NYT: This Week in Small Business: Facebook Search

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(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

The Economy: Housing Starts Soar

The bull market may be on shaky groundMachine tool orders fall 11 percent. Manufacturing slows in the New York region. But there is also good news:home pricesretail sales and factory output all rise, and housing starts (PDF)soar. Job seekers per opening fall to a four-year low, and jobless claims are ata five-year lowConsumer prices rose only 1.7 percent in 2012, and theproducer price index is down. Builder confidence holds steady. House Republicans agree to lift the debt ceiling. Here is a rundown of all the approaching fiscal deadlines and their consequences. The threat ofsequestration looms over the manufacturing sector. Ben S. Bernanke wants Congress to get rid of the debt ceiling.

Facebook: A Busy Week

In the same week that Justin Timberlake helped introduce a new and improved MySpace, Facebook took on Google with its new graph search, introduced a free calling service for the iPhone and disrupted the server business. Here are five things Facebook’s new search function means for business. Christopher Wallace believes that Facebook’s timeline makes promoting a business more effective. This is how two sisters used Facebook to get a puppy and @brettryland tweeted: “I waited four years for a Justin Timberlake song for this?”

Around the Country: Liberals Pay Extra

December’s home sales in Southern California were the highest in three years, which must mean California is back from the brink! Or is it? (And the state’s former governor takes some time out to answer questions on Reddit.) A Michigan-based company encourages entrepreneurs to let all of their business frustrations (and joys) out into the world through competitive storytelling. A Utah small business that sells smoothies charges liberals a dollar extra. The owner of a machine shop in Ohio reveals his biggest mistake. These are theworst cities for bedbugs. The national flu outbreak is affecting small businesses. Startup New York is helping small businesses after Sandy, and New York City is encouraging the growth of businesses owned by women. FedEx announces the winners of its small-business grant competition. A turnaround expert is looking for companies to fix for a new TV series.

Around the World: Japan Chooses Stimulus

The World Bank cuts its growth forecasts as developed nations lose steam. Euro zone factory output falls, but Italian machine tool orders rose 3.5 percent in 2012. Britain is expected to drop from the world’s top 10 economies by 2050. Germany’s economy shrinks. A third of Greek workers are uninsured for social security benefits. Paul Krugman admires Japan’s recent stimulus efforts. United Airlines is now offering Wi-Fi on some overseas flights. Some feel that the road for a start-up in Africa can be like a video game: each time a player slays a monster, a larger one appears. These are the smartest cities in the Asia-Pacific region, and these are the most polluted cities in each industrialized country. A worker outsources his job to China and makes a profit.

Health Care: Premiums Rising

As 2014 approaches, more small businesses are worrying about exceeding the 50-employee limit. Health insurance premiums have been rising, and consumers may experience another series of price shocks later this year (and 18 human heads are found at O’Hare Airport). The Department of Health and Human Services publishes new rules on Medicaid expansion and state exchanges. Support for Medicaid expansion is growing among governors of both parties. A Gallup poll finds that American workers who are engaged in their work and workplace are more likely to report a healthier lifestyle than their counterparts.

Management: A Party Boy Explains

Dan Smith wonders what you would do if someone tried to steal your success. A college party boy explains how he built the company behind the Golden Globes (but no one can explain Jodie Foster’s speech). These are the fivebiggest Internet entrepreneurs of 2012. More than 60,000 people have signed up for a Darden business school professor’s free online course on how to expand a company. Matt Wilson believes that a great way to get ahead is to become a “university entrepreneur.” And The Onion reports that most small businesses fail within the first six hours of being on fire.

Employees: Wal-Mart and Public Relations

Here is why some employers are paying employees to lose weight. Wal-Mart says that it will hire any military veteran honorably discharged within the past 12 months (but is it just public relations?). Bank of America cuts 14,600employees. This may be the greatest penalty shot ever.

Finance: Looking for Sponsors

Mariah Courtney believes that factoring gives invoice financing a bad name. An online learning company raises $103 million. A new online service hopes to help entrepreneurs connect with the next generation of business leaders. Read this to remind yourself how long you should keep your business documents.

Mobile: Are You Prepared for SoLoMo?

Galaxy S device sales top 100 million. Tablets now surpass smartphones in paid search advertising spending, and last month 11.3 billion online video adswere watched. A Pitney Bowes survey finds that 27 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34 say they activate quick response codes. Court Cunningham lists 10 trends to watch in local marketing and predicts that the number of small and midsize businesses with mobile sites will triple. A webinar this week will explain how to prepare your brand for today’s SoLoMo — social, local, mobile — environment.

Marketing: How to Manage Sales Executives

Rohit Bhargava receives the best birthday promotional e-mail ever. An Experian marketing survey finds that e-mail still generates traffic and revenue. Joshua Lockhart has 10 great tips for dealing with angry, trollish or rude e-mail. Andy Crestodina says you should avoid making Web site navigation mistakes, like having a nonstandard style: “Putting your navigation in standard places makes your site easier to use. That means a lower bounce rate, more pages per visit and higher conversions.” Josh Pigford explains how to write fun and engaging survey questions. Chris Keller suggests marketing methods for small businesses that have the best return on investment. Steve Reeves says the secret to managing sales executives is “not to bother.” An idea: combine the return of the National Hockey League with your own promotional items. G.B. Oliver believes that including your business card is never a bad idea.

Social Media: S.M.O.?

Allison Stadd has the essential social media acronym glossary, including terms like S.M.O. (social media optimization). Farhad Manjoo is passionate about why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. This is how the tennis star John Isner aces social media. Mark Schaefer asks whethereverybody really needs a social media strategy. Monster.com and Score team up to provide a social media marketing workshop. According to the latest social media statistics, approximately 172,000 new members join LinkedIn per day. Community forums are among the seven viral marketing tools Abel Velazquez says you might not know about. What if businesses could rate customers the way customers rate businesses?

Retail: Google’s New Coupon

Retailers had an unexpectedly strong December, and many are remaking their store strategies. Google shows off a new digital coupon product to take some of the pain out of using coupons in a grocery store. PayPal expands its retail store payment service. A Twitter vice president tells retailers how to start on social media. Nathan Hanks suggests five ways to win when serving local businesses, including: “Live amongst your customers.”

Red Tape: Home Office Deduction

While a pretend president practiced for the inaugural, the real president took on the gun industry. These tax loopholes slipped under the fiscal cliff radar. The Internal Revenue Service announces an optional $1,500 home office deduction in lieu of depreciation. A fan sues the San Antonio Spurs for resting top players. The Small Business Administration announces changes in a contracting program for small businesses owned by women and introduces an online marketplace that streamlines the government contracting process for small businesses.

Technology: Rogue Clouds

Here’s a recap of what mattered to small businesses at the Consumer Electronics Show. PC sales slump, despite Microsoft’s Windows 8 release. Here are three more reasons businesses are sticking with Windows XP. “Phablets” are catching on. CNET becomes embroiled in a scandal. Mathew Ingram considers ditching his precious iPhone: “the main attraction is the openness of the ecosystem that Android takes advantage of.” This is what would happen if Jesus had an iPhone. Heather Clancy shares eight options for taming small-business expenses. A new app can send self-destructing files to users that are just perfect for undoing a bad decision. A new Symantec global survey reveals a surge in rogue clouds and other hidden costs.

Tweet of the Week

‏@EricKleefeld
BREAKING: House GOP now refusing to raise debt ceiling unless Jodie Foster explains her speech from last night.

The Week’s Bests

Jon Ferrara explains how to build presence for truly social selling: “Identify those individuals and companies whose needs mesh with your strengths. Formalize connections and continue to talk, listen and watch (and even keep an eye on your competition and gather a bit of intelligence!).”

Paul Morin says a sense of purpose is especially important during tough times: “Without a ‘why’ or sense of purpose, it’s likely that regardless of how precise and well-thought-out your goals may be, you will find it hard to persevere toward achieving them, especially when the inevitable tough times come along.”

This Week’s Question: Will Facebook’s new search capabilities help your business?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him onTwitter.

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