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February 2018 E-Newsletter

Business Corner: What Not to Do on Your Facebook Small-Business Page

More entrepreneurs are tapping into the world’s largest social media network: There are more than 70 million businesses now on Facebook, up from about 18 million in 2013, according to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg during a recent investor call.
 
Facebook gives businesses a platform to showcase new products and services, promote specials and provide customer service. But with these benefits comes the potential for mistakes that can damage your brand.
 
Here are five common small-business mistakes to avoid on your Facebook business page.
 
1. Don’t post too often
Most industries should aim to post no more than once or twice a day to avoid overcrowding followers’ news feeds, says Cheryl Friedenberg, president of High Key Impact, LLC, a small-business marketing consulting firm.
 
There are exceptions, though. For example, it’s appropriate for restaurants to post frequently about food specials, happy hours or live music events, or for medical businesses to post about recent health studies, Friedenberg says.
 
“I don’t think people mind seeing more of those types of posts throughout the day,” she says.
The best times to post are between 1 and 4 p.m. late in the week and on weekends, according to a study by CoSchedule, a content marketing calendar provider. However, it may not be ideal to post on Friday afternoons in the summer because people may start their weekends early, Friedenberg says.
 
The right posting frequency may also depend on how many followers you have. Companies with more than 10,000 followers see the most clicks per post when posting an average of one or two times per day, according to a study by Hubspot, a developer and marketer of software products; companies with fewer followers see better engagement by posting less frequently.
 
2. Don’t post only about your business
Promoting your business should account for 20% or less of your posts if your products or services aren’t used daily by customers, Friedenberg says, to avoid turning people off and getting unfollowed.
 
Business people who can follow this rule include real estate agents, caregivers, lawyers and dentists. A real estate agent can focus 80% of his or her posts on providing useful information about buying and selling real estate and 20% on marketing listings.
 
“They can post about first-time home buying and what the market is like, more about getting preapproved for a loan, home inspections, tips for getting a house ready to sell, packing and moving,” Friedenberg says.
 
Businesses that can get away with more frequent promotional posts include clothing shops that get new clothes in every day, or restaurants with daily specials. “This is something followers would want to see more often,” Friedenberg says.
 
3. Don’t forget photos and videos
Posts with photos and videos get more page views than posts without them, according to Friedenberg. Video has become more popular and effective than photos, she adds.
“People want to hear stories, hear about customer experiences and what a business is doing for their clients, and the best way to do that is with video,” Friedenberg says.
You can post videos of your employees talking about the kind of work they do, customer testimonials, or your business helping out a local charity or organization.
 
You don’t need expensive video equipment to make it work, either — just use your smartphone. But make sure the video is interesting and not too long, says Mary Clare Bland, founder of Bespoke Digital Solutions, a digital marketing agency.
 
“Aim to keep videos under three minutes, as most people won’t make it past a minute and a half,” Bland says.
 
4. Don’t alienate customers
Avoid posting anything that could offend or alienate customers, such as your views on politics or religion. This includes publicly visible posts on your personal Facebook page, which customers can easily find.
 
“Politics have become so antagonistic now that you’re not just posting a political view; you’re probably alienating a good section of your market,” Bland says.
 
Customers may look not only at what your small business provides, but also what the owners and key people in the business stand for, says Alexandrea Merrell, managing director of Orndee Omnimedia Inc., a public relations firm.
 
“People really have to look at their personal profile and say, ‘Would this benefit my business?’ And if it doesn’t, then don’t post it,” Merrell says.
 
5. Don’t argue with negative reviews
Having a presence on Facebook and other online sites such as Yelp opens you up to negative comments or reviews.
 
Most customers expect to hear back from you, too: 52% expect a response to their review within a week of writing it, according to ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback software company.
 
“People often take a negative review super personally and make the situation so much worse than it needs to be,” says Merrell, who also works with adults dealing with stalking and bullying, including cyberbullying.
 
Plan for negative reviews by having a prepared set of responses, which can help you avoid knee-jerk reactions, Merrell says.
 
An appropriate response to most negative reviews, she says, includes a thank you for the customer’s business, an apology for the bad experience, and an explanation saying the situation is being taken care of or has already been handled.
 
“It acknowledges that you’ve heard their issues and the legitimacy of their complaint,” Merrell says.

However, if someone is “trolling” you — trying to get a negative reaction out of you to take down your business on purpose — it’s best to give a simple response and then move on. Don’t let it escalate, she says.
 
The article What Not to Do on Your Facebook Small-Business Page originally appeared on NerdWallet.

It’s Still a Good Time to Become Financially Fit

New Year, New Me, right? We’re a few weeks into the new year and you may have dropped your New Year’s Resolution to become financially fit. Don’t despair. It’s still early in the new year and a great time to clean up your financials, adopt better spending habits, and start saving more. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
 
Make a budget and stick with it
This almost cliché financial advice is repeated so often for one important reason: it works. Start by tracking your spending, once you’ve tracked how much money you spend over the course of a few weeks, you can look for trends in what you’re spending. These trends help you start planning on how much income goes towards necessities (like rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries), and see areas where you can cut back (rarely-used subscription services, eating out less) and start putting away a portion of your income towards a savings goal. The most important part of a budget is sticking with it, once you start tracking your spending you should make sure to take time every day or every few days to log your spending and compare that to your planned spending.
 
Deal with any debt
Debt is an extremely stressful thing to deal with but the new year is a time to get a handle on any debt that may have piled up around the holidays. Debt should be something factored into your budget like your electric bill and tracked. Although it may be daunting, contact your creditors to discuss your situation, they may be willing to work with you to put together a repayment plan. If you're carrying debt on multiple credit cards, talk to your local bank about the possibility of consolidating that debt into a single payment so you can close the extra card accounts. No matter what you do, addressing debt instead of ignoring it will help you get a handle on it and make positive progress.
 
Shop around
Many times people will stick with whatever they find first, be it their internet provider, car insurance, or brand of soup, but that may not be the best deal, especially a few years down the line. There’s nothing wrong with being loyal to a company but just because they’ve been your cable provider for a few years isn’t necessarily a good reason to stay with them and doesn’t ensure that you are getting the best value for what you are paying. Look around to see what other companies are charging for similar services, you may find that your current company is priced competitively or you may find that you can get a better deal elsewhere. One thing to beware of is a cheaper product or service that is cheaper for a reason, make sure you are still getting a similar quality or ask yourself if you are ok with a downgrade.
Making a commitment to financial health and wellness can be a great way to start the New Year on good footing that can last throughout the year and your life.  
 
An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns.

Coulee Bank Q-Tip: Internet Safety Tips

If you think devious Web sites are the only places where spyware awaits its victims, you are in for a shock. Spyware lurks in many corners of the Internet; often in places where you'd least expect it. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to compromise your Internet browsing safety. An unprotected computer is like an open door for Web sites that threaten your Internet safety with spyware and computer viruses. Here’s where the danger lies:
 
  • You open your Web browser and begin browsing
  • You visit a site and unknowingly fall into a spyware trap, such as:
    • pop-up you click on, even to close it
    • A deceptive link that you follow
    • A clickable graphic that leads down a dangerous path
  • Spyware loads onto your PC without your knowledge and sometimes simply opening a Web page or an HTML email starts the installation
Spyware quickly begins its task of stealing your information (including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords), directing your browser to suspect sites, changing or deleting your files, pummeling you with pop-ups and slowing your PC to a crawl.
 
Follow these internet safety tips for avoiding spyware and fortify your computer security right away:
  • Avoid questionable Web sites and be wary of clicking links in email or instant messages. Viruses spread easily through links in instant messages and email attachments. Even if you know and trust the person who sent it, it’s possible the link is infected and the sender is unaware of it.
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Keep your browser software up-to-date: This is crucial, as new patches are often released to fix existing vulnerabilities in browser software. This recommendation doesn’t apply solely to browser software – it is critical to keep operating system software and any other software you have up-to-date for the same reason.
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company's site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message. Use HTTPS: The “s” in “https” stands for secure, meaning that the website is employing SSL encryption. Check for an “https:” or a padlock icon in your browser’s URL bar to verify that a site is secure before entering any personal information.
  • Run anti-virus software: Anti-virus software provides protection by scanning for and removing malicious files on your computer. There are many excellent options for virus protection software (both paid and free), so it is up to you to do a little research and select a program that best fits your needs.
  • Don’t reuse passwords: Using the same password for multiple sites only makes it easier for attackers to compromise your sensitive information.
Q-Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.

If Your Bank Account Is at Risk, Act Fast: 4 Steps

Maybe you saw a suspicious charge on your bank statement. Or your debit card is missing from your wallet. If you believe your account is at risk, you need to act fast. Your money could be in jeopardy.
 
According to a 2015 American Bankers Association survey, banks lost nearly $2 billion to deposit account fraud the year before. The recent Equifax data breach highlights how consumer information is vulnerable and how that could put your financial accounts in danger. When faced with a compromised account, consumers can protect themselves by acting quickly in the short term and diligently in the long term.
 
1. Report possible fraud within 2 business days
The clock starts ticking as soon as you realize there’s a problem. If you report a possibly stolen debit card within two business days of discovering it missing, the most you could be responsible for if someone makes unauthorized transactions is $50, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
 
But if you procrastinate beyond two days, you could lose up to $500 of your money. If you see unauthorized transactions on your bank statement, the window for reporting it to your bank is 60 days after the statement is sent to you. After that, you could lose all that was stolen from your main account and any linked accounts, with no reimbursement from your bank.
Debit card protections aren’t as strong as those covering credit cards, where potential losses are capped at $50.
 
2. If money has been stolen, contact authorities and close your account
File a police report, and then contact your financial institution to shut down the compromised account. Your bank or credit union can help you transfer remaining funds into a new bank account, with a different account number and debit card. Be sure to keep records for your old account in a safe place.
 
3. Check your credit report for new accounts
Checking account activity doesn’t typically show up on a credit report, but an identity thief could try to open a new account in your name. The crook could then overdraw the account, leaving behind debts that eventually are reported to credit bureaus.
To help counter this, check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and resolve to monitor them at least once a year. If you see evidence of fraud, such as an account opened in your name without your permission, notify the credit bureau and the financial institutions involved, says David Pommerehn, senior counsel at the Consumer Bankers Association in Washington, D.C.
 
4. Learn how to protect future account information
After an account breach, your financial institution should restore your lost money quickly. But getting your money back and a new debit card, or even closing your compromised account, doesn’t mean your financial safety is assured. There may be long-term issues. A thief could share your personal identifiable information with other criminals who might try to access your accounts or open new ones. Take these steps to protect your information: The article Be Your Own Bank Guard If Your Account Is at Risk originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Coulee Investment Corner: Keep Your Head in the Game: Avoiding Mental Errors When You Invest

In the sports world, a mental error can cost your team the big game. When you are investing, a mental error can put your retirement portfolio at risk. Mistakes often result from letting misconceptions and emotions affect your decisions.
Successful investing generally requires logic and reasoning. To avoid a fumble, you may want to guard against these four behavior patterns.
 
Overconfident Quarterbacking
Some people tend to overestimate their investment abilities. Like the overconfident quarterback who always wants to throw a pass, the overconfident investor may want to change investments frequently. However, any changes in your investment strategy should be based on careful consideration, not "gut feelings." Rash decisions could cost you the game.
 
Freezing Under Pressure
Fear of being tackled can cause a player to freeze up on the football field. Likewise, fear of making an investment mistake can cause a retirement investor to postpone decisions. For example, an investor may delay switching out of an investment that has consistently underperformed. While the investor is lingering over the decision, the investment may be losing even more value. If you determine that an investment no longer fits in with your game plan, the sooner you make the substitution, the better.
 
Assuming a Winning Streak Is Unbreakable
If an investment, or its sector, has performed extremely well over the long term, you may believe it is unbeatable. But even the best teams may lose at some point -- and even the most consistent investment may sometimes falter. Instead of simply assuming a "star" investment still has a winning record, periodically review its performance. If it experiences a temporary setback but still fits in with your game plan, you may want to keep it in your roster. But, if a former winner is now on a long-term losing streak, it may be time to switch investments.
 
Focusing on Short-Term Losses Instead of Long-Term Gains
In football, a long pass down the field may lead to a touchdown. But it's also very risky because the other team could intercept the ball. Like a long pass, a stock investment can be risky because of the potential for losses. Stocks, however, also offer greater potential for long-term gains than less risky asset classes. For a better chance of getting into the end zone, retirement investors may want to include stock investments in their portfolios.
Your situation is unique, so be sure to consult a professional before taking action.
 
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