What Makes a Small Business Influencer? 7 Experts Weigh In

small business influencer

What makes an influencer?  Specifically, who influences the small business community?

It turns out, on one level that’s an easy answer.  But on another level, it is much more nuanced and hard to define.  That’s according to several people we reached out to, for their definitions.  See if you agree with these seven experts.

Influencers: Not Necessarily Known Outside Their Communities

Influencers are big names within their communities.  That part is obvious enough. But what isn’t always obvious, is that influencers may be relatively unknown (or completely unknown) outside their spheres of influence.

Influencers, according to Ramon Ray (@RamonRay), the publisher of SmallBizTechnology.com and author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses, are people who “are known and have influence in their local market, be that geographic or an industry market (like franchises).”

Communities are defined in many ways.  In the past, small business were reached mainly in their local geographic areas. But today, small businesses may align themselves around national or international markets.  The influencers who impact those small businesses may be 30 miles away, or 3,000 miles away.

What’s more, the “communities” a small business influencer reaches may not even be that obvious to the rest of the world.  Someone can be an influencer within a loose confederation of people who share similar interests, such as self-published authors.  Another example:  they can be influencers among entrepreneurs who simply are part of an active networking circle.  Just because the community may be hard to define to the outside world, doesn’t mean it’s not real.  That influencer’s impact is still powerful within that group.

Influencers: Often Unsung Heroes

A true influencer probably doesn’t care about being an unknown outside of his or her community or industry.

It’s not about ego.  Influencers lead through thought leadership, insights and experience.  Influencers don’t become influential by showing off their own accolades.  Accolades come after you are influential. According to Brent Leary (@BrentLeary),  CRM industry analyst and expert:

“… an influencer is someone or some group, through natural displays of proven expertise, experience and insight, commands the attention and respect of clients and colleagues alike.  Not through acts of self-promotion, but by providing valuable information critical to the growth and success of their industry.”

Influencers: Mission Driven

Melinda Emerson (@SmallBizLady), author of  Be Your Own Boss , points out how influencers — which can be companies, organizations or individuals — are driven by a sense of mission. They are contributing to something bigger than themselves, she says, noting:

If your brand is mission driven and if that mission is helping small business owners then you are a small business influencer.”

You will see their mission demonstrated through actions, not words alone.  It’s more than about money.  It’s about something bigger. Influencers care.

Influencers: Solve Problems

Ivana Taylor (@DIYMarketers), a marketing expert and publisher of DIYMarketers.com, says there are only three questions that any small business owner wants answered: (1) are you going to make me money, (2) are you going to save me money, and (3) do you make my life easier.  Small business influencers are the people, companies and organizations that meet one of those needs. She adds:

“An influencer is someone that time-and-attention strapped business owners can count on to consistently guide then in a direction that saves them time, money and makes their life easier.”

Influencers: Make a Large Difference

Some people, organizations and companies help small businesses, but the degree to which they help them is what separates good service providers and vendors, from true influencers.
Influencers impact others to a large degree, and they impact more than a few small businesses. Barry Moltz (@BarryMoltz), consultant and author of four books, including How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Againsays Influencers are those who truly “…make a difference in the lives of small biz owners.”

Influencers: Aid Small Business Growth

Influencers help small business owners grow their businesses and get to the next level. Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva),
CEO of GrowBiz Media, says:

“An influencer is a person or company that helps small business owners ‘move the needle.’ By words or deeds influencers can inspire, inform, or even incite others to take action. In our world of small business, that means helping people start, grow or scale their companies.”

Influencers: Spur People to Take Action

Ultimately, having influence does little if it doesn’t serve to change the status quo. Franchise expert Joel Libava (@FranchiseKing) says influencers are excellent at convincing people to do things:

“An influencer is a person or a company that has the power to convince me to take some type of action. It could be making a purchase, or it could involve influencing my decision on something I’m about to do, or not do.”

Those are the kinds of questions that the Small Business Influencer Awards, now in their fourth year, are designed to help answer.  The experts we tapped are from among our esteemed panel of judges.

Are you, your organization or company an influencer under any of these definitions?  If so, we’d love to see you nominated in this year’s batch of nominees. Or nominate someone or some entity that fits the definitions. Nominations close August 29, 2014. So nominate now!

Impact image: Shutterstock

The post What Makes a Small Business Influencer? 7 Experts Weigh In appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Iyanla Vanzant Travels to Ferguson for Special ‘Fix My Life’ Episode

Image: George Burns/OWN

Following the death of Michael Brown and the uproar it has stirred in Ferguson, Missouri, one of our favorite spiritual life coaches, Iyanla Vanzant, has traveled to the city to speak with the people who’ve been affected most by the city’s chaos.

Stepping outside of the traditional “Iyanla: Fix My Life” format, Vanzant is taking her show to the streets of Ferguson in an effort to bring peace and healing to the community.

“My heart hurts for the family of Michael Brown and the citizens of Ferguson. In the wake of this tragic death, it is my responsibility as a mother, grandmother and teacher to show my support and to offer the community a chance to share its story with the nation. In addition, I hope to provide a set of tools to begin the healing process while also promoting peaceful change,” Vanzant said in a press release.

With what seems to be an ongoing war between the residents of Ferguson and the police, an intervention of peace is exactly what the local citizens need. No date has been released yet on when the special episode of “Iyanla: Fix My Life” will air on OWN, but we’re sure its ratings will be through the roof.


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NAACP and McDonald’s Launch Project H.E.L.P.

McDonald's and NAACP Launch Project H.E.L.P.The NAACP and McDonald’s announced a year-long commitment toward addressing health disparities and providing health education in communities of color throughout the nation. Project H.E.L. P. (Healthy Eating, Lifestyles and Physical Activity) is focused on low-income and underserved communities.

“The NAACP is encouraging communities of color across the nation to be actively engaged in conversations about health issues that disproportionately affect African-Americans,” said Niiobli Armah IV, director of Health Programs for the NAACP. “The NAACP health department is committed to health and wellness, focusing on obesity reduction as one of the core risk factors of chronic disease. Working with McDonald’s will enhance our ability to educate and connect members of our community to these health forums, pioneering sustainable pathways to a healthy life.”

Project H.E.L.P will launch in several major markets including, New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Chicago. Local NAACP chapters will utilize grant funds to help with making informed decisions regarding health and nutrition.

“McDonald’s is excited about the work we are doing with the NAACP in African-American communities,” said Rob Jackson, McDonald’s U.S. marketing director. “This program reinforces our national commitment to inform our customers about the importance of balanced eating and active lifestyle and it also aligns perfectly with our initiatives to support the community 365 days a year.”

How To Use Social Media To Make An Impact At Your Next Trade Show

next trade show

Many small business owners have started to strongly incorporate social media into their marketing plans for their trade show events. Social media can be a powerful way to break through the overwhelming distractions in a convention hall and drive traffic to their booth. So what are some social media methods to make an impact at your next trade show?


Twitter’s influence continues to grow as does the number of trade show events and attendees using Twitter. If your target customers are the least bit tech oriented, smart phone carriers, then Twitter should be part of your social media marketing strategy for your next trade show.

How To Use Twitter At A Trade Show:

  • Find out if the tradeshow is using a hashtag (example: #tradeshow) to share news and events with attendees and start using it.
  • Follow any of the users who are using the #tradeshow hashtag you identify based on their Twitter profile to be a prospective customer.
  • Follow the show organizer on Twitter and retweet their posts. Oftentimes when you support them via retweets, they “spread the love” by retweeting your comments, or occasionally retweet your tweets, giving your business more visibility.
  • Publicize your booth number. Invite people via Twitter and offer something special that nobody else will get unless they are retweeting your tweet. Or offer a sample or free trial of your product/services for a retweet.
  • Twitter only contest. Have people visit your booth, take a selfie there and use a special hashtag and the event hashtag to post it to Twitter.


Over a billion people use Facebook around the world. Millions of Facebook users log-in daily via their smart phones to stay in touch with family and friends. Increasingly, they are following their favorite brands and companies on Facebook.

If your business is one of those Facebook pages being followed, not only will you have that person’s attention when your post comes through their Facebook timeline regarding your trade show, but you could get their friend’s attention should that “fan” of your page like or add a comment to one of your Facebook posts.

How To Use Facebook At A Trade Show:

  • Follow the trade show’s Facebook page.
  • Post questions regarding the trade show, the special events at the show and other relevant information (like where to stay or best places to eat in town) that will help you get more engagement and exposure.
  • Promote the trade show, your booth number in the exhibition hall on your company brand page.
  • Pin a post to the top of your page promoting your trade show special offers or contests.
  • And don’t forget to “friend” attendees or fans of the trade show exhibit’s page.


LinkedIn is a powerful social network with over 100 million users in the United States. LinkedIn has a fantastic “groups” option, so getting everyone into a particular trade show event is easy. Hopefully your upcoming trade show event manager has created one for their trade show. And that’s just one of the LinkedIn tools that can be used for a trade show.

How To Use LinkedIn At Trade Shows:

  • Join groups and engage in “conversations” or start one yourself in trade groups related to the show. Share your blog posts (if you have them) and thoughts about the industry or market to establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
  • Use your LinkedIn “share an update…” to show your upcoming contest, special events leading up to the trade show.
  • Connect with people going to the show. Tell them where to find you at the show. Start building a relationship with them.
  • Don’t forget to look for similar business interests/connection that you have in common with fellow attendees. Use that “common ground” as a reason to have a conversation at the trade show. It’s a powerful way to genuinely build a business relationship with a prospect or deepen one with an existing customer.


Google Plus has the distinct advantage over other social media networks simply by being Google. Drive traffic and interest to your trade show booth and consider after-show bonus content. It will be indexed into Google’s search results.

How To Use Google Plus At A Trade Show:

  • Post updates with pictures. Keeping your feed moving with images, thoughts and ideas about what’s happening at the trade show.
  • Live video streaming with Google Hangout. Google hangout allows you broadcast from your event (hopefully the exhibition hall has WiFi or your company has planned for it) for people who aren’t there to see what’s going on and what you’re presenting.
  • Circles and events. Google+’s Circles feature give you the chance to organize your Google contacts based on where you met them or what type of person they are: prospect, customer, partner, peer, etc.
  • Upload the Hangout to YouTube.


YouTube is owned by Google and provides a powerful visual opportunity to build trust, buzz and connect with people interested in your products or business.

How To Use YouTube At A Trade Show:

  • Create quick little testimonial videos from customers. If you have a current customer visiting your booth, it’s a great opportunity to capture a quick 30 second video testimonial. Powerful stuff.
  • Take a video of the activity at your booth. Show off the number of people visiting the booth. Participating in the trade show contest (you do have one don’t you?), a presentation being given or special event speaker.
  • Don’t forget to link to your company’s website within the description of the video as you upload it to YouTube. And make sure your description describes what is happening in the video. Don’t just upload videos with no information.

Whether your company is tweeting, engaging on Facebook, posting videos to YouTube or using LinkedIn to connect with and develop stronger relationships with your prospects or clients, social media is an incredible asset to leverage and expand your trade show marketing to:

  • Create pre-show buzz.
  • Drive traffic to your booth.
  • Increase your brand recognition.
  • Expand networking opportunities & deepen relationships.
  • Promote special offers.

If you’re not using social media marketing for your trade show, you’re missing out on customers and losing them to your competition.

If you are using social, what other social media marketing ideas have you or your company used that have generated great results in driving traffic to your trade show exhibit?

Computer Photo via Shutterstock

The post How To Use Social Media To Make An Impact At Your Next Trade Show appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Family Affair: How One Couple Keeps Household Finances in Order (Part 2)

Setting a good example for your children when it comes to managing household finances is vital. No one knows this better than Anisha and Russ Bailey. Anisha sat down with BlackEnterprise.com to tell us how she and her husband manage their household finances.

Here are some of Anisha’s tips in her own words:

One of the largest sacrifices we made was to live on one income. Initially we had plans on moving out of Ohio once we were married, but transitioning my business would require us to put those plans on hold as the cost of living was extremely important in our decision making.

Our remedy was to stay in Beavercreek, Ohio, an hour north of Cincinnati, and an hour south of Columbus. Our cost of living is relatively low, allowing us to live in a nice house, located in a nice neighborhood with great schools, a combination we were far less likely to find living in NYC, San Diego, or LA on our budget.

I also made sure to take advantage of tax opportunities. Having an entrepreneur in the home, and one who knows and studies tax law, gives our family a unique advantage, one that I share with other families through my blog at AnishaBailey.com.

As a federally licensed tax professional, an Enrolled Agent, I want to take financial savvy to the next level. I teach families and business owners how to reach their financial goals while taking advantage of our tax laws—without going completely insane in the process. So naturally, I always consider the opportunities to reduce our tax bill when we make financial decisions.

This year alone (2014 tax year), we are looking to reduce our taxes by an extra $2,500 to $3,000 simply because we considered the tax impacts of our spending. We contribute to the flexible spending account (FSA) offered through my husband’s job based on our projected medical costs for the year. I’ve hired my kids to work for me this year and we’ve done a few other things to make reducing our tax bill possible, which allows us to keep more money in our household —something many business owners and families can do.
We’ve also considered the tax opportunities available to pay for our kids’ college tuition and decided against the more common solutions for saving for our kids’ college education. I know it sounds odd, but our reasoning is simple—you want it, you pay for it whether it’s through a scholarship or by getting a job.

So instead of us paying for their education, we are establishing their work ethic, sense of appreciation and sense of responsibility through helping them take advantage of opportunities to pay their own way.

My advice to all business owners and families wanting to better manage their finances: Managing your finances doesn’t have to be a scary, confusing or overwhelming. It just takes a little thought, vision, proper guidance and action.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Offers to Pay for Michael Brown’s Funeral

Michael Brown (Image: Facebook)

Standing by its commitment to justice and equality for African Americans, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has agreed to cover all expenses for the memorial and funeral service for Michael Brown,18, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer on Aug. 9.

In a letter to members of the organization, the fraternity’s General President Mark S. Tillman called members of the organization to take action, and he informed the National Pan Hellenic that action needs to be taken nationwide in response to recent attacks on young black men.

“I also contacted the leaders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity to convene a meeting and address how our organizations can respond to this latest attack on young black men. Collectively, our organizations represent over 600,000 members and approximately 3,000 chapters. It is my intent to work with my peers to develop a unified effort on this issue,” Tillman said.

Brown’s funeral arrangements are under the direction of Austin A. Layne Mortuary, Inc., with services expected to take place Monday, Aug. 25 at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Brown’s uncle, Rev. Charles Ewing will deliver the eulogy, with Rev. Al Sharpton also scheduled to speak.

Read Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. offer letter to funeral director Layne and the Brown family in full below.

Image: newsone.com


When Will Police Stop Murdering Unarmed Black Men?

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. Jonathan Ferrell. Kendrec McDade. Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Patrick Dorismond. Amadou Diallo. Ousmane Zongo. Timothy Stansbury Jr. Orlando Barlow. Aaron Campbell. Victor Steen. Steven Eugene Washington. Alonzo Ashley. Wendell Allen. James Brissette. Ronald Madison.

The names go on, and on, and on, like some horrid, grisly roll call. What they have in common is likely no surprise to you, as you no doubt recognize at least some of these names from news accounts, civil rights protests, and social media outrage. All are unarmed black men recently killed by police. In 2014, as in every decade in American history, black men live with the unjust and unreasonable threat of deadly force—for adjusting a belt, reaching for a wallet, suddenly changing direction while running. Or, in the case of Trayvon Martin, simply being perceived as not having the right to be present at a given place and time, despite not violating any law, and even on a public street.

RELATED: Updates from Micheal Brown Case, Protests, and Social Media Activism

According to the FBI’s most recent accounts of “justifiable homicide,” in the seven years between 2005 and 2012, a white officer used deadly force against a black person almost two times every week. Of those black persons killed, nearly one in every five was under 21 years of age. For comparison, only 8.7% of white people killed by police officers were younger than 21. If you are an unarmed American male under the age of 21, being black (instead of white) more than doubles your chances of being shot to death by the police.

Of course, the method of execution is not always a firearm. Others, such as Garner, are victims of chokeholds, even though they are against New York Police Department policy, if not against the law. Steen, 17, was riding a bicycle when he was run over by a chasing police officer who fired a Taser at him. Nor are victims always teens or young adults. Chamberlain was shot to death by police who broke down his door in response to his medic alert signal accidentally going off—despite the retired former marine repeatedly telling them that he did not need help. He was 68.

Even more galling, though typical, is how infrequently police officers who kill unarmed black men are actually punished for their acts, whether crimes of malicious intent or deadly incompetence. (The officer who killed Grant in an Oakland train station in 2009 claimed that he accidentally pulled his .40 caliber handgun when he meant to pull his Taser. Grant was lying face down with his hands behind his back, being subdued by another officer, when he was shot.)

The message is loud and clear: the lives of black people, of black men in particular, are disposable and without value. Killing black men, accidentally or intentionally, is of no consequence.

Rejecting that message, even in the face of stonewalling and militaristic tactics of local law enforcement, is the point of the vocal, persistent, and escalating protests that took place in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the aftermath of Brown’s death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Rejecting that message was also what we did when I and other New Yorkers demonstrated and went to jail in 1999, in an act of solidarity and civil disobedience, in support of the parents of Amadou Diallo and their attorney, Johnnie L. Cochran.

Each of us must take a stand to reject that message each and every day, to make the point that black lives matter. We must be aware, vocal, and involved in how the law is enforced in our communities, wherever we live. We cannot accept or allow black men’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to be left in a pool of blood on the street. We must hold law enforcement accountable for unjust, incompetent, or intentionally malicious use of deadly force, making it clear that they are not above the law they are sworn to enforce, nor are they allowed to selectively honor their duty to serve, protect, and preserve life.