Marketing Your E-commerce Business Through Social Media Networks

The goal with social network marketing is twofold:1. You are trying to enhance your site’s community by establishing outposts on social networking sites so people who share your interests, or are interested in your products and services, find you and your site.2. Getting involved in social networking multiplies the number of places that your site and your products can be found by search engines, which is critically important to the success of your e-commerce business.How To Leverage Social Media Networks To Our Advantage?Simply, we are trying to spread the word about your e-commerce business. You can take your product reviews or blog posts and spread them as far as possible online enlisting the help of these sites. It’s important to make sure the content you’re promoting is interesting and helpful to the audience you’re trying to reach. Remember, people like to do business with their friends if they’ve never met you offline. By being reasonable and participating in social networking, you’ll expand your credibility and potential customer base in many important and helpful ways.It’s also important to recognize that these social media outlets were designed to serve as conversation platforms, and not as overt marketing channels. Sending messages that are overly promotional or commercial is often compared to shouting at a party where everyone else is chatting quietly, and the backlash can overwhelm the benefits of participation. As an ecommerce business owner I recommend taking a couple of weeks to monitor the various sites to get a sense of the patterns and informal rules before posting anything.Which Sites Do You Need To Target?Here’s a brief overview of the important sites you need to target:Digg.com: Digg is a popular social news website in which community members vote articles up and down, with the most popular articles appearing on the front page. Users submit articles on topics including technology, world & business, science, gaming, lifestyle, entertainment, sports and offbeat. Having an article reach the home page can generate a tremendous amount of traffic to your e-commerce venture very quickly, but a Digg link can be helpful even if you don’t make the front page. Your link will be archived and available to search engines, as well as being available to users who search within the Digg archives directly.Twitter.com: Twitter is generating a ton of online buzz, and for good reason. The short messaging service is evolving into a communication and news platform that e-commerce ventures can’t afford to ignore anymore. Twitter allows users to exchange short messages that are limited to 140 characters, which is roughly about 25 words or so. Many sites have found good success posting (“tweeting,” in Twitter lingo) short summaries of new blog posts or product reviews, highlighting interesting articles or trends in their area of expertise, or just reaching out and seeing who might be interested in the same things they are.Twitter’s ‘hashtag’ (#) function, for instance, makes it very easy for users to search on specific events or topics other users have marked with hashtag function. Many attendees at popular conferences, for instance, use hashtag searches to find and meet each other. Check Twitter’s search page (search.twitter.com) to see popular topics generating user interest.Facebook.com: Facebook has long been popular with college-aged students, but since it opened its doors to a general audience, the site has been growing rapidly, with most new users coming from an adult audience that’s over 30. To reach this growing audience, e-commerce venture owners can create positive marketing relationships on Facebook in two ways. The first and most obvious way is to invite customers to “friend” you on the site. You may not want customers to share the same details or photos you’re sharing with friends and family members, but you can create limited profiles that allow people to get a bit of a behind-the-scenes look into your business without revealing too many personal details.In addition, while Facebook is best known for its personal “profiles,” it does let organizations create pages that allow Facebook members to become fans of your e-commerce venture. While they may be more likely to become fans of a football team or a Bollywood star, Facebook fan pages give your venture another opportunity to highlight interesting content related to your business and, almost more importantly, provide search engines with another place to discover content about, and related to, your e-commerce venture and your market niche.If you do not have a personal Facebook account, you can create a specific account for your business. According to Facebook, a business account can add information, photos or videos just as a personal account can, but can’t see information about visitors and can’t explore other areas of Facebook, so this might not be the best option for your e-commerce venture.MySpace.com: Similarly, MySpace is a popular site especially with younger consumers, that’s becoming an important marketing tool for e-commerce businesses (and a critical outlet for bands to reach their audience). As with Facebook, you can reach this growing audience by forming relationships with customers and other people. In addition to setting up a profile, MySpace lets users join and create groups that attract people who share your interests or hobbies. If you’re trying to sell guitar accessories online, joining groups that serve guitar players would give you great insights into their interests and equipment needs, and allows you to share content and create relationships with other members of the guitar-playing community.Does Social Media Networks Really Help?If you want your e-commerce business to stand out amongst the crowd it’s becoming necessary to have these tools on your website. Your business will not survive over the long term if you are not connected with the audiences within these networks. Furthermore you can achieve great success simply by offering something of value and your e-commerce business can go viral very quickly.Take the time to understand how these social media outlets fit into your e-commerce business and over time you will start to see the benefits.
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Natural Skin Care – More Than Skin Deep

Does Natural in Skin Care naturally mean Good?Although Webster defines “natural” as “not artificial, synthetic, [or] acquired by external means,” it is the rare cosmetic ingredient that fits that description. Even water used in cosmetics is generally distilled, deionized, or otherwise purified. All along the continuum of “natural” products, choices have been made to emulsify, stabilize and preserve–to make the products smooth and creamy, keep them fresh, and give them an acceptable shelf life. Even if consumers want products that need to be refrigerated, distributors and retailers will not order them because of the added costs of shipping, storing and greater liability. A growing number of consumers who seek that kind of freshness have been firing up their blenders and following recipes for homemade treatments.1[1] Even these, however, call for essential oils, alcohol, glycerin, lanolin, etc., which are a long way from their natural origins. As reported in Strong Voices, the newsletter of the Breast Cancer Fund, “Approximately one-third of cosmetics and bodycare companies position their products as natural in one way or another . . . But, as you might expect, some companies are more natural than others” (Volume 7, Summer 2005).Most people who seek out “natural” products are looking for ingredients whose sources they recognize, and that is why many companies now list the source along with the scientific name of the ingredient, as in sodium laurel sulfate (from coconut), or lanolin (from wool). Turpentine comes from pine trees. My grandmother, born in 1901, swore that turpentine helped her arthritic hands, and she may have rubbed them with lard (from bacon) afterwards to keep them as soft as I remember. Perhaps lard and turpentine are “natural,” but are they good for the skin, and along with that, what is the definition of “good?” Again, there are no simple answers. If you have found this article through the Eco-Mall, it is safe to assume that you seek out skin care that:(1)     is friendly to the environment (“eco-friendly”);
(2)     does no harm to animals (commonly referred to as “cruelty-free”); and
(3)     does no harm to the human body and ideally does good (is “body-friendly”).Let us examine “natural” skin care in light of each of these issues.Eco-Friendly
An issue rarely addressed by the cosmetic industry is whether products are environmentally friendly. The LA Times2[2] has reported that consumer products, including cosmetics, pump 100 tons of pollutants daily into southern California’s air, second only to auto emissions. These pollutants come not just from the propellants in sprays and aerosols, but also from fluorocarbons, ethanol, butane, acetone, phenols and xylene. Here’s how it works: These chemicals evaporate, and when the sun shines they combine with other pollutants to form ozone, a primary component of smog that can cause headaches, chest pain and loss of lung function. This happens outdoors and indoors, which can severely compromise the air quality in our homes and offices.There is a class of chemicals called PPCPs (pharmaceutical and personal care products) that until recently have received relatively little attention as potential environmental pollutants. PPCPs comprise all drugs (prescription and over-the-counter), diagnostic agents (e.g., X-ray contrast media), nutraceuticals, and other chemicals, including fragrances, sunscreen agents, and skin anti-aging preparations. When phthalates, for example, get into rivers and lakes, they are known to affect the reproduction of aquatic species; and musk fragrances are known to bioaccumulate.3[3] Skincare products may contain botanical ingredients grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are not friendly to the environment, and some may use genetically modified plants in their botanical ingredients.Cruelty-Free
“Cruelty-free” is generally understood to mean that the products are not tested on animals; sometimes also that there are no animal-derived ingredients in the products. Taken literally, this would imply the absence of lanolin (from wool), beeswax or honey, dairy products, etc. Some labels specifically state there are no animal ingredients.Body-Friendly
We suggest four criteria for evaluating “body-friendly” skin care products:·         Toxicity
·         Occlusiveness
·         Comedogenicity
·         Effectiveness1.ToxicityIn our July article we discussed several ingredients which we prefer to avoid in skin care products. To recap, we listed mineral oils, petrolatum, propylene glycol, parabens, phthalates, SLS and SLES. We also called sunscreens into question.Toxicity (to humans) of skin care ingredients may be divided into three distinct categories:4[4]a.        Carcinogenic, referring to ingredients contributing to cancer
b.       Endocrine-disrupting, which refers to chemicals that disturb the body’s hormonal balance, and may interfere with its ability to grow, develop, or function normally. Endocrine disruptors may also be carcinogenic.
c.        Allergenic, irritating or sensitizing, meaning consumers may have allergic reactions or contact dermatitis (itching, redness, rash, etc.). Individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities may become very ill when exposed to certain of these chemicals.There are many “natural” skincare companies who include parabens, SLES, and other of these ingredients in their products.A general note about preservatives: By their very nature preservatives are toxic. They must be toxic to bacteria, molds and yeast to keep the products from spoiling. Another preservative that is gaining use as an alternative to parabens is diazolidinyl urea. This preservative has not been banned from use in Europe, although some authors claim it is carcinogenic because it is a formaldehyde donor. Although formaldehyde is a chemical which occurs naturally in the human body, formaldehyde in the gaseous state is a known carcinogen. From all studies we have read, diazolidinyl urea, when it forms formaldehyde, does not form formaldehyde gas. Nonetheless, when used in high enough concentrations, or even in low concentrations by persons who are especially sensitive to it, diazolidinyl urea-along with almost every other preservative-has been shown to cause contact dermatitis. There are also “natural” products who claim to use no preservative. Most of these contain grapefruit–or other citrus–seed oil extract. As mentioned in Part I of this series, cosmetic chemists I have spoken to insist that these citrus seeds would turn rancid if they were not sprayed with preservative; that that preservative is concentrated in the oil when it is extracted; that this preservative in the extract is what is actually preserving the skincare product; and that the preservative used is generally a paraben.There are also skincare products that are sold in sealed containers with airless pumps or sprayers. Although it can add significantly to the cost of a product, this type of packaging and delivery is highly desirable, as it keeps air and airborne contaminants out of the product and makes it possible to significantly decrease or even eliminate the use of preservative.Of the large list of possible cosmetic ingredients, a relative few individually pose high risk, but many people use an array of products every day. It may be that these risks are adding up, or that single ingredients react with others to create toxic combinations, known as synergistic toxicity.2.Occlusivity
The skin is the body’s largest organ. The lungs breathe, and so does the skin, so to speak: The “breathing” skin provides an exit for toxins and chemicals–respiration in the form of perspiration. Lotions and salves that occlude this exit may initially soften the skin by keeping moisture from escaping, but may actually inhibit the overall health of the individual, besides weighing down the skin and causing it to sag and age. Nutrients applied to the skin that improve the skin’s health may have a positive effect on the whole body, because they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. When we choose body-friendly skin care, two important criteria come into play: that the products not be toxic to our skin or our bodies, and that they not be occlusive-allowing nutrients in and toxins out.5[5] The bonus comes when the ingredients that are allowed in also bring the skin into balance and nourish it. This is the topic of Part III of our series of articles: What Nutrients and Ingredients are Important for Healthy Skin? (late September 2005). Here we address ingredients common to “natural” skin care that may be occlusive and/or comedogenic.Look up “occlusivity” on the web and you will find hundreds of references to occlusivity and its benefits. The reason companies tout the benefits of occlusivity is that it holds water in the skin. When water can’t escape, the skin stays soft and moist, and that sounds like a good thing. Imagine wrapping your skin with plastic wrap and wearing it around all day-an extreme example of occlusivity. Pretty soon it would start to stink in there as the toxins that usually escape with perspiration and generally evaporate into the air get trapped between the skin and the plastic. Now imagine that those same toxins can’t leave the bloodstream because the skin’s normal respiration is blocked. Where will they go? In some cases, they fester under the skin and form deep-down blemishes; in extreme cases, where occlusive lotions are used all over the body for extended periods, they may deposit in the liver and add to the body’s toxic load.Sometimes it may be beneficial to use occlusive salves for a limited time. If you want to climb Mt. Everest, for example, or ski at high altitude where the air is thin and dry and you are close to the sun, it’s a good idea to wear a lotion that holds the water in the skin. For babies with diaper rash, it’s good to use a salve that keeps the water away from the skin! For most of us, these are not constant conditions, and treatments that hold water in over time are undesirable.
Standard cosmetics experts may disagree with this reasoning. Paula Begoun in Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me (5th ed., 2001) states: “According to many ‘natural’ cosmetics companies, mineral oil (and petrolatum) comes from crude oil (petroleum), is used in industry as a metal-cutting fluid, and therefore can harm the skin by forming an oil film and suffocating it. . . . This foolish, recurring misinformation about mineral oil and petrolatum is maddening. After all, crude oil is as natural as any other earth-derived substance. . . Mineral oil and petrolatum . . . can keep air off the skin to some extent, but . . . it doesn’t suffocate the skin!” (pp. 11-13). She also states that antiperspirants “cannot absorb into the skin . . .” (p. 14). I maintain that anything rubbed onto the skin will be absorbed, as long as the molecules are small enough to pass through the skin membrane; this is how patches work to deliver medication. Although Begoun makes a good point that crude oil is “natural,” I believe in making educated choices of which earth-derived substances we apply to the skin, and crude oil is not on my list.It should be noted that there are degrees of occlusivity: If an ingredient is occlusive when used by itself, it will be less so when used in combination with non-occlusive ingredients. A small amount of beeswax used to emulsify jojoba and water will be far less occlusive than rubbing beeswax alone onto the skin. With that in mind, besides mineral oil and petrolatum, here are some of the more common occlusive ingredients found in “natural” skin care:a.        beeswax and other waxes
b.       castor oil
c.        cocoa butter
d.       dimethicone
e.        honey
f.         lanolin
g.       sunflower oil and other vegetable oils3.        Comedogenicity
Unlike occlusive oils like mineral and sunflower oil, which do not penetrate, comedogenicity refers to the tendency of a substance to get into the skin’s pores and clog them. This is especially bothersome in face care products, where clogged pores may lead to acne and blackheads. The word comedo is the medical term for blackhead, so comedo+genic means “friendly to blackheads.” Some cosmetic-ingredient glossaries equate “non-comedogenic” with “non-occlusive,” but that is a misunderstanding; while beeswax, mineral oil and zinc oxide (among others) are known to be occlusive, they are non-comedogenic. This is because they lie on top of the skin and do not penetrate. Others, like sunflower oil, may be both occlusive and (somewhat) comedogenic. Below is a list of the relative comedogenicity of some common “natural” cosmetic ingredients6[6] (source: http://www.geocities.com):Very Comedogenic
Somewhat Comedogenic
Not ComedogenicCapric/caprylic triglyceride
Anhydrous lanolin
Allantoin
Cocoa butter
Avocado oil
Beeswax
Lanolic acid
Capric & caprylic acid
Cyclomethicone & Dimethicone
Linseed oil
Castor oil
Ethanol
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Glycerin
Peach kernal oil
Corn oil
Jojoba
Sweet almond oil
Grape seed oil
Kaolin (clay)
Glyceryl stearate
Mineral oil (USP)
Hexylene glycol
Oxybenzone
Lanolin alcohol & oil
Panthenol
Mineral oil, cosmetic grade
Petrolatum (USP)
Mink oil
Polysorbates
Peanut oil
Propylene glycol
Safflower oil
SD alcohol
Sesame oil
Sodium hyaluronate
Sunflower oil
Sodium PCA
Tocopherol (vitamin E)
Sorbitol
Squalane
Titanium dioxide
Waxes
 
“Note: Even somewhat or very comedogenic ingredients can be present in non-comedogenic formulas when used at percentages low enough that the end formula won’t clog pores” (ibid.). The important point is to look at their relative position in the ingredients list. If a comedogenic ingredient is toward the top, then it is probably present in a quantity large enough to clog pores. Unfortunately it is impossible from the ingredients list to know whether for example ingredient #5 represents 20% of the formula or 2%. Thus we need to be able to trust the manufacturer when the label states “non-comedogenic.”4.        Effectiveness
Let us assume that every skincare company’s raison d’etre (before or after the profit motive) is to create products that make the skin feel and look good, and that probably means it’s soft and not dry. Add some additional goals–anti-aging, anti-acne, skin-smoothing–and you’ve covered most of the bases. Most skincare products, “natural” or otherwise, achieve these goals by using occlusive ingredients that hold moisture in and keep the skin soft and “plump.”
If, however, we are looking for the beauty of overall glowing good health in the skin, we need to ask for more than this from our skin care.We agree with Charles DePrince, president of GoForLife Labs, who states: “The idea of ‘natural’ could mean a product containing all natural ingredients; however, I believe there should be a more significant meaning to the idea. I think the natural course to attaining beauty is a healthier and potentially more lasting one than with the use of harsh or radical treatments such as Botox, face lifts and peeling. The ‘natural’ idea would be to support the living and natural cells of our skin with nutrients that could support such things as the body’s natural ability to retain moisture, to support natural collagen development, or to reduce hyperpigmentation. This way, by supporting the natural health of the skin, I believe the cumulative effect would be to develop healthier skin as both the path to and result of beauty.”7[7]

What Are The Greatest Changes In Shopping In Your Lifetime

What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9 year old grandson.

As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my lifetime is.

That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.

Our local green grocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him was our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.

Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family owned businesses.

Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.

Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge counter top and included two grooved pates.

That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime… you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.

Our old friendly Mr. Mahon with the moustache, would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.

Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went, so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.

My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.

Grocery Shopping
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, green grocer’s. Mr. McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.

And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr. Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.

All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:

• Farm eggs

• Fresh vegetables

• Cow’s milk

• Freshly baked bread

• Coal for our open fires

Delivery Services
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.

Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.

Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.

Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.

My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with home made sandwiches and cakes.

The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.

Mr. Higgins, a service man from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.

Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.

People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.

In some department stores there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.

Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.

• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.

• Internet shopping… the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.

• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.

On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.

Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.

We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.

Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.

My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.