6 Things Parents Don’t Know About Fafsa (But Definitely Should)

September 11, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Make More of Your Money

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If you’re a parent who expects that your kids may go to college at some point, you’re probably well aware of the doom and gloom that surrounds the topic of college tuition, student loans and financial aid. Not only are tuition costs rising, student loan debt is a big reason millenials put off a whole host of other major life events–from moving out of your basement to buying a home, to getting married, to having kids.

But the price tag to attend college is only half the problem. The other? Serious misunderstanding about student loan options, and the costs they’ll ultimately present by the time the degree is in hand–and the student loan repayments begin.  Somewhat ironically, the rules about fafsa ( Free Application for Federal Student Aid),  a program designed to provide cost affordable option to make college with financial reach is one of the most misunderstood student loan options out there.

Here are six things many parents things don’t know about fafsa–but definitely should. What you learn may change your entire college savings strategy.

Your paycheck matters. It helps to have a big paycheck  when you apply for a mortgage, and really, any other kind of loan–but not if you’re hoping to get money from fafsa. That said, don’t assume that you’re “too rich” to qualify. Though your paycheck is a primary driver behind the fafsa loan decision, not all savings accounts, home equity, or even 529 savings accounts are factored equally into the fafsa “need” equation. In fact, your retirement assets aren’t considered in it at all.

Being an older parent is an advantage. An older couple that applies for fafsa on behalf of their child could receive a higher “asset protection allowance” than parents in their 40’s. The assumption apparently being that when you’re younger, you have more time to work and pay for your child’s college tuition.

Bigger families could get more financial aid.  You dished out plenty of money on diapers and child care when you chose to have two or more kids who were close in age, but but you could actually score more fafsa dollars for your hard work once they hit college. Families with two or more children who attend  college at the same time are considered in greater need by fafsa than families with high incomes and only one student enrolled in  college.

You can reasonably predict your fafsa eligibility. You can narrow down which colleges your child (or rather, you) can afford to attend without having to complete the entire fafsa dog and pony show. That’s because fafsa uses a monetary figure called the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) to arrive at how much they think you need to borrow to maintain your “financial strength” while footing the bill for college. It’s based on  your allowable assets, income, age, benefits and other factors. While not the end all be all, it’s a ballpark estimate to help you see what–if any amount– you’re likely to be approved to borrow. (The lower it is, the more likely you’ll get fafsa).

You can’t phone it in at school and keep financial aid. Different forms of aid have different criteria in terms of what’s required to maintain financial aid eligibility.  For example, Federal Pell Grant recipients must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours to receive their maximum financial aid amount. If a student fails a course of doesn’t cancel enrollment based on the university’s procedure, those funds may still be due for the course. In some cases, the student cannot secure more financial aid until it’s paid back.

Fafsa may not take you all the way to graduation. Fafsa requires that you apply every year you’re in school if you want to continue receiving financial aid. But colleges have a say in how and to whom funds are distributed; they can change strategy when they want. If you couldn’t already tell by the price tag, colleges are a business. They’re going to make more money by acquiring new customers than maintaining those who only have a few quarters to go. If they must choose funds accordingly, they will. Research the historical financial aid patterns of the colleges you’re considering before you choose a school to see the percentage of students who have their financial aid needs met, and how those numbers change over the years of enrollment.

5 Warning Signs to Get Out of Debt Before It’s Too Late

August 20, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Make More of Your Money

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Most people have some kind of debt–whether on a credit card, student loans, an auto loan, or a mortgage. And not all of that debt is a problem. But when your debt climbs to a point that far outweighs your income, starts to lower your credit score,  puts you in jeopardy of missing monthly payments and keeps you up at night, it becomes a problem that’s tough to solve.

Yes, there are debt consolidation options, private loans, and other financing options to get out of debt, but unless you’ve got a really generous neighbor willing to lend you some cash, no debt relief option that comes through a third party is free.

So what’s the easiest way to get out of debt? Spot the trouble signs before it snowballs. Here are five surefire signs you’re in the debt danger zone–and how to manage your growing credit card balances before it’s too late.

Debt Warning #1: You’ve taken advantage of low interest balance transfer offers–but barely made a dent in your credit card debt. Low interest balance transfers offers aren’t inherently bad. They can help you eliminate credit card debt faster than you would by making monthly payments on a high interest rate credit card, and probably at a lower cost. But for that low interest rate to work to your advantage, you must commit to being aggressive about your debt payoff strategy.  That’s because most low interest balance transfer offers are valid for a limited time only. During the low interest rate time period, the monthly payments you make  will help you gain some momentum in paying off your credit card debt–but you have to make as big a payment as you can afford during that time period. Otherwise,  most of the credit card balance you transferred will remain when the low interest period ends. It could be subject to  as much interest (or more) than it was you were before you made the transfer–and you’ll stay on the credit card debt treadmill.

Debt Warning #2: You spend about 20% of your income on debt. Whip out your calculator and log in to your online banking: What’s 20% of your monthly take home pay? Does your non-housing related debt (like credit card monthly payments, car and student loans) add up to more than that number? If so, start managing your debt before it’s too late. That means pay way more than the minimum on your highest interest rate debts, limit your monthly spending–or find a way to make more money. It’s really that simple.

Debt Warning #3: You’re using  more than 30% of your available credit. Your credit card company has given you a $10,000 credit line; why not use it all? I’ve got plenty of reasons. For starters, your credit line and what you can afford are two very different things. According to MyFico, your credit balance compared to available credit shouldn’t exceed 30%. For a cardholder with a $5,000 card limit, for example, that means should never charge more than $1,500–even if you pay it off in full at the end of the month.  Once you use more than 30% of your credit, your credit score could be lowered, and you may find competitive loans harder to come by. Basically, it tells lenders you’re living beyond your means, and you’re a greater risk. Do the math, see where you stand and if you’re over the 30% limit, change your habits.  To boost your credit score, pay your creditors before the statement close date; your lower balance will get reported to the credit bureaus. Then, stop using credit for new purchases altogether until you’ve paid down the balance. Not only will it “self correct” any tendencies to overspend, you’ll make more progress in getting your debt utilization back in check.

Debt Warning #4: Your credit card balance is bigger than the one in your savings account. Yes, deposit interest rates suck. But your savings account isn’t a place to make money; it’s a place to invest in the uncertainty of your future. If your debt is greater than what you have in a liquid savings account, it’s time to spend a little less and save more.

Debt Warning #5: You won’t look your debt in the eye. Don’t want to open your credit card statements when they arrive? Avoid a budget or adding the total cost of your debt like the plague? I’m willing to bet you have too much debt. Like most things in life, we tend to know more than we think. You know when you’re overextended. Forget about what brands are in your closet, or the car you drive compared to your friends. Money should not keep you up at night. If it does, take control. Figure out what you owe, what you own, and what you can really afford in order to feel good about your financial security. What you see might not be a positive picture at first. That’s okay. It takes small steps to make big progress. The more steps you take in the right direction, the further you move from the wrong one.

 

Should You Open a Target RED Card?

August 11, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Make More of Your Money

target redcard

If you shop at Target frequently, you’ve likely been offered the option to save 5% on your purchase that day—and every other time you shop at Target—if you apply for and open a Target RED Card. Typically, there’s one answer to stick to when you’re offered a store-branded credit card: “No thanks.”

Why? Because store-branded cards generally come with more baggage than they’re worth, including high interest rates, low credit lines, and few benefits (other than discounts designed to tempt you to spend on things you may not really need). If you’re overzealous with offers to apply for store credit cards, you could even lower your credit score.  (Too many “hard” credit inquiries–like those that take place when a creditor performs an “instant credit” check– can lead creditors to perceive you’re desperate for cash).

On the other hand, the facts are the facts. Regardless of the rewards credit card you use the most, Target purchases are probably excluded from points programs—even when your credit card touts the ability to earn 5% on department store, or grocery store purchases. Don’t believe me? Read the fine print on your rewards cards’ program details.

To level set, there are two types of Target RED Cards. One is a credit card, the other is a debit card. If you don’t have complete confidence that you’ll pay your balance in full each month, go with the debit card. You’ll still save 5% on your purchases, and the money comes right out of your checking account. Otherwise, I advise the credit card. Why? Because credit cards offer more protection against fraud. By law, your liability is only $50 if your credit card is lost or stolen or otherwise compromised, and charges are made on it without your authorization. Though you have some protections with debit cards, the laws are far less robust.

Regardless of which you choose, owning a Target RED Card may mean that you’ll at least save 5% on your purchases, that you won’t be rewarded for  otherwise. Is the Target RED Card the one store-specific offer you should say “yes” to? I spoke to some RED cardholders for their take on the benefits, and drawbacks of this card.

Susanne Whited of Colorado Springs, Colorado has been a cardholder since 2011. She says that though the RED card sends her special offers in the mail, she doesn’t usually use them (to avoid temptation). She pays her card in full each month to avoid interest rate charges—which is key, given that they’re nearly 23%. As a result, she really does save 5%, and generally buys sale items to maximize her savings. Though she does say she is mindful not to overspend, she admits that she doesn’t shop around like she once did, because of her Target RED card.   “My biggest issue is that I frequently get $5-$20 gift cards with sale purchases and I do not want to redeem them because I do not get 5% off. My solution? Now everyone gets Target gift cards as gifts from me,” says Whited.

Though Hilary Kline has been a Target RED cardholder for just a few months, she has equally good things to report: “For someone who shops at Target regularly and pretty often (sometimes 2-3 times a week), getting the card meant that I would be saving money. For each purchase, you get 5% off – even when you make a big purchase.”

Like Whited, she says she does use the card more than she
normally would because she knows she is saving money—but she also uses the “Cartwheel” app on her phone to save money in tandem.

Emily Hawkins has had the Target RED card for two years. Though she says the discounts she receives as a cardholder “are not huge” compared to other branded cards which send high value coupons and the ability to earn rewards points for purchases, her favorite part about the card is that it allows free shipping on all target.com purchases with no minimum. In fact, she says she’d recommend the card for the online benefits alone.

I could go on, and I think it’s worth sharing that of the ten Target cardholders I spoke to, not a one had a complaint.

Personally, I’m sold. How about you? Will you get a Target RED card?

 

Make the Most of Your Already Pricey Mobile Plans

July 13, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Make More of Your Money

mobile plan

Most of us have a smartphone—and most of us spend too much money on our mobile plans in the United States compared to other nations. Data compiled by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reveals that the average phone plan with 500MB of data costs $85 in the U.S..  In China, that same plan costs $24.10. In the U.K. it costs just $8.80 a month. Ouch.

So if you’re living the American dream, the odds are pretty good that you’re dishing out plenty of cash for your mobile plan.  If you frequently get notifications from your iPhone’s mobile plan provider that you’re near the monthly data limit, you’re definitely getting hosed.

Here’s how to stop wasting data and make the most your mobile plans.

Check in with your app settings. From the “Settings” feature on your iPhone, select “Cellular.” There you’ll see all the apps you have—and which are currently set to use your cellular data. Switch the ones you don’t rely on daily to “off” so they’ll only use Wi-Fi data. Though that means you can use them only when there’s a Wi-Fi connection, you have the peace of mind that they’re not using cellular data without your knowledge. Turning off the app background updates setting can make a big difference too; go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “Background App Refresh.”

 

Consider old school calls. If you use FaceTime and switch the cellular data allowance off, that obviously means that you can’t call someone with the feature unless there’s a Wi-Fi connection. If you have unlimited calls in your plan, however you can always stay in touch with people “the old fashioned way” from anywhere.

 

Manage your photo sharing. PhotoStream is a cool feature on iOS—but it demolish your monthly data allowance. From “Settings,” to “Photo & Camera” disable the iCloud photo sharing feature. You can still download the photos you want from the stream feature from your desktop, but this commands your phone to stop streaming other people’s photos (and using your data to do it).

 

Turn off push notifications. Push notifications are great for app providers. Just as marketers want to sign you up for those “sticky services” (think direct deposit, or automatic bill payments at your bank) that keep you using the same provider, merely because it’s a bigger pain to switch, push notifications can help you become more reliant on an app. But, most of us waste more of our time than necessary with our nose buried in a mobile device. Push notifications can be helpful when they deliver breaking news right to your phone, but most aren’t all that necessary. They become even more unnecessary when they use data that costs you money! From “Settings,” then “Notifications” you can turn off push notifications from any of your apps that you don’t really need. A good test? Turn off the notifications for three days. If you really miss hearing from an app, turn it back to on. The odds are, you won’t miss most of them.

 

What tips do you have to save money with your iPhone?

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to Buy a House? 5 Ways to Make the Mortgage Process Simple

July 10, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  Make More of Your Money

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Deciding you’re ready to buy a house is one of the bigger life decisions you’ll make. It’s a big commitment financially, and emotionally. When you buy a home, you’re basically deciding that a particular lifestyle a home provides you with now is one you’ll still be happy with years later.

If you want to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) and want the freedom to choose from a variety of mortgage lenders (and the rates and fees their loans entail) buying a home usually means handing over a significant chunk of cash–in addition to signing away your first born at closing. (I kid, I kid).

But money doesn’t necessarily “talk” when you decide to buy a home–even if you make a decent salary, or have quite a bit of money saved.  How you’ve managed your credit, assets, and debts up to this point determines your loan options, and how much your home really costs you once it’s all said and done.

The more you understand about the mortgage process, the less daunting your role as homebuyer becomes. Here are some important “to do list items” anyone considering buying a home should take–before you start scouring realtor.com, Zillow, and MLS sites.

Get your credit in shape. You may want to buy a home. But do your credit score and credit history agree? Before you decide now’s the time to be a homeowner, pull a copy of your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. If your spouse will be listed on the loan, pull their credit report, too.

What are you looking for once you do get the credit report? Aside from making sure that basic information like your social security, address and account information it includes is accurate, take note of your loan balances — including those associated with credit cards you pay in full by the statement due date. Lenders are required to evaluate a mortgage applicant’s ability to pay based on a variety of factors: Monthly income, debt balances, and the potential loan obligation. The less debt reported on your credit history when a mortgage lender pulls your credit report the better.

Even if you pay your credit cards in full each month, check to confirm that a $0 credit balance is reflected on your credit report. If you don’t pay your credit card balances by the statement close date–which is about three weeks earlier than the payment due date–the balance on your credit report may be much higher than you think, and can work against you in terms of how much debt it appears you have.

Look for accounts turned to collections.  An account that has gone to collections doesn’t look good on your report. It means that you had a debt you didn’t pay, and the lender wrote the debt off as a result. But paying collections accounts now won’t instantly solve the problem, or make a lender feel better about approving you for a mortgage. In fact, trying to pay an old collection balance to make it go away could make it worse, in terms of your credit score.  “If you have old collections on your accounts (that are at least three years old), paying them off can re-date this derogatory account, making an old collection appear to be much more recent,” says Brian Murphy, senior mortgage planner at Front Range Mortgage, LLC.

 

Speak with lenders.  Yes, homes are flying off the market in some areas. If you don’t strike while the iron is hot and make an offer when find a home you love, you might lose it to another home buyer.  But those points are moot if you can’t get a home mortgage, and you’re not ready to pay for the home in cash. Before you start devoting your weekend to open houses, or contact a realtor, call a mortgage lender to see if you can get prequalified, and if so, for what amount of home based on your down payment. The process usually doesn’t require more than a 15-minute phone conversation, and you don’t have to commit to the lender. Though being “preapproved” doesn’t guarantee the lender will underwrite the loan, the extra step will let you know whether you can obtain a mortgage based on your credit, debt, and income, and if so, for what amount.

Additionally, your lender can suggest appropriate loan programs for you, based on factors like your credit, the down payment you want to put forth, and any gift funds you may intend to put toward the purchase. Speak to several lenders to understand your loan options, comparing factors like rates and loan terms.

Gather your paperwork. Once you make an offer on a home and it’s accepted, you’ll need to find the mortgage lender you’ll commit to, and complete a formal loan application.  Being approved for a loan involves a lot of paperwork, and quite a bit of back and forth communication with your mortgage lender’s office. You’ll make your life easier by having proof of income, tax records, financial statements and copies of your driver’s license and social security cards ready to provide electronically.

Be financially predictable. Do not move, change jobs, open new credit cards, close old credit accounts, buy a new car, or co-sign for a loan, when you are in the process of applying for a mortgage–or even, in the months following the closing of the loan.

If you need to transfer money between accounts that you’ll use for closing costs or your down payment, Murphy says to consult your loan officer before you complete the transfer so that it doesn’t create any unintended red flags. If it does, they’ll come back to you asking for more documentation, and it could delay your closing. If you receive any funds outside of your typical income during underwriting, be prepared to show proof. “Any other irregular deposit (including gifts, or even cash from a garage sale) may need to be documented by the underwriter for loan approval,” says Murphy.

10 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile in 20 Minutes or Less

June 2, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  All, Make More of Your Money

LinkedIn can prove a simple place to stay in touch with former colleagues, connect with others in your industry, find opportunities and stay on pulse with the hot topics relevant to your profession–but it probably has a few norms you don’t know, that can beef up LinkedIn presence.

I sought the advice of several LinkedIn experts in a piece that I recently wrote for LearnVest, but space constraints forced me to pick and choose what was included.

In that spirit, here are ten important LinkedIn tips I received that, though valuable, didn’t make the cut. The best part about them? They’re small but mighty  improvements that can boost the value of LinkedIn, whatever your objective–and they take less than twenty minutes a day.

1. Change/update your profile pic.  LinkedIn’s career expert Catherine Fisher says it makes your profile 14X more likely to be viewed. Milennials change their profile pics the most often–and are the most viewed demographic on LinkedIn.

2. Put a professional face forward. With that pic above in mind, follow this rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t wear it to the office or industry event, it has no place in your LinkedIn pic. (In other words, no sunglasses on your mug, or glass of bubbly in your hand).

3. Change how your perceive LinkedIn. Fisher made an important comment during our interview:
“LinkedIn isnt’ just about being hired. It’s being amazing at the job you have.”

So often, LinkedIn is a tool that many of us don’t think about until we want a new job, opportunity or connection. But to be really impactful, it’s a tool you should check in with consistently.

4. Add an educational designation/certification behind your name.  If you earned an MBA, PMP or similar advanced degree or respected industry designation, add it to your professional title. Fisher says that noting your education in your profile, even it was years ago, drives ten times the profile views.

5. Don’t be too brief in your summary.
It should be at least 40 words in length, according to Fisher.

6. Share your volunteer experience. Fisher says that 42% of hiring managers consider it as important as professional accomplishments–especially if you’re newer in your field, and lacking in on the job experience.

7. Check out your competition. Search your peers (who are really your industry “competitors”) by job title. Scour their profiles to identify keywords they leverage, that you missed. See what groups they’re a part of, and what kinds of articles they comment on.

8. Earmark a few minutes a day to LinkedIn. Comment on things you find interesting, join the groups to which your peers belong, and follow influencers you want to emulate. Become a part of the LinkedIn conversation. Not only will you learn, you’ll increase your presence among like-minded professionals, and hiring managers that may check out your activity. (Yes, they can do that). Set a timer for your activity to ensure it’s productive.

9. Spend less time “endorsing.” Endorsing takes about a second–and everyone on LinkedIn knows it. It’s a nice compliment, but let’s face it: It doesn’t carry much weight. If you’re genuinely supportive/impressed by your previous encounter(s) with a LinkedIn connection, take a few minutes to write an actual LinkedIn recommendation. Ideally, they’ll return the favor.

10. Upload a screen capture of a recent project or accomplishment. Social media users are highly visual, and short on attention. Though your content on your profile should leverage relevant keywords that improve the likelihood you’ll show up in search results, take a moment to upload supporting links, screen captures and video that visually demonstrate skills, under the appropriate experience heading.

Free Social Media Tools for the Time Challenged Small Business

January 30, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  All, Make More of Your Money

I’m not a just a freelance writer. I’m a small business owner, too. Like you, I’m working the hustle, and trying to find enough hours in the week to manage the business needs of my clients, while growing my own businesses. Though you may think I have a bit of a leg up when it comes to content writing, I in fact, do not. It takes just as much time for a freelance writer to craft content as it does for the small business owner with little writing acumen.

But, I have some good news! Your audience is increasingly distracted. You don’t have time to write a brilliant, relevant, share-worthy blog post for your site every day, just as they don’t have time to read check in daily to read it.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you forego your blog posting schedule
because you’re busy, or hand it off to your admin because you figure no one will ready it anyhow.

I am suggesting that you focus your schedule so that you can craft the truly compelling content that wins you the search engine credibility our content-driven online world requires. On the days when you really don’t have time to publish that fab content, you opt for something other than radio silence.

Check out these two fantastic and free social media helpers that will make keeping up with a content strategy just a bit easier.

Recite (http://www.recitethis.com/). If you haven’t noticed, the social media world has a hunger for inspirational quotes that seemingly cannot be satisfied. Recite is a fun little tool allows you to search for a quote, and automatically craft it into an image. In less than three minutes, you’ve got a pretty decent looking image just waiting to be published. Ideally, you’d support it with some compelling blog content too, but do what you can. (You’ll see an image I posted this morning with this tool above).

Pinwords http://www.pinwords.com/
Like quotes, social media users LOVE images. That said, I cannot caution you enough about being aware of image copyright laws and image usage rights. If you’re not sure the image is “allowed” to be used, please don’t put your business at risk.  For that reason alone, I love this tool. Using an image you already own, it  allows you to place text on top of it. Something that’s not all that compelling alone can be quickly dressed up for social media, in just minutes.

Beware of Backlinks

July 23, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  All, Make More of Your Money

Like anyone who has a website that shows up in search, I’m constantly sent solicitations from self-proclaimed “SEO experts” promising to improve my site’s search engine rankings. While there are certainly some SEO experts out there, I’m of the belief that anyone who sends you an unsolicited email claiming to be one of them, isn’t! (I find it most interesting that most of these people don’t even appear to have the basic email marketing skills to personalize your name in the email itself).

But, small business owners can’t always afford to pay the best search engine optimization experts. That being said, they especially can’t afford to hire those who claim to be experts, and aren’t. Why? Because ineffective SEO practices aren’t just a waste of money–they can actually damage your site’s potential.

“Backlinks” are a common practice that search engine marketers who don’t know what they’re doing will try to sell a small business owner. Backlinking isn’t inherently bad; it’s based on the idea of “you are the company you keep.” The basic premise: If a reputable site is linking to another, it’s probably reputable, too.

It’s worked for my prenatal yoga business Om for Mom simply due to the fact that my name and the business is associated with my bio which appears on reputable sites like ForbesWoman, Mint, and others. But keep in mind, that bio is associated with relevant and quality content that was not published for the purpose of generating a link.

When an “SEO marketer” goes about your backlinking strategy by offering poor quality guest posts on another person’s site in exchange for a backlink, or by placing links in the comments section of reputable websites, they’re not just failing to build your page rank; they’re hurting it.

Google can and does have the know-how to de-index your site from its search results if it discovers that you are paying for backlinks. Once that happens, your site is essentially blacklisted.

Facebook for Business: Why Your Post Strategy Shouldn’t Replicate What You Show Friends

January 22, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  All, Make More of Your Money

The people who like your business page on Facebook are for all and intents and purposes your “friends” on social media in the sense that they presumably support your cause, the latest Facebook algorithm update indicates that fans of business pages do not in fact, react to posts in the same manner that a Facebook friend does when using it for personal use.

As a result, Facebook has changed the default settings for sharing links on your small business page. In short, here’s the change:

Your small business posts on your businesses’ Facebook page will be about image-rich content that makes a user want to click–and less about them seeing a link to click. (In other words, your Facebook page update should look like the image above, not:

How To Find the Safest Organic Infant Formula. http://www.cornucopia.org/2013/12/find-safest-organic-infant-formula

Here’s why:

You might recall that in the world of Facebook, enticing people to share your content is the secret sauce. You dangle that carrot with interesting information people want to share, images, and video. Further, you do that by making it “shareable.” Now what does that mean? You keep your rants and raves to a minimum, you engage users by asking questions (and responding to their comments to facilitate interaction), and maybe you offer a special discount to social media followers, or similar contest that clearly delivers on our “what’s in it for me” mentality.

While all those “rules of thumb” are still true, Facebook product manager Chris Turitzin explained in a blog post that we interact differently with content on a businesses’ page than we do for the content we share for “personal use.”

The end game? Your page should theoretically win more interaction when you post links by way of an image–not the text link itself.

Forbes gives a nice image demonstration to to explain exactly what your Post should ultimately look like when you share a link is especially useful. Check it out if you’re scratching your head in light of this news.

Facebook for Business

June 18, 2013  |  No Comments  |  by Stephanie  |  All, Improve Your Business, Make More of Your Money

Does your business really need a Facebook page? If so, how do you even use Facebook for your business? Here’s the straight scoop on all your social media questions for small business.

There’s a lot more to Facebook than setting up a page.  If limited social media know-how is holding you back from using Facebook for business, fear not. Setting up a business Facebook page is simple, free, and your page is live in just a few minutes.  If you’re already connected to your customers and industry peers with your personal Facebook account, the tool makes it simple to suggest that they “like” your business page, too. If you simply want a Facebook page to be on Facebook, it really could be that simple. The hard part, of course, is ensuring that you draw, and maintain, traffic to your business Facebook page.

You’ll reach some customers and prospects—not all. Who sees what on Facebook is determined by an algorithmic system called EdgeRank, based on three factors: 1) affinity (whose posts you interact with most),  2) weight (the features in a post, including links, videos, photos and the comments it generates and 3) time decay (“recency” of the post). While EdgeRank guarantees that you see things on Facebook that are of interest to you every time you log on, it also guarantees that your business page won’t appear in every person’s newsfeed who iikes your page. It’s your job to get into that feed, based on the very factors noted above. The more they interact with your posts, the more you’re exposed on newsfeeds. Of course, there is always the odd chance that someone will seek your business Facebook page organically, but it’s unlikely. According to comScore, Facebook users spend just 12 percent of their time on the site looking at brand or profile pages.

 

You must know what moves your customers. The key to getting a customer response is knowing what engages them. Ask questions of them, post images and videos that inspire, and make them want to share the information with others. Address problems, and emotional desires. Be informative and educational. The more popular your posts, the greater the likelihood they’re seen by others. When your posts generate “likes,” positive comments, and shares, you increase the odds that you’ll reach your fans’s News Feeds, and possibly, more prospects. Even with a successful strategy, competition on Facebook is stiff. According to Ignite Social Media experts, just 16 to 17 percent of your fans will actually see your posts.

You can pay for exposure, but there are no guarantees. Facebook now has the option to buy sponsored posts, ads, and offers and you can create an ad in minutes, for as little as $10 a day. But, there is no shortage of paid ads and sponsored posts—and no guarantee that users won’t just skim right past your post.

You must spend time figuring out what works. Facebook Page Insights can help you understand more about your audience, and activity surrounding your posts and page, but you must carve out time to understand it, and experiment. Facebook is always changing, and so is what “works” on it at any given moment. If you’re ready to try Facebook, make sure you have time to pick a strategy, try it, and keep learning as you go.