Weekly business rail, with social-media tips for small businesses, BBB warning about air-duct cleaners and more.

Tip of the Week


Small-business owners recognize the value of word of mouth - 63 percent say it remains the most effective way to market their business and find new customers, according to a recent survey by Citibank. Yet that same survey found that 81 percent of small-business owners do not use social media - word of mouth in the technology-driven world.


"Many small businesses have yet to really harness the marketing and communication power that online tools can provide them," says Raj Seshadri, head of small-business banking at Citibank.


Moreover, business owners should utilize a variety of social media and online platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, their website's homepage and even blogs, experts say. Profiles on multiple networks expand your business' reach and help engage current and potential customers.


Studies show that after a purchase, online shoppers "friend" or follow businesses more than 50 percent of the time. Reasons include an affinity for the business, allegiance to a company, and the opportunity to receive invitations to special events and/or exclusive offers and promotions through social media.


- ARA


BBB Watch


Questionable selling practices employed by some companies in the air-duct cleaning industry are causing homeowners to spend hundreds of more dollars than they expected.


The Better Business Bureau states that most of these complaints involve bait-and-switch tactics, such as when a company advertises a low price but once they are in the home they do not honor the advertised price and aggressively offer additional services.


"Of the 172 companies listed in our database as providing duct cleaning, the three businesses with the most complaints filed by consumers - American Pure Air, International Duct Cleaning, Procare Carpet & Air Duct Cleaning - account for more than one-quarter of all complaints for this type of business," said Steve J. Bernas of the Better Business Bureau.


Bernas noted that people should be aware that many companies offer duct cleaning as an addition to other services. To determine the type of complaints these companies may have, Bernas encourages consumers to check out business Reliability Reports for free at the BBB Web site www.bbb.org.  


The List


Here are the seven most powerful people in sports, according to www.forbes.com and Lance Armstrong:


1: Don Catlin, CEO, Anti-Doping Research


2: Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics


3: Roger Goodell, commissioner, National Football League


4: Phil Knight, co-founder, Nike


5: Jacques Rogge, president, International Olympic Committee


6: David Stern, commissioner, National Basketball League


7: Tiger Woods, golfer


Number to Know


1.7 million: Number of new iPhones that Apple said it sold in the first three days of the device being on sale. 


GateHouse News Service