Small Business Briefing

Are you ready for Facebook's Timeline switch?

The Globe and Mail

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduces Timeline, a new feature for Facebook during his keynote address at the Facebook f8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California September 21, 2011. (ROBERT GALBRAITH/ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS)

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Tomorrow marks the day that all businesses must switch their Facebook pages to the social networking site's Timeline layout. And that's going to have a big effect on every business, large and small, that has a Facebook account.

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More than eight million brands with Facebook pages have already made the switch, according to reports. But that means millions more haven't yet made the transition.

The switch is generating mixed reactions from small businesses: some early adopters feel it's more helpful, but others are against it.

Businesses may find themselves facing anger from users when they explain the change, says this story posted on the Montreal Gazette website.

But the more visual format may serve businesses well. Mashable cites one small study of early adopters from Simply Measured that found brands that made the transition got an average of 46 per cent more content engagement with Timeline, as well as a 14-per-cent jump in fan engagement and a 65-per-cent increase in interactive content engagement (videos and photos).

For small businesses that might want some guidance, there is some handy help for how best to handle the switch to Timeline all over the Net. Forbes offers several tips on how to do it right, while Business 2 Community offers a checklist to make sure pages are optimized for the new layout. And there are some tips in this piece, too, as well as this one from PC World. Huffington Post also offers some suggestions on how to market your fan page.

Is ageism at play in Europe?

"Where have all the older tech entrepreneurs gone?" asks a headline in a piece in The Wall Street Journal out of Europe.

Or, more to the age point, it asks whether "this wave of digital entrepreneurship [is]closed to anyone who has a meaningful memory of the 1991 Gulf War."

It might seem that way. The piece notes that European startup culture is dominated by the young. And while it quotes European investors denying overt ageism, they still do acknowledge that there has been a preference for younger entrepreneurs.

One venture capitalist based in Estonia says that 80 per cent of applications for venture capital funding over the last few years have come from entrepreneurs in their twenties.

So what's going on? For one thing, the piece suggests, there's a preference for those who have grown up with the technology. As well, older entrepreneurs, it says, don't have the same access to "younger human resources and networks and [face]distrust from investors." The VC business, the story quotes the Estonia-based venture capitalist as saying, is "the art of younger men seducing older men."

The story also suggests that younger entrepreneurs tend to lean toward higher-growth companies while older ones favour "safer" businesses, often in sectors where they already have experience.

But others say that Europe's more risk-averse culture and fewer success stories among entrepreneurs and investors than on this side of the ocean means many European investors "like to see some gray hair and wrinkles." And in some places age, which brings experience, is considered advantageous.

Entrepreneurs jump on Florida teen's death

Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager killed in Florida by a neighbourhood watch volunteer who is claiming self-defence, has turned into a commercial phenomenon on the Internet, writes this piece .

It reports that clothes, bumper stickers, buttons and posters bearing the teen's likeness are up for sale on eBay, and other websites are peddling key chains. As well, vendors have been selling T-shirts and hoodies at rallies in the Florida town where the teen was shot. His parents have bought two trademarks, which the pieces says they hope to use to raise money to help other families that have been hit by tragedy.

The high-profile case has raised racial tensions throughout the country and such an event is bound to become commercialized, the piece quotes one marketing professor, Donna Hoffman from the University of California-Riverside. "People can start to wear their feelings and emotions. It makes sense, even if there's a profit motive," she is quoted as saying. "There's a legitimate interest in sharing the pain, and these products do that."

Female-owned U.S. businesses on the rise

Businesses owned by women in the United States have been growing at 1.5 times the national average growth rate for privately held companies over the last decade and a half, says this piece from Inc.Wire, quoting a new report commissioned by American Express OPEN, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the report, the number of female-owned firms rose by 54 per cent over the past 15 years, versus a national average of 37 per cent.

Put another way, women opened nearly 550 businesses a day in the last year, with the overall number rising by 200,000, according to Portfolio.com's coverage of the second annual report, entitled State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

There are now more than 8.3-million businesses majority owned by women, according to Inc.Wire's report, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million. But just 1.8 per cent of them have surpassed the revenue mark of $1-million, little-changed over the last decade, the report says.

Wenzhou picked for Chinese small-business funding trial

Wenzhou -- the coastal Chinese city where a number of factory bosses unable to pay their debts vanished last year, fleeing, going into hiding or committing suicide -- has been selected for a trial small-business funding program, reports Bloomberg Business Week.

Under the plan approved by China's State Council, the city will develop more types of bonds and allow trading of unlisted equities, technology and cultural products, the report says. The plan is part of a government economic reform package to develop a more market-based economy, seeking to create more financing opportunities for private companies.

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

Spin Master Innovation Fund applications open

Up to 10 young Canadian entrepreneurs could be awarded a host of goodies, including up to $50,000 in startup financing, from the Spin Master Innovation Fund. Offered for the second consecutive year by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and toy company Spin Master Ltd., the fund will also offer mentoring, workshops, networking and other help to those selected. Applications open today, and close May 10. For more information, click here.

Small Business Summit Calgary

Don't forget to mark April 25 on your calendar for the next Small Business Summit being held in Calgary. Brought by The Globe and Mail's Report on Small Business in conjunction with Achilles Media, the one-day event for entrepreneurs wil be filled with strategies, sessions and presentations that will offer essential insights to growing your business. For more information, click here.



EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

Lesson from St. Lucia: How Canadians are missing the social media boat

On vacation, columnist Mia Pearson meets a Caribbean charter-boat company owner who has reaped the rewards of investing in social media. More Canadian companies need to wake up to the value of social media and a well-designed corporate website, she writes.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

There is tech startup life after 40

For a flip-side view of older tech entrepreneurs, here's a piece we ran last August that doesn't ignore the grown-up crowd. The piece profiled six technology entrepreneurs who proved that 40 is nowhere near "over the hill" for startup success.



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