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small business briefing

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter  @GlobeSmallBiz.

Brands behaving badly

Long gone are the days of waiting on the phone to reach a customer service representative. And don't even bother writing a letter to the company, which can easily get 'lost in the mail.' Thanks to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the balance of power has shifted, giving consumers a public stage to voice their dissatisfaction or satisfaction with a company. The new landscape has also raised expectations on the part of the company. Brands behaving badly can no longer choose simply to ignore the problem.

The move towards these channels is evident in Canada, where one in five consumers have used social media to get a customer service response in the past year, according to American Express Canada's annual Global Customer Service Barometer. Of those consumers who contacted their favourite brands through Twitter or Facebook, 28 per cent were more likely not to make an intended purchase if their customer experience was poor. Also worth noting from the study is that, in general, while 63 per cent of consumers tell others about a poor service experience, only 54 per cent will tell others about good experiences.

But the news isn't bad for companies who 'do' social media well, such as Best Buy, Subway and Target, who topped Coversocial's study of customer service on social media. In fact, a strong presence on these networks can give your company a strategic advantage over competitors.

So how can your company use social media to improve customer service? To start, Dell offers some tips for commenting in this nifty infographic , which includes a flow chart on managing online conversations.

You may also consider hiring a social media manager. There are arguments for and against, of course, but as Globe tech reporter Omar El Akkad points out , "there will inevitably comes a point when taking care of social media accounts becomes just too important for a company – or too much work – to be managed passively by someone who has an entirely different day job to do."

But before you rush out to hire someone, keep in mind that just because people in their early twenties may be deft with a smartphone, "it's a mistake to entrust social media duties to inexperienced staff members who don't have adequate business acumen and brand knowledge," writes Shelley White.

A cry for Yelp

ReadWriteWeb spoke to a dozen small-business owners about their experiences on Yelp, a hub for people to post online reviews of service companies such as restaurants and hotels, in the wake of continuing allegations that good ratings fail to surface until advertising is purchased on the site. "We chose not to advertise with Yelp and since then, all our good reviews get filtered," Jen Lim of TraxNYC said in the story. A Yelp manager denied the allegations, adding his company only tries to curate based on suspicious activity, such as reviews from family and friends of business owners, or the actions of companies that provide good ratings for a fee.

Share your knowledge

An entrepreneur named Adam Brimo has launched an interesting venture called, The Age reports. It's designed to draw people with expertise in a variety of disciplines who are willing to share that knowledge with an online audience. They will have the ability to charge, but Mr. Brimo says he hopes many of them will offer to provide the service for free. Organizations such as universities, entrepreneurs and corporations will have low-cost access, and will also draw funding from users who charges students for their courses. The services launches to the public on Oct. 15.


Your Business Is Now – Conference and Expo 2012

From Oct. 12-13 , network with entrepreneurs and companies and prepare to immerse yourself in conversations about what matters. Learn from panel discussions, keynote talks and work shops about the ways you can start using today's tools, trends and technology for your business or brand.

B2B marketing

Now in its 15th year, the SOHO/SME Business Expo is a business-to-business marketing event that aims to motivate, inspire and drive success. It's described by organizers as "interactive, engaging and fun." It will be held in Vancouver on Oct. 16, and in Toronto on Oct. 30.


In pictures: Top smartphones for fall

Check out the latest models coming to Canada in this photo gallery


Video: What type of business is ideal for a startup?

Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, says all you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway in this interview with Globe reporter Wallace Immen

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