Retail Therapy

Many brick-and-mortar stores struggle in the Internet age, and new shopping centers present challenges to established retailers. Enter Jesse Balaity, owner of Balaity Property Enhancement in Sarasota. With a master’s in architecture and a decade of experience, he designs and manages projects in retail, mixed-use and hospitality. In Sarasota, he has consulted on the new Diamond Vault building and Touch of Africa on St. Armands Circle. His newest project, Carats Fine Jewelry & Watches on Bay Road, opens soon.

Read the Q&A at BIZ(941).

Use Instagram for picture-perfect brands

Looking to build a brand for your organization or yourself? It’s a snap with photo sharing site Instagram.

Next to Pinterest, Instagram is one of the Internet’s newest and most popular sites. (Facebook acquired the company in April for $1 billion.) Instagram is also simple to use. With your smartphone you take a photo, choose a filter to alter its look and post it to Instagram. You can share the photo simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. And you can “like” and be liked by followers.

Individuals can use Instagram to chronicle their lives, their vacations, their cities and towns. Businesses can use Instagram to forge closer ties with their customers. Two examples: Women’s online retailer ShopExcessBaggage created a trend-setting page where followers can post and vote on popular styles. And accessory boutique RequiredFlair uses Instagram to showcase the many ways to wear the company’s jewelry. The experience is visual, personal and interactive—all of the ingredients for social sharing.

Ready to share your brand? Here are a few tips from Mobile Media Lab co-founder Brian DiFeo.

  • Start with your existing audience. Announce your presence on Instagram on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter and through communications channels such as websites, email lists and newsletters.
  • Post photos that are consistent with your brand, or that will advance your causes.
  • Use relevant hashtags such as #fashion so users searching Twitter will discover your work.
  • Run contests that encourage interaction with followers.

Once you’ve collected a few photos on Instagram you’ll want a central place to display them. While you can view your collection on a smartphone you can’t see them at the Instagram website. For that you’ll need another service like Gramfeed, which can display your work and that of the people and companies you follow. From there you can pin your images to Pinterest. You can see my collections at Gramfeed and Pinterest.

Want more information? Mashable has a solid primer on its website.

— Jeff Widmer

More than skin deep

Beauty pays. That’s the conclusion of Daniel Hamermesh, economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, who measured the economic benefits of looking good.

His conclusions:

  • Attractive people are likely to earn about 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average appearance.
  • Better-looking people tend to sell more products or attract more new customers.
  • White-collar criminals are more successful if they are better-looking.

For us mortals, is plastic surgery the answer? Hamermesh says research doesn’t support that conclusion. “Surgery pays back less than $1 for every $1 spent. But it might make you feel better.”