4 Ways to Use Social Media This Holiday Season


Let’s face it, after Halloween happens tomorrow the holidays will unofficially be upon us. In fact, if you’ve had the television on recently and sat through a few commercials, advertisers would like for you to think that it is already here.

If you’re like most online sellers, you want to leverage every marketing opportunity this season and social media can be a great way to help you do it. It not only can assist you in extending the reach of your brand, but social media is an affordable (and mostly free!) way to advertise promotions. Here’s a few ways to use social media this holiday season that even ol’ Santa would approve.

Cross-promote across channels
While social media doesn’t always directly contribute to creating a specific sale, it can certainly help to support the marketing that does work to drive buyers to your store. As an example, when you send out emails to your customers, you can ask them to share the message in your email through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t already, add those social sharing buttons to your website. Since Pinterest is gaining momentum, make sure you have “Pin It” buttons for all of your items on your website. Encourage your buyers to share.

Contests and prizes — Oh, my!
Running contests are a fun way to generate buzz about your products and utilizing social media to run them is a great way to do it. Last year, I noticed a lot of companies were running the “12 Days of Christmas” contests where they gave away an item each day for 12 days leading up to Christmas. People would have to answer a trivia question correctly and then they were entered in a drawing.

Even though I didn’t win anything, I visited their Facebook and Twitter pages every day and I did end up following through to their websites on several occasions too. You don’t even have to have expensive giveaways. Lots of the contests I entered were only giving away small inexpensive stuff like candles and handmade soap. It wasn’t the amount of the prize that got my attention – just that I had a chance to win!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Almost all of the social media sites now allow you to customize background images or cover graphics. If you’re not taking advantage of this, the holiday season is the perfect time to do it. Put buyers into a holiday shopping mood by changing all of your social media imagery to a holiday scene. If you have someone that does graphics who can design these images — great! If not, don’t despair. You can find free images that you can use by doing a Google search for ready-made images.

Pin It
Although you want to encourage buyers to share images of your items on their own Pinterest boards, don’t forget that you want to be sharing your items on your own boards too. Pick a daily holiday theme, such as “Gifts for Dad” or “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” You can then promote your items on your board and direct interested buyers to your online store or website.

Buyer Beware: Ebay scam targets members


If you’re like most of the sellers on eBay, you probably don’t just sell items through the website, you most likely make some purchases on there too. Unfortunately, as we all gear up for the big holiday season, it’s become a case of “buyer beware” this week as the Better Business Bureau warned of a scam that is taking eBay members off of the website and rerouting them to other sites.

Once there, the scammers con eBay members into giving up their eBay user name and password, ultimately allowing the scammers to take over their accounts.

This scam isn’t new to eBay. Apparently, they have been dealing with this problem on and off ever since the hacking incident earlier this year. The two problems don’t appear to be related, but they are obviously a major source of headaches for the online marketplace. It doesn’t really help to instill a feeling of confidence for eBay members either.

Although you may think that if you log directly onto the eBay website that you will be safe, this scam actually originates from eBay’s website itself.

Here’s how it works:

A buyer who is looking at listings sees a listing on eBay with a really low price. In fact, the price is so low that the buyer can’t resist the temptation of clicking on the link to the item to find out more about it. What the buyer doesn’t know, however, is that when they make that click, it moves them from eBay’s website to another site. This page looks just like eBay’s log-in page, so the buyer really doesn’t think much about it when they are instructed to log-in and they put in their user name and password.

So…how do the scammers move you from eBay to their own site? Glad you asked. It’s because eBay permits its sellers to use coding such as Flash and Javascript to add flair to their listings (templates). Unfortunately, scammers can also use this coding to add a malicious code that moves the buyer to the other sites. This is known as cross-site scripting.

According to the BBB, there are two steps you can take to keep yourself from becoming prey to one of these scammers. First, be suspicious of items that have low prices that are a little too good to be true. If you do click on the link for an item, be sure to check and make sure that the website address has the little lock symbol as well as the HTTPS designation for the website’s address. Both of these indicate that the site you are visiting is secure.

Finally, in the event you do find that you have fallen for this type of scam, make sure to quickly change the password on any other accounts you have with the same user name and password. Unfortunately, many sellers like to keep it simple and use the same user name and password for every website they sell on. Since the scammers know you do this too — they will conduct a “phishing” expedition to see what other accounts you have that they can also gain access to.

Image courtesy of [chanpipat] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Top 10 Internet Law Developments of 2014 (Part 2 of 2)

Ciff Ennico HeadshotEach year around this time I write an update for Advising eBusinesses, my one-volume handbook on Internet law designed for lawyers who represent online businesses.  As part of this update, I list what I consider to be the ten most significant developments in Internet law over the past year.  I devoted last week’s column to four of these developments.

Here are the rest of this year’s selections:

Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). What happens to your digital assets when you die or become disabled?  In July 2014, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a highly influential nonprofit organization of legal professionals, published the “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” (“USADAA” for short).  So far only Delaware has adopted the USADAA, but it is being introduced in many state legislatures this fall and is likely to be adopted by most states within the next year.

The USADAA does not determine how your digital assets will be disposed of when you die – that is left to traditional trusts and estates law.  So, for example, if you die intestate (without a will), your digital assets will be distributed to your heirs under your state’s intestacy law, the same as your physical assets.

What the USADAA does do is enable your fiduciaries to access your digital assets upon your death, so that they can dispose of them as the law requires or as you designate in a will, living trust, or similar document.  In addition to executors, “fiduciaries” include:

  • conservators appointed by a court to handle your affairs if you are mentally incapable of doing so; and
  • agents under a general power of attorney (although there are some restrictions here – under USADAA an agent cannot view the content of your e-mails without a specific instruction in the power of attorney to do so).

The text of the USADAA can be found online at www.uniformlaws.org.

The Lexmark Case.  In Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., a fraudulent advertising case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a computer printer manufacturer which, in an effort to ensure that customers used only its branded toner cartridges in its printers, published advertisements claiming that it was illegal to use refillable cartridges made by other manufacturers for use with its printers.

The Aereo Case.  In American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a “DVR as a service” company – one which copies television programs broadcast over the airwaves and then streams them to its subscribers a few seconds later – infringed the broadcasters’ copyrights on those programs.

Cyberbullying and “Reverse Porn”.  A particular form of cyberbullying is the so-called “revenge porn” posting, where an individual posts sexually explicit photos or other pornographic information about another individual – usually an ex-lover – on a social media website in order to get revenge on them. A number of recent federal cases agreed unanimously that “revenge porn” postings constitute “cyberbullying” prohibited by federal criminal law, and that there is no First Amendment defense to such activity.

The Garcia Case.  In Garcia v. Google, a federal appeals panel ruled that an actor’s performance within a film can, under certain circumstances, constitute an independently copyrightable work outside the screenplay and beyond the “work made for hire” doctrine.

Garcia, an actress, gave a short performance in a film in which she, following the author’s screenplay, made remarks that could be construed as anti-Islamic. The film was never made, but her performance caught the attention of another filmmaker who included her performance in an anti-Islamic video called “Innocence of Muslims,” which was posted on YouTube.com and (not unpredictably) went viral.  An Egyptian cleric issued a “fatwa” against Garcia and anyone else involved in the production of “Innocence of Muslims”.  Garcia sought a preliminary injunction against the use of her performance in the “Innocence of Muslims” video, including its removal from YouTube.com, alleging that “death threats against her were ongoing and serious, she had been forced to take significant security precautions when traveling, and had moved to a new home and relocated her business as a safety measure.”

While understandably wanting to do whatever it could to protect Garcia from physical harm, the federal court took a very creative approach to copyright law and ordered the “Innocence of Muslims” video to be removed from YouTube, explaining that even if the director controlled all aspects of her performance, the actor still imbued her performance with sufficient creativity because she must “live [the] part inwardly, and then give to [her] experience an external embodiment.” Thus, the court found, Garcia owned the copyright in the footage that constituted the manifestation of her performance.

Google Books Litigation.  Several recent cases upheld the “Google Books” program – where Google digitally reproduces millions of copyrighted books, making them available for its library project partners to download and displays “snippets” from the books to the public — against allegations of copyright infringement.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

The Top 10 Internet Law Development of 2014 [Part 1 OF 2]

Ciff Ennico HeadshotEach year around this time I write an update for Advising eBusinesses, my one-volume handbook on Internet law designed for lawyers who represent online businesses.  As part of this update, I list what I consider to be the ten most significant developments in Internet law over the past year.  Here are this year’s selections:

Internet retail.  In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (“MIFA”), a bill that would require Internet retailers to pay sales tax in the jurisdictions where their buyers were located, subject to a number of conditions.  MIFA has languished in the U.S. House of Representatives, largely as the result of an intensive lobbying campaign by small business organizations, and has not as yet been passed into law.

Fast forward to June 2014:  the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), a bill which would make permanent a ban on state and local taxation of Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.  PITFA was sent on for approval by the U.S. Senate, which two weeks later introduced a bill, called the “Marketplace and Internet Tax Freedom Act” (MITFA), which essentially conditioned the Senate’s approval of PITFA on the House’s approval of MIFA.

So the House of Representatives must choose between two evils:  allowing states to tax Internet commerce, or allowing them to tax Internet access. The House has not yet responded to MITFA, and it is unlikely action will be taken until after the November 2014 Congressional elections.

Europe’s “Right to Be Forgotten” and the Google case. In 1995, the European Union adopted a comprehensive Directive on Data Protection creating extremely stringent privacy protections for EU residents.  In May 2014 the European Court of Justice interpreted the Directive as creating a “right to be forgotten” for EU residents. The test case against Google Spain was brought by a Spanish man, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who wanted Google to delete an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998.  Gonzalez argued that the matter, in which his house had been auctioned to pay off his social security debts, was after 15 years no longer relevant to his credit history, and accordingly should no longer be available for public view whenever his name was searched on Google

The court, siding with Gonzalez, ruled that the EU Directive established a “right to be forgotten,” and that Google’s inclusion in search results of links relating to an individual who wanted them removed “on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him personally to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time” was incompatible with the Directive.  Google has indicated it will comply with the court’s ruling, at least in Europe.

So far, courts in the United States have not gone as far as the European Court of Justice in requiring search engines to delete information upon a user’s demand.  First, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution generally bars the “scrubbing” of search results that are accurate, while Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 blocks any effort to require search engines to scrub third party results.

California’s “Online Eraser” Statute.  California adopted an “online eraser” law enabling children under 18 to wipe away some of their past online activity.  Under the law, websites and smartphone apps “directed” to minors, or that have actual knowledge that a user is a minor, must allow registered users under 18 to remove (or ask the provider to remove or make anonymous) publicly posted content and make certain disclosures to these users.  A website or app is “directed” to minors when it is “created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominantly comprised of minors, and is not intended for a more general audience comprised of adults.”  Unlike the federal Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies only to pre-teens (age 12 and under), the California statute applies to all teenagers up to the age of 18 and, while broadening COPPA’s protections, does not offer much guidance for website owners and developers.

Facebook “Likes” As Protected Speech.  In Bland v. Roberts, several employees of a Sheriff’s department in Virginia claimed they were fired from their jobs for supporting the Sheriff’s opponent for re-election. Two of the plaintiffs had “liked” the Facebook page of the Sheriff’s opponent, while one of them had posted a comment to the opponent’s Facebook page.  When the Sheriff won re-election, he fired all of the plaintiffs.

The court ruled that liking someone’s Facebook page is “speech” and therefore is protected by the First Amendment, especially where it is political in nature.  The court explained that a Facebook “like” in a political campaign is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has found to be protected speech.

Continued next week . . .

Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

EBay: Hey, Buddy…Wanna Buy an Imaginary Best Friend?

I have to admit that there are times when see an eBay auction and I either think “now…why didn’t I think of that?” or “I like the way you think!”

Over the past two days I’ve seen two of those kind of “out there” eBay listings and although I often think these kind of auctions qualify as a case of “buyer beware”, I have to admit there is a certain kind of ingenuity about what these people have come up with to try to sell.

First, we have a woman over on the other side of the pond (U.K.) who decided to list her imaginary friend named Bernard on eBay. On her listing, the woman claimed that her psychiatrist told her that she needed to get rid of Bernard, so she decided to list him on eBay. She stated in the listing that Bernard became her friend during a period of time when she was emotionally unstable.

She even offered free shipping for Bernard, although I’m not quite sure how that would have worked. Would Bernard have arrived in an envelope or a box? Maybe she would have just wished him over to the buyer and told the buyer that he had been shipped and had arrived?

Regardless, of the plan on that one — we will never know the fate of Bernard because eBay pulled the listing. Apparently, eBay has a policy about selling intangible items that was put in place after a man tried to sell a ghost in bottle on the site back in 2010. At the time, they said they understood the man’s intent, but it was still a no-go.

The other eBay listing to catch my eye this week is one where the father is auctioning off his son’s allegiance to a sports team in Manchester. (Note both of these auctions this week are from the UK!) Depending on the way the auction goes – his son will either be attending matches at Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium. The neat part about this one is that the father will donate the money the auction raises to a charity group called Bliss. The charity works to assist families with premature and sick babies. You can read more about the auction here.

4 Free Items From Your Own Backyard That You Can List on EBay


If you’re looking for things to sell on eBay, you may not have to look any further than your own backyard. Believe it or not, there are plenty of items in nature that you can sell and you probably see them on a daily basis while taking them for granted.

In some cases, they may even be the bane of your backyard’s existence and something you would really like to get rid of! And yet, crafters are willing to pay top dollar for these items because they can’t find them in their area. The best part is, these items aren’t only just outside your door, they are free and usually yours for the taking.

Sweet gum balls – As their name describes, these round seed pods look a lot like gum balls. If — gum balls had porcupine quills that is. Light to dark brown in color, these spiky balls are an annoyance to many homeowners and painful if stepped on. However, crafters love them for making wreaths and fall or winter decorations. It’s usually best to gather them right after they fall off the tree so they will still be fresh. Remember, the more you can collect – the better the price, so you’ll want to collect 50 or more of them before you list any for sale.

Pine cones – You may be thinking that pine cones are everywhere, so why would anyone want to pay money for them, but that’s actually not the case. Even if they are fairly common, there are many different types and more importantly — many different sizes. I once found a tree near my home that produced huge pine cones. I not only had a lot of fun decorating with them around Christmas time, but my mother made decorative birdhouses out of them using cardboard and a glue gun.

Driftwood – Okay, this one might not be just outside your backdoor unless you live right on the ocean, but if you live near the beach, chances are that you have access to driftwood. Crafters like to do all kinds of things with driftwood and the more unusual the piece is, the more you will find you can get for it. If you’re not near the ocean, but have access to a wooded area – you might also have luck selling old limbs that come from fallen branches or trees.

Acorns — The great thing about acorns is that you can usually find a bunch of them at one time, so try to pick up as many as you can. Although a lot of people like for them to have on their “caps” – crafters will buy acorns without them and will also buy just the caps by themselves too.

Have you ever sold an items that you found in nature? Leave your comments below.

Image courtesy of [Michelle Meiklejohn] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your online business ready for the holidays?

The pumpkins for Halloween may not have been carved yet, but believe it or not, the holiday season is already upon us. In fact, if you haven’t started your holiday planning, then you’re actually running behind.

According to a survey by Experian merchant services, 70-percent of businesses were starting their holiday season planning as far back as August. Their survey even showed that some businesses even started planning earlier than that and began their holiday planning all the way back in June!

If you’re a procrastinator like a lot of sellers, however, all hope is not lost. There’s still time to get that planning done, but you better get started.

Set your holiday goals
Whether you want to have a certain number of items listed by a certain date or you want to see a certain percent increase in sales over your previous year, setting a goal for your holiday sales not only helps you keep your business on track, but also gives you a way to measure whether your marketing efforts have been effective or not.

Order your shipping supplies
Tape, peanuts, bubblewrap, and boxes. Now is the time to check your shipping inventory to see what you’re running low on. If you generally use the post office to ship your packages, go ahead and order in some of their free shipping boxes. Keep in mind that it can take a while for your boxes to arrive once you order them, so the sooner you do this — the better.

To free ship or not to free ship?
Thanks to Amazon and their Amazon Prime, there’s a lot of pressure to offer free shipping especially around the holidays. While it may not be cost-effective to offer free shipping on every item you sell, offering it on a few items or if the buyer makes multiple purchases can help meet buyer expectations. If nothing else, you could choose to offer free shipping on December 18, which is known as “Free Shipping Day” and then promote this in your email and social media marketing.

Plan those specials
Finally, most sellers know to offer special deals on certain days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you can keep those sales rolling in by planning other deals throughout the holiday season. As an example, you could offer sale items at the beginning of November to catch those early shoppers and offer another sale as it gets closer to Christmas to pick up some of those last-minute holiday stragglers.

Amazon announces new policy to shipping options

ID-100213668If you were buying or selling on Amazon during the holidays last year, you may remember a shipping glitch that made some holiday packages arrive late last December. And in late, I’m referring to the fact that they actually didn’t make it until after Christmas, so in some cases Santa came up a little short in the gift department.

Well, this week, Amazon sent out an email to sellers who are considered “third-party merchants” or rather, sellers who do not participate in the FBA program to let them know of a policy change that is scheduled for November 13, 2014. The email, which had the somewhat ominous title “Upcoming Changes to Shipping Options on Amazon” in the subject line announced that Amazon will have stricter shipping requirements for non-FBA sellers starting next month.

While part of the change seems reasonable, such as the requirement for sellers to use USPS, UPS, OnTrac or Fed-Ex if they wish to offer 2-day shipping as one of their shipping options, the biggest change is one that some sellers may not be too happy with.

That change states that in order to ensure that buyers receive their packages in a timely manner, Amazon won’t allow non-FBA sellers to use the 1-day shipping option. The other change, which may raise some concern (or not) is that if you want to use the 2-day shipping option your defect rates must be less than 0.05-percent. At the moment, the policy simply says that the defect rate must be less than 1-percent.

Although the 2-day shipping option rule and the change of policy for the defect rate doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal, one can’t help but wonder how the inability to use 1-day shipping will affect sellers who prefer to sell from home. Will buyers automatically choose the faster shipping option or will one more day for shipping not really matter if you have what they want and the price is right?

What are your thoughts about this latest policy change? Will this change affect sales for non-FBA sellers or is this just a small bump on the road to the holiday season? Leave your comments below.



Image courtesy of [Master isolated Images]FreeDigitalPhotos.net