Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vertical VS Horizontal Business Growth

As a small business, you need to be prepared to take advantage of expansion opportunities. Essentially, business growth can be seen as horizontal or vertical. These differing approaches have their merits as well as setbacks. Monitoring measured annual growth will help to determine which direction you're heading and determine a course of action.

Horizontal business growth is focused on developing your core, while vertical business growth focuses on expanding outside of your core to take on new practices. Take an ice cream shop for example. If business is booming and it’s time to expand, you can either grow horizontally by opening a new location or acquiring other local ice cream stores, or you can take a vertical approach by implementing new business lines, such as pizza.

Horizontal Business Growth

Why grow horizontally? Take the example of a local coffee shop that’s expanded to multiple locations. Similar businesses face the same issues, so you can come up with solutions that meet the needs of every store. Workflow processes can be standardized in multiple locations. Streamlining in this manner reduces expenses and creates further opportunities.

Performance goals help your team focus on what is important to the business – achieving company sales and profit targets. With everyone focused on the same performance metrics coupled with strong leadership coaching, your team will embrace the goal.

Vertical Business Growth

It is important to go into business growth with eyes wide open. Your local market may have reached capacity. There is simply no more horizontal local growth potential to be had. If this is the case, vertical business growth tactics may be your best option for expansion.

Adding a vertical approach to your core business could involve acquisition of a complimentary company and the introduction of new products or services. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts acquired Baskin-Robbins, adding ice cream to the product line. The same can be done in small business. 

Growing vertically provides new revenue streams to increase business. For example, Spotlight Publicity grew vertically by offering a literary print press to compliment our marketing services for authors.

Research is paramount in order for vertical business growth to succeed. An improper expansion, such as implementing a vertical growth outside of your area of expertise could be detrimental and lead to business failure.

For inspiration, look at the examples of Amazon, Apple and Disney. Each of these powerhouses famously started in garages. Look at them now.

For more information, contact Spotlight Publicity for your a free consultation.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Social Media Screening for Potential Employees

social media screeningEight out of every ten Americans have a social media presence. Facebook is the most common, but the percentage of adults using Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter is gradually rising. For employers this means the ability to vet potential employees recent activities online, in addition to a standard criminal background check. This practice is called social media screening.

Looking into potential employees using social networks is beneficial during the hiring process, although there is a fine line of legality in doing so. You must know how to approach investigating a potential employee’s social networks without violating their rights and privacy.

Firstly, you should only examine publicly shared content. Never friend or request to follow a candidate. Look at the information they have shared publicly to avoid violating their privacy. 


Each state has different laws when it comes to what you can and can’t do online. Identify your state’s laws in order to understand your limitations when it comes to vetting job applicants over the Internet. Federally, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a law you should be aware of. The CFAA regulates what information you can legally access on the net. For example, you cannot gain access to private information like passwords without proper authorization.

social media screeningEqual employment opportunity issues can arise when viewing a potential candidate’s online profile. Viewing a public picture can give insight to things like race or political views. These are things candidates may not want to disclose, and legally can’t be taken into consideration during the hiring process. In 2010 the University of Kentucky learned this the hard way. The university found a candidate’s religious views online and took them into account when turning him down for a job. Kentucky argued that his “religious views on evolution would compromise his role as a scientist.” Ultimately, the victim of this unlawful social media screening received a six-figure settlement from the university

Here are some lawful reasons to reject an employee based on their social media:

  • Inappropriate pictures/information (including underage drinking/drug use)
  • Discriminatory remarks
  • Unprofessional or poor communication skills
  • Falsified qualifications


According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 43% of organizations surveyed said they use the Internet to screen potential employees. This practice is here to stay as the social media landscape is dominated by millennials, a major up and coming workplace demographic.

social media screeningAnother important thing to consider when social media screening is which networks you’re looking at. You should avoid screening Facebook for one candidate, and Twitter for another. It is best practice to search the same social media sites for each potential employee. Note, before using social media to screen a candidate you should have a social media screening policy in place. This policy should include information about when the applicant screening should take place in the hiring process, who’s doing the screening, and how to handle your findings.

Here’s some basic info on how to utilize social media screening for applicants:



Usually Facebook profiles are fairly private. For the most part you can view a profile picture and some public comments, so don’t go further than that. Keep your search to what you can publicly see, and definitely avoid friend requesting the applicant in an effort to dig deeper.



Twitter is a toss up. Profiles can be either public or private. If a candidate’s Twitter is private you are able to view their profile picture and possibly some descriptive information. If their profile is public you are able to see every tweet they’ve ever made, including retweets, and all the tweets they’ve liked. A public Twitter profile can be very revealing, and should be a focal point of your social media screening practice.



Like Twitter, Instagram accounts can either be public or private. Private accounts offer a small view of the profile picture and a possible short description. Public accounts allow you to see all the pictures a person has posted and the pictures they’ve been tagged in. Instagram is another valuable social media screening tool, but remember not to take into account things like gender, race, religion, political views, disability etc.



If you’re unaware, LikedIn is essentially Facebook for professionals. It is very uncommon to find inappropriate material on a candidate’s LinkedIn, but the site is great to screen for professionalism. Grammatical mistakes, for example, are a fair reason to disqualify a candidate.

In the event that you find something questionable during a candidate’s social media screening, it is often in your company’s best interest to allow a candidate to explain him or herself. You don’t want to lose a good candidate because of a potential fake profile or unsolicited comment their friend made. Give them a chance to illuminate on your findings. If you do decide to turn down a candidate for something you’ve found on social media, make a record of it. That way you’ll have evidence in the unfortunate event that the rejected candidate takes you to court. They can delete what you may have found, so play it safe and take a screenshot for your personal records.



social media screening
Taking the aforementioned precautions and information into account should allow you to successfully screen potential employees on social media; however, outsourcing your screen to an organization that specializes in employment screening is the smartest option if you can afford it. Companies like HireRight or ESS will look into a candidate’s background, including their social media history. 

Companies like these are equipped to obtain all relevant and lawfully available information on your candidate. Utilizing an employment-screening firm removes bias from the equation, and is probably the best option if it is within your means. 

In today’s world social media screening is an imperative part of the hiring process. Whether you do it yourself or outsource it, you don’t want to find out that someone makes inappropriate posts online after you hire them. Don’t hire an unprofessional “professional”.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Negative Publicity & Bad Press: Coping as a Small Business

negative publicity
With limited resources, small business owners face the unique challenges of avoiding bad press coverage and handling negative publicity. These challenges can seem daunting, but managing them isn’t as hard as you think.

Preparing ahead of time makes all the difference when limiting bad press. Simple steps can be taken to lower your risk of receiving undesirable media attention. In this day and age social media gives everybody a voice, and even the smallest businesses are likely to receive negative publicity. Learning how to deal with this is critical to your livelihood and longevity.

Bad Press

negative publicityFake news. We’ve seen a lot of it lately, and for a small company it can be absolutely devastating. When it comes to bad press coverage, being ahead of the curve is crucial. Having a policy in place for social media usage is key. Training your employees in media relations is necessary. Every employee has a voice that can negatively or positively impact your business.

Be forward thinking. Instead of allowing bad press to occur, generate your own good press. Go into the community and present what your business has to offer. Share the positive and progressive values which you represent. 

Word of mouth is also a great resource for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. The idea here is to turn your customers into brand ambassadors who will promote your brand to their networks. 

Negative Publicity


negative publicity
Whoever came up with the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” probably wasn’t a small business owner. Large firms like Volkswagen or United Airlines have faced a boatload of negative publicity recently. And they’ve been able to bounce back from this with relative ease due to their extensive customer service and marketing budgets. Small companies simply do not have these luxuries, and must use alternative, more cost effective methods to cope with negative publicity.

Used well, social media can be a primary tool for representing your company and responding to customer complaints. Today, over 81% of Americans have a social media presence. This is an over 3x increase from ten years ago, and this huge market can be tapped for little to no cost. Spreading your message through social media content or low-cost paid ads are proactive ways to generate good publicity. However, as a business owner you’re likely to face some sort of backlash online. Knowing how to deal with this is very important.

Be Responsive


negative publicityWhen it comes to responding to negative publicity on social media, you must learn how to distinguish genuine criticism and complaints from trolls trying to get a reaction. If the issue is not very serious no response is necessary, but that doesn’t mean not responding is the best option. Not responding won’t actively bring negative publicity to your company, but negative comments from customers can spread like a wildfire online. And speaking of fire, you don’t want to start a flame war with a customer. If you’re going to respond be decisive, transparent, and have the customer’s interests in mind first and foremost. Your response to it is a great opportunity to show the world what your company’s really about.

As a business owner, bad press and publicity can be difficult. Being prepared and knowing how to respond is essential in order to avoid a PR nightmare. 

For more information about dealing with bad press and negative social media experiences, contact Spotlight Publicity for a free consultation today.

We love your feedback and comments- please share your experiences with positive and negative publicity in the comments below.