Five Ways to Shift Your Social Media Marketing Up One Gear

Five Social Media Marketing Tips that Will Shift Your Social Media Marketing Up One Gear

Social media is a great place to market your business, especially if you’re a small business. It doesn’t limit your traffic or reach, and allows you to connect directly with buyers without having to invest large amounts of money. By optimizing your approach to social media marketing, you can indefinitely increase everything from brand recall to lead generation, and actual sales and revenue.

If you’re unable to scale your current efforts at social media marketing, this write-up will tell you exactly how you can do it to achieve your desired results.

Social Media Marketing Tips

1. More Frequent and Intentional Posting

Be it over the internet or on social media platforms, your activity is your pulse. Unless you’re consistently active, you’re as good as dead on social media. After all, nobody hangs out on your social page. They have to be seduced to take a look and the only arms that you can extend are your pieces of content.

Conduct this experiment. Increase your social media activity and you’ll see your followers grow. Decide on a schedule. For instance, three times a day on Twitter, two on Facebook and only once on LinkedIn. UseGoogle’s keyword planner to see what your audience is looking for and source that content using a news aggregator like FlipBoard, a content curation app like DrumUp or a recommendation app like Pocket  (set-up keywords).

Relevant shares are more likely to get engagement from exclusively your target audience. Edit your descriptions to something extra-specific so you attract the right audience.

Social Media Marketing Tips - More Frequent and Intentional Posting

From your content recommendations, schedule the decided amount of content every day or a week in advance. You could even store content on a content library in a content curation app to make scheduling everyday easier.

2. Creating Content Based on Predicted Performance

It takes hours to create high-quality content, as you may well know, and that effort is best applied to content that you know will get shares, increase you reach and make an impact. How do you know?

Google trends, audience interests/insights available on social media platforms and engagement stats pulled by social media analytics tools.

Social Media Marketing Tips - Creating Content Based on Predicted Performance

You don’t have to monitor these platforms on a daily basis. Once a week would do. Simply observe which of your blog posts got the most shares on social media (SumoMe has a free count plug-in that integrates with your blog). Study Google Analytics to see which blog landing pages are driving traffic to your website. Keep a tab of topics trending in search. Decide on your topic title based on these indicators and share your posts on social media.

3. Interacting with Social Users on Communities

Communities are where the most valuable conversations happen on social media (from the perspective of businesses). Social communities are created for people with similar interests to meet and discuss the latest happenings, issues and ideas on how to solve them. You may not recognize them as such, but it is easy to recognize those opportunities once you’re a part of the right communities.

On each social media platform that you’re on, join groups that discuss your niche. The idea is to become a part of that community. Do not promote your product as soon as you join the community. You’ll lose your credibility and any opportunity that you might have in the future. Spend five minutes a day participating and introduce your product only when it answers someone’s question.

There are two straight-out benefits of participating in communities: the relationships you build with your high-target audience and constantly being at the top of their minds. (They’ll think of you when they want to buy. Some great communities to be a part of are sub-reddits discussing your industry, Quora and communities on Google Plus.

4. Including Compelling Visuals on Every Post

Everyone’s aware of how visuals add value to written content. But what value do your visuals actually add? The same rule that applies to written content applies to other forms of content. What point is your visual making on the post?

Begin by conceptualizing your visual. What do you want it to convey? Think emotion, process or summary describing the title of your post. Once you’ve decided on the concept, browse for options. There are severalfree visual resources that stock wide ranges of photographs that you’ll be surprised to see fit your posts.

Social Media Marketing Tips - Including Compelling Visuals on Every Post

If you intend to create your visual, that isn’t very hard either. Google for inspiration, source your background from an image resource and use an image editor like PicMonkey to put together your visual. To create an infographic, you could use Piktochart.

5. Encouraging Employees, Partners and Friends to Share Content

There’s no better way to cut through the noise on social media than making advocates of your personal and professional network. You could use this employee advocacy guide to understand how such a program is developed and managed. Studies have shown that advocacy on social media increases the credibility of the message broadcast. Another obvious advantage is the instant, increased reach.

You simply begin by explaining why you need your advocate’s help. Show them exactly how they’ll impact your business and show your appreciation towards their efforts by rewarding them. Spend extra time devising the messages you intend to circulate via your network of advocates because it has potential to go viral. Other studies show that messages shared via advocates are shared many times as compared to those shared via company pages on social media.

To be assured of success on social media, you have to survey the latest studies and case studies and learn what works to apply the insights to your business. This write-up is insights derived from experience and brands that have succeeded on social media. All that’s left to see is how you apply it to your business.

Shift Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

4 Steps to Marketing Your Business Using Facebook Liv

Four Steps to Using Facebook Live for Business

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is constantly rolling out new features and updates, many which enhance user experience while also facilitating advertising and e-commerce activity. As the platform continues to enhance the intersection of recreational communication and business interactions, the latest available features provide outlets for improved communication and challenges in creativity for the 50 million-ish active businesses on Facebook.

The latest of these features is Facebook Live, which are real-time video posts. Live videos are published by friends you follow, publications, celebrities, and any person or establishment with a valid Facebook account. Users also have the option of subscribing to certain users and/or businesses to receive notifications whenever a given account live streams.

While this feature has been available for a while now, many businesses are still not making use of it. Facebook live poses significant opportunity as a tool for customer relations, brand exposure, marketing, and more. Make this tool part of your digital marketing strategy by getting started with the most effective ways to use Facebook Live for your business.

Using Facebook Live for Business

1. Promotional Strategy

One of the best ways to use Facebook Live is for promotional purposes. Users are much more likely to watch a video than read a lengthy article or post shared on Facebook, and businesses can (and should!) capitalize on that point of user behavior.

For example, if you’re a retail boutique, you can redirect the same promotional strategies you’ve always done through Facebook Live. Contests, give-aways, and limited time offers are just a few ideas. If you have a new product coming out soon, give a sneak peak through a live stream. If you have a give away contest, showcase the product or service. You can actually show your followers what it is you’re offering and create way more appeal by streaming a video of the products you’re promoting.

2. Brand Transparency

A great way to instill trust in your users is by sharing some behind the scenes details with them and creating brand transparency. Let’s say you’re a restaurant that uses a sustainable, locally sourced garden to get produce. Use Facebook Live to share what that process looks like.

This can also work well for reputation recovery. If there’s a controversy or accusation that you’re actively recovering from, use the live stream feature to show exactly how you’re handling it, and give users a chance to see your real brand.

3. Engage With Users

User engagement is a key necessity of having an awesome Facebook business page, so you might as well enact that engagement in every way you can. Live videos are great for Q & A sessions and directly answering the comments and/or concerns of your users.

You can also use it to weigh in on issues relevant to your consumers. If there’s an event that people are wondering ow you feel about, or an issue your consumer base is talking about, engage with your following by discussing your business stance in a live video.

4. Establish Authority

It’s important for your following to recognize you as an authority within the industry your business falls into, and Facebook Live can help reinforce that. Offering tips, industry insights, updates, and news with a live stream can establish and enhance your credibility.

Another way to approach this usage of Facebook Live is to invite other lading authorities, experts, and industry leaders to be featured in your live stream video. Host a round table discussion, or even just a casual conversation with another industry authority, and you can have a mutually beneficial piece of publicity.

Image: Facebook

More in: Publisher Channel Content

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

How to Get Google Play and Android Apps on Your Chromebook Right Now

How to Get Google Play and Android Apps on Your Chromebook Right Now

HIGHLIGHTS

  • This method requires users to switch to the Canary canal
  • Toshiba Chromebook 2015 can find it in the developer channel as well
  • This method is very unstable

Google announced the arrival of Android apps on Chromebooks at I/O this year. However months later, only a handful of Chromebooks have received Google Play support, and Google is taking rather slow steps to make it available to all the compatible Chromebooks. Luckily, there is another cheat way to get Play Store to work on Chromebooks, and start using Android apps immediately.

Of course, before we begin to tell you the way, it is important to warn you that the method is unsafe. It requires you to use the Canary canal, which is extremely unstable. If the method backfires, it could cause some damage to your machine, and we recommend you to move forward at your own risk.

This method won’t work on all models, but should at least work on the 50 models that Google listed earlier in the year. If you have one of these laptops, and want Google Play installed immediately, enable developer mode on your Chromebook by pressing Esc+F5+Power. Then Press Ctrl+D and follow the instructions.

After the Chromebook boots, press Ctrl+D again to jump verification. Switch to Canary Canal by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T, and type Shell in the command prompt. Then type ‘sudo su’ and then enter ‘update_engine_client -channel=canary-channel -update’ to switch to canary channel.

Again press Ctrl+Alt+T > Type Shell > Type sudo su > then ‘echo ‘-enable-arc’ > /usr/local/chrome_dev.conf > mount -o bind /usr/local/chrome_dev.conf /etc/chrome_dev.conf’. Now press Ctrl + Shift + Q two times to log out. After signing out, sign back in and restart your machine. After the reboot, the Chromebook should have the Google Play Store installed.

If you do not see it immediately, browse through the Settings menu to see if there is an option to enable Google Play. This process was posted by Google Plus users, and was first spotted by Chrome Story.

Justin Slatten on Google Plus also notes that Toshiba Chromebook 2015 users need not switch to the Canary canal, and can find Google Play on the developer channel as well. 9to5Google has done a full video with step by step instructions as well.

User can switch back to the stable Chrome OS channel anytime, by hitting Ctrl+Alt+T > Type Shell > Type sudo su > Enter following command: update_engine_client -channel=stable-channel -update > and then press space bar at boot.

Tags: Google, Chromebooks, PCs, Laptops, Google Play, Android Apps

[“Source-Gadgets”]

7 Ways Perfection is Killing Your Business – or Is It 6?

Problems with Perfection: 7 Ways Perfection is Killing Your Business

Can we ever truly be perfect, in anything?  Possibly, but that perfection is often short-lived.  As a society, we are always seeking ‘perfection’, and as such, we are often quick to label something as perfect, even when it is not.  A perfect stranger, a perfect storm, a perfect match or a perfect crime perhaps.

But if striving for perfection is part of your business personality, it could be damaging your ability to reach the point of product or solution launch; therefore your problems with perfection could be harming your ability to innovate.

Heck, when I launched most of my blogs or businesses, they were a mess, but they got out there and generated the buzz and citations needed to succeed. SEJ, which after three years became a six figure blog, had a disastrous template design upon launch, but I needed to get it out there at the right time, and then be flexible and nimble enough to make changes. Now, it’s a leading influencer in the world of digital marketing.

If you are running your business trying to adhere to this impossible standard, then you may be in trouble.

Here are seven problems with perfection that are killing your business.

Beware these Problems with Perfection

Makes You Slow to Market

In marketing strategy, there is an advantage known as FMA or first-mover advantage, where the first to market often gains a great initial advantage over competitors. Recent literature has suggested that that first-movers may be at a disadvantage, failing around 47 percent of the time, with ‘fast-followers’ (8 percent failure rate) being the real market winners because they can improve on newly launched products or services and reduce cost and inefficiencies.

No matter if you are first to market, or join slightly after, being one of the first is crucial to business success.  Unless you do something significantly different than any major competitor, and these are few and far between, then you must launch products or services effectively and efficiently.

Perfectionists often obsess over every minute detail, often delaying products and/or launches, which ultimately cause decreases in success metrics.

Founder of Linkedin, Reid Hoffman, said “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Obviously, your products and strategies should be well vetted and tested, but lack of speed kills.  Accept that perfection is unobtainable and set realistic launch goals.  Pick a small group of trusted associates or customers to test new products, and provide feedback.  You can always make adjustments and improvements along the way.  Remember the first cars weren’t even sold with windshield wipers because no one ever thought people would take them out in the rain.  As your customers inform you what changes or improvements need to be made, you can address them. Proving your use and delivering on your promises are more important to customers than perfection.

Robs Your Project of its Dynamism

Sometimes, trying to make something perfect can remove the energy and desire.  Think about the best presentation you have ever seen, or maybe just one with 28 million views.

You can practice a presentation 100 times, and still not be prepared for a question, or something that happens in that room, up at that table or podium.  So why stress over it?  Giving a presentation is as much about presenting yourself as it is content or facts.

People want to see someone they can relate to, and as it is often said, no one is perfect.  You should always properly prepare for a presentation, but don’t sit in the back of the room tinkering for perfection, walk around and introduce yourself.  Start a few conversations to see if you can find some interesting details to include in your presentation.

Show your audience that you are aware of them, that you can relate to them, and that you are just like them, a normal non-perfect individual that has something extremely important to convey to them.  That will go much further than an extra bullet point on a screen full of text that no one will read.

Keeps You Waiting for that Perfect Opportunity

Are you the kind of person that is always looking for the perfect opportunity?  You’ve probably noticed a running theme by now, but no opportunity is perfect.  It is generally more a matter of pros and cons.  If you gain more pros by engaging in a new opportunity, you should generally go for it.  Always be on the lookout for new opportunities for your business.  Come up with a uniform system of evaluating each one.

Select the ones that make the most sense, and tackle any hurdles as they come along.  Not every opportunity is going to work out, but some of them will, and when you look back you’ll see how imperfect the situation was at the beginning and the steps you took to improve it.

This strategy will also help you evolve as a business person as you learn what works and what doesn’t.  As Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Sabotages Confidence and Self-Belief

One of the most encompassing deficiencies of perfection is that it can sabotage confidence and self-belief.  If you are afraid to launch a product or service, or pitch a new strategy until you think it is perfect, and then when you do, it is criticized, it can be crushing.  I’m sure you’ve probably been on social media lately, and if so, you know that someone has a comment for everything.  If you own or run a business, commenting is what you hire people to do, and if you are an employee, it is what you get paid for.  However, if you think something is perfect, and are told it is not, it can ruin your confidence, and this can stifle productivity.

Remember, innovations are built by teams, and no success has been free from criticism.  Use it to constantly improve.  Perfection can be something that is striven for, but rarely obtained.  Don’t dwell on criticism, use it to refine and enhance.

Prevets Your Getting From Start to Finish

In many phases of business, things are constantly evolving and never actually finished.  Think about a business plan, or target customers.  You should always be updating plans and trying to obtain new customers, but it is important to set milestones and plans that can actually be finished.  It will give you a sense of accomplishment and vigor and inspire your next cycle of innovation.

Perfectionists are often cited as not being able to finish anything because there is always something that can be changed to try and reach that unobtainable level of perfection.  Think about how this article started. Speed is an asset that perfection doesn’t allow.

Your milestones should be realistic times or events that allow you to move to the next step.  Be sure to evaluate and address areas for improvement in each subsequent step, as you try to achieve a more perfect outcome.

Destroys Vital Conditions for Creativity

Creativity and curiosity are born from chaos.  Always trying to be perfect eliminates your inclination to take risks and innovate.  You need to be creative to thrive in business.  There was a time when people said selling books online was crazy because users were scared to use credit cards on the web, the shipping costs would eat up any money that was saved and people would have to wait a week for a book that they could have today at any store or public library.

You probably already know where this is going, but today Amazon is rated as the tenth most profitable brand in the world.  They certainly had their growing pains, but used feedback from mistakes to grow into the behemoth they are today.

Don’t be afraid to embrace chaos.  Again, striving for perfection can certainly be a goal, but it is often created from bedlam.  Make sure you get uncomfortable from time to time; it can help you create something you can’t yet fathom, but could fundamentally improve your business.

Nothing’s Perfect

Especially this posting.  The title stated you were going to get 7 ways perfection is killing your business, but there were only 6.  I just wanted to leave some room for improvement, as you should too, because nothing is perfect, or more perfect.

Strive for consistency, not perfection and your business will thrive no matter the environment, product or competitor.

Have some more ways that perfection could be killing your business? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

[“source-ndtv”]

Weird State Laws that Affect Your Small Business (Infographic)

Weird State Laws that Affect Your Small Business

You’ve broken the law.

Don’t let it bother you too much however, because it’s likely that almost everyone in the U.S. has broken a weird state law at one point or another and guess what! No one’s coming to get you.

You’ve heard about these laws, right? Statutes that declare things like, “One may not promote a ‘horse tripping event’” or “No animal may be hunted for on Sunday with the exception of raccoons, which may be hunted until 2:00 AM“.

While many of these laws are a throwback to different times, they’re still on the books and enforceable as they were when created.

Some, such as “Using a firearm to fish is strictly forbidden” and “It is illegal to give beer to hospital patients” may even seem titteringly relevant today. Most? Not so much.

A Sample of Weird State Laws

As a small business owner, it’s interesting to take a look at those weird state laws that affect your company. There are plenty of them including:

  • In Carmel, California, women may not wear high heels while in the city limits. So, if you sell high-heeled shoes, make sure your customers don’t wear them out.
  • In Guilford, Connecticut, only white Christmas lights are allowed for display. So don’t go crazy with the red, green and … er … every other color!
  • In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, no person shall change clothes in his or her vehicle. Better provide employees and, potentially, customers with a changing room — to prevent the collapse of civilization.
  • In Georgia, raffles can be a crime if not registered ahead of time! If an organization not recognized as “non-profit” fails to register their raffle with the local sheriff, that group risks paying up to $10,000 in fines and spending five years in jail. Does that apply to social media raffles, too? Uh oh!
  • In Indiana, check forgery can be punished with public flogging up to 100 stripes. OK, as much as some local merchants might wish this was the case, let’s get realistic.

The list goes on and on so here’s an infographic that contains 51 of the weirdest, one from each state and from the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.).

Enjoy and remember, stay on the straight and narrow but always keep it a little weird.

[“source-ndtv”]

10 Small But Essential Ways to Boost Your Business

boost

Giving your business a boost doesn’t have to be difficult or incredibly time consuming. In fact, there are some essential elements of building successful businesses that can sometimes get overlooked. These suggestions from members of our small business community include some small but important things you can do to boost your business right away.

Include These Essential Features of a Small Business Website

Your small business website serves as the online face of your business. And it can also provide any number of important functions. While each small business website should be different, there are some essential elements that can make them great, like the ones outlined in this post on Techlofy by Prince Kumar.

Entice Customers to Binge Watch Your Product Videos

Videos can really enhance your product pages with additional information, views and storytelling elements. But for them to really work, you need to get customers to actually watch them. This post on the Kissmetrics blog by Shayla Price includes some tips for getting people to binge watch your product videos.

Find a Fundable Startup Market Opportunity

There’s a lot that goes into finding a great startup opportunity. But one of the essential elements of any idea is its ability to get funded. Martin Zwilling of Startup Professionals Musings explains more in this post about finding fundable startup opportunities. And BizSugar members discuss the post further here.

Use a Digital Marketing Strategy to Increase Marketing Impact

A digital marketing strategy can help you keep all of your online and mobile marketing goals organized so that you’ll be better equipped to actually reach them. For that reason, Erik Newton of the BrightEdge blogsuggests that using a digital marketing strategy can increase your marketing impact overall.

Achieve the Ideal State of Marketing

Marketing is an essential part of running any successful business. The actual activities that go into marketing can vary from business to business. But there are some elements you can include to find the ideal state of marketing for your business. Scott Rayden discusses the idea in this Marketing Land post.

Get Mind-Blowing Traffic From Pinterest

Pinterest has been steadily gaining popularity among consumers for a few years now. And that popularity means that it can be a great tool for businesses looking to attract online consumers. This Mostly Blogging post by Janice Wald includes some thoughts on the potential power of Pinterest. And the BizSugar community also weighs in here.

Learn How to Write Effective Web Content

Communicating with your customers online is becoming increasingly important. And content marketing can help you get those messages out effectively. But you need to understand how to write content that’s actually effective first. Jireh Gibson shares some tips in this Media Shower post.

Nurture Email Leads in Your Digital Marketing Funnel

Once you gather leads from your website or opt-in forms, you need to have a plan for actually converting those leads into customers. Nurturing leads is a huge part of that, as Mike Gingerich discusses in this post. He also offers tips for how to actually craft your emails.

Get Started With Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook has become such a huge part of how many businesses interact with their customers. So new or changing features like Facebook Instant Articles can have a big impact. In this post, Rebekah Radiceexplains Facebook Instant Articles and how they can help small businesses. You can also see discussionabout the post over on BizSugar.

Take a Weekend Business Break

Hard work is an essential ingredient for any small business. But working hard constantly without ever taking any breaks can be draining and ultimately hurt your business in the long run. In this CorpNet post, Nellie Akalp challenges entrepreneurs to take a break over the long weekend, and explains why that is important.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]

[“source-ndtv”]

A Scientific Guide to Running Your First Half-Marathon

A Scientific Guide to Running Your First Half-Marathon

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Picking the right shoes is very important
  • You need to train for at least 12 weeks
  • Strengthening exercises are vital too

Running is one of the easiest ways to get fit, and it’s been gaining popularity in India. Although it’s easy enough to get started, there are many things we wish we had known when we took up running. Small things such as picking the right shoes can help you to perform better, and avoid injuries.

Technology can certainly help beginners, and there’s actually a lot of science to running.

Annual distance running events such as the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) and Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon are among the country’s most popular races, with thousands of participants. Many people, like Delhi-based photographer Biplab Mukherjee decide to start running when they hear one of their friends talk about it.

“In 2013 I had a small discussion with a friend. We were discussing how to get in shape and shed weight. He said let’s participate in ADHM,” says Mukherjee. He downloaded a 16-week running plan and finished the half marathon in two hours and six minutes.

Mukherjee may not have known it at the time, but choosing that 16-week plan was a smart choice. Dr. Rajat Chauhan, who runs Back 2 Fitness (a sports injury prevention and rehabilitation clinic in Delhi), says that beginners should train for at least three months before running a half-marathon. “You should try running 5km to 10km first. It doesn’t have to be a race,” he says. “Start doing strength training as well,” he says, because it is important for injury prevention.

many_running_shoes_flickr.jpgIncidentally, you’ve probably heard advice from people telling you to avoid running on roads, right? Dr. Chauhan, who’s been a runner himself for 31 years, says that’s nonsense. “If you are a soft lander, you can run on any surface,” he says. “This has nothing to do with weight. If you can hear your footsteps [while running], it’s too loud.”

Aman Yadav, a lawyer with Satinder Kapur and Associates in Delhi, is a seasoned runner who’s been running since 2008. He’s suffered several injuries related to running such as shin splints and cuboid bone displacement. He’s a strong advocate of strength training and says that squats, dead lifts, bench press, and lunges have helped him a lot. That and picking the right shoes help avoid injuries, he says.

One common mistake is to use your running shoes for daily wear, he says. This is a problem because the cushioning gets flattened through the day, and won’t provide support when running. “It takes 24 to 48 hours for the cushioning to return to its original position,” he explains.

Another important tip is to buy the right type of shoe, because there are three types of runners. You’ve got different shoes for overpronators (whose feet roll inwards after landing), and supinators (whose feet rool outwards after landing), and neutral runners. To figure out which one you are, you need to get gait analysis done, a facility available at major shoe stores. This involves a treadmill and a foot scanner, to help analyse how you run, so you can buy the correct shoes.

asics_foot_id_facebook.jpgThe next big question most beginners have, is tracking their runs. Most beginners can use apps such asStrava, Nike+ Running, Runkeeper, Runtastic, or any other running app of their choice. These apps offer running plans too, and as long as beginners pick a plan that’s at least three months long, they should be able to complete a half-marathon.

Carrying a smartphone with you while running may not always be convenient, so you might want to look at buying a fitness-oriented watch such as Fitbit Surge or Apple Watch. Both of these are strictly optional. A much cheaper investment would be an armband or a belt pouch to help you carry the phone while running.

Diet is a big part of completing a long-distance race. “Supplements don’t help enough if regular diet is not good enough,” says Dr. Chauhan. “[Runners need] more fat and protein so I recommend more non-veg food.”

He adds that the human body can store enough energy to let you run between 28 and 33km. “Full marathon is crossing that barrier. That is when water is simply not enough [during the race],” he says. “A half-marathon is only a third of a full marathon,” he says, in terms of the effort needed to complete the race.

Another thing that beginner runners should keep in mind is building up to longer distances the right way. Dr. Chauhan, Mukherjee, and Yadav recommend following the 10 percent rule. It states that you shouldn’t increase the distance you run by more than 10 percent per week. All of them suggest that beginners should start slow and just aim to finish their first long-distance race.

Are you preparing for your first long-distance run? Did these tips help you? Let us know via the comments section below.

Tags: Fitbit, Half Marathon, Marathon, Nike, Runkeeper, Running, Runtastic, Strava

 

[“Source-Gadgets”]

LeapPad Inventor Wants to Turn Your Eyes Into a Mouse

LeapPad Inventor Wants to Turn Your Eyes Into a Mouse

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Eye-based technology is key to improving and popularizing VR technology
  • System designed to help alleviate the nausea experienced by some VR users
  • Eyefluence is currently hammering out licensing deals with headset makers

First came the computer mouse. Then the touchscreen. Now the tech industry is looking for a new human-machine interface-this time, one that will make virtual-reality headsets as mainstream as personal computers and smartphones.

The man who invented the LeapPad tablet for kids is betting the killer app is right in front of your face: the eyes.

Jim Marggraff’s startup, Eyefluence, has developed technology that knows where people are looking and lets them manipulate objects the way we do now by clicking a mouse or tapping an icon. Besides fostering a more natural and immersive experience, the system is designed to help alleviate the nausea experienced by some VR users and enhance security with iris scans.

Marggraff says most of the big headset makers have expressed interest in licensing the technology from his Milpitas, California, company. Motorola Solutions, a leading investor, is testing the technology for emergency responders and sees possibilities in mining and medicine. “You’re able to basically interact in the virtual world simply by looking at what you want to interact with,” says X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, who advises Eyefluence and has seen the technology.

Most VR headsets use some sort of handheld device (like a game controller) or head movements to navigate. These techniques are far from ideal because they require a lot of moving around that gets tiring, and industry heavyweights including Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg agree that some form of eye-based technology is key to improving and popularizing VR technology. Gaming enthusiasts also say eye-tracking would significantly improve the playing experience by making it easier to follow objects and interact with characters.

Already, a host of companies with names like SensoMotoric Instruments, Tobii and The Eye Tribe are working on eye-tracking devices that could plug into a range of headsets. Another company called Fove says it will soon have the first headset featuring a version of the technology. But most of these are limited to scanning the iris for security purposes and recognizing where the user is looking-pointing but not clicking.

Eyefluence takes it one step further, not only using the eyes as a cursor, but letting them select, zoom, pan-things now accomplished by clicking and double-clicking a mouse or tapping and pinching a touchscreen.

The eyes are the fastest moving organ, capable of shifting 900 degrees per second, which means Eyefluence’s interface software makes it much faster to tell the computer what to do. The technology makes a two- or even three-step thought process into one: say, from look at object, move hand to it and tap or click to simply look. “It almost feels magical, like the system knows what you want before you tell it,” Diamandis says. “It’s almost like it’s reading your mind.”

When Marggraff announced plans to turn the human eye into a computer mouse, skeptics said it couldn’t be done. “People told me, ‘Don’t bother: you consume information with your eyes, but if you try to simultaneously use your eyes to control things, there will be a collision between controlling and directing and consuming,” he recalls.

But Marggraff has a deserved reputation for knowing a good idea when he sees one. He came up with the LeapPad even before the iPod existed. Released in 1999, the device helped kids learn how to read, was for a time the most popular toy in the US and generated more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,717 crores) in revenue within five years.

Marggraff, 58, also created the Livescribe, one of the better-known smart pens that record audio and sync it to written notes. Eyefluence co-founder Dave Stiehr, 57, helped build several medical-device companies, including one that sold automatic external defibrillators-gadgets that diagnose and correct uneven heartbeats and are now standard equipment in many movie theaters, airplanes and offices.

In 2012, Marggraff bought all the assets of Eye-Com, a research company led by neurologist William Torch and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense. Torch researched everything from fatigue to blinking and had accumulated more than a decade’s worth of data on eyes as well as built technology to track and analyze the organ. Marggraff and his team used that foundation to create an interactive system that uses looks to direct a computer.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Eyefluence’s team had to design a way that feels natural for the eyes to communicate a person’s intentions to the machine. Looking at an object for a set amount of time to “click” it, for instance, wouldn’t work: it’s too taxing on the eyes, and it would take too much active thinking to remember to stare for a certain amount of time or not stare for too long for fear of accidentally selecting it. A successful eye-interaction method would have to be just as intuitive as moving a mouse or tapping an app.

In the end, Marggraff solved the problem by embracing aspects of how the human eye works that he’d originally seen as a limitation. Even though it feels like our eyes are providing a constant stream of visual information, there are actually interruptions to the feed when we move our eyes to look at or examine something else.

In those moments, we are essentially blind and the brain fills in the missing images. Using these kinds of movements as a foundation, Eyefluence built an eye-machine interface that acts on intentional looks and ignores incidental ones. The company declined to explain further how the software works, citing concerns about maintaining a competitive edge.

Eyefluence is currently hammering out licensing deals with various headset makers to include its hardware and software in their devices, though the company declined to discuss specifics, citing non-disclosure agreements. Marggraff did say that the company is working with the “major players” and has been “overloaded with the strong amount of business partnerships and interest.”

Motorola Solutions, which led Eyefluence’s most recent fundraising round of $14 million, has been trying out the technology for more practical applications. The company, which sells equipment to first responders and other public safety and government agencies, sees Eyefluence as essential to providing police and firefighters with information via headset in a hands-free way that won’t interfere with their jobs.

“The more stress you’re under, the less cognitive ability you have to devote to menial tasks, so when you need the tech the most, that’s when you have the least capacity you have to extract what you need,” says Chief Technology Officer Paul Steinberg. “By using the very simple and quick interactions, we can lessen cognitive requirements to use the technology.”

Steinberg also foresees using Eyefluence’s technology in headsets for industries such as mining where drones will probably become ubiquitous. To test the eye-tracking and interface, Motorola Solutions has built and tested a virtual command center for emergency responders using Facebook’s Oculus Riftheadset, where users can see camera feeds from field operatives and control what they’re looking at and zoom in and out using their eyes. The next iteration could use Eyefluence technology to develop gaze-matching, where a person in the command center will be able to not only follow where the field operatives are looking, but direct them to check out other things.

The learning curve was almost nonexistent, which surprised Steinberg because he’d assumed using looks to manipulate things would present a challenge. And he says users generally retained their knowledge. However, Motorola Solutions probably won’t have a product ready next year, largely because headsets need to improve first.

Diamandis predicts Eyefluence technology will popularize VR the way the mouse once did the personal computer: “Everyone who’s seen it has completely gotten the power.”

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.

Tags: Eyefluence, VR Headset, Virtual Reality, VR, Wearables, Gaming, PC, Laptop

 

[“Source-Gadgets”]

12 In-Home Business Opportunities You Can Start From Your Laptop

Work From Home Ideas: 12 In-Home Business Opportunities You Can Start From Your Laptop

Think you need a lot of complicated equipment to start a business from your home? Think again. There are actually plenty of opportunities out there for entrepreneurs to start businesses with just a laptop and maybe a couple of other simple items.

If you want to start a business from your home, but you only have a laptop to work with, here are some work from home ideas for businesses you can start right away.

Work From Home Ideas You Can Start on Your Laptop

Virtual Assistant

A huge variety of business owners and professionals need help organizing and managing their day-to-day tasks. That’s why they hire virtual assistants. You can start a virtual assistant business just by setting up a website and outlining your services and prices to potential clients. Then you can help them manage things like scheduling, email, social media and more communicating with your clients via chat, Skype, email or other means.

Social Media Manager

If you want to get more specific, you can start an online business just to help various businesses start and manage their social media accounts. You can work remotely and communicate with clients about their social media activity. And you can enact specialized social media campaigns and promotions to help them grow their networks on those sites.

Copywriter

Skilled writers, you can offer your services to clients as a freelance copywriter. You can provide a variety of different writing services, from blog posts and product descriptions to short ad copy.

Blogger

Or you can start your own blog about business or a variety of other topics. Then you can earn revenue through PPC advertising, sponsored content, affiliate promotions or even selling informational products related to your topic.

Website Manager

Web developers and tech savvy business owners can also offer services as a website manager. In this capacity, you’d be responsible for maintaining websites for different businesses and clients. You might also be able to help businesses set up and develop different features of their websites.  You can do all the work yourself or outsource some of the day-to-day operations with services like Go Daddy Pro.

eBay or Etsy Seller

If you have physical or even digital products to sell, you can set up an eCommerce store on a number of different platforms from your laptop. eBay is one of the most popular platforms for home businesses. But you could also sign up for an account with Etsy, Amazon, or a number of other options.

Translator

Things like books, transcripts and reports all need to be translated into different languages from time to time. If you are fluent in multiple languages, you can offer your services as a translator to make content available in languages other than the one in which it was originally created.

Proofreader

Offering your services as an editor or proofreader is another option for a home-based business. You can have clients send you pieces of writing that you can check for errors. You can even provide suggestions for overall content improvement.

Ebook Author

Writers who have a more long-form story or subject in mind could opt for book authorship rather than short blogs or articles. And you can even become an author from your home with just a laptop thanks to the growing popularity of ebooks. Platforms like Amazon offer the opportunity for writers to upload entire books and offer them for sale to an eager community of online readers.

Logo Designer

Designers who create complicated pieces may require desktop computers or complicated equipment. But you can offer some simple branding packages like logo design to clients right from your laptop. You’ll need to create a website and outline your services. Then work with clients to develop designs for their brands.

Marketing Consultant

If you have some expertise in any area of marketing, you can offer your skills to businesses as a consultant. You can choose a specific niche or just work with businesses in a variety of different areas of marketing. Then communicate with your clients through email, phone calls or other online communications.

Online Teacher

Or you can share your knowledge with online consumers in another format. Whether your expertise is in business, marketing or another discipline entirely — like French, history or creative writing — you can create online courses within your niche and then sell them on your website or other online platforms. This option allows you to share your knowledge with more people in a shorter amount of time than if you were to just work with clients one on one.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

10 In-Home Business Opportunities You Can Start From Your Smartphone

10 Ideas to Start a Business on Your Phone

You no longer need tons of expensive equipment to start a business. Today’s smartphones are so sophisticated and have so many different features that you can actually use them as the main tool for running a business.

If you want to start a business from home without putting a lot of investment into equipment, here are some businesses you can start with just a smartphone.

Start a Business on Your Phone

App Developer

Mobile apps have become incredibly popular. So it’s an increasingly popular business idea as well. From your own smartphone, you can build and test mobile apps for your own venture and sell them for a profit, or you can even contract with other companies to create apps for them.

Vine, Instagram or Snapchat Marketer

Social media platforms and apps like Twitter’s Vine, Facebook’s Instagram, Snapchat and more offer plenty of new and unique opportunities for marketers. If you want to start a social media business from your smartphone, you can offer to post content for business clients on their accounts. Or you can become an influencer and work with brands to spread the word about their offerings on your accounts.

Event Planner

Working on events, from weddings to corporate functions, requires a lot of planning and organizational skills. Luckily, there are plenty of mobile apps that offer the ability to manage schedules, lists and more. And of course, you can use your phone to keep in touch with clients and vendors, through both phone calls and emails.

Chatbot Developer

Chatbots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to mimic human conversations. This technology has many potential business applications. And you can actually work to develop some of those solutions from your smartphone and then sell them to businesses and clients.

mCommerce Seller

More and more consumers are shopping from their smartphones. So you can also now set up those mobile shops right from your smartphone or similar device. Doing so will actually give you a better idea of how your shop will look to potential mobile customers so you can make sure the shopping experience is compatible with popular mobile devices. Or you could even use mobile apps for popular retail sites like eBay and Etsy to sell your goods.

Consultant

If you have expertise in a particular area, you can share that expertise with others right from your smartphone by working as a consultant. You can communicate with potential clients via email and then set up phone calls or even use the Skype mobile app to set up video conferences with clients.

Tech Support

Tech savvy entrepreneurs, you can offer your expertise to clients needing tech support for a set fee or hourly rate. You can have customers contact you with queries and then respond to them via email, phone or Skype with solutions or any further questions you might have to help solve their tech related issues.

Videographer

No longer do you need lots of expensive equipment to make and edit videos. Today’s smartphone cameras are often HD quality. And you can download editing apps right onto your phone. So you can create your own videos or even offer your videography services to clients.

Airbnb Host

Home rental services like Airbnb let anyone with some extra space in their home, or a separate income property, make extra cash by renting it out. With the Airbnb app, or others like it, you can create a listing for your home or room and manage communication with renters right from your phone or mobile device.

Life Coach

Life coaches work with clients to provide general help with things like career, relationships and even health and fitness. You can communicate with clients via email, phone calls or Skype. And you can even set up a website and social profiles to offer your services right from your phone.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]