While a huge portion of what social media has become known for is posting pics of cute cats, keeping up with celebrity feuds, and salivating over food images, social media is actually great for small businesses too. Many small business owners relegate social media as the "whipped cream" to the perceived more important aspects to business needs, but social media is nothing to skip out on. I mean, who doesn't love whipped cream anyway? These 5 "As" will show you why social media is something your small business needs to succeed. An "A" for effort indeed!

Awareness - Brand Recognition

Social media, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Pinterest and then some, is where many people find out what's new, hot, and trendy. Developing and maintaining company profiles and pages on as many social media outlets as possible is imperative for your brand and its noteworthiness. According to Forbes, "Every opportunity you have to increase your visibility is valuable. Social media networks are channels for your brand's voice and content." The more people see your brand, what you're doing, and what you've got to offer, the more your company name is top of mind when they want to buy your goods or use your services. Keep it fresh, frequent, and friendly. The more unique you are the better, but be sure you can be relatable and memorable. Another way brands can become instantly recognized is via a celebrity tie in. As per an article posted on Bloomberg.com, a watch company, Daniel Wellington did just that and the followers to their social media pages soared. Send out your product to representatives for celebrities, ask magazines for tie-ins, or reach out to the celebs themselves via their social media pages. One may bite and give you a shout out. With the number of followers the famous folks have, even if a fraction start to follow you, it's worth the effort.

Anywhere - Mobile Capabilities

If you've ever been on a crowded train, waited on a grocery checkout line, or even walked down a busy street, you've surely noticed the people around you engrossed in whatever they're looking at on their smartphone. Much of the time, they're thumbing through their social media feeds to see what's new and interesting. By investing in your social presence, you can be sure your current and potential customers and clients will see what you're posting and sharing no matter what time of day or wherever they may be. As Aabaco Small Business from Yahoo puts it, "Mobile is at the forefront of social media because most social activity that is being done is via a mobile device. Plan accordingly when developing your social strategy and be sure it is compatible and offers the viewer a positive experience." Heck, if someone's going to bump into someone while walking face down in their cell, why shouldn't it be your Facebook page that's hooked them in? When considering mobile, go even deeper and become educated on when the best times to post are and how frequently. Lots of companies see increased engagement on weekends, as per Adweek SocialTimes. And for the most click-thrus? 12 and 6pm are the times to post for the most bang for your buck. Of course, every set of consumers are different and each field and its base of followers have different trends. Your social media manager with aid from the social platforms can derive a posting plan that delivers the most value for your business.

Access – Increased Traffic

Social media information, when intriguing with obvious and uncomplicated calls to action, will bring readers to your company website, increasing your traffic, and in turn, profit. According to Aabaco Small Business, "Every website owner wants to increase their traffic and social networks to the list of site referrals. They also lead to more time spent on the site." Forbes adds, "Without the benefit of social media, traffic is limited to people already familiar to your brand. Every social media post you add is another path to your site. The more quality content on social media, the more traffic." So be aware of what you're posting and always give the reader a reason to click through to your website, be it for more related content, a special deal, or a new item or service. For help with maximizing your techniques for luring customers over, check out po.st. They can help capitalize on your readers' social activity and habits and aid you in effectively posting and integrating content that makes them yearn for more over on your website where the real action takes place as far as money making is concerned.

Allegiance - Engagement & Loyalty

Just like an old friend you've reconnected with on social media, your customers will become loyal to your brand the more you share with them and provide positive and useful material for them to look forward to. In addition, the more they see of you on social media, the more willing they'll be to engage with your posts by commenting, reviewing, and best for you, sharing with others who will be inclined to "like" your page and become a customer since they have trust in their friend's choices. Texas Tech University's College of Media & Communication reported that social media presence increases loyalty from consumers who follow a company's social media presence and those who engage in conversations with their followers were "the most likely to gain brand loyalty from those individuals because they like their voice to be heard." Be sure to keep active and participatory with your followers and make them feel special. Well, aren't they? Without them, your business would have a hard time succeeding. Remember, treat your followers with respect and try to move negative chatter to a private setting. And to make sure your readers know there's a "real person" behind the scenes, keep the activity moving with posts that show you've been reading what they are putting out there. Stay away from generic filler posts or "spammy" jargon that will probably be passed over anyhow.

Availability - Greater SEO

Search engine optimization is important for any business. You want to rank well among those in your field when it comes to online searches from prospective customers and clients. Forbes claims that SEO is the best way to obtain relevant traffic from search engines like Google. "Search engines may be calculating their rankings using social media presence as a significant factor. Strong brands almost always use social media, and being active on social media is a signal to search engines that your brand is legitimate, credible, and trustworthy." You can improve your ranking by staying on top of your social media posting and progress. The more readily you are able to be found online, the better off your company will be when folks dive into the sea of what's searchable and you're among the first they can reel in. Take a meeting with an SEO expert. You may not need to hire someone full time, but instead, try for a seminar or an advisor that can educate you on what and how much content to put out there to achieve optimal SEO value from your hard work.

So get social and check off the 5 "As" of social success. Your small business will be a "thumbs up" with your followers and fans awaiting your next post!

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Between buying a new home and transporting yourself and your belongings to it, moving can be an expensive process. One often underrecognized cost of moving occurs before one's original house has even been sold, and that's staging the house. Homeowners often spend hundreds of dollars making a home appealing to potential buyers. To ease the financial burden of moving, here are several tips for staging your home on a budget.

Downsize Instead of Storing

The goal of staging a home is to create a blank canvas that potential buyers can imagine their own lives painted upon. To accomplish this, homeowners should depersonalize the home as much as possible, removing items that are specific to their family and eliminating clutter. This is where homeowners often incur their first costs as they rush to put as many older things in storage as possible.

To cut costs, focus on downsizing rather than storing items. Look for items that you can sell, donate, or give away. For remaining items, look for alternative places to store them, such as a friend or relative's house. This will also reduce the cost of moving your belongings when it is time to go to the new house.

DIY What You Can

There are times when homeowners should bring in a professional to manage home renovations and decorating, such as when a task requires specialized skills. These types of jobs, when done incorrectly, will incur even greater costs if attempted on your own. However, many of the home improvement tasks that go into staging a home are simple enough that the homeowner can DIY them, such as painting, installing a backsplash, or refinishing the deck. Doing these tasks yourself will save you a significant amount of money.

Don't Redo, Update

Homeowners are often eager to make their houses look as appealing to buyers as possible. However, recall that the point of staging is depersonalization, making a home presentable so buyers can mentally impose their own style onto it. When staging a home on a budget, focus less on completely transforming the space and more on making what is there look presentable. For instance, if you wanted to give your bedroom a facelift, trying to replace the furniture and flooring would be pointless unless it was damaged or unkempt. Simply organizing the space and replacing the bed's comforter would be sufficient.

Maximize Space

Another way to update the space without entirely redoing it is to rearrange it to maximize the space that is already there. For instance, pulling the furniture away from the walls will make a room appear bigger and allows more space for those touring the house. Using window trimmings that maximize natural light and incorporating wall mirrors can also make a room seem more spacious.

Raising a larger family than most means that your lifestyle is going to change. Costs will continue to multiply as your family grows larger. However, just because your family is large doesn't mean your quality of life needs to suffer. It just means you need to make a few adjustments to help things work smoother and more efficiently. We've compiled a couple of money-saving tips for larger families to help you get the most out of your dollars.

Always Buy in Bulk

The benefit of having a larger family is that things you buy in bulk rarely ever go to waste. Smaller families can benefit from buying in bulk, of course, but your large family will see the most use out of shopping in large quantities. You'll want to avoid going to smaller stores for necessities such as groceries and clothes, as these places generally have higher markups on their items.

Buy Wholesale Items Online

If you want to take buying in bulk to the next level, one of the best money-saving tips for large families is to buy online from wholesalers. Buying online comes with a number of benefits that you won't get when you go to a physical store:

  • You don't have to drag your kids to the store with you
  • You have a lower probability of making impulse purchases
  • You can search for exactly what you need
  • Wholesalers sell in very large quantities for a lower price per item

Never Throw Away Something Useful

When you have to buy things for multiple children, your costs to replace items will be much higher. That's why it's so important to keep everything you can. Clothing is a big part of this. Hand-me-downs can prevent you from needing to replace entire closets every year. Try to repair or upcycle any clothes that may have damage, as this is usually much cheaper than buying brand-new items.

Stick to a Budget

When you support a large family, expenses can sometimes get away from you. Proper budgeting helps to keep the extra purchases that add up to a minimum. Budgeting correctly can save you a lot of heartache in the long run. It's up to you how much control you want to take; you can make your budget weekly or monthly, depending on how tight a ship you need to run. What's important to remember is that making the budget is only the first step—sticking to it is where you'll really need to enact some willpower.

Spring may be the most popular time to list, but people need to buy homes in every season. Follow some simple steps to get your home sold in the winter.

Sometimes there is no choice—a home needs to be sold in the winter.

Spring may be the most popular time to put your house on the market, but homes do sell in the colder months. With fewer houses available, your home may be someone's only choice when house hunting in your neighborhood. As your neighbors hold out until spring, you'll already be done and ready to shop for your next house!

Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter to get you on the right track.

Keep Paths Safe and Landscaping Fresh

Landscaping is the last thing on a homeowner's mind in the winter. Everything was cut back in the fall and may now be covered in snow. Still, take a walk around the house and yard to check everything out. Branches may have fallen from heavy snow, leaving a mess in the yard. Keep everything neat and tidy.

The last thing you need is a potential buyer slipping on the ice-covered walk in front of your house. Buyers often consider those moments bad omens, and this can affect their decisions. Shovel, snow blow, spread salt—do whatever you have to do to keep the driveway and walking paths clear, and don't forget the porch and deck.

Make the Inside Warm and Cozy

In cold weather, buyers won't spend a lot of time examining a home's exterior. Instead, impress them with the inside by creating an atmosphere which causes them to want to move in.

When there's time, leave wintery types of snacks and drinks, such as hot cocoa and cookies, available on a table during showings. This gives your home a welcoming feel to buyers.

Light the fireplace (if you have one) for a lovely ambience and set your thermostat to a comfortable setting. A warm home in the winter is much more appealing than a chilly one.

Make Your Home Less Personal

Understandably, this can be a tough thought for homeowners. After all, you've spent years creating memories in your home. To buyers, though, they need to picture it as their own. Too much personality makes that difficult.

It's always important to stage your home in a way that makes it look clean, comfortable, and move-in ready. Don't feel offended by the idea of taking family pictures down and replacing them with generic décor. This will help your home sell faster by helping buyers envision their own things there.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Clean, clean, and clean some more. Make appliances, counters, and floors shine. No matter how old your home is, it needs to feel like new to potential buyers. If you aren't into dusting, now is the time to try. Don't forget window coverings that might need washing.

Be prepared ahead of time for home inspections by taking care of maintenance now. HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical should all be up to code and running smoothly.

Use these tips for selling a home in the winter, exercise patience during the slower months, and your home will sell before you know it.