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7 Social Media Management Tools You Should Be Using

July 20, 2017 - By 
social media marketing

Social media is a world in and of itself.

So if you’re still trying to master this world without the help of social media management tools, you’re wasting precious time.

And time is money.

Which Social Media Management Tools Do I Need?

They help you gain control of the huge social media world so you can get back to the work at hand, like meeting with clients or studying SEO trends.

While there are more tools showing up in the market every day, we think the following seven are worth considering for your tool box.

Quora

Wait, isn’t Quora a question and answer website?

Yep. And it’s a great place to start gathering ideas when you’re looking for inspiration for your social media posts.

Think about all of the time you’ll save by checking this site and seeing what the buzz is in your particular niche.

And it’s free!

Hootsuite

In terms of software management tools in the form of software, Hootsuite is the most well known and has millions of users.

From the Hootsuite dashboard, you can manage over 25 social networks including the big ones like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, as well as other networks.

You can further customize your dashboard to display only the streams you need, and then utilize it to schedule your content across multiple platforms.

Hootsuite’s free plan includes up to 3 social media profiles. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month, and increase in price based on additional features.

MavSocial

If you’re looking for visual content management, MavSocial is it. This company brands itself as software for visual content management and social publishing.

Like Hootsuite, it comes with the standard tools for managing your social media accounts, but there’s the added visual side.

MavSocial has partnered with Getty Images and BigStock, so along with your owned content, it’s also really easy to find and purchase multimedia content.

MavSocial has a free plan that has basic features and supports Twitter and Facebook. Additional features are available with paid plans.

Sendible

If you’re in the marketing sector and want access to social media monitoring and reporting, then Sendible is one of the best social media management tools for you.

Sendible is a browser-based platform on which you can compose and schedule content for your social media accounts and blog. Then Sendible suggests the best times to post for optimal engagement.

Along with being able to plan a content calendar, you can also assign tasks to team members and use the Social CRM tool to manage your customer records.

Sendible starts at $59 per month, but they have several levels of service up from there.

TweetDeck

If a lot of your efforts are focused on Twitter, then consider using TweetDeck as one of your social media management tools. It’s a free feature on your account.

You can:

  • log into and manage multiple accounts simultaneously
  • customize your dashboard to monitor timelines and alerts,
  • add team members to better manage your accounts
  • schedule updates

Grammarly

Last but not least, add this browser extension to check the grammar and spelling of your posts.

Nothing says unprofessional like poor grammar and misspelled words.

If you have other social media management tools that save you time and money, we’d love to hear your story. Please feel free to share!


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10 Unique Vinyl Siding Ideas for Your Home

July 20, 2017 - By 

Most people take time to consider the interior of their home and what it will look like.  But when was the last time you thought about the exterior of your home?

Vinyl siding can make your look clean and new.  Bonus points because it has low maintenance.  But if you’re thinking about the exterior of your home, you want to differentiate your house from the other homes with colorful paint and lawn jockies.

How do you do that?

Picking out vinyl doesn’t happen overnight.  There’s a lot to consider.

Here Are 10 Unique Siding Ideas for Your Home

1) Split Level Vinyl

Vinyl can be the perfect material for a split level home.  This type of home offers lots of opportunities for attractive vinyl in a mix of textures, orientations, and colors.

One level of vinyl on a split level home offers a modern twist on a vintage style. With many stylistic options to choose from, vinyl siding can offset colors and styles in a split level home.

Luckily split level floor plans are pretty common in the United States.  So if you have a split level home don’t forget to call the vinyl professionals for a unique twist on an old style.

2) Gray Vinyl Siding

Gray Vinyl is the new black.  Gray is the perfect neutral color for either white or black shutters and trim.  Offering bright clean lines on a canvas that’s easy on the eyes.

Really every color goes with gray.  So let your imagination shine with some cray gray vinyl siding and other colorful accents.  Accents can include the front door, shutters, and trim.

A siding contractor can give you an evaluation and help you identify the best colors to make your home stick out in a crowd.

3) Mixing Textures, Vinyl Siding with Stone Entryway

Mixing textures is one of the coolest things you can do with vinyl siding.  This material is enhanced when paired with a stone entry way or garage.  For a modern twist on same old, same old.  T

For a modern twist on same old, same old.  Try mixing textures in your home.  If your home is more like a cabin or bungalow, mix vinyl with a wooden entryway for a different take on a typical look.

4) Colorful Vinyl Makes Your Home Pop

Some companies offer a variety of colors for their siding options.  With dozens of colors to choose from, there are a ton of mix and match options to introduce curb appeal to your home.  If you want to do vinyl, don’t hesitate to go with some color.

5) Not All Vinyl is Horizontal

Introducing some vertical vinyl in an otherwise horizontal home is a creative way to make your home stick out.  If you have a loft or section of the house that would be accented by vertical vinyl.  Go there.

6) Bright White Vinyl with a Colorful Door

Bright white vinyl can be a real asset if you have color accents. One way to do this is a bright red or blue door.  Using neutral vinyl with colorful trim is a creative way to breathe some life into your home.

Have you seen those homes with colorful doors?  Make them pop even more with vinyl.  We see this a lot with wooden homes but vinyl is way easier to clean. Keeping colors sharp for years with low maintenance.

7) Vinyl Siding with a Metal Shed Roof

A lot of people don’t associate a metal shed roof with high fashion.  But when paired with vinyl siding, a metal shed roof can give your home a cool pinstripe effect.

If you want a roof and siding that is both practical and fashionable try this look for your country cottage.

8) Tiny Home with Vinyl Siding

If you are into tiny homes, vinyl siding can make yours the hottest one in the commune!  Don’t wait to discover vinyl for your tiny home.  If you’re trying to learn the hottest trends for tiny homes find a consultant in your area.

9) Laying Vinyl Siding

Vinyl for your home is 0.44 – 0.55 inches thick. The width makes it resistent to sagging.  Unlike wooden panels, vinyl panels are only nailed in at the top of each panel.  So they hang a little.

This is because the vinyl needs to be able to breath. It expands and contracts with moisture.

It’s reasonable to lay vinyl a quarter inch apart for best performance.  It will fade over time, but not substantially.

10) Cleaning Vinyl on Your Home

Homeowners love vinyl because it’s low maintenance.  But you should really clean it to keep it looking its best.  Here are some tips for cleaning vinyl.

Wash with a soft bristle brush to remove mold, mildew and other sediment.  If a brush and water isn’t enough.  Use a gallon of water with 1/3 cup laundry detergent and 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner to clean the exterior of your home.

Because vinyl is only snapped at one end.  It’s easy to replace damaged panels.  Just use a zip tool to unhinge the product and replace it with a new one.  Simple as that.

Keeping your vinyl clean is the key to making it last and to making your house look clean and new.  So don’t skimp on the upkeep just because vinyl is durable.

To Vinyl or Not to Vinyl?

Picking vinyl siding for your home can be tough.  But remember when you choose a home there’s a lot to consider.

Location. Neighborhood.  Type of construction can all be considered when buying a home.

That doesn’t include the preferences like private pool, community pool or no pool.  Acreage and other considerations of a homeowner.

There’s so many things to consider when buying or renovating your home.  Don’t get lost in a sea of vinyl.  Call a professional to help you with your vinyl needs.


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Everything You Need to Know About Advertising on Snapchat

July 16, 2017 - By 
Advertising on Snapchat

As a tech-savvy advertiser, you already know about marketing on Facebook and Twitter. But what about Snapchat?

Snapchat may be a newer social media channel, but it has some impressive numbers behind it. The platform boasts 200 million active users each month, with 41% of Americans aged 18 to 34 using it daily.

It’s a phenomenal place to advertise, too. Snapchat ads have higher swipe up rates versus click-through rates on other platforms.

With figures like these, it’s easy to see why companies are rushing to start advertising on Snapchat.

How can you get started advertising on Snapchat? Read on for our ultimate guide!

What Makes Snapchat Different?

One advantage of Snapchat is that it offers unprecedented access to millennials. Until now, this group has been notoriously immune to traditional advertising techniques.

The platform appeals to teens and young adults because it gives them the privacy they crave. Ask any teen why they use Snapchat, and their response will likely be, “Because my parents aren’t on it.”

Anything posted to Snapchat disappears after 24 hours. Users claim that this creates a more authentic-feeling connection with their friends. They enjoy knowing what’s happening right now.

Other favorite features of Snapchat are the photo filters and drawing tools. These are there not to improve the quality, but simply to have fun. The pic you saw on Facebook of your friend with weird antlers and googly eyes? Likely a Snapchat filter pic.

Advertising on Snapchat

Now that you’re familiar with Snapchat, let’s discuss talk about how to advertise on it.

Because users share Snaps with specific people (instead of groups), Snapchat has a different “feel” than other channels.

When developing a marketing strategy, keep in mind that your goal isn’t to get lots of shares and go viral. Your goal is to get your ad in front of individuals who will engage with it.

There are currently three types of Snap Ads available:

  • Between Stories. Similar to TV commercials, these vertical, full-screen video ads play for up to 10 seconds. Viewers also have the option to skip them.
  • Live. These offer real-time views into current events and often receive tens of millions of views.
  • Discover. This virtual newsstand combines magazines and news from some of the world’s top publishers.

Marketing Strategies to Try

It can be tricky to know how to approach a new social media channel. Here are some tried-and-true methods that have worked for other advertisers:

  • Coupon codes. Offer a coupon code in exchange for snaps of users in your store or with your product. An added bonus: Coupons are trackable, so you’ll know exactly how many people are responding.
  • Connect with influencers. Teaming up with established influencers can open up new advertising platforms for you and give you access to a new audience.
  • Build anticipation. If you have an event coming up, create as much hype as possible. Keep the momentum going by posting pictures and videos of preparation and new developments.
  • Target your audience. Your audience on Snapchat might not be the same as your general target audience. That’s okay. As long as they’re interested in your content and relevant to your brand, they’re your new target audience.

Final Thoughts on Snapchat

Advertising on Snapchat may require more creativity or a different approach than you’re used to. The results, though, will be more than worth it!

Be sure to check out our collection of social media blogs for more fresh inspiration.


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5 Social Media Trends to Look out for in 2017

July 12, 2017 - By 

Social media and social networks are the way of the world. Social media marketing has become the go-to marketing method.

Companies of all shapes and sizes use this marketing method to grow their client base! In fact, an eMarketer study found that 88% of all polled companies use social media marketing.

As a business owner, it’s likely that your company has a social media presence. From social networking to blogging to podcasting, the world of social media marketing is endless.

While these methods work, don’t you want to ensure that your company is keeping up with the latest trends?

Social media trends come and go, so it’s important to keep your company’s marketing plan up to date!

Being in the know is a huge part of successful marketing. Here are 5 social media trends that are ruling 2017.

Top 5 social media trends

Let’s get to it!

1. Video is the new text.

A growing number of users create videos to communicate. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram all offer video capability. While text-based content isn’t gone for good, your business will want to find ways to use video for marketing.

2. Messaging via social media.

Social messaging is the go-to method for communicating, especially in the social media realm. Social messaging allows for quick and convenient communications with others.

This social media trend is so popular that sixty-two percent of millennials are more loyal to brands that use social messaging.

3. The use of chatbots.

Consumers like the idea of quick customer service. Even with a dedicated customer service staff, chatbots can still be useful.

Many social media users send or post messages that need a quick response. A chatbot can communicate with customers and provide information almost immediately.

Facebook uses more than 11,000 active chatbots! Using chatbots to answer FAQs for customers can be money and time-saving.

4. Instant purchases.

We live in a world were instant actions are not only preferred but common.

As social commerce continues to grow, customers seek the ability for instantaneous purchases. Instant purchasing allows consumers to buy a product or service with one click.

It’s not good enough to market your products via social networks! Take it one step forward by offering simplistic purchasing abilities for your clients.

5. Augmented reality.

The idea of changing reality came to life with the creation of selfie lenses and filters. We can thank Snapchat for this one!

Augmented reality allows users to post personalized pictures and videos. This growing social media trend can be used to better target and market to customers using more personal methods.

As the social media world continues to evolve, trends will come and go. If your company is focusing on social media marketing in 2017, don’t pass up these trends.

Be in the know!

Looking for more marketing tips? Want to educate yourself about useful topics, from business and finance to health?

If so, be sure to check out Pligg! Our blogs are sure to teach you a little bit about everything.


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7 Necessary Growth Hacking Tools for Marketers

July 6, 2017 - By 
growth hacking tools

If you run a small business, especially a new one, there is one statement that sums up your situation:

You’re either growing or you’re dying.

That probably sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true. Growth is what separates good companies from closed ones.

Luckily, there are a plethora of growth hacking tools that can help you experience the rise in business that you need to thrive. Below are 7 necessary growth hacking tools for marketers that will take your company to the next level.

1.) JustReachOut

This is a service that can help get you exposure quickly. The premise is simple: you reach out to journalists that need help writing a story need an expert to quote. They write their story with you in it, and you post the story all over the internet.

This not only will help with name and brand recognition, but it will also lend some credibility to you. Being listed as an expert in a news story builds trust with the public.

2.) Colibri

Speaking of becoming an expert in the eyes of the public, Colibri helps you not only recognize where your voice will be heard but also helps build a social media brand that will be hard to rival.

Colibri basically monitors sites like Twitter and Quora and then tells you when something relevant happens. It will tell you where to comment or answer a question so that you don’t have to spend hours digging through hashtags.

3.) FameBit-YouTube Stars as Growth Hacking Tools

This company helps you find people on YouTube known as influencers. This basically means that they have a huge following and a knack for getting their viewers to go to your page.

From there, they help you connect and hire them so that you can get massive exposure. How massive? This list shows the top YouTubers and the amount of subscribers and views they have.

4.) InFusion Soft

This is an automation tool for small businesses that allows you to rank your leads and automatically follow up with them.

Not only does this help provide excellent customer service, but it will also ensure that your employees can focus on things other than sending the same email to 50 clients. It helps build your brand and maximizes your labor.

5.) Olark

This tool allows you to do two very important things. First, you can monitor your website’s visitors to see what pages they are on the most.

Second, it allows you to engage them in dialogue so that you can find out what they are looking for and respond. It’s a great way to turn views into converted sales.

6.) YesWare

While we are on the topic of conversions, wouldn’t it be nice to know how effective your email campaign is? With YesWare, you will find out for better or worse.

This tool tells you who opened your email, how many times they opened it, and what kind of device they opened it on. In short, it gives you all the information you need to make adjustments on the fly and maximize your emails.

This is probably the best of the email based growth hacking tools out there.

7.) Outbrain

Have you ever been on a website and see the section called “around the world” or something similar? This tool makes you visible in that section. It doesn’t just make you visible on small websites either. We’re talking CNN/Slate type sites.

In other words, websites with millions of viewers a day will become growth hacking tools for your business.

If you use these tools properly and put in some work, there’s no reason your company won’t experience a high level of growth. If you enjoyed this article, make sure that you check out our other work as well!

While you’re at it, make sure you look at some of the e-books and other downloads we have to offer. There’s sure to be something that you’ll enjoy!


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6 Tips for an Effective Digital Marketing Campaign

July 2, 2017 - By 
Digital Marketing mind map, business concept

A Pew Research study found that 79% of U.S. adults have made an online purchase (that’s 8 out of 10 people)!

How does a business send a signal amongst all the noise?

A digital marketing campaign is quintessential to the growth and profitability of a business. These campaigns create awareness, drive site/app visitors, and lead to conversions. It’s a process — one that’s easy to learn & put in place but hard to master.

Want the low-down on an effective campaign? Read on.

The Digital Marketing Campaign: Six Must-Know Tips

The measurement of success (and effectiveness) of a digital marketing campaign depends on the end goals. These goals are A) sales, B) community engagement, and/or C) branding.

The following six tips will help move toward (and achieve) each of these goals:

1. Choose a Goal

There are the three goals (mentioned) but to have the campaign run successfully the goal needs to be specific.

  • Increase sales by 2.5%
  • Decrease chargebacks by 1.3%
  • Grow social media following by 1,000 followers

That type of goal.

Defining the specific goal will allow for milestones to be set along with pairing the process to the valuable tools that will make it happen.

2. Refine the Audience Research & Selection

Who is the audience?

If it’s “anyone that’s willing to buy” then the campaign is off in the wrong direction. The audience needs a representation — a complete breakdown of their demographics, income, location, gender, age, and all other factors.

Build a customer avatar.

Once the type of individual is specified it then shifts to pairing the offer to touch on the points that make it interesting to these people. Push the benefits (not features) and help them visualize the value they gain from purchasing.

3. Develop the landing/sales page

The advertising and marketing will attract attention and get the click. Yet, if the person lands on a discombobulated page, something irrelevant, or there’s a disconnect between the ad and landing page then they’ll bounce.

The landing page needs to immediately grab their attention:

  • A strong headline
  • Visuals (videos work best)
  • Bullet points to highlight the features
  • Reviews and testimonials

The landing/sales page should do just one job: convince the person to buy.

Use examples of landing pages as a starting point for the development.

4. Deliver the Goods (on Popular Channels)

A digital marketing campaign is effective when it works off content or a “lead magnet”. This gives people something of value in exchange for their information and interest. It allows a follow-up to send extra marketing materials.

Push the campaign where customers flock:

  • Social media
  • Forums and online communities
  • Popular websites
  • News portals

5. Leverage the Tracking & Reporting

This one’s simple in theory but hard in practice… Track everything. Report and learn.

Use analytic tools to measure KPI’s such as clickthrough rates, conversions, and bounces. Condense the information into a report to create action steps on ways to improve these metrics.

Confused? Brush up on how to use Google Analytics.

6. Update the Campaign

Lastly, take all that has been learned and update the digital marketing campaign outlines and procedure. Improve one area at a time. This will create a cascading effect on how well the campaign runs and its ROI.

Once this has been done a few times it’s a matter of…

Rinse, Repeat, and Reap the Rewards

It will soon become clear which strategies are effective for the business. Time and finances are to be invested when a marketing campaign shows promise.

Actions that follow include:

  • Using reports to refine the audience selection
  • Expanding campaigns on larger platforms
  • Leveraging the success to network and work with others

Find what works for the business, scale, grow, and repeat the process to reap the rewards.


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5 Tips to Create Unique Videos for Training Online

June 30, 2017 - By 
training online

If you’ve ever had to undergo a training process, you know how drab and dry it can be.

At best, you’re getting lectured on safety procedures that seem like common sense. At worst, you’re stuck watching an outdated video from a few decades ago that isn’t of any help.

As a business owner, you’ll want to make sure your training process is easy and fun for employees. And thanks to the internet, training online is more popular than ever.

But to make the most of your online training, be sure to make your videos as easy to follow and creative as possible. Here are some tips on making your training video something employees will remember.

5 Tips to Create Unique Videos for Training Online

1. Break Your Content Up Into Small Sections

One of the toughest things about the training process is that it can to overwhelm newcomers. And understandably so. There’s a lot to learn at any new job, so try and keep your information to a manageable pace.

While everyone learns at their own pace, avoid potential confusion by chunking info. Chunking is a psychological term that refers to the grouping of content in bite-sized portions.

Studies show that once chunked, information is easier to digest.

Before you go about creating your video series, create an outline with everything you want to go over.

Here’s a brief example. Let’s say we’re creating a video tutorial on how to be an ideal employee.

Your outline could look something like this:

  • What sets an employee apart?
    • Example 1
    • Example 2
    • Additional info, etc.
  • What makes an employee?
    • Example 1
    • Example 2
    • Additional info, etc.
  • How does a good employee deal with conflict?
    • Example 1
    • Example 2
    • Additional info, etc.

Obviously, you’d fill in the details of the examples and so forth. This could all theoretically be one large section, but the important info may be lost that way.

Try and put yourself in your trainee’s shoes and keep information manageable. Let’s face it, we have shorter attention spans these days. You’ll need to take that approach when training online, too.

Keep sections confined to 3-10 minute sections for the best results.

2. Make Your Videos Interactive

Creating interactive videos is a great way to keep trainees from getting bored.

One of the best ways of creating a sense of interaction is to include brief quizzes at the end of a section.

Starbucks, for instance, puts their baristas through an online training process. Upon module completion, they’re given a multiple-choice exam. This keeps the trainee on their toes and forces them to pay attention.

You can also add interactive elements within your video itself. This is a fantastic way to engage both kinesthetic and kinetic learners.

An interaction in your online training can be anything from a hyperlink to a choose-your-own-adventure style video. It’s all up to you as the author to make your video as thoughtful and engaging as possible.

The medium of video allows you to get creative, so have some fun with it!

3. Use a Blend of Text and Video

You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a variety of methods to keep your trainees interested. Researchers have come to realize that there are tons of different learning styles.

Odds are that no two employees will learn the same way. Cover all of your bases by using both text and video throughout your training.

Some subjects are also easier to explain with a particular medium. For instance, anything with numbers or equations would need to be text-based.

Other procedures like data entry or cleaning are often better learned via demonstration.

While making sure your video has text and video may sound like a painstaking process, it doesn’t need to be. If you have certain tasks your business does different, videos give you the opportunity to show your preferred method.

Text can be used along with a slide or talking head, or something simple like closed captioning.

There’s nothing stopping you from screen casting a lecture like many colleges do, but don’t be surprised if your employees don’t retain much info.

And make sure your online training videos contain the ability to rewind and fast forward. Sometimes an important detail is missed, and you’ll want to make sure your trainee has a grasp on the subject.

Sometimes an important detail is missed, and you’ll want to make sure your trainee has a grasp on the subject.

4. Know Your Audience and Create a Connection

For better or worse, most training online makes use of talking heads. Under the right circumstance, talking heads are an easy way to create the feel of a classroom.

The problem, however, comes when a talking head is too dry. If you’re going to use talking heads throughout your training online, be sure to keep things animated.

Use big, open, friendly gestures. If you’re the person talking to the camera, try and imagine you’re speaking with someone.

Being recorded may be intimidating, so create an eye line for yourself to reduce tension. Talk to the cameraman if it helps.

Make sure you’re using language that’s fit for your audience. Even if you’re not an educator, you know that you wouldn’t talk to an 18-year-old and a 70-year-old the same way.

Knowing your audience can play a critical role in how successful your training online is.

5. Get Feedback

There’s a good chance your training online may need a few revisions along the way. There’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure you’re incorporating feedback.

Include a brief survey at the end of your training.

Asking some of the following questions can give you a better idea of what did — and didn’t — work for trainees. That way you can tinker your training as necessary.

  • What did you like about the training program?
  • What would you like done differently?
  • Do you feel that you thoroughly understood the content presented?
  • Do you feel that this training method was effective?

Feedback is one of the most important things in the business world. Why should training online be any different?

Final Thoughts

Training online can be difficult if you’ve never put together a video before. But with a little ingenuity, the right crew, and some planning, you’ll have a great regimen in no time.

Be sure to check out our great resources. Whether you’re looking for video clips or repair manuals, we’ve got everything you’ll need.


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A Complete Guide for First Time Home Buyers

June 28, 2017 - By 
couple with keys

Taking the plunge to buy a new home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in life. Of course, it’s a hectic process, but those who are financially organized and prepared will get through it more easily.

Before buying a home, it’s important to determine your long term goals and see how the ownership of a home fits into those goals.

Experts usually advise first-time buyers to find a home when they’re ready to settle down and need at a place to live for at least five years. Plus, it helps to be financially ready when making this move.

If you’re unsure about the specifics of buying a first-time house, here is a simple home buyers guide to help with that.

1. Financial Readiness Is Important

Before house hunting, find out how much a lender will be willing to give you to purchase your first home. Some factors that will affect your mortgage include job history, monthly income, and current debts.

Also, you need to clarify how much you can afford when applying for a mortgage. The lender will require you to have a good credit score and a history of making timely bill payments.

Typically, getting pre-approved for a loan is important before placing an offer on a potential home.

2. Finding a Home

First, identify the location where you would like to live. Checking the prices of comparable homes in that particular area helps to get an idea of the potential monthly mortgage payments.

Consider getting the help of a real estate agent to help with the search, especially if you don’t much about the area. It’s not advisable to walk into an open house without an agent. You should look for a house that you can add value to. This will boost your equity.

If the house meets those big requirements, such as size and location, it’s never advisable to reject it due to a few physical flaws that can be fixed over time.

3. Home Inspection

When you finally have a few potential options, enlist the help of a home inspector to check the plumbing, flooring, roofing, walls, and basement of the home. Some homes might appear flawless but have several problems that a professional inspection will help to identify.

The overall safety, quality, and condition of a home are important. An inspection will help to know the possible repairs that a house needs if you settle for it. In some cases, it can give you a reason not to buy the home.

If the home needs repairs, a buyer can use this as a bargaining edge to get a discounted price or ask the seller to make the repairs.

4. Making an Offer and Closing

At this point, a professional real estate agent will help to determine the amount you should offer for the new house. The seller can accept or issue a counter-offer. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the seller to get a price you think it’s reasonable for the house.

Remember to factor in the closing costs (roughly 2 to 5 percent of the home price), immediate repairs, and commuting costs. The closing process involves signing a lot of paperwork, and a real estate agent serves as a home buyers guide to help you understand all the relevant details.

Getting a home appraisal and private mortgage insurance might also be necessary.

Home Buyers Guide – The Bottom Line

Buying a home can be an intimidating process for first-time homebuyers who are unsure about their options. As long as you have reasonable debts, a good credit score, and a solid job history, there are different conventional FHA VA loans you can qualify for.

Sometimes all it takes to get a new home is a preparedness and adequate due diligence. Calculate your debt-to-income ratio and factor in the down payment to determine how much you can afford to pay upfront every month.

When you’re ready, compare mortgage rates from different lenders, get pre-approved, and hit the market to find your new home.


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5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying A New House

June 27, 2017 - By 
Buying a house

Buying a home is often one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life.

That’s why it is imperative to do as much research as possible before buying.

Here are 5 things that will help any potential home buyer to understand this monumental purchase.

1) Ask Yourself: Is Buying Right for You?

While buying a house might seem like one of life’s major stepping stones, it is by no means a requirement.

There are many benefits to owning a home. There is the financial investment, the potential for being cheaper than renting, and the stability of payments.

But there are cons as well. It’s a huge, long-term commitment with not a lot of flexibility.

A homeowner can expect to pay a lot in interest, repairs, maintenance, and renovations.

How important is mobility to you? Does buying make sense financially? Will you be able to afford the extra expenses?

Understand the pros and cons, evaluate your personal priorities, and then make the decision on whether to buy or not.

2) Learn Everything You Can

If you decide that buying is the right choice, it’s time to do your research.

First, you have to find a location that meets all your needs (present and future).

Once you find a house that you love, it’s time to do some digging.

Find out how long it’s been on the market, the house’s sales history, copies of bills (think taxes, insurance, etc), how long previous owners lived there, and any other relevant information you can think of.

You should know all about the house itself, but also about how the buying process works. There are numerous resources to help you understand the complicated process of buying a home.

With a purchase this big, you can never know too much.

3) Understand Your Financials

Buying a home is a huge investment.

You need to understand what you can afford, how much you have saved, what sorts of loans you need, and what interest rates you could face.

To get the best mortgage rates you should have good credit and a reliable income.

Keep in mind that providing a down payment can reduce your mortgage payments and decrease your interest rate.

Get used to creating and living on a budget before you commit to a mortgage and homeownership.

4) Think in the Long Term

Understanding your financials and your priorities should extend into the future, not just your current situation.

Do you plan on starting a family? How much other debt do you have to think about? Do you have job security? Is this house the house you will want in 10 years?

For a long-term commitment such as buying a house, it takes a long-term understanding of your priorities.

5) Use a Realtor

Obviously, this whole process can get confusing and overwhelming.

There are many real estate companies that can provide you with advice and guidance.

These companies and realtors can help in a myriad of ways.

They can:

  • Find potential homes
  • Have knowledge of certain areas
  • Negotiate contracts
  • Give guidance and advice
  • Understand market conditions
  • Handle paperwork
  • Answer your questions

Bottom Line

Buying a home is exciting, nerve-wracking, and overwhelming all at once.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you in your process of becoming a homeowner.

 


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Insta Marketing: How to Add Links to Your Instagram Stories

June 27, 2017 - By 
instagram stories

Do you use Instagram as part of your marketing strategy? With 700 million monthly visitors, Instagram is the second largest social media platform in the world and a great place to raise brand awareness and market your business.

But marketers are struggling to drive Instagram traffic back to their websites.

Maybe you have a large following on Instagram, but how do you get that traffic to your website when you can’t post links in the photos you post? Instagram Stories are helping businesses have Insta-marketing success.

Keep reading to learn how to add links to your Instagram Stories and drive more traffic to your site.

Do You Have Access to Add Links in Instagram Stories?

Clickable links for Instagram Stories were rolled out first only to verified accounts. But in May 2017, Instagram expanded the feature to more business profiles. Now, business profiles that have over 10,000 Instagram followers have access to clickable stories links.

At the time, personal profiles do not have access to clickable links for Instagram Stories.

If you run a blog, online business or store, adding a link to your Instagram Stories can help drive more traffic through to your website.

Here’s how to add links:

1. Start your Instagram Story

You can easily create Instagram Stories in two ways: Use the app to take an image or video, or from the Story screen, swipe up to import an image taken within the last 24 hours.

2. Add the link URL

At the top of your Instagram Story, click the chain link icon. Enter the link destination in the new window that appears. If using an Android, tap the green check mark, or from iOS, tap Done to save the link.

You may want to track how much traffic and conversions your get from this. Try a link shortener like Bit.ly or Rebrand.ly. These tools will shorten your URL so you can easily track and measure your metrics.

3. Edit your story

You may choose to add text, stickers or filters to your Instagram Stories. When completed, upload your story to your profile.

When you include a link, it will appear as a See More option at the bottom of your screen. Viewers might not see it right away if they’re not looking at it. Try including a call to action, such as “Tap ‘See More’ to visit our website,” in your Instagram Stories to draw attention to your link.

How to Take Advantage of Links in Instagram Stories

What links should you include in your Instagram Stories? Where should you direct your audience? How often should you include links?

Use links to promote recent blog posts or products you sell. Share content that is exclusive to your Instagram followers. If you’re sharing tutorials or recipes in your Instagram Stories, include a link to the complete instructions at the end.

You don’t want to include a link in every post. Include one link for every three or four posts in your story collection.

Only include links in your if they provide value to your followers. Avoid including links in every story you share.

Looking for more tips on Instagram marketing? Download our Instagram Marketing Training Guide to skyrocket your business success with Instagram.


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3 Real Estate Tax Breaks You Can’t Afford to Miss

June 27, 2017 - By 
tax breaks

Homeownership is expensive, but it’s also valuable to the economy. So, the IRS rewards homeowners who care for their properties with tax credits.

These credits are valuable. In fact, they can save so much money come tax season that homeowners can’t afford to miss out on them.

Here are 3 tax credits not to be missed at tax time. Keep reading to learn how you can start saving.

1. Green Tax Credits

Tax credits are available for homeowners who have not only a green thumb but a green state of mind.The IRS offers credits for qualifying expenses on upgrades or new purchases of home assets.

Homeowners who install doors, windows, and skylights with an ENERGY STAR program rating can qualify for as much as $500 in tax credits.

Solar energy systems are another way to scoop up tax credits galore. Homeowners can write off up to 30% of the systems’ cost with no limit until 2019.

2. Capital Gains Exemption

Homeowners who bought inexpensively in up-and-upcoming neighborhoods and can reap the benefits when sale prices are significantly higher than the initial investment.

If a home was purchased for $250,000 and it is now worth $500,000, the homeowner is in luck.

Any money made on the sale of that house is pure profit – no capital gains taxes are required.

There are a few rules governing this exemption:

  1. The maximum amount that can be exempted for couples is $500,000.
  2. The owner must have owned the home for two years.
  3. The owner must have used the property as a primary residence for two years.

Note: The owner doesn’t need to be living in the property at the time of sale. It can be rented for up to 3 years before the sale while still qualifying for the exclusion.

Unlike other capital gains profits, proceeds from the sale DO NOT need to be re-invested. They can be used in any way, including in the investment of a new property.

Alternatively, the 1031 exchange listings allow property owners to sell their properties and re-invest the profits in a new property as a way to avoid capital gains tax.

3. Mortgage Interest Deductions

The mortgage interest benefit is one of the most common tax deductions because everyone can deduct it. The only rule is the limit – $1 million for married couples or $500,000 for married couples filing separately.

The only rule is the limit – $1 million for married couples or $500,000 for married couples filing separately.

The mortgage interest deduction is filed with Form 1098. The average homeowner can see a deduction of thousands of dollars annually on their income taxes.

The average homeowner can see a deduction of thousands of dollars annually on their income taxes.

So while it’s not a credit per se, it does reduce the tax bill quite significantly depending on the size of the mortgage and the homeowner’s income.

Conclusion

Homeownership isn’t all about spending money – there’s money to be saved, too.

Be sure not to miss out on these or any other potential tax credits next year!


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The Future of Cybersecurity: 5 Must-Know Facts

June 12, 2017 - By 
Cyber Security

The development of new technology is not showing any signs of slowing down.

But as technology evolves, so do the threats posed by cybercriminals and viruses.

One white hat hacker (who works with companies to improve their security systems) has pointed out the many vulnerabilities in systems we now take for granted: in our cars, our home alarm systems – and even in pacemakers.

What are the emerging threats that cybersecurity firms must learn to deal with?

‘Internet of things’ will come under attack

The ‘Internet of things’ is a concept which has been talked about for a long time.

The story goes that as technology progresses, more and more devices will become connected to the Internet. For example, imagine ordering your groceries directly from an interface panel connected to your fridge.

While a fridge is a relatively innocuous example, imagine the effect a ‘dronejacking’ cyberattack might have.

Ransomware is on the rise

Ransomware attacks are becoming more and more common. This is where a virus will essentially lock up a person’s computer, before demanding money in exchange for a key to unlock the system.

If the person doesn’t pay up, their local data is generally deleted in response, and the virus may attempt to make their system unusable.

Security firm Symantec has predicted that there will be large scale ransomware attacks on cloud-based software and storage in 2017.

With more firms now relying on cloud solutions to manage customer and business data, this is a serious risk. Companies need to think hard about how best to protect their cloud presence from attacks.

Hacktivism

Hacktivists seek to score political points by knocking out servers, taking down, taking over, or defacing websites – among other activities.

They achieve their ends by many means, but one of the most common forms of hacktivism comes in the form of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

This method uses multiple systems, sometimes in the form of compromised computers working as ‘botnet’ under the control of the attacker(s). They will use this to flood a targeted system with traffic – incapacitating it.

Cyberterrorism

Cyberterrorism is not quite the same as hacktivism. Although it may also have a political objective, its primary aim is to cause as much disruption and fear as possible.

Terrorists may seek to disrupt networks used by healthcare systems, government organizations, markets like the NASDAQ or NYSEMKT stock exchanges, or even military institutions.

The intention might be to disable capabilities that may be used against them, or to cope with the aftermath of a secondary, physical, attack.

Government regulation

The potential fallout from acts of cyberterrorism are of concern to governments around the world.

The result of this may be greater regulation surrounding cybersecurity in the future. This will bring with it greater compliance costs, but that’s only the start of the potential issues.

Tech companies may be required to build ‘back doors’ into their software to allow governments to monitor usage.

This could be an expensive task. And critics have pointed out that leaving any door open will actually allow anyone in. All they need to do is to find the right door.


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5 Benefits of E-Books That Make Them Perfect For Students

April 17, 2017 - By 
benefits of e-books

While e-reader sales are slowing down, this doesn’t mean this is true for e-books.

Only 19% of adults own an e-reader right now, while this number was at a full 32% in early 2014.

But e-book sales, in the meantime, have been on a steady rise since 2008.

What is accounting for this odd paradox? Tablet and smartphone usage and sales.

People are reading more and more on their tablets and smartphones. Which means that e-books have just found a different screen on which to live.

But what does this mean for students?

Students have been taking advantage of the e-book revolution from the start. And so have textbook companies.

A lot of students will still buy a physical textbook, but a lot of textbooks now come with a digital copy as well.

But what are the benefits of e-books for students? Let’s study and find out.

1. One Of The Benefits Of E-Books: Leave The Textbook In The Dorm

Physical textbooks still haven’t been eclipsed by e-books. And for good reason.

Our brains use the location in a physical book to help us remember information.

It might be part of our proprioception or some long-established habit we’ve formed since the invention of the printing press.

This doesn’t mean that physical textbooks are better for a student than their e-book counterparts.

In fact, they are both useful tools.

A student doesn’t need to lug their physical textbook to class when they have an e-book on their tablet, computer, or e-reader.

This does two things, saves their backs and gives them ample space to take notes without resorting to pen and paper.

Each textbook weighs between 2 and 7 pounds. If you’re taking a full course load of 12 hours, that’s 3-6 textbooks you’re lugging around every day.

And most student backpacks aren’t designed to carry that weight without hurting the wearer’s back.

Consider the weight of a tablet in comparison. Under 2 lbs.

One of the benefits of e-books: you could carry hundreds of textbooks on a tablet computer or an e-reader.

2. Benefits Of e-Books: Students Don’t Miss Out On Learning Due To Logistics Problems Or TextBooks Out Of Stock

Did you ever have to share a book in high school or college with your neighbor?

It’s utterly distracting having to sit inches away from your class partner. And if they are someone who doesn’t like you, they may just hog the book and you’re stuck with nothing.

The shipping system isn’t perfect.

While Amazon promises two-day shipping on a lot of items, and big data and machine learning are making logistics more and more efficient by the day. We still do

We still do not have a perfect shipping system.

So, when students and university bookstores rely on an imperfect shipping system, only students lose out in the long run.

One of the benefits of e-books is the ability to avoid this problem.

You can download the book as soon as you get your syllabus and your funding.

No more sitting down in class being utterly embarrassed that you don’t have your textbook.

No more sharing with the person next to you and watching their begrudging looks.

e-Books are kept on a server. And as long as the server is running, e-books will always be in stock.

3. e-Books Are Connected To The Internet

If you’ve become accustomed to reading on an e-reader or tablet, you probably automatically hold down on a difficult word to find out what it means.

Hilariously, some of us have even forgotten this isn’t possible on a physical page.

But this highlights the effectiveness and ease by which we get extra information beyond an e-book through an e-book.

That’s right. An e-book is more than a book. It’s a portal to other sources of information.

If a textbook cites a source and that source is online, the author can include a hyperlink.

Especially with e-books on tablets on laptops, this is one of the major benefits of e-books as textbooks.

We don’t need to be bound to the book itself. Most if not all academic material is found in previous research or study. And we use those sources to prove and test theories and other academic knowledge.

If we can link to these authoritative sources, we can learn more and judge the text of the book better.

And this is utterly useful for students as well as professors.

4. Students With Vision Impairment Can Benefit

For the longest time, large print books were a burden for students with vision impairment.

If you can imagine, textbooks already weigh a ton. And if you increase the font size, the size of the book goes up.

But one of the benefits of e-books is the ability to change font size.

You are not longer stuck with 12pt font. If you have troubling making out the words on the page, you simply zoom in.

It’s really that simple.

And you no longer have to rely on the insanely massive books that were large print.

5. The Benefits Of e-Books: No More Costly CD or DVDs

It used to be that if a textbook company wanted to add any extra material to the book, they would load it onto a CD or DVD and paste the plastic container inside the book cover.

This is no longer the case.

All they have to do now is include it with the e-book file or link out to a server and give a password.

This opens up boundless opportunity for textbook companies to supplement material.

They can add 3-D models of the human body in anatomy textbooks. Videos of instruction for pretty much any topic.

And with the invention of virtual reality, who knows what we’ll be doing with e-books in the future.

Maybe we’ll be reading our history textbooks while simultaneously walking through the streets of Ancient Rome.

The benefits of e-books have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for students.

e-Books Aren’t Going Away

We’ve not seen a waning in e-book sales since their advent. And we don’t expect this to change.

People haven’t stopped reading. And students will always need the benefits of e-books.

If you’re looking to buy some e-books, check out our massive library.


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Everything You Need to Know to Buy Hearing Aids

February 9, 2017 - By 
Hearing Aids

Listen closely–if you’re older than age 45, there’s a good chance you suffer from some sort of hearing loss (actually, a one in five chance, to be exact).

Buying hearing aids can be a tricky task. But we’re here to help.

Keep reading to figure out everything you need to know before choosing the type of hearing aid for you.

The 5 Types Of Hearing Aids: Pros & Cons

The right type of hearing aid for you depends on several factors. When looking into hearing aids, consider the severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle, and your manual dexterity.

Hearing aids are categorized by where on the ear they are worn. Additionally, they can be classified by the number of pieces: behind-the-ear hearing aids are two pieces, while an in-the-ear hearing aid is one piece.

Quick Tip: Keep in mind that smaller aids offer fewer features and might be more difficult to manipulate.

1. Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aid

For this kind of hearing aid, the receiver located is inside of the ear canal.

It’s attached to the ear using a custom-made ear mold, which will fit snugly in the ear. Or, a “dome style” or non-custom canal piece may be used.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Barely visible
  • Prevents a feeling of being plugged-up
  • Easy to insert
  • Compatible with phones

Cons:

  • Wax and moister may limit the life of the receiver
  • Doe not allow for significant amplification in low frequencies
  • Limited in terms of the potential to add amplification

2. Standard Tube or Thin Tube Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Also called reciever in the aid (RITA).

Pros:

  • Provides considerable low-and high-frequency amplification
  • Good for people with moderately severe to severe hearing loss who require considerable amplification across many frequencies
  • Controls are easy to manipulate (on larger models)
  • Telecoil mode is easily selected and used (on larger models)
  • Ear mold can easily be cleaned
  • Accommodates larger batteries

Cons:

  • Custom mold tends to be visible
  • Vulnerable to sweat and wax buildup
  • A plugged-up feeling from ear mold can occur unless vented

3. Completely-in-the-Canal Hearing Aid

Pros:

  • Does not need a telecoil
  • Has low visibility
  • Easy to insert and remove
  • Insensitive to wind noise

Cons:

  • Too small to include a directional microphone
  • A plugged-up feeling can occur unless vented
  • Vulnerable to wax and moisture
  • Can be difficult to control (because the receiver is in the ear canal)
  • Can only accommodate a small battery (therefore, battery life is relatively short)
  • Batteries can be more difficult to insert and remove

4. In-the-Canal Hearing Aid

Pros:

  • Barely visible
  • Easy to insert
  • Can build up volume to increase ease of use
  • Larger units can include directional microphones

Cons:

  • Telecoil selector switch makes manipulation more difficult
  • Too small to include a directional microphone
  • A plugged-up feeling can occur unless vented
  • Vulnerable to wax and moisture
  • Can be difficult to control (because the receiver is in the ear canal)
  • Can only accommodate a small battery (therefore, battery life is relatively short)
  • Batteries can be more difficult to insert and remove

5. In-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Pros:

  • More room for features such as telecoil, directional microphone, and volume control
  • Less of a plugged-up feeling when vented
  • Relatively easy to insert

Cons:

  • More visible
  • Vulnerable to wax build-up and moisture

 

After checking out our complete guide to hearing aids, which type are you most interested in or likely to purchase? Tell us your first choice and why in the comments below!