[News] Small Businesses Investing More in Social Media

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Social Media News] Small Businesses Investing More in Social Media Marketing

News Source: FOXBusiness

A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and research firm TNS found that 80% of small business owners are using social media to connect with new customers and generate business. 73% of “hyper growth” businesses—those experiencing significant revenue growth—are increasing their social media spend this year; 42% of small businesses experiencing no growth are also boosting their social media investment.

Businesses who are using social media have good things to report: 90% say that their social media efforts help maintain their company’s brand and identity online, and 82% say that social networking helps them generate new leads.

Key Takeaway: Social media marketing isn’t just a fad—it’s an effective way to form an identity around your brand and connect with customers and new leads. The good news is that, if you haven’t paid much attention to social media yet, it’s never too late to start! 

[Social Media News] Facebook Acquires WhatsApp for $16 Billion

News Source: The New York Times

On Thursday, Facebook announced its largest acquisition ever, purchasing text messaging app WhatsApp for $16 billion. The app currently has 450 million (mostly international) users who pay $1 a year for the service.

This acquisition is one of several recent purchases that Facebook has made to complement its current functionality. Given its struggle to retain younger users and its less-than-stellar messaging, the WhatsApp acquisition comes as no real surprise. But why the big price tag?

The short answer is: user activity. WhatsApp’s messaging volume is now approaching the volume of all text messages sent globally. That’s a lot of texts!

Key Takeaway: Facebook’s Messenger has always left a lot to be desired. With the acquisition of WhatsApp, the social network will open doors to new text-based features. In addition to seeing improvements in basic messaging functionality, we may start to see some messaging features designed specifically for business Pages as well.

[Restaurant News] Restaurant Sales Expected to Reach $683 Billion in 2014

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

The National Restaurant Association projected this week that restaurant sales will grow for the fifth consecutive year. Sales are expected to reach $683 billion in 2014, a 3.6% increase from 2013.

Of these project sales, $455.9 billion is projected to come from traditional sit-down and quick service restaurants, $20 billion from bars and taverns, $47.1 billion from managed services, $34.8 billion from hotels and lodging, $66.4 billion from retail, vending, and recreation, $55.6 billion from noncommercial restaurant services, and $2.5 billion from military restaurants.

Key Takeaway: Although there remains uncertainty about the economic outlook over the next year, restaurants will be doing their part to make both Main Street and Wall Street happy.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Small Business Optimism Is on the Rise

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Economy News] Small Businesses Optimism Hits a 5-Year High

News Source: Fox News

The latest Wells Fargo / Gallup Small Business Index, which calibrates the overall outlook for small businesses in the US, has hit its highest level since 2008, indicating a renewed sense of optimism from small business owners.

The poll revealed an uptick in small businesses reporting a strong cash flow for Q1 and higher revenue projections for the next quarter after a consistent string of quarters with declining economic performance and stability.

Key Takeaway: Although the overall economy is still facing a variety of issues, the small business sector appears to be in a more stable economic state than it has in months past—a great reason to be optimistic about the future.

[Social Media News] 53% of Facebook’s Ad Revenue Now Comes from Mobile

News Source: TechCrunch

This week, Facebook announced that it earned 53% of its ad revenue from mobile ($1.37 billion of its $2.59 billion revenue) in Q4 of 2013. This surge in mobile ad revenue falls in line with Facebook’s growing mobile user base, which hit 945 million monthly active users in Q4.

Facebook’s mobile app install ads and mobile app reengagement ads have also contributed to increased earnings, allowing advertisers to reach users within mobile apps or driving them back to mobile apps they haven’t opened in awhile.

Key Takeaway: Facebook has often been accused of being late to the mobile game, but they appear to be making up for lost time and seeing a big returns for their efforts. The same goes for small businesses: If you haven’t already invested in a mobile presence for your business, now’s the time to do so! 

[Restaurant News] Fast Casual and Fine Dining Led the Way in Revenue Growth for 2013

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

A new report from The NPD Group released this week showed strong year-over-year growth for the fast-casual restaurant market sector in 2013, with an 8% increase in customer visits over a 12 month period.

The fine dining market also saw a 6% increase in traffic, while casual dining, midscale, and quick service restaurants saw flat or decreased visits during the same time period.

The data suggests that growth was fueled in great part by franchise expansions.

Key Takeaway: Diners are more and more frequently spending their dollars at fast-casual and fine dining establishments. For small businesses in these market segments, now is the time to capitalize on increased consumer interest by making sure your business information is easy for local searchers to find across the web.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Constant Contact Launches Small Business Innovation Loft

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Incubator News] Constant Contact Launches Small Business Innovation Loft

On Tuesday, Constant Contact launched the Small Business Innovation Loft (SMB InnoLoft), the home of a new program designed to support entrepreneurs as they solve problems for small businesses through the development of new products, features, and services.

Startups selected for the program will have incubator space at Constant Contact’s Massachusetts headquarters for 4 months. Additionally, program participants will receive financial resources, mentorship, and access to small businesses who have opted in to provide feedback on new offerings.

SMB InnoLoft is accepting submissions through March 31 for the inaugural class of startups. The program is scheduled to begin in summer 2014.

Key Takeaway: This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to get the mentoring, financial backing, and insider access they need to grow their business. If you’re an early-stage startup or entrepreneur that supports small businesses, you can apply for the program here.

[Social Media News] Facebook Acquires Link-Sharing App Branch

On Monday, link-sharing service Branch announced their acquisition by Facebook. Branch developers will become part of a new “Conversations” team at Facebook with the goal of helping users “connect around their interests.”

Branch currently offers two services: Branch, a web-based link-sharing service that provides a platform for users to discuss a piece of content and share that discussion anywhere on the web, and Potluck, an iPhone app that provides bite-sized news clips you can discuss within the app.

Key Takeaway: This acquisition falls in line with Facebook’s recent changes to its News Feed to serve up more relevant, news-oriented posts to users. All signs point to the continued importance of sharing high-quality, interesting content with your followers on social media, especially on Facebook. Make sure that the content you curate for your audience is meaningful—and if you haven’t been creating your own newsworthy content on a company blog, you may want to start in 2014.

[Restaurant News] 70% of Chain Restaurant Patrons Won’t Try New Menu Items

New research from the NPD Group released this week revealed that, at chain restaurants, 70% of surveyed consumers tend to order menu items they’ve ordered before, rather than trying something new.

Consumers indicated that they would be willing to try new items based on their appearance, price, and healthfulness.

The survey also suggested that consumers would branch out and order a new menu item if it falls under the same category as their regular orders, or an item that’s a regular fixture on a restaurant’s menu.

Key Takeaway: If you want to get your customers to branch out and try new things, make sure to give them as much information as possible about new items: photos, descriptions, health information, and pricing. Also be sure to categorize new menu items appropriately, which may increase the likelihood of experimentation.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

2013 in Review: Small Business News

2013 saw many changes on the small business front, and 2014 is poised for even more rapid change. Here’s a look back at some of the major news from the past year covered on the SinglePlatform blog.

Restaurant Tech News

In 2013, restaurant technology advanced most notably on the payment processing and reservation/POS fronts. Industry front-runners such as Square and OpenTable made product improvements, and big dog Apple entered the arena with a reservation system patent request. It’ll be interesting to see whether specialized companies remain on top in 2014, or if giants such as Apple change the game in the coming months.

Social Media News

For seasoned social media networks, the news in 2013 centered around improvements and new features. Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest all introduced new functionality and updates. Last year also confirmed that the SoLoMo (social local mobile) movement is still going strong as neighborhood network Nextdoor received another major round of funding.

Retail News

As the economy began to bounce back in 2013, retail sectors saw more activity. In terms of technology, Apple led the way with highly targeted in-store recommendations; several other companies also introduced location-based recommendations in a variety of formats.

Advertising News

Social reigned supreme in terms of new advertising formats in 2014. Foursquare, Google, and Twitter all launched new ad types, giving users the ability to better target users and provide content in a more engaging format than traditional banner ads.

Local Search News

There was much more local search news in 2013 than was covered on this blog, but two big highlights made our list: Google’s new customer data map feature, and the launch of start-up Openbay.

  • Google Introduces Maps Engine Pro to Help Small Businesses Visualize Customer Data
  • Meet Openbay, the New OpenTable for Auto Repairs

Franchise Sector News

In 2013, franchises saw greater job growth than the overall private sector, and they’re projected to see even more success in 2014 as consumers’ economic confidence returns.

[News] Apple Files Patent for Restaurant Reservation & Ordering System

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Restaurant Tech News] Apple Takes on Restaurant Technology With a New Reservation And Ordering System

News Source: The Next Web 

This week, Apple filed a patent for a proprietary reservation and ordering system that would give consumers the ability to manage reservations, see waitlist times, and make orders right from their iDevices. Additionally, the system will offer menu recommendations to consumers based on allergies or preferences indicated on a user’s mobile device.

It’s unclear at this point how exactly the system will impact restaurants in terms of staffing, data management, and ticketing procedures. The patent hasn’t been approved yet, so there’s no word yet on if or when this system will come to market.

Key Takeaway: Apple’s entry into the reservation and ordering foray will put more information and control into the hands of the consumer than ever before. But will that be a good thing for restaurants? The app seems to have the greatest upside for fast-casual establishments by helping diners know how long they’ll have to wait and which menu items might be intriguing to them ahead of time. For more upscale establishments, where service is part of the experience and price tag, Apple’s technology seems less applicable. However the technology is employed, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple fares against more specialized, industry-specific companies already established in the restaurant tech space. Speaking of which…

[Restaurant Tech News] OpenTable Purchases Quickcue to Develop Mobile Waitlist Technology

News Source: Eater

On Monday, OpenTable announced the acquisition of Quickcue, a start-up that allows front-of-house staff to manage tables, see wait times, track guest preferences and histories, and view operational analytics via iPad.

As of today, OpenTable’s reservation system does not rely on real-time waitlists, which is a major drawback for customers. Quickcue will provide the tools they need to find tables in real time. They also plan to help businesses with a high volume of walk-ins seat tables in a more efficient way.

Key Takeaway: OpenTable’s mobile waitlist technology is directly in line with Apple’s proposed reservation and ordering system. However, Quickcue gives more control to the restaurants themselves over the process, and does not incorporate ordering functionality. Both OpenTable and Apple’s moves emphasize the importance of real-time information and mobile ease-of-use as consumers increasingly turn toward small-screen devices to manage their lives.

[Social Media News] Twitter Tests “Nearby” Service To Show Users More Local Tweets

News Source: Entrepreneur

Reports came in this week that Twitter is testing a new mobile-app service that shows tweets from nearby users, whether or not they follow particular users in their area. This new “Nearby” service will provide hyperlocal information such as news, events, and business offers on a map interface above a timeline of local tweets.

Tweets will only be incorporated into the “Nearby” feature if a user has location tagging turned on, so those who want greater privacy can remain off the grid.

Key Takeaway: Local businesses have already begun to see the positive impact of real-time, local recommendations with apps like Foursquare. Displaying tweets to nearby users could give small businesses another outlet to provide appetizing information and offers to local consumers. Positive customer feedback about your business will be easier for users to see with the Nearby feature as well. All the more reason for you to be active on your Twitter account, turn on location tagging, and encourage customers to share feedback about your business on social.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Small Business Saturday Brings in $5.7 Billion

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Holiday Retail News] Small Business Saturday Generates $5.7 Billion

News Source: Businessweek

Businessweek reported that last weekend’s Small Business Saturday brought in $5.7 billion of revenue in the US, according to a preliminary survey. Revenue from this year’s event was projected to come in at $5.5 billion.

Additionally, 41 governors declared support for the event this year, and over 3.3 million Facebook users have liked the Small Business Saturday Page since its inception last year.

Key Takeaway: Both consumers and officials turned out to support Small Business Saturday in a big way this year. For businesses that ran marketing campaigns around the event, the investment seems to have paid off.

[Social Media News] Facebook Adjusts News Feed Algorithm to Emphasize High Quality Content

News Source: Mashable

This week, Facebook made a new round of updates to its News Feed algorithm that controls what users see in their main stream. The changes place a greater emphasis on relevant content such as news articles, rather than generic content such as memes.

Facebook will also begin to display related articles underneath an original post for users who click on a link from their feed.

Key Takeaway: These News Feed changes reflect a broader demand from users for more relevant, interesting content across social media. Make sure that the content you’re sharing on your business’s Facebook Page is helpful, entertaining, or otherwise engaging for your audience. If so, Facebook will reward your Posts with greater visibility in your followers’ News Feeds.

[Restaurant News] Recent Survey Shows Gift Card Purchases on the Rise

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

A recent survey by GiftCardRescue found that consumers are purchasing more restaurant gift cards as the economy rebounds. The study showed increased rankings from food chains such as Darden Restaurant Group, Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, and Panera Bread.

According to another survey by the National Retail Federation, more than 80% of consumers plan to purchase at least one gift card this holiday season, a 4% increase over 2012, and overall gift card spending per consumer is expected to rise as well.

Key Takeaway: The food industry is primed to see an uptick in business as the economy becomes stronger. If you run a restaurant, café, bakery, or other food establishment, be sure to have some gift cards ready for shoppers who are looking for a convenient gift option this holiday season.

[Social Media News] Twitter Launches Retargeted Ads

News Source: TechCrunch

On Thursday, Twitter announced the launch of a new feature called “tailored audiences”. This feature allows businesses to retarget ads on Twitter to people who’ve shown an interest in their products or services.

These ads rely on tying a user’s identity on Twitter to their activity on a personal computer. Twitter will analyze the cookies from a user’s non-mobile-web browsing activity and then retarget to that user on a smartphone or tablet when they log into Twitter with the same credentials. This gives businesses the ability to run retargeted ads on mobile, which has been difficult to do since mobile web activity can’t be tracked the same way that PC traffic can.

This feature was tested with a small group of businesses over summer, but is now available globally.

Key Takeaway: Twitter ad targeting up to this point has left much to be desired. With this new tailored audiences feature, businesses will be able to run ads for a much more specific, engaged audience—and on mobile devices, where retargeting has traditionally been impossible.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Marketer, Consumer Instagram Usage Grows

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Social Media News] Instagram Usage Grows Among Marketers and Restaurant Customers

News Sources: Inside Facebook, Nation’s Restaurant News

This week was full of Instagram news. A new report from SimplyMeasured indicated that 71% of the large brands worldwide now have an Instagram account, and 65% of brands have active accounts (up 23% from Q3 of 2012).

Over half of marketers on Instagram are posting new content at least once a week, and brand engagement has grown 350% year over year.

On the consumer front, monitoring platform MomentFeed tracked a 2.8% increase in Instagram usage for customers of 65 major food brands. More than 500,000 photos were tagged to restaurant locations in Q3; Starbucks topped the charts with 127,000 tagged photos.

Key Takeaway: If your business already has an Instagram account, the good news is that consumers are now engaging with brand photos more than ever before. If you don’t have an account, it’s a great time to jump in and try it out—especially if your business is visually-oriented.

[Restaurant Industry News] Consumers Plan to Dine out Less in 2014

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

The latest North American Restaurant Consumer Sentiment Review revealed a decline in consumer dining during 2013, a trend that is projected to continue into 2014.

For the first time, the top reason survey respondents gave for planning to dine out less in next 12 months was due to health concerns. This was followed closely by financial constraints.

The survey also found that 64% of respondents feel that healthy menu options are an important factor in choosing where to dine.

Key Takeaway: If you own a restaurant, bakery, or cafe, you may want to review your menu to make sure you have plenty of options for health-conscious diners. And don’t be shy about promoting these dishes online so that customers find out about them. 

[Holiday Retail Trends] Holiday Shoppers Turning to Smartphones

News Source: eMarketer

A new study from Deloitte revealed that almost 70% of consumers plan to use their smartphones more often his holiday season, with 56% looking for store locations, 54% researching prices, 47% looking up product information, and 45% browsing products online.

Social media will also play a bigger role in holiday shopping, with 45% of survey participants indicating that they plan to consult a social network when considering purchases.

eMarketer estimates that holiday eCommerce spending will reach over $61 billion this year, up 15% from 2013.

Key Takeaway: Being present and standing out on mobile will play a key role in your business’s success this holiday season. Make sure your website and local listings are easy to find and view on mobile devices—SinglePlatform can help!

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know!