basis. They also become part of the corporation and have some say on how the company is run, so most company owners will buy a percentage of the stocks to make sure they maintain majority control and can continue to run the business as they wish.

This is a very short and simple explanation of a very complicated and ever changing force, however understanding the basics is vital for both professionals and beginners in the field.