Pressure to Increase on Senate to Pass the PRO Act


Back in March, the US House of Representatives passed what’s known as the PRO Act.

While the legislation is gaining notoriety over its content on unions and employees’ right to organize, it also aims to completely change the job marketplace for freelancers and independent contractors.

However, the PRO Act faces a major hurdle, or two, in the US Senate. You can expect to hear more about the PRO Act in the coming days or weeks now.

Last week, Amazon workers voted against unionizing. Now, it appears pro-union lobbyists will be upping the pressure on Democrats in the Senate to get the PRO Act to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The only way that may happen is if the Senate votes to end the filibuster. And right now, that doesn’t seem likely.

Regardless, if you’re an independent contractor, freelancer, or small business owner with employees, you’ll want to closely follow this bill as it’s debated in the coming weeks. It could have major implications for all.



The PRO Act’s Effect on Small Business, Independent Contractors and Freelancers

Let’s look at what’s in the bill and what’s been said about it so far, mostly in debate among the US House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives passed the PRO (or Protecting the Right to Organize) Act March 9 by a 225-206 vote.

On March 11 the PRO Act (HR842) was received in the Senate and referred to the committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). HR842 will be debated in committee before being presented to the Senate for vote.

The PRO Act and Independent Contractors

HR842, as it’s written now, adopts California’s ABC test for independent contractors. Here’s the text for the ABC test:

“An individual performing any service shall be considered an employee (except as provided in the previous sentence) and not an independent contractor, unless—

  • (A) The individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;
  • (B) The service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
  • (C) The individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.

In other words, the PRO Act would change the 1099 classification of independent contractors. Many people currently working as freelancers or subcontractors are presently doing work or service “outside the usual course of business of the employer.”

US Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, said that the ABC standard would eliminate contract-based work.

“It would be disastrous for independent contractors,” Stefanik said. “The majority of independent contractors prefer that status, and (the PRO Act) would take that choice away from millions of workers.”

Stefanik has introduced legislation called the Modern Workers Empowerment Act, which she called a bill to “protect their right and choice to be independent contractors.”

The PRO Act and Union Dues

Existing laws in 27 states prevent companies from requiring its employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. These laws are called “right-to-work” laws.

Those who back labor unions say “right-to-work laws crush unions. The PRO Act language states that employees can be required to pay union dues “notwithstanding any State or Territorial law.” Employees who decline to pay can be fired. Right-to-work laws would be made null.

The PRO Act and Union Organizing

Under the PRO Act, employers could not hold mandatory meetings to speak against creating a union or share facts about what union organization could mean.

The PRO Act also tightens the timeline for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. It requires the employer and union to begin bargaining within 10 days of a written request, and if no agreement is reached within 90 days, either party can request a federal mediator.

Employers would be required to provide all names and contact information of employees to the union. Employers would not be permitted to replace workers who participate in a strike.

National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) fines

The PRO Act creates a fine structure for the NLRB to impose civil penalties. Penalties would up up to $50,000 for labor violations or up to $100,000 for repeated violations.

The National Federation of Independent Business’s Response to the PRO Act

According to the NFIB, 70% of its members oppose repealing state “Right to Work” laws. Nearly 100% of NFIB members believe small businesses should be able to hire independent contractors to perform tasks essential to their business.

The NFIB also opposes the PRO Act language which requires employers to provide the personal contact information for all their employees to union organizers without the consent of the employee.

“This is a bill with labor policy proposals that have not only been dismissed in the courts, but have been rejected by Congress for decades,” said Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB’s Senior Director of Federal Government Relations. “If passed, the PRO Act of 2019 will put employees’ private information at risk, expose small businesses to unrelated secondary boycotts, impose labor union dues on employees regardless of whether they are a member of the union, and dramatically change decades of employment law.”

“Small business optimism is at historic levels, and owners are increasing hiring, wages, and investment,” he added. “This damaging bill that would stifle such tremendous gains.”

President Biden Strongly Supports the PRO Act

The President clearly supports the PRO Act as part of his pro-union agenda. In a recent statement, he said, “The PRO Act defends workers’ right to strike—a fundamental economic right—and to engage in boycotts and other acts of solidarity with workers at other companies without penalty.

“It clarifies that employers may not force employees to waive their rights to join together in collective or class action litigation. The bill also closes loopholes in Federal labor law by barring employers from misclassifying workers as independent contractors and preventing workers from being denied remedies due to their immigration status.

“It establishes an expansive joint employer standard, allowing workers to collectively bargain with all the companies that control the terms and conditions of their employment. The bill allows unions to collect fair-share fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administering a union contract for all workers who are protected by the contract’s terms. H.R. 842 restores workers’ access to fair union elections, and ensures the results are respected.”

What’s Next?

Though it now seems unlikely that the Senate will vote to end the filibuster, an impediment to getting the PRO Act through the chamber, it certainly doesn’t sound the death knell for the bill.

Parts of the PRO Act could get through to Biden for his signature and if that happens, it could lead to big changes with your business.

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10 Personal Development Tips to Help You Love Your Small Business Life


If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Running a small business is hard work. But it can also be fun if you love what you do. Personal development is an important element of creating a successful, sustainable business. Use these tips from the online small business community to learn, grow, and love what you do.



Find Joy in Your Business

Lots of entrepreneurs get into business because they love it. However, that feeling can sometimes fade through the years. If you want to build a sustainable company, it’s important to enjoy it at least somewhat. John Jantsch dives into this topic with Shani Godwin in this Duct Tape Marketing post and podcast.

Add Fitness Workouts into a Busy Life Schedule

Taking care of your business requires a lot of time. But it’s important not to neglect your own personal health. Fitness is an important element of healthy work-life balance. Learn how to add fitness workouts in your busy schedule in this Aha!NOW post by Sarun Ravindrad. Then read what BizSugar members had to say about the concept.

Use Empathy When Reaching Out to Your Niche

The ability to understand your customers is essential no matter what industry you’re in. That’s why empathy is such an important quality for entrepreneurs. In this TopRank Marketing post and podcast, Susan Misukanis shares an interview with Nicole Brady to discuss further.

Take These Courses to Start Earning Money from Home

Working at home is an attractive option for lots of entrepreneurs and workers. However, there may be a learning curve for some. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help. In this post on The Work at Home Woman blog, Holly Riesem Hanna lists the best options.

Choose a Lucrative Niche for Your Startup

It’s important to find a business niche that you love. But it’s also important to find one that can actually succeed. Some industries are better suited right now to making money than others. In this Crowdspring post, Katie Lundin lists steps to find these lucrative niches.

Look to These Resources for Advice

Education is an important part of growing into your role as a business owner. The right resources can make a huge impact on your personal journey. In this Noobpreneur post, the Young Entrepreneur Council offers resource tips for new founders. And BizSugar members discussed further here.

Set Up a Home Workspace That Inspires Productivity

Your workspace can make a major impact on how many tasks you complete throughout the day. This is an often overlooked part of running a business. And it can be even trickier for those who work from home. Luckily, Molly Stovold offers tips in this Process Street post.

Legally Protect Your Side Hustle

Starting a side hustle can be the perfect way to explore a new interest and expand your revenue. But even small business opportunities may come with legal elements. Nellie Akalp explores how side hustlers can legally protect themselves in this CorpNet post.

Be Tech-Forward Without Losing Customer Connections

As a small business owner, your ability to connect on a personal level with customers is key. Technology can make certain types of communication easier. But it sometimes comes with a cost. In this Small Biz Daily post by Kelsey Stuart, learn how to enjoy the best of tech without losing personal connections.

Plan Your Small Business Retirement

Some business owners love their work enough to continue it for a lifetime. Others want to enjoy their retirement. If you fall into the latter category, planning is key. Rick Pendykoski lays out six retirement planning steps for small business owners in this Smallbiztechnology.com post.

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: sbtips@gmail.com.

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What Type of Business Benefits From a C Corp? Watch this Webinar


Do you know what legal structure makes the most sense for you if you are about to start a business? If you don’t know, it is essential you find out because it is one of the most important decisions you will make. A webinar titled “What Business Structure is Right for You?” is going to answer some key questions and guide you so you can make the best decision when you are ready to start. So what type of business can benefit from a C Corp or an LLC or even a Sole Proprietorship.

In collaboration with Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends LLC, Nellie Akalp, the CEO of CorpNet.com will be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each legal structure.

The will be discussing:

  • The tax savings features of different entities.
  • The C Corporation and which types of businesses benefit from this entity.
  • The many benefits of incorporating a business or forming an LLC.
  • Why the Sole Proprietorship of Partnership offers no liability protection for business owners.
  • Why a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is so popular among business owners.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of the S Corporation vs the LLC and what is best for which types of businesses.

Starting a business has many different steps, but the legal structure is one people find most confusing. And clarifying that confusion is absolutely essential if you want to start your business the right way.

Click the red button and register to attend this free webinar on Jan 17, 2021, at 2 p.m. (EDT).

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Featured Events, Contests and Awards

WEBINAR: What Business Structure is Right for You?WEBINAR: What Business Structure is Right for You?
June 17, 2021, Online

Picking a business structure is usually the first big legal decision for a new business owner and one of the most confusing. However confusing, it is an essential step to protecting your personal assets from any liabilities of the company. In this webinar, Nellie Akalp CEO of CorpNet.com, will share insight on business entities to help guide you to the best decision for your new venture.


WEBINAR: Best State to IncorporateWEBINAR: Best State to Incorporate
July 28, 2021, Online

Some say Delaware, others say Nevada while someone else may say your home state. What is the best state to register a business in? What if your business is expanding into new territory? At what point should you Foreign Qualify? Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet.com, will go in-depth to answer these questions and more in this webinar.


WEBINAR: Steps to Start Your BusinessWEBINAR: Steps to Start Your Business
October 20, 2021, Online

Starting a business can be an exhilarating time, where everything seems full of potential and purpose. But navigating the logistics of launching a business can be daunting. In this webinar Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet.com, will outline the steps necessary to legally start a business and get up and running on the right foot.


More Events

  • Data Amplified 2021
    April 14, 2021, Online
  • TECHSPO New York 2021 Technology Expo (Internet ~ Mobile ~ AdTech ~ MarTech ~ SaaS)
    April 15, 2021, Online
  • AMA: Employment Law Policies and COVID-19
    April 15, 2021, Online
  • Uptima Entrepreneur Academy – Oakland
    April 16, 2021, Oakland, CA
  • Uptima Entrepreneur Academy – San Francisco
    April 16, 2021, San Francisco, CA
  • Uptima Entrepreneur Academy – Boston
    April 16, 2021, Boston, MA
  • DigiMarCon Mid-Atlantic 2021 – Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Conference & Exhibition
    April 26, 2021, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2nd SPAC Opportunity Summit
    April 27, 2021, Online
  • DigiMarCon At Home 2021 – Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Online
  • Ottawa Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Ottawa, ON
  • Austin Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Online
  • Baltimore Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Baltimore, MD
  • Tampa Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Florida
  • Pittsburgh Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Pittsburgh, PA
  • San Antonio Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, San Antonio, TX
  • Calgary Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Calgary, AB
  • Memphis Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Online
  • Sacramento Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, California City, CA
  • San Jose Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, San Jose, CA
  • Raleigh Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Conference
    April 28, 2021, Online

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.

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25 Best Webinar Software Platforms


If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Hosting webinars and video conferences has become more popular since 2020 as a way of growing businesses and elevating brands. From a business point of view, they boost marketing and sales as they allow you to interact with your audience, respond to frequently asked questions, showcase your business and demonstrate the quality of your product. By using a webinar, you get to engage with leads and move them down the sales funnel. Other uses for these tools could include lectures, seminars, live presentations, or events conducted online and attended by selected participants. Webinar software will let you create your own virtual online meeting room that you and your audience will use to view and follow the presentation.

In addition, they help get teams connected and collaborating across different time zones and as such are becoming valuable tools to provide training solutions online. The greatest benefit of webinar software is that it combines elements of conferencing with a powerful marketing tool. Simply put, webinar software helps you conduct interactive live online events that can also be recorded for review by participants after they are hosted. These are solutions that give businesses the opportunity to provide engaging, flexible, and interactive experiences beyond conference calls.



Webinar Platforms for Business

If you’re looking for webinar software, you’ll find a large range of products to choose from. Below we’ve collected 25 of the best webinar tools to let you decide which webinar platform is right for you.

1. Zoom Video Webinar

Considered among the best online meeting and webinar solutions on the market, Zoom Video Webinar helps you connect with both internal and external audiences by sharing live HD video. This webinar platform can accommodate an audience of up to 50,000 and then further your reach by live streaming your event on YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and other custom streaming services. When it comes to branding, you can customize your webinar registration page with reminder emails; promote your social share buttons; build a custom post-webinar landing page; use your brand as a watermark on your live streaming video, and more.

Interaction features with this video conferencing tool include the ability to moderate Q&A sessions, conduct polls, promote attendees to panelists who can share audio and video, and gather attendee feedback with an automatic post-webinar survey. The tool also comes with the ability to collect contact information from registrants, push webinar contacts as leads into your CRM system, use marketing automation integrations and even the ability to monetize webinars through paid registration.

The free plan offers the ability to host up to 100 people, conduct group meetings for up to 40 minutes, and hold unlimited one-on-one meetings. While the paid version starts with an annual subscription of $149.90 and comes with robust capabilities to host up to 1,000 people with large meetings add-on, hold group meetings of up to 30 hours in duration, do social media streaming, record up to 1 GB in the cloud, and more.

2. GoToWebinar

The GoToWebinar platform offers users features that include flexible scheduling for webinars by providing access to several in-built webinar templates. You also get automated email reminders for your webinars, customizable webinar invitations, and a converting registration page. To boost engagement, GoToWebinar comes with built-in polls and surveys, and automatic webinar recordings.

Paid plans for GoToWebinar start at $49 a month billed annually. You can create pre-recorded events; use analytics; benefit from HD video quality; use built-in polls and surveys to engage your audience; provide automatic recording of your event which can be shared online; and integrate with Zapier, Salesforce, Unbounce; and more.

3. Zoho Meeting

Zoho Meeting provides users flexible and easy-to-use solutions when it comes to hosting online meetings or web conferencing. Meetings is user-friendly and easily scalable. It comes with file and screen sharing and audio and video conferencing. It can cater to single users as well as to large-sized organizations. You can host product launches, feature demonstrations, sales presentations, conduct webinars, trainings, and online meetings right from the comfort of your browser.

Plans for Zoho Meeting start at $15 a month billed annually. For this, you can accommodate up to 25 attendees; record and store up to 25 recordings; embed registration widgets; provide registration moderation; automate email invitations; change presenters during the webinar; add co-organizers, and generate and export customized reports.

4. Demio

Demio is a webinar software platform that is compatible with almost any major browser. It offers live and automated webinars, registration pages, and webinar replays to name a few features. Considered among the best webinar platforms around, this cloud-based webinar platform can deliver HD content in real-time allowing you to join online meetings without any software downloads. In fact, Demio touts itself as 25 times faster for attendees to join from the browser then to download an application. This makes it unlike other webinar platforms. Users with Demio can also apply their branding and logos across all event materials to boost branding.

The platform comes with an intuitive user experience and lets you upload your presentation slides or share videos directly from Demio.  You can also save registration data and update contacts based on webinar behavior. Pricing for Demio starts at $34 per month which offers standard features that include a three-hour session limit, support, and the ability to hold live events. A free trial of Demio is also available for those looking to try it out.

5. BlueJeans Events

BlueJeans is a video conferencing solution that helps you conduct town halls, webcasts and even engage with up to 50,000 attendees. The browser-based video conferencing toolbox includes Q&A, polling, and substantial moderator controls. It offers event cloud recording capabilities to capture events for future playback and sharing. You can also reach and connect with a global audience by streaming to Facebook Live with a single click.

BlueJeans’s payment plan starts at $83 a month billed annually at $996. With this tier, you can host an unlimited number of non-concurrent webinars. There are 100, 200, and 500 attendee plans. Other features include maximum webinar duration of two hours; attendee registration workflow and reporting; moderator dashboard with production controls in a single pane; automated closed captioning; intermission, pause broadcast feature, and more.

 

6. RingCentral Meetings

Ring Central Meetings helps provide a range of features for holding online meetings, events and training sessions with HD video capabilities. It allows you to host online meetings with an audience of up to 500 people; share screens, whiteboards, and files; integrate with Microsoft Outlook; use in meeting host controls to invite people; initiate chats; annotate content; record meetings, and more.

The paid plan starts at $24.99 per month with no limit on the number of users; unlimited audio conferencing; video meetings with up to 100 people; up to 24-hour meeting duration; integration with Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Slack, and more.

7. WebEx

WebEx is a webinar platform that offers features to hold online meetings, events, training sessions, interactive presentations, and team collaborations. It offers webinar tools and video conferencing capabilities to host live events and meetings. This includes chat, interactive whiteboards, screen sharing, file sharing, and automated call back for team collaborations.

WebEx has its own AI-powered meeting assistant that helps you stay on track of meetings by taking notes, capturing meeting highlights, and providing real-time transcription and closed captioning. Furthermore, it creates post-meeting recap emails with highlights and action items to keep your workflow moving after the meeting. WebEx’s starter plan comes at $13.50 per host a month where you can accommodate up to 50 audience members; five GBs of cloud storage; 1-9 host licenses and more. A free 30-day trial is also available.

8. Livestorm

Livestorm is a webinar tool that helps users to run live, on-demand, or automated webinars while getting access to highly adaptable webinar themes that are easy to setup. With it, you have the option to provide interactive chats that include polls, Q&A, live chat, and more for a better interactive experience. It also helps you to integrate and analyze webinars and video meetings.

Besides providing automation with webinar sequences, Livestorm gives you instant insights backed by enriched data, allowing you to keep in touch with your audience members. You can analyze your performance as your team is able to get access to attendee information. This makes it easy to analyze your events as a team.

The free plan with Livestorm offers unlimited events, unlimited moderators, and instant meetings with up to four people for conversations of up to 20 minutes per event. The paid plan starts at $99 a month and is among a few webinar platforms out there that integrates with common marketing tools like Hubspot and Salesforce.

9. EverWebinar

EverWebinar is a webinar tool that comes in handy for small businesses looking to generate leads and boost sales through webinars. With this webinar platform, you get HD content for broadcasting and a flexible scheduling system that lets you select either a specific date and time in the calendar, or recurring scheduled days and times along with the week and time zones based on your specifications.  Participants can find your webinar sessions when they are about to start, watch replays or join while they are in progress.

EverWebinar also allows you to schedule a series of reminder notifications both through email and phone text, so participants are informed about the meetings. This platform’s plans come in installments ($1 for 14 days), annual ($499), and bi-annual ($799) payments.

10. WebinarJam

WebinarJam can be considered a traditional webinar platform designed to offer live events solutions. The cloud-based technology allows users to reach up to 5,000 people in one presentation. With WebinarJam, you can accommodate up to six presenters or host a roundtable of teams to collaborate and share knowledge on screen and even stream to Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

Additional features that come with WebinarJam include live chats to engage with people, question and answer, private comments, moderation capabilities, highlighted comments, sticky announcements, real-time analytics, automated recordings, and more. WebinarJam plans start with the Basic tier billed at $499 a year where you can accommodate up to 500 attendees, host unlimited webinars, and include two hosts with a two hour max duration.

11. Livestream

Livestream is a webinar platform designed to create studio-like live streaming by incorporating lower-thirds, transitions, and logos during your streaming sessions. With this platform, you can also incorporate live polls and Q&A into your broadcast as well as reach audiences across Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter.

Livestream comes with a $75 per month subscription billed annually to help you produce live video sessions to engage with audiences. With the subscription, you get full HD 1080p live streaming; brand control for your player and apps; ad-free streaming and can stream to Facebook Live and other social media platforms. Livestream also offers unlimited live events, auto-archiving and video management, analytics on viewership and other key metrics, and more.

12. LiveChat

LiveChat’s webinar solution helps businesses showcase their goods and services and make more sales while chatting with clients and prospects. It helps you qualify leads with custom forms and AI chatbot automation support. You also get alerts, call center management, canned responses, customer service analytics, email management, geotargeting and more.

Paid plans start at $16 per month billed annually. This includes a 60-day chat history, basic widget customization, ticketing system, email notifications, customer details, daily summary of activities and a guarantee of data security.

13. Google Hangouts Meets

Google Hangouts is a free webinar solution that easily integrates with Chrome browser and Gmail. With it, you can either host a webinar for up to 30 people or stream it on YouTube to gain access to a larger audience. However, in order to use Hangouts you will need to install the application on your PC or smartphone device.

Google Hangouts allows you to make video calls and message contacts. But it lacks some of the more robust features such as automation and marketing capabilities other platforms provide.

14. WebinarNinja

WebinarNinja helps you run free webinars or paid virtual summits with relative ease. You can host live broadcasts, produce automated recorded webinars that run at certain times or on-demand, or produce a combination of live and recorded videos.

Webinarninja allows you to send automatic notifications, reminders, thank you notes, and follow-ups via emails. Unlike many webinar platforms, with WebinarNinja you can easily create your branded landing page and even integrate it with all CRM and email software.

In terms of analytics, with Webinarninja you can see who registered, who attended, who clicked, who purchased, and more. Paid plans for Webinarninja start at $39 per month billed annually. This lets you host up to 100 live webinar attendees, record webinars, add two additional presenters, host up to two-hour-long sessions and more.

15. Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a live video streaming feature on Facebook that helps you broadcast to large audiences to connect with customers, teams, and even friends. It lets you broadcast a conversation, offer a presentation, hold Q & A sessions or create virtual events. While you broadcast live, members of your community have options to ask questions, comment, react, or just follow along in real-time.

Facebook Live offers analytics to measure engagement so you can tweak your presentations from your mobile device or your computer. Facebook supports small businesses by offering the option to host an online event and charge people to attend your event and promote it to your audience and customers. And Facebook Live also offers opportunities to earn money by helping you to expand access to fan support products, such as fan subscriptions and stars.

16. ClickMeeting

ClickMeeting is a video conferencing platform that helps users to organize online meetings with customers, trainees, and team members. It offers you the opportunity to customize your webinar room and other elements with a few clicks. With it, you can record your webinar once perfectly and let the automation do the rest. You can also record webinars and allow people to download them for sharing.

ClickMeeting features include polls and surveys for feedback, live chat options and interactive sessions, connection to Facebook and YouTube, cloud-based storage for recorded sessions, analytics and more. Paid plans for ClickMeetings start at $25 a month. However, a 30-day free trial is also available.

17. Webinars OnAir

WebinarsOnAir offers some necessary features to host webinars such as scheduling webinars for up to 50,000 attendees in under a minute. You can do this with a one-click registration option and the ability to use tracking pixels to highlight audiences for retargeting. Additional features include live Q&A sessions with live chats with up to ten moderators or speakers, easy webinar registration, opt-in forms, and cloud-based hosting. This solution also extends the Google Hangouts features making it possible to host a pre-paid event that is integrated into the registration form. Through this software platform, users can easily join sessions without the need for any additional software or plugins.

In terms of monetization options, it helps you, prompt viewers, to convert with popup-style product offers. Then you can use the automated webinars feature to replay your webinar footage as evergreen content. A 30-day free trial is available with paid plans starting at $19.97 a month for 25 viewers. The service comes with a lead capturing feature and automatically records the event and publishes it on YouTube. There are also recurring webinar options, polls, and surveys built into Webinars OnAir too.

18. LiveWebinar

LiveWebinar is a cloud-based webinar tool that lets you host webinars, share screens and stream live videos. It also offers recording features integrate with marketing an automation tool and social media broadcasting. You can organize webinars, meetings, training, and sales presentations in HD. The service also offers a virtual whiteboard where you can draw, write and explain your thoughts better.

The free version allows you to host up to five attendees, gives you two hours of recording time, and offers screen sharing. It also lets you conduct tests, polls and surveys, and offers marketing automation. The Pro plan comes with more robust features and has an $11.99 monthly subscription fee.

19. My Own Conference

MyOwnConference is a webinar software tool that helps you connect with your audience before, during, and after the webinar. It lets you record webinars in HD and share with attendees. You also get instant messaging capabilities. And for the attendees, no download is required. To boost your reach, you can also share your videos on YouTube during your broadcast.

The free version of My Own Conference allows you to host up to 20 attendees; use three cameras in webinars; use 500Mb of storage for recordings of up to 20 minutes of sessions. Paid plans start at $30 a month billed annually and come with online quizzes, more automation, and marketing features.

20. YouTube Live

YouTube Live offers a free webinar software alternative to reach your audience in real-time by allowing users to upload, view, and share digital video online. The leading video sharing platform allows users to stream videos, conduct live music concerts, host live Q&A sessions, showcase product or service features, or conduct training. Before you can live stream however your YouTube channel needs to be verified.

Once you’ve set up your channel and equipment, all it takes to broadcast is the click of one button and there are no limits on the number of people attending like many other webinar services. The platform helps you to connect with audiences live in real-time and facilitates interactions with audiences and communities.

YouTube Live is fairly simple to set up. If you already have a website, you can simply copy and paste the embed link and create a landing page for your webinar. Once your broadcast on YouTube Live is finished, the recording is automatically available on your channel. YouTube’s competitive edge is in terms of searchability and the video SEO benefits from being a Google-owned business. Videos on YouTube tend to rank relatively high. Additional perks that come with YouTube Live include unlimited storage, the ability to schedule events, post detailed descriptions, preview your stream before going live, and create playlists to help organize videos on your channel.

21. GetResponse

Even though GetResponse is more known as an email marketing platform, it also comes with webinar features. These features include quick scheduling, YouTube integration, recording options, analytics and more to align your marketing automation with some good webinar features from a single platform. In terms of promoting your event, you can send traffic to an SEO-optimized landing page where people can register for your event. A gallery of free invitation templates is also available for your choosing and are automatically prefilled with your webinar details.

Paid plans start at $49. Additional features include sharing files; adding YouTube videos to your presentation; collecting feedback and gathering data on your audience with surveys, polls and tests. Other features include screen sharing, live conversations with chats, one-click Facebook Pixel integration to retarget page visitors and more.

22. Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect is a webinar solution offering immersive virtual experiences to showcase their products, services, and brands. You get the full gamut of video conferencing tools and features including high-quality video, polls, surveys and open live chat capabilities. You can create unique registration pages and easily automate invitations, reminders, and follow-ups.

The features include slide-sharing capabilities, presenter controls, recording, and integration of external conference lines, in addition to VOIP. Ideal for training, webinars, and meetings, the plans for Adobe Connect start at $130 per month however a 30 day trial period is also available.

23. AnyMeeting

AnyMeeting is a webinar solution with a user-friendly and intuitive interface for businesses and educational institutions. Its artificial intelligence capabilities allow for hosting a smarter, engaging, and actionable online meeting experience. With it, you can host meetings easily straight from your browser while having access to features that include screen sharing, green room or attendee waiting room, integrated conference calling and VoIP, and even mobile attendee access.

Paid plans come in the form of custom quotes but a 30-day trial is also available. Solutions on offer include unlimited online meetings of up to 30 attendees; HD video content; custom meeting URL; screen sharing and file sharing including videos, PowerPoint and PDF; group meetings lasting 40 minutes; meeting transcripts and insights; custom branding options; and integration with HubSpot Marketing Hub, Constant Contact, Microsoft Outlook, Zapier, Salesforce Sales Cloud, Microsoft 365, LinkedIn and others.

24. On24

ON24’s solution offers interactive webinars, virtual events, and multimedia content experiences. You can create, scale, and personalize webinars and virtual events thanks to its customization and design features. This is further boosted by ON24’s AI that provides personalized content recommendations to give you valuable insights for follow-up. This platform seamlessly integrates with your CRM, marketing automation platform, and other business systems to boost sales and optimize campaigns.

ON24 does not list its pricing and requires a request for a quote first. Besides offering webinar hosting capabilities it also offers alerts and notifications, polling, Q&A management, recording, online registration, analytics, and more.

25. BigMarker

BigMarker is a browser-based webinar solution that can help you accommodate up to 10,000 people at once without imposing any limits on the number of presenters. With this solution, webinar hosts get access to a suite of marketing tools to boost sales and conversions. You can access features that include custom invites, registration landing pages, email reminders, digital handouts, polls, live Q&A and more.

This platform does not require any software to be installed and gives you the capability to create live, automated and evergreen webinars. When opting to use the on-demand video feature, you can embed an interactive video player into your presentation. Live events can be broadcast to participants via your website, Facebook and YouTube pages. Plans for BigMaker start with monthly subscriptions of $79 and offer integrations with Salesforce, Hubspot, Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign and others.

Why should your business use webinar software?

Webinar platforms offer businesses a wide range of benefits that help the modern entrepreneur organize virtual meetings or video conferences. They come with valuable tools for marketing, branding, sales, and outreach. If you are considering a webinar platform for your business, here are some of the reasons you can and should be taking advantage of it.

  • Boost Your Online Content: A webinar software will help increase the amount of content available to your targeted audience. Besides videos, you have the ability to share materials such as the webinar presentation, images, drawing board, illustrations, infographics, case studies, photos, documents, and other marketing collateral to your participants. This boosts the collection of information you have on offer for both prospects and customers. An added bonus is that your online webinars can be additional content for blog posts, Q & A articles, and outreach materials. While sharing your unique content is important for the success of your webinar, it is just as important that you choose the best webinar software to deliver features and webinar service that suits your particular needs.
  • Establish Your Business as an Authority:  Besides showcasing your products and services, webinars can be one way you can establish yourself as an expert. By sharing your expertise on topics that your audience might be interested in, you can provide your audiences with insights and valuable information to make informed decisions. Good webinar software will come with recording and storing features that allow your target audience to review them at their leisure increasing interactions with your brand.
  • Expand Your Reach: As your webinars are conducted online, your reach exponentially increases, as long as there is an internet connection. This helps you conduct virtual conversations with an unlimited number of video participants across several time zones from the comfort of your desk. You also have the option to opt for one-on-one in-person conversations with a prospect.
  • Generate New Leads: An important aspect of running a business is to generate leads. Webinars can help support your lead generation efforts and convert new customers as interactions speed up the decision-making process. As part of the event management process, some kind of registration is required for audiences to attend webinars. You can get access to prospects as they submit their name, email, and other information in order to register for an upcoming webinar event. An important note here is that you will need to adhere to webinar best practices. Include opt-in options for people to get their consent for use of their data for future marketing engagements.
  • Keep Audiences Engaged: Because these events are live in real-time, you can have live interactions to gauge audiences, address queries, listen to your clients, and conduct interactive conversations with your audience during a webinar. Equally important, you are giving your audience a voice where they can opine, chat, ask questions, share their experiences, and more.

Which webinar software is best for small business?

With an estimated 300 million meeting events taking place on this webinar platform daily, Zoom is considered the best webinar solution. This powerful video conferencing software brings together cloud video conferencing, online meetings, and group messaging into one easy-to-use platform to help small businesses manage both their online meeting and webinar needs. This cloud-based video conference platform is easy to use, intuitive and effective and has the capability to support up to 1,000 attendees at a time.

It is packed with features a small business might need including a video conferencing platform that offers file sharing, personal rooms or meeting IDs, scheduled meetings, calendar integrations, local recording, private and group live chat, host controls, raise-hand options, breakout rooms, and whiteboards. An additional nifty webinar tool is its Virtual Backgrounds tool where you can change your background to any other image of your choice or select a background for downloading via Zoom’s library.

Besides the webinar tools, Zoom gives you the option to record meetings locally on all plans and even get cloud recording with the paid plans. Meanwhile, the Enterprise tiered plan offers unlimited cloud storage. Zoom attendees can access webinars either on their desktops or through their mobile apps. It also integrates with Gmail, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Outlook allowing you to schedule meetings directly from those programs. Once invitations are sent out, video meetings are automatically placed on attendees’ calendars.

Zoho also provides resources on its site with a knowledge base that includes tips for hosting a webinar.

What free webinar software works best?

Zoho meeting provides the best webinar offering under its free plan. It provides great webinar software especially for those with a shoestring budget. Because of its generous free plan, it is a go-to webinar platform with tools and features that boost collaboration and interaction. This includes the ability to have up to three meeting participants including presenter; have up to 10 webinar attendees; VoIP/webcam sharing; the ability to remove people; mute/unmute features for participants?; webinar registration; the ability to produce customized registration forms; conduct polls and Q&A; webinar analytics and more. Zoho Meeting users can conduct meetings for as long as they want. This includes even in the free edition, unlike others that have a cut-off limit.

These free webinar features come in handy when you are thinking of providing demonstrations of your products or service. You can also use it for sales pitches, lead generation, and conducting online meetings all right from your browser with no downloads required to cram up your drive space. You can simply embed the links for meetings you create with Zoho Meeting on your web page. And by just providing their email address, attendees can join meetings using the embedded links. Besides these free webinar features, Zoom can be integrated with Zoho CRM. This means you can schedule, invite, and host meetings and also view reports and recordings from your Zoho CRM account for better impact. You also have the option to send email invitations and follow-up reminders as well as track who will attend your meeting with the RSVP feature.

Image: Depositphotos


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Katherine Kostereva of Creatio: Low-code No-code Platforms are the Answer to the Growing Automation Challenge


I spoke with Katherine Kostereva four years ago during her company’s user conference.  Back then the company she founded was named bpm’online, but today the company is called Creatio and has recently raised $68 million to further build out their no-code low-code platform aimed at helping non-IT people use easy interfaces to automate business processes on their own.

Four years ago we spoke about how 80% of companies had not fully automated their important business processes and the impact that was having on productivity and efficiency.  So I was eager to circle back around during a recent LinkedIn Live conversation with Katherine to see where things stand now and how the pandemic might have impacted things.

Below is an edited transcript from a portion of our conversation.  Click on the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full discussion.

A Whole New Automation World

Katherine Kostereva: What I see today on the market, and honestly, I didn’t see a lot of it four years ago when we talked last time is low-code and no-code disruption that is happening on the market. You love talking numbers, I love talking numbers, let’s talk in numbers. 1.7 billion knowledge workers in the world, all of them use at least one piece of software. For example, in the banking industry, one knowledge worker would use at least 10 pieces of software. So the demand for software apps is huge. And now the number is 500 million apps to be built within the coming few years.

The question is, how can we satisfy this demand? And low-code, no-code is the answer to this question because in Creatio and many other of our peers in the industry, we believe that low-code, no-code will reshape the market and actually give tools to knowledge workers rather than to IT experts to automate their processes. So thanks to this technology, the penetration of business process automation and software apps is going to be a much, much higher within the coming years. We’re all going to see that.

Small Business Trends: So the answer to the lack of process automation is having these low-code platforms help regular folks be able to do it without having to go get help from IT folks?

Katherine Kostereva: That’s what we see every day. That’s what we see with our Creatio customers, marketeers, sales reps, operations, they automate their processes using low-code, no-code tools without IT help, without IT experts. And why that? Because there’s a huge shortage of IT experts in the world. So altogether, they are how many? 100 million IT experts in the world with 25 million coders or software developers. So that’s the number, and 1.7 billion knowledge workers that need actually their work to be automated.

How is it possible? The answer is there is no other way, but to give those tools to those knowledge workers who are going to do the automation, that’s a challenge. The market is being reshaped and the market is being disrupted by the way low-code, no-code technology because there is no other way to satisfy the demand. And the demand is huge because everyone needs those apps to automate their business processes.

The rapidly changing automation landscape

Small Business Trends: One of the things that people talk about a lot, and it’s getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so I think, is RPA (Robotic Process Automation). You talk about low-code, no-code, you talk about RPA, and then you have intelligent process automation (IPA) because sometimes it gets confused a little bit with certain folks. How does all of this work together? How does low-code, no-code and RPA and IPA, how does that all work together to actually help regular business folks, for instance?

Katherine Kostereva: So let’s talk about the low-code, no-code market in general and then about RPA as a part of it, okay?

Small Business Trends: Okay.

Katherine Kostereva: The market in general today is like $20 billion, maybe the global low-code, no-code market with the prediction to get to $200 billion in eight years from today. So the growth rate is unbelievable, like one of the highest growth rates on the software market, actually. The market currently is fragmented. Although segments are starting to be shaped. So different segments are appearing right now. RPA is one of those segments. Spreadsheet applications like Smartsheet, for example, Airtable would be another segment of low-code, no-code apps. Another segment would be API integrations, like Zapier, for example. Another example would be BPM (Business Process Management) low-code, no-code like Creatio, for example.

So all the different types of low-code, no-code apps are emerging. And they come from different use cases. For example, this RPA example that you gave would be a very different use case than Smartsheet use cases, or than Creatio use cases when we automate business processes on the front office operations and middle office operations. So very different use cases, but all of them do one big thing, let knowledge workers automate their business processes on the fly and change them at an accelerated speed.

Low-code no-code and Customer Experience

Small Business Trends: So how do you see those folks being able to leverage this low-code environment in customer experience and customer engagement, things of that nature?

Katherine Kostereva: I would love to talk about that. So what are the standard use cases for Creatio? Our customer can choose Creatio just for one single small business process with, I don’t know, 20 people involved into this process. They build this, let’s say customer onboarding. Customer onboarding is a great example. So they build customer onboarding process on our platform, and then they start expanding it inside their organization.

So those knowledge workers, who we call citizen developers, they take our app and they start using it for multiple different processes, lead management, lending. If it’s financial services, debt collection, customer retention, contact center automation, you name it. So the list goes on and on and on.

Let’s take for example, Salesforce automation. There are so many different types of sales processes; direct sales, enterprise sales, transactional sales, channel sales, field sales, like all these new types of processes. And then when we take one of them, let’s say channel sales, channel sales would be a reference agency sales or integrator sales. All are different types of business processes that need to be automated somehow.

And this is not a rare situation, Brent. That’s actually what I meant when we talked four years ago, when we’d come to their organization and they have one, or two, or three, or even five processes automated, but they have other five processes that haven’t been touched yet and they need to be automated. So that’s what I’m talking about like to… Let me put it this way, Brent, every company today is becoming a software company. Especially with the pandemic, especially with acceleration that we’ve seen, every company is becoming a software company, and every company wants to own their technology.

When I say own, I mean being able to change and adapt and do whatever they need with this technology. So, to give those tools to our customers, that’s the biggest privilege that we see here at Creatio, and the same to our peers.

No-code Low-code is the new black for automation

I want to circle back to this number, 500 million apps that need to be built within a few years and 25 million software developers. There is no way that this demand can be satisfied only by software developers. It’s just impossible. No way that it will be done in a traditional way.

Low-code, no-code is a new way of automation. And that is why, what I strongly believe, and actually that there was another interesting analytics from Gartner, 65% of enterprise software by 2024 will be built on top of the low-code, no-code platform, and will use the elements of low-code, no-code. So that’s definitely the enterprise market disruption that we’re seeing, and Creatio is very excited to be a big part of this disruption and market change.

READ MORE:

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.


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In the News: In-Store Shopping is Up Since the Beginning of the Year


The one thing the pandemic has done is decimate in-store shopping. This, in turn, was responsible for a huge uptick in online shopping and delivery. But starting in 2021 that trend was changing as more people ventured out and started shopping in stores. This according to an article titled, In-store Shopping Up 28.5% Since Start of 2021, in this week’s roundup.

According to the report by Zenreach, in-store shopping has been increasing by as much as 28.5% since the beginning of the year. And the shift back to in-store shopping is a good indicator of things turning around, albeit slowly. However, for retailers, this good news is seen as a triumph in a year riddled with one bad news after another. For small retailers, this means preparing for reopening as some businesses switched to only online sales or closed entirely.

This is one of the many articles that address the issues small businesses face on Small Business Trends. While the roundup highlights the top articles for the week, there are many others that are equally as informative on matters dealing with small business.

Take a look at this week’s roundup and get informed on everything from retail trends to where to get loans to buy a business, and ways to improve your customer experience.



Small Business News Roundup – April 9, 2021

Here are the rest of the headlines making news for small business owners this week:

43% of Remote Workers Miss the Water Cooler Chats with Co-workers

Impromptu chats at the water cooler are a feature of office work that 43% of co-workers who have been working remotely during the last year miss the most. 36% miss a better workstation or office set-up, while 25% miss eating lunch out the most. 20% of remote workers miss Happy Hour with colleagues.

Smallest Businesses Seeing Slower Sales Since Pandemic

Small businesses with ten employees or less are seeing slower sales since pre-pandemic times. This was the finding of a report by Skynova, online invoicing specialists for small businesses. Skynova surveyed more than 1,000 professionals to find out how digital changes have impacted their business and employees during the health crisis.

Oracle NetSuite Names Ramon Ray as its First Entrepreneur in Residence

Ramon Ray, founder of SmartHustle Media, has joined Oracle NetSuite as its first Entrepreneur in Residence. Throughout history, an Artist in Residence enjoyed the hospitality of a host, while sharing knowledge and experience. Ray said that his background makes him a great fit for Entrepreneur in Residence.

Where to Get a Loan to Buy a Business

When seeking to buy an existing business, you may need to get a loan to cover all or part of the initial purchase. There are plenty of small business financing options to choose from, including SBA loans, bank loans, seller financing, and online options like Fundera and Lendio.

Why Every Small Business Should Practice “Zohonomics”

Companies can be built for other things in addition to making a profit. Executives at Zoho practice what they call “Zohonomics” where they design their growth strategy around humanity instead of just in monetary terms.

10 Perks Companies Can Offer to Boost Employee Morale and Retention

In addition to the position itself, company benefits are one of the most important elements that candidates carefully consider when gauging whether they want to join a company. Once an employee is on board, these perks can also play a role in whether or not an employee chooses to stay and whether they get the sense that the company values their contributions.

Image: Depositphotos


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Fake Tom Cruise


Chris Ume is a European VFX artist living in Bangkok who has shot to international attention with his Tom Cruise Deep Fake videos or DeepTomCruise posts. Chris has demonstrated a level of identity swapping that has surprised and delighted the community in equal measure. Since he started posting the videos of Miles Fisher’s face swapped as Tom Cruise his email inbox has been swamped with requests for advice, help, and work. What has caught the imagination of so many fellow artists is how the TikTok videos have Fisher breaking the ‘rules’ of Neural Rendering or Deep Fakes. In the videos, DeepTomCruise pulls on jumpers over his face, takes on and off glasses, hats without any seeming concern about occlusion, and how DeepTomCruise regularly has his hair or his hand partially over his face.

Ume uses as his backbone the free AI or Machine Learning (ML) software DeepFaceLab 2.0 (DFL), but the process is far from being a fully automated process. For each short video Ume spends15 to 20 hours working to perfect the shot and sell the illusion. While anyone can download the software, the final clip is anything but a one-button-press solution. As with all VFX, the artist’s role is central and what looks easy and effortless on-screen is actually complex and oftentimes challenging.

Each video starts with a conversation with Tom Cruise impersonator Miles Fisher. It is actually Fisher who films himself and sends the videos to Ume. There is never a tight script, Ume has explained the known limits and invited Fisher to push the boundaries. Ume does not direct the actor, and to date, only one video has had to be reshot. In the original version of the lollypop clip, Fisher too often came very close to the camera, turned, and dropped in and out of frame.

Ume uses DFL 2.0 which no longer supports AMD GPUs/OpenCL, the only way to use it is with nVidia GPU (minimum 3.0 CUDA compute level supported GPU required) or CPU. Ume uses an A6000 nVidia card. The actual software version of DFL 2.0 that Ume uses is faceshiftlabs, which is a Github a fork of actual DFL code.

[embedded content]

Fisher films the base clips on his iPhone and sends the files to Ume. The resolution is not high similar to 720P but at the end of each process, Ume performs an UpRes. He prefers to do this on the combined comped clip as he feels often times it is a mismatch in sharpness and perceived resolution that makes a deep fake look unrealistic.

A key part of Ume’s process is Machine Video Editor. MVE is a free community supported tool for deepfake project management it helps with data gathering to compositing, it fully supports DeepFaceLab and data format, Ume uses it extensively for the supporting mattes that are required for the later compositing work.

When doing any such ML the training stage is time-consuming and Ume normally allows “2 to 3 days at least, maybe more, depending on how quickly the shot clears up” to tackle a new subject such as DeepTomCruise. While it is his work on DeepTomCruise that most people know, Ume has done many similar projects with different subjects and targets.

The focus of MVE is neural rendering project management, and it allows Ume to have all his DFL training material in a single project folder, and data for data scraping, extracting, with advanced sorting methods, set analysis, augmentation, and manual face and mask editor tools.

The program helps with automatic face tagging avoids the need for manual identification of eyebrows, eyes, noses, mouths, or chins. The program is not open-sourced, but it is free.

DFL 2.0 has improved and optimized the process, which means Ume can train higher resolution models or train existing ones faster. But the new version only supports two models – SAEHD and Quick 96. There is no longer any H128/H64/DF/LIAEF/SAE models available and any pre-trained models (SAE/SAEHD) from 1.0 are not compatible. Ume only uses SAEHD, he sees Quick96 as just a fast rough test model and while he has explored it, DeepTomCruise uses SAEHD.

[embedded content]

All the compositing is currently done in AfterEffects. Ume is interested to explore NUKE, especially with its new ML nodes such as Copycat, but for now, he knows AE so well it is hard to shift applications. Some of the software in his pipeline only runs on PC so this is the platform that Ume does all his work.

As part of the compositing, Ume has experimented with changing hair color, patching skin textures, and noticed interesting artifacts from the training space into the solution space of DFL. For example, when Miles leans very close to the camera, the lens distortion is sometimes not reflected in the solution. This means the new DeepTomCruise has a jaw that is the wrong apparent width and is not receding fully with its distance to the lens. A face close to the camera at eye level will have the chin relatively thinner due to the wide-angle effect, but this is rare to see in actual Tom Cruise footage as the actor is seldom shot this way. In these cases, Ume uses the jaw much more from Miller than DeepTomCruise.

Ume is very collaborative working with VFX houses and also all the major artists working in the Deep Fake space. A group including users such as ctrl shift face, futuring machine, deephomage, dr fakenstein, the fakening, shamook, next face, and derpfakes , who collectively represent some of the best known usewrs on Github all share ideas and work to demonstrate the sort of amazing work that can be done with neural rendering technology.

Miles Fisher has sent respectful emails to Cruise’s management explaining that his & Ume’s work is just to explore and educate Deep Fakes and neural rendering technology, and he has vowed to never use DeepTomCruiseto promote a product or cause. Ume’s primary aim is to educate as to what is possible and build his own career in visual effects. “My goal was to work with Matt & Trey, (South Park) which I am now doing. My next goal is to work with ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ team. I grew up watching those movies over and over again,” Ume explains, admiringly referring to Weta Digital.

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The Social Commerce Habits of Gen Z and Millennials [Infographic]


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Top 5 Sentiment Analysis Tools


Understanding how your audience feels about your product or service is paramount to any marketing strategy.

To build a comprehensive brand marketing strategy, you should know what people struggle with and what they enjoy about your products. You should also know how their attitude to your brand changes in response to product launches, marketing campaigns, and outside events.

Fortunately, the world of technology is evolving all the time, and now sentiment analysis tools can provide that data.

What is sentiment analysis?

Sentiment analysis is a method of text analysis that uses machine-learning and natural language processing to determine whether the sentiment behind a piece of writing is positive, negative, or neutral.


Why is it important to perform sentiment analysis for your target audience?

Sentiment analysis uncovers information that can’t be discovered in any other way. Big Data reveals your overall brand reputation and does the same for your competitors. Just having that data will improve your brand marketing strategy, but there are also less apparent ways you can use the information revealed by sentiment analysis.

How can you use the information gathered by sentiment analysis tools?

1. Flag customers for active communication


Analyzing sentiment around your competitors’ brands shows you the customers who are unhappy with your competitor’s products or services. If they are criticizing an issue that your product doesn’t have, you can easily swoop in with an attractive product offer.

If the sentiment analysis shows customers who are unhappy with your own brand, you can reach out to them and attempt to solve their issues.

Sentiment analysis tools can also reveal customers who are actively satisfied with your brand—i.e., they post positive things about your brand online. You might want to reach out and ask them to leave testimonials on your site or become an affiliate or brand advocate.

2. Uncover hidden conversations about your business

Sentiment analysis shows you the pain points and happiness points of your company. If your brand is popular, you’ll uncover entire discussions online that you can join to showcase your expertise or present your solutions.

You can approach the conversations about your business in two ways. The first is to act as a company representative: speak as an expert, promote your brand, answer questions and complaints.

You can also encourage your brand advocates to join in those discussions as inspired customers and thus promote your brand in a more subtle and possibly more persuasive way.

3. Keep a closer eye on your competition

Performing sentiment analysis for your competition is no less important than doing so for your own brand. You’ll find out what their customers are happy and unhappy about, and will be able to steal their good practices and avoid their mistakes.

For example, you can analyze how your competitor’s most recent marketing campaign turned out. You can’t usually get access to exact financial results, but you can find out whether the competitor’s target audience liked or disliked the campaign, what they said about it, and how much traction it received.

In addition, you can see which demographic was most satisfied with the campaign and which was least satisfied. If your competitor is an international brand, you can see how countries differed in their responses.

4. Understand your own messaging better

Sometimes, marketing campaigns, slogans, and ideas don’t work out as planned. Sometimes, you end up promoting a message you didn’t intend to promote.

Sentiment analysis reveals the reaction to your every word early on. If you say or do something insensitive, only sentiment analysis tools have a chance of catching the problem before it blows up.

Since the rise of social media, brands’ social media posts, marketing campaigns, and business decisions have frequently caused social backlash that could have been prevented with a sentiment analysis tool.

Even if you aren’t planning on anything controversial, it makes sense to know how people feel about the message you send out into the world.

5. Create a more holistic approach to your online presence

Social media marketing and other digital marketing strategies often go unassessed. We don’t know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. We don’t know the extent of the social media buzz and its effect on brand awareness and brand reputation.

Sentiment analysis is a part of the solution in that it makes us more aware of our online presence. It turns vague feelings the target audience has about our brand into numbers, and it helps us create better marketing strategies.

Top 5 Sentiment Analysis Tools

Now that we’ve hopefully agreed that sentiment analysis can be useful for your brand, let’s move on to the tools that perform it for you.

1. Awario

Awario dashboard example

Awario is a social listening (also called social media monitoring) tool, and sentiment analysis is one of its prominent features.

The tool crawls all major social media networks, news sites, blogs, forums, and other parts of the Web for mentions of any keyword. Usually, the keyword will be your brand or your competitor’s brand, but it can also be your product, industry, CEO, or whatever else you choose.

Awario’s sentiment analysis sorts all mentions into positive, negative, and neutral categories, and also shows how sentiment and growth change over time. You can choose to see only positive or only negative mentions, mentions from someone with a large following, or mentions from someone from a specific location.

You can dig deeper to find out exactly what the positive or negative mentions say.

Awario will also notify you if there’s a sudden increase in positive or negative mentions so you can react in time.

Pricing: $29/month for the Starter plan, $89/month for Pro, and $299/month for Enterprise. Free 7-day trial available.

2. Brandwatch

Brandwatch dashboard example

Brandwatch is another social listening and analytics tool that also performs sentiment analysis. An enterprise-level tool, it covers every source you can possibly think of, including specific social networks such as Tumblr and Goodreads, and local social networks such as VK. If there is a source that you need but can’t find on Brandwatch, you can request to add it manually.

Brandwatch analyzes your data in many ways that include sentiment analysis and growth analysis. It also gives you insights into the authors of the accounts: Negative mentioners can be broken down by demographic so you can understand which parts of your target audience have the most complaints.

Brandwatch also shows trends and detects patterns in your data, and it notifies you if something unusual is happening.

Pricing: Available upon request.

3. Talkwalker

Talkwalker dashboard example

Talkwalker is a social listening tool that does much more than just listen. Like Brandwatch, it covers an unlimited number of sources, including social networks, news sites, review sites, blogs, forums, and other parts of the Web.

Talkwalker claims to have one of the best sentiment analysis technologies for detecting sarcasm. It also shows customer satisfaction trends, uncovering features of your products that are liked and ones that are disliked.

If you want to dig deeper into your data, you can filter the results by the type of service. For example, you can find out what customers are unhappy about with the type of food your airline provides.

Pricing: Basic is €6,000 yearly. Corporate and Enterprise pricing are available upon request.

4. Lexalytics

Lexalytics dashboard example

More than a social listening tool, Lexalytics is a business intelligence solution that analyzes many kinds of text among its extensive list of features.

Lexalytics covers social comments, reviews, surveys, and other text documents. The data is subjected to sentiment analysis, as well as categorization, theme extraction, and intention detection. That way, the tool ensures that it has detected the sentiment as precisely and in as much detail as possible.

Such a multifactorial approach also allows the user to understand the context and see the benefits and failures of their business in a whole new light.

Pricing: Available upon request.

5. Hootsuite Insights

Hootsuite Insights dashboard example

Hootsuite is a popular social media management platform. Its main focus is on managing a brand’s social activity, but audience analysis is also one of its benefits. Accordingly, Hootsuite Insights analyzes social media networks to reveal overall sentiment regarding your brand and the trends that surround your brand on those networks.

You can filter the information by demographic, location, and language.

Pricing: $19/month for Pro, $99/month for Team, $599/month for Business. Enterprise pricing is available upon request. Free trial available.

More Resources on Sentiment Analysis Tools

Determining Consumer Sentiment: Trends and Common Mistakes

Dark Data on Social Media: Insights That Shed Light on Your Business

10 of the Best Social Media Monitoring Tools for Every Business

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43% of Remote Workers Miss the Water Cooler Chats with Co-workers


Impromptu chats at the water cooler are a feature of office work that 43% of co-workers who have been working remotely during the last year miss the most.

36% miss a better workstation or office set-up, while 25% miss eating lunch out the most. 20% of remote workers miss Happy Hour with colleagues.12% deem not being able to get away from their partner as the most missed feature of homeworking.

These homeworking statistics were unveiled by a survey conducted by YouGov and Otter.ai, providers of tools to improve virtual meetings.

The survey interviewed 2,000 remote workers in the US and UK to find out what they think about remote working set-ups. The survey was also designed to provide insight on how businesses can improve productivity and morale by modifying the way they hold meetings.



Remote Workers Miss Water Cooler Chats, Happy Hour

All participants have been working at least partially from home since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost 40% have been working from home full-time and believe they will continue to do so indefinitely. 36% of participants are also fully remote but think they will return to the office full or part-time in the future. 24% are hybrid working. 20% of homeworkers say they never want to return to the office, and 14% say they want to when it is safe to do so. 45% would prefer a hybrid working set-up when it is safe to return to the office.

Businesses Need to Change Structure of Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings have been an almost mandatory feature of the remote working era. Despite months of remote work, improvements can be made to virtual meetings, as the survey found.

42% of respondents say they have experienced Zoom fatigue since the pandemic began. To improve virtual meetings, more than half of those surveyed said meetings should always have agendas. 35% of remote workers believe people should only have to attend the relevant sections of meetings. 33% are of the opinion that meetings should be shorter. 26% say meeting notes should always be shared with attendees.

With economies opening, many businesses are considering working setups moving forward out of the pandemic. The research provides insightful information to employers about employees’ thoughts about remote work. Many employees are in favor of being offered hybrid work opportunities. Meetings are another element of remote work that businesses should work on improving, as unveiled by the survey.

Overcoming Zoom Fatigue

Sam Liang, CEO and founder of Otter.ai, commented on the findings of the research and how businesses can help overcome ‘Zoom fatigue’:

“Our survey shows that work will never be the same as before the pandemic. Employees now demand a flexible, collaborative and hybrid work set up that meets the new work-life balance and changing attitudes created by working from home for such a long period.

“Zoom Fatigue is real, and meetings need to be adapted to suit our new working environment, whether that is fundamentally changing the structure of meetings or seeing employees engage with productivity and collaboration apps that help with meeting notes and allow the sharing of conversations in real time. Perhaps making a rule that all employees should wear pants on virtual meetings is another good one to add to the list,” said Liang.

The impact Zoom fatigue is having on employees range from poor productivity (41%) to control of work hours (32%). 27% of respondent said Zoom fatigue means they have the inability to leave home due to work. 24% it has led to a lack of collaboration and 22% say it has caused sleep problems.

Lack of Engagement During Virtual Meetings

The survey asked remote workers what they have done during virtual meetings in the past 12 months. 31% admit to having private conversations with friends in virtual meetings. 30% have worn pajamas. 23% have shopped online and 15% have played computer games. 9% have drank alcohol or been drunk during remote meetings.

The takeaway from the survey is that employees are demanding flexible, hybrid work set-ups that meet new work-life balance demands. However, to cater for new working environments, businesses need adapt virtual meetings, so employees remain engaged and less prone to suffering from Zoom fatigue.

Image: Depositphotos


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