A continual point I try to drive home to clients is the importance of monitoring your presence on and off line. It doesn’t floor me when a new client reveals they have never monitored their online or offline presence – that’s to be expected, and part of why they seek help. Often it’s just a case of not knowing how to get started and how to strategize and maintain a monitoring plan.
It continues to amaze me how many fly by night pseudo “gurus” of social media don’t monitor who is keeping an eye on what shenanigans they are doing online, however. There are so many people trying to jump on board the bandwagon of social media now that it is reaching mainstream proportions, and they are willing to do anything shady to get client attention. I’ve covered a few tips on avoiding scam artists and bad strategy in previous posts, including one on avoiding “twinfomercials“, one on “stunts vs experiments” on Twitter, a post about false metrics distracting your from your goals in social media, and many more.
I didn’t blog last week. I was wrapped up in several large and exciting things – the launch of the Twitter for Dummies book I wrote with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen, a television interview about it, new clients (including new film Crooked Lane, a radio interview on LifeTips and more. Just because I’m not blogging on occasion doesn’t mean I’m not listening. I monitor my business and my clients daily. This means that I see scammers in real time, if someone is trying to pull a fast one (it also means I see good things too, but this post is about the issues surrounding fly-by-night hustlers).
It is not uncommon to see people scraping my content from one of my many blogs and calling it their own, to see people creating false RTs on Twitter crediting me and other social media types with things we never said, or to see people trying to pawn off something I said in a presentation as an original idea of their own. I handle all of this on a case-by-case basis. Last week unearthed a variety of interesting and annoying things surrounding the book, however. My personal favorite was the woman with a horribly designed Blogspot blog who is “teaching” a “Twitter for Dummies” class and sending people to Amazon to buy the book with the implication that she wrote it. She was very surprised I commented in a very tongue in cheek manner before the ink was even dry on her post. That’s the value of monitoring – being able to nip issues in the bud quickly.
The point I’m getting at is that you should use reverse monitoring to check out your social media consultant. There is some fantastic advice on this in a post over here (Caveat Emptor). I recommend checking out the “guru”‘s social media presence. Look at Twitterholic to see how long they have been on Twitter (it should be at least since Twitter was in early stages in 2006 – 2007) and what their activity looks like (should be an ever increasing stream of activity and follower/following interaction). Check them out on Google and see how many of their other social media profiles come up, and then go to their pages to see how they interact – are they a link farm? A spammer? Or do they really converse back and forth with people and offer good information and help. Look at their offline activity – do they do more than attend the party-style events? Do they run events to help businesses? Speak? Teach classes? Remember, monitoring works both ways, and you can ensure you are getting a good consultant or presenter if you do a little bit of legwork first!
I’m excited that the group project I worked on all winter, Twitter for Dummies, hits
stores warehouses next week and stores first week in July (correction from Wiley). I can hardly believe it is finally wrapped, after months of working with awesome co-authors Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting and OneForty and Michael Gruen of We Are Nom to bring this major project to your doors.
I didn’t talk much about the book while we were writing it, on purpose. Having three authors plus feedback from Wiley on a project was a fun, sprawling process. Toss in a few “minor” Twitter changes over the course of writing it and you have some added challenging components to the mix.
I am very excited to have the book in stores, finally. We will each be (and in fact, have been) doing some promotion for the book individually and together when possible (we are spread out over three states). If you want to order the book, please feel free to click the link in the side bar, this link here or visit your local book store. If you want to talk to one or all of us about doing events or promotion around the book, you can contact us individually. Find the spearhead for the project, Laura Fitton, @pistachio on Twitter. Find Leslie Poston (me), co-author, @leslie on Twitter, and find Michael Gruen, co-author @gruen on Twitter. You can also drop me an email for promotional activities.
What have we done to promote the book so far? Laura is speaking at Jeff Pulver‘s #140conf today, and has several promotional and speaking events planned around the country. Michael has spoken at the NYC Book Expo recently. I’ve just been filmed for a new TV show in Maine which will air July 1 or thereabouts (most likely on WPXT, but stay tuned), and will also be on another station here in NH soon (project not wrapped yet, will announce here once I can). You can also hear me speak at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce on June 18th. I also have some blog and print interviews lined up that I will link here as they happen.
Also, many, many thanks to Laura Fitton for wanting me on her co-author team with Michael Gruen. It was a blast to write a whole book about my favorite tool and favorite toy. It was even more fun merging our very different uses into one book to help YOU, the reader. If you look at our Twitter accounts, you can see that you are getting the blended best out of three ways you can use Twitter for yourself and your business – I think that ended up making the book a richer, more comprehensive guide (and proved a point I make often about Twitter use being a la carte).
This is a question I ponder frequently. Have you focused on building a micro network and a nationwide network, or have you isolated yourself by walling off your garden?
I’m big on the idea of helping people and networking at a hyper local level. I also believe that your network is most effective if it also reaches far and wide – across borders of city, state, country and nation.
Think about it for a minute. If your network is made up of only your existing friends and family and a few existing coworkers, you have built a walled garden. What’s inside my be your own lovely garden, with prize-worthy flowers that are well tended, but any bad weather or difficult event can shake it up.
What happens if you move for an illness or a job? Have you built a network that will follow you? If your company is ready to expand, will you have the support outside of your existing world view to do so? What if the perfect job is a tweet or status update away and you miss it because your eyes aren’t open?
People often wall themselves off out of fear. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of harm… there are a hundred different kinds of fear. Don’t let it rule you or your company. Add a gate to your garden and see who comes in. You’ll be surprised how it grows your network and where it takes you in life.
You have to be well rounded. You have to take chances, and stretch yourself past where you think you can go. Do you make sure to do this on a regular basis?
I am an idea person. I don’t like to see a good idea die on the vine, choked by excessive caution, hemming, hawing or general “over thinking”. Sure, you need to plan, but there comes a point where you also have to take that leap and try the idea out – set it free to roam the wild. It’s the only you can grow as a person or business.
Some ideas fly high, like Uptown Uncorked (now Magnitude Media), the Topics on Fire podcast (currently on summer hiatus) or the recent Twitter for Dummies project with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen that just wrapped (hitting stores soon). Some build momentum more slowly. Some struggle to get past the enthusiasm stage. Some end up being put aside as not viable after all.
Some of my projects are building momentum at a nice steady pace now, like a new book I’m going to be writing with Jim Keenan from A Sales Guy. Some are building momentum slowly, like Social Mic, a fun music side project I’m noodling on with Maria Thurrell and a new hush hush project I’m creating with Alexa Scordato.
A few took off like rockets, going much faster than anticipated. One of those was Social Media Breakfast NH. The people in the business community of NH have embraced this idea and are instrumental in how successful it has been, and I can’t thank you all enough for the enthusiasm you bring to each month’s meeting (next month: Education 2.0 part two, by the way – save the date: 7/17). SMBNH grew so quickly I had to bring on the fabulous Kevin Micalizzi and Matt Turner to help. Another of these is PodCamp NH, which is really starting to gather steam behind the scenes. It’s a good thing I have a good team helping with that (Thanks team: Kevin Baringer, Kevin Micalizzi, John Herman, Christine Major, Nick Plante)!
One of my favorite ideas is struggling to get past the enthusiasm stage, mainly due to unexpected issues with red tape. That one is Strong Women in Tech, which I discussed the other day. Luckily, I reached out and am now getting some fabulous responses to that cry for help, and this idea may finally push past Stage One and really take off.
Some people look at all of the irons I keep in the fire – clients, speaking, writing, side projects, blogging, and more – and ask how on earth I can do everything I want to and still have a life. Simple: my network. Every single project or idea, as you can see, involves me reaching out to someone (or several someones) from my network I think would be a great fit for the idea actually getting legs and growing. If I didn’t have a strong network, none of this would work.
It isn’t just about me tapping my network, either. My network taps me for their projects all of the time (case in point, Laura tapping me for Twitter for Dummies). Be helpful. Be willing. Be supportive. This collaborative culture and collaborative economy we are in now is a two way street. Grow your network, take leaps of faith, help, support, DO, be bold – and you will grow in return.
Everyone uses social media tools for different reasons. Everyone uses social media tools in different ways. There are people that, by nature, feel a need to have the world around them conform to their world view, and theirs only. This post won’t change those people – they are unbending, and seek reasons to complain and force rules onto others. This post will help you if you are accepting of the fact that people are different, and seek ways to take charge of your own personal social media experience.
Let’s take Twitter as a case in point. For some people, Twitter is very noisy (for me personally, it is too quiet since this change). Twitter is the largest real-time example of people using a social media tool for very different reasons (though FriendFeed is catching up, I think). You have broadcasters (people who send tweets out but don’t follow others or converse, often celebrities, though not always). There are link spammers (tweeters who send out nothing but affiliate links). Some tweeters are people and businesses who want Twitter to be a business channel only and get annoyed at games and personal use (these people get annoyed at memes like this weekend’s silly #spymaster game). There are those who use it for fun only; those who talk to family and friends only; people who use it to push a political agenda (#tcot, etc come to mind); people who who use it to live-tweet events or activities (like conferences or church sermons); people who use it to plan events; companies who use it for customer service. Amongst the hundreds of ways people use Twitter you also have people like me who freely mix personal and business (this can be noisy).
If you are feeling overwhelmed or annoyed at this constant stream, you can take charge of your experience using a few simple tools, especially on Twitter, with its API encouraging third party developers to play along and create things for the people who use it. I can not stress this enough: you are in control of your social media experience. Here are a few tools to get you started on the road to personal filtering and the calm it will bring:
TweetDeck is a Twitter client based on Adobe Air. You don’t have to know what that means other than it is something you download to your desktop. It works with both Mac and Windows computers. TweetDeck allows you to sort Twitter in various ways. It offers two filters: groups and keywords. First, you can use the column feature of TweetDeck to sort your Twitter stream into various groups. For example, you can have columns for real life friends, people in your area, thought leaders, clients, organizations you trust, or whatever criteria that works for you. You can then go one step further. On a column by column basis you can also filter out keywords. This means you can fine tune Twitter into groups, and then fine tune those groups even further. For me, personally, I filter out certain hashtags like #tcot, or recommend people filter hashtags like #spymaster if the game is annoying you. You can also filter words IN as well, tracking your friends planning a party, for example. This filter feature is also why I encourage people to use uniform hashtags (see post on it here). It helps people who listen to you fine tune their experience. TweetDeck is my favorite filtering method, personally, though it is key to note that if you close the program, you have to set your keyword filters all over again (your groups stay active). I’d like to see that changed.
Like everything social media, this is a useful service often overlooked because of a silly name. Twalala is a web based filtering service. I recommend it when people want to filter more than just a keyword. If a certain person is on a soapbox, or is not adding value to your stream, Twalala lets you temporarily mute them. This means you don’t have to unfollow them then remember to follow them back later – you can just turn them off for a little while. This is very handy, and worth the pain of using the web interface to do, though a desktop app would please me.
This one gets overlooked because the name is so close to the Twitter + Flickr mashup application Flittr. That aside, Filtrr is a Twitter client that uses keywords, groups, user names and interest to filter your stream down, only showing you the tweets it thinks you want to see. I didn’t like this one, but that isn’t surprising since I like to see all tweets most of the time – you never know where inspiration might strike. On the plus side, it offers a mobile application as well as a web interface and an instant message function, so it is definitely the most versatile filter for Twitter as far as using it where and how you want to goes.
This paid client for Mac offers filtering as well, or so I’m told. I must admit that I haven’t tried it lately. I tried it once when it first came out and didn’t find it useful for me and how I “see” things. Perhaps I should look at it again. According to people who do use it, however, it filters. Your mileage may vary.
New Twitter client Nambu is also Mac-only. It offers groups, multiple account management, and light filters. They seem very focused on adding features, so I would not be surprised to see better filters added in addition to groups. They also thread tweets, which some people like as an additional stream control method.
Tweetie is an application for the iPhone and the Mac that offers tear out search windows as a filter feature. If you are trying to filter something IN or track an idea or event, you can pop out as many search windows as you like. This is also a paid client, though it offers a version with ads for free. I’d like to see them add ways to filter OUT information as well.
This is not for the faint of heart. Using Greasemonkey to filter Twitter can be done, but I know that for me, personally, I don’t find Greasemonkey easy. If you’re game, try this.
There are probably tools out there for Twitter filtering that I missed. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. In the meantime, know that relaxing about things that might annoy you on social networks, then being proactive to filter them out, will make your online time much more pleasant and productive in the way YOU need it to be.
It’s easy in social media to find people talking about all of their clients who are doing well. It’s a bit more rare to find people talking about their clients when they struggle. To assume that you won’t struggle with implementation of your strategy in a social media campaign is a huge mistake, however.
I’m fortunate in that I won’t take a client who is not enthusiastic about integrating social media into their existing marketing plan. For someone to try and engage halfheartedly is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, and has a negative effect on the measure of both monetary ROI and interest based ROI. Even so, some clients still struggle. There are several factors that may cause this struggle, and it’s important to have a social media strategy that is flexible enough to address potential problems and adjust to fit the client as you go forward.
Problem 1: The Learning Curve
I know – for those of us who live and breath social media, the learning curve problem seems like a moot point. To us, it’s easy. Remember, though, that your client most likely won’t find it as easy as you do. Make sure you address the learning curve thoroughly from day one. In this case, thoroughly researching your client’s habits and the habits of the person or people who will be manning the campaign is essential.
By having a firm grasp of how your client prefers to get and give information outside of social media, and how they interact with customers, staff, friends and family, you can help them pick better tools. When things have a high learning curve or require being added to an already busy day, choosing the right tools will make a huge difference in how happy the client is with the additional time they will be spending incorporating social media into a campaign.
Example: A busy CEO needs mobile tools. A person who spends most of the day at a desk may prefer desktop applications. People who don’t like to write and who might not keep up with a blog might do better with an audio or video tool, or a combination. Someone on the floor at a service business might have a lot of fun with “interview” style tools like Qik for generating content and getting real time comments. Every client will have a different need to match their habits and passions. In some cases, you may need multiple and different tools for multiple people manning a campaign.
Problem 2: The Intimidation Factor
I see this most often. A client, enthusiastic about social media and raring to go, suddenly realizes the reality of having the internet paying attention to their words, photos or other content. This can create instant “writer’s block” as they become frozen like a deer in headlights. They worry they won’t say the right thing, even as you tell them that there is no “right” thing, it isn’t a test. They worry that they’ll talk and talk and talk and no one will answer back. They worry about legal issues, privacy, being liked, and more. The first week of a social media campaign often makes people feel like the first day of school, or getting picked last in gym.
It’s vital that you recognize this and help your client through it. Take a case in point, the client of mine who inspired this post today. Rick’s Restaurants is a NH business run by a nice family. They serve good food, they have loyal staff and loyal customers, but they need to draw in more business since the two restaurants are located in a bedroom community without a large shopping center or other tourist draw that only has about 5000 or so people living there. That number of people in a community can’t sustain a business. It’s vital that Rick’s Restaurants become a destination for more people in neighboring towns and people passing through.
They decided that social media in addition to their existing radio campaign would be helpful. We got them set up on a variety of networks after determining where their existing customers were and where they could reach new customers. The people manning the campaign are enthusiastic, but think they have nothing to say! Keep in mind, people want to see them on social media – their first week out they got a Twitter based reservation for a group of 36 people on a Saturday night at their Grille location on Main St, and since then have gotten several chef’s table bookings from it as well, so this is an intimidation problem they are having in spite of seeing measurable financial results, quickly.
We’ve been trying a variety of solutions behind the scenes for them, and I think that today we may have found a keeper. Going with the family feeling of Rick’s Pond View and Rick’s Cafe and Grille, we’re bringing Rick’s actual family on board to help. They have NO trouble talking about their son and brother and his restaurant and all of their friends who are regulars there. They want the Rick’s family to grow, because to them the customers are all part their family too. So after bringing them up to speed later today, you’ll see that Rick’s accounts are being manned by Rick (chef/owner) himself periodically, with help from Kim Boetti (his manager), Katie Hayes (bartender) and his parents, George and Joyce. I’m excited, and they are so happy to be involved. You’ll see them posting to the FaceBook Fan Page and Twitter to start, then we’ll bring them into the other social networks gradually once they get used to the extra time commitment (they have a company of their own that they run, after all).
Problem 3: Time, Time Time
Did you give your client an accurate picture of the time required to maintain a presence and listen and engage in social media? Did you take the time to go above and beyond simple training to help them make a schedule and learn to fit it into their day? Have you helped them create a good system so that they don’t feel like they are drowning in notifications, updates and reports? If the answer is no to any of those questions you did your client a disservice. If the answer is yes, and your client still struggles with time management, take your mentoring up a notch and help them review and revise their interaction so they don’t feel so overwhelmed by it all, so chained to their social tools. Maybe they need to implement a system like GTD. Maybe they need to delegate some tasks. Make it a point to find a way to help them be more efficient.
Problem 4: Changing Tools
Sometimes, a client finds a tool they like and use well, and the tool changes (or, as is often the case in social media, disappears altogether). This is out of their control, of course, but is something you can plan for in advance as their strategist. Always have a back up plan! If your client embraces a service like Utterli or Qik as a tool for content generation, for example, make sure you set them up on a similar tool from the beginning. Explain why.
A good company owner is going to embrace the idea of having a back up plan or insurance against problems out of their control. If the service lets your client back up the content they generate, do it! If not, perhaps reevaluate it until it does. An example here is Disqus. I didn’t recommend it to my clients as a comment tool for a long time – I was waiting for it to offer better options for backing up comments in the event of down time. Now that it offers better import and export tools for insurance, I can recommend this powerful comment service with confidence, AND teach my clients ho to back up their system regularly as part of their social media and online maintenance.
What have your clients struggled with? I’m fortunate to have had many successes and happy clients since I started doing this, but I embrace the few that struggle also. Those are the ones that teach me the most about being ever better at this job I love so much. Never stop learning.
If you are a business on Facebook that set up a personal profile page, you should probably go back in, delete it and start over with either a fan page or a group. If you are a business or brand with a personal profile page who has tried to add me as a friend, you’ve gotten a polite note from me telling you that same thing, without going into detail, along with an “ignore”. I thought I’d give a brief summary of the choices and the basics of what the three options mean to your business or brand.
Personal Profile Pages
Before Facebook changed its interface to be more like an aggregator or life stream (FriendFeed) and microblog (Twitter) plus personal network, there was a bigger difference in how personal profiles and fan pages worked. Now, they look and act in a much more similar fashion. This means that the only real difference between them is in how they limit your brand growth on Facebook. Personal profile pages can only have 5000 friends. This isn’t a big deal to the average person, but it is if you are Gary Vaynerchuk, Robert Scoble or Jeff Pulver and others like them where your name IS your brand, so to speak.
What it means to a business is that you can only get 5000 friends. Businesses need to reach, listen to and engage far more than 5000 people on a social network to achieve measurable results. This makes the personal profile an unwise choice of message delivery, listening and engagement for a business or brand – it is like putting a cap on your own growth. That leaves you with two options: the fan page and the group.
The group page works very well if you are an organization, brand or business who is trying to get controlled discussions going and go viral to a target audience. The group interface makes it easier for people who belong to it to see where to put their content, how to set up a new threaded discussion or view ongoing ones to add their two cents, upload photos and more. Like all things in Facebook, groups share similar content capabilities with fan pages and personal profile pages, the user interface is just slightly different.
One key benefit to a group page that a fan page lacks is the ability to generate viral marketing. Not only can you bulk invite and bulk message in a group – your group members can bulk invite as well. This makes it much easier to populate a group with people quickly, generating almost immediate activity. It also makes it easier for a good, fun group to become viral. This makes it key to keep adding fresh content and topics to your group, and to encourage your group members to participate as well. Word of caution: be careful how many messages you send! Too many will have people unfollowing your group because it is spammy.
Groups have some fun participatory features that encourage involvement. Once of these is the ability to make people “officers” of the group, publicly recognizing their contribution to your brand without having to give them administrative privileges. This goes a long way toward encouraging goodwill (and on some group pages, the titles chosen are also a way to inject some humor into the page, like a roast). Other features that encourage involvement, like adding links and photos, can also be found on fan pages, though they get their own very easy to locate sections on the group pages for reference later. In fan pages they are part of the larger stream of information that is more relative to what’s going on in the moment.
Fan pages are important if your brand needs to be indexed on Google. Currently, fan pages are the only Facebook area that can be fully seen by the search engine crawlers, so if you are looking for more exposure for your brand outside of Facebook as well as inside of Facebook, a fan page is the way to go for SEO. Fan pages are not quite as viral as groups: the invite feature limits the admin of the page to a few invites at a time, and does not let fans do much in the way of sharing the page at all. Also, you can’t make fans into officers to show appreciation on fan pages.
A fan page works a lot more like a profile page now that Facebook has made the changes mentioned earlier. This means that information goes to the wall or stream for continuing, real time updates similar to sites like Twitter. Not only that, it gets sent to your fans’ streams as well, just like a personal profile page would. You can add a small box to your sidebar to show photos and links, and a box for information on your company, such as business hours and similar hard info; however, not all people think to look there, whereas in the groups the design draws the user’s eye naturally down the page to the various categories.
Currently, fan pages are also the only way to get an URL (web address) that isn’t an atrociously long set of random numbers and letters. While it is imperfect still, the fan page URL does have your fan page name in it, so name your page well. As we watch Facebook roll out vanity URLs to some major users like Ashton Kutcher, we can’t help but think that soon people and businesses may have a way to get better URLs on all Facebook pages, though it isn’t clear if they will offer it for free or a fee.
While there are many things that are similar between group pages and fan pages, there are two things that make fan pages slightly stand out. One is the ability to add applications that are relevant to your business. For example, if you are a restaurant, Facebook fan pages let you integrate your existing Open Table account, as well as Zagat reviews and similar tools. Groups don’t integrate like that with applications. The other is the ability to offer tabs (like personal profile pages) across the top of the screen, to make it easier for your fans to navigate, then associate various fan levels with a landing page (for example, non-fans can be set to land on the tab for your detailed information, including hours of operation, while fans can be sent over to the live stream).
Other Issues To Think About
• Both group pages and fan pages offer event integration, though it is key to note if you use an outside service like EventBrite or Amiando to charge for tickets you may run into snags with people thinking that by signing up on Facebook to get your event added to their Facebook calendar application they are fully signed up for your list. It takes some finesse to direct them from the event on either style of page.
• You may want to consider having both a group and a fan page, if you have a little time to spend maintaining both, or if you have help from multiple admins. That way you can link between the two, sending fans and group members to both places. It also lets your brand reap the individual benefits of both styles – viral and indexing. It does increase your maintenance time, which is an issue for brands pressed for time.
• The last issue I’ll address is one with Facebook itself. Currently, when you are the administrator of a fan page, you do not show up as yourself when posting. This poses two issues. number one, it makes your stream look like a rolling advert with nothing but your logo making post after post, when in fact you are just conversing. Two, it doesn’t allow for differentiation between several admins, meaning they all look the same and fans can’t tell which company rep they are talking to unless the rep remembers to sign their update with some kind of identifier like ^lp, etc. it would be beneficial to see that change, reducing the confusion and annoyance it causes and allowing admins to show as their own profile image from their personal profile instead of the logo.
I realize I only skimmed the surface of the capabilities of fan pages, group pages and personal profile pages. I didn’t discuss some of the finer points as this was intended as a quick sketch of why you might choose each one. More specifically, it was intended to show why choosing a personal profile page may be a bad choice for your business. I’ll go into some finer points of using Facebook in a separate post.
It’s time to open the tool box again, and talk about tools for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and business owners or CEOs who are always on the go. We discussed before that a good tool kit for managing social media is essential, but your business is about more than just engaging online. If you are like me, you find yourself needing to work or manage the office on the go.
Some of the tools I use to manage my business are tools I also use to manage and monitor my social media and online life as well. You’ll see those on both the “social media toolbox” list and the “CEO on the go toolbox” list. Also, it’s notable that several of the tools on both lists have had significant upgrades in recent months that make them even more integrated, collaborative with other tools, and useful.
As a refresher, my social media toolbox post highlighted: Evernote, Shareaholic (FireFox, Safari), Ping.fm, Ubiquity/FireFox, TweetDeck, TextExpander, Quicksilver, Google stuff, my HTC Mogul PDA and my MacBook. Expect an updated post on my social media tools to drop here or elsewhere soon, as some of those have been adjusted with passing time. You’ll notice that Evernote makes an appearance on both lists, and with good reason – the company introduced some nice on-the-go integrations recently.
So how do I run my business on the fly? It’s important for me to have as much data as possible accessible from anywhere. This means that I use a lot of web based solutions. Until they make a 1TB USB Flash thumb drive (and consider this an official “would someone PLEASE make one?” request), I can’t fit all of my data into any lightweight portable form to take with me. If you are a CEO with a MacBook Air or a netbook, this is doubly true for you – you have even less storage and need computing from the cloud solutions even more.
My most essential tools are my MacBook and my HTC Mogul PDA. All of the tools I use for my business are accessible at least in basic form from both (some of the mobile sites leave something to be desired, but I find this true of many mobile sites). Along with that, I carry the chargers with me, which takes up valuable space in my League of Awesomeness laptop bag. Since power is key and cords are bulky, I am researching adding one of these to my arsenal. I also keep my iPod on me with a backup of my presentations, in case something horrible happens to the laptop – color me paranoid, but you never know.
Yes, Evernote is on both lists. It is a powerful, flexible way to annotate and track your life and business. I talked about the desktop and web plug in features in the last post. What makes it even more effective are the way it integrates these features into your mobile life. Evernote on my phone lets me keep track of anything I’m doing. I can handwrite a note using Ink Note; I can record a meeting, sing a song I’m writing, speak a poem or story idea I have or give myself a quick voice reminder using Audio Note; I can take a picture of anything and record it with the Photo Note feature; I can even send myself files and text notes. Evernote upped the game recently for this heavy Twitter user by allowing me to link my Twitter account to my Evernote account. By then following @myEV on Twitter, I can DM myself notes and reminders and links to add to my Evernote storage as well. With tagged search and other features, all of my notes are easy to find and ready for me to come back to the next time I load up the desktop app or go to the web site. I can even share the notes with people working on a project with me.
I can not say enough nice things about FreshBooks. They recently won a Webware 100 award, and with good reason. This accounting solution is lightweight, easy to learn, easy to use and flexible enough to incorporate several other on-the-go tools to make it easier to track time, expenses, calls and more. I love that I can create estimates and invoices for my clients that include action items, allowing them to link to the live estimate or invoice and make change requests, accept the terms, pay online and more. It’s very convenient on both sides. Not only that, the customer who has an ongoing project can log in and track time spent on their project, see progress reports and more. It handles staff that work for you as well as clients, and now it is going social – allowing freelancers and subcontractors to link to projects as well, creating a network of people I work and collaborate with. I use this every day, either via the web client, the time tracking widget for my MacBook, my phone (using other services to text in time tracked, expense, or calls made) and more. An ideal accounting solution for the small to medium business that integrates with applications like Xpenser, SkyDeck, etc and exports compatible file types to other accounting software as well.
This little tool let’s me send a tweet, an email, an IM or an SMS from my phone to track expenses. It tracks mileage, meals, time on a project, and more. All you have to do is link it to FreshBooks using the FreshBooks API and it sends all of these expenses to FreshBooks to be associated with a client and project. It also offers a full slate of reports and other features to make it a good stand alone solution for export to desktop accounting programs.
Another tool that integrates with FreshBooks, allowing me to sync my calls from my cell phone into my FreshBooks account and associate them with a client or project for billing time. It also has some pretty nifty other features, like being able to make a text or call right from the application, see who you call most, get reports to your email on your cell phone usage and even get nudged if you used to talk to someone and don’t call them as much anymore. There is a social aspect to SkyDeck, as it lets you connect with your friends who also use it, a nice touch.
The Magnitude Media 800 number is run through a company called Kall8. It costs very little money to run the line, and comes with some nice features. A favorite is call block per number – you can log into the web site and block a number if you get put on a fax machine auto dial list or a telemarketer gets around the National DNC list somehow. This is very handy. Since it is web based, you can forward your calls anywhere you are, receive web based faxes (and send them), get voicemail and more.
You may be thinking I spend a lot of time using call management solutions. I do. The less time I spend on the phone, the more work I get done, so I have several options for filtering calls. In addition to Kall8, I use YouMail. YouMail gives me the Caller ID of every caller, shows me when a friend is calling, but most importantly for this woman who hates to waste time checking voice mail, it transcribes my voice mail to text messages for me. Fantastic feature, and a total time saver.
This Twitter client from Google Code is wonderful. It gives you an attractive, iPhone-like Twitter experience complete with avatars and a full feature set (as well as interacting with other services, like identi.ca, etc) for your WinMo Touch phone. The fact that I can use features like favorite, retweet and more while on the go is invaluable for me, as a heavy Twitter user.
This live streaming video solution for my phone lets me grab events and interviews on the fly and share them immediately without needing a ton of expensive equipment.
Contxts give you Paperless Business Cards. Text geechee_girl to short code 50500 and you’ll see what I mean and why these are so handy.
I use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office when traveling, as it lets me access my work from anywhere. At the home office I use iWork instead of Office, which imports and exports Google and Microsoft compatible formats.
Small Notepad and a Pen
Trust me, even with a phone and laptop on you, there will always be an occasion to use the old fashioned pen and paper when you are traveling. Your IMAP Gmail may hang up or fail, you may need to write notes larger than a business card back, your battery may run out of juice – stuff happens. Be prepared.
And there you have it, the tools that let me run two businesses, plan events like SMBNH and PodCamp NH, advise companies and write for my freelance writing clients while I’m on the go. What’s in your toolbox for business or for social media?
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Since Twitter has been reaching the mainstream in a big way lately, there are more and more ways people are trying to “game” the system. The most popular method for this is the follower/following count scam.
There are a variety of ways to pull this off. There are several “programs” and “systems” that promise thousands of followers in a short amount of time. Some even promise fame and wealth as well. (No, I still maintain I won’t link to these or post their names as my small way of not helping them along.) There is the follow/unfollow repetition game which is designed to annoy people into following you back so you will stop popping up in their inbox (there is a block button on Twitter, people – learn to love it for the spammers).
Then, when all else fails, there is the “I am doing an experiment on [following more people] [following less people] [following no people] [adding xx number of people] [insert other favorite here]” announcement. This usually precludes someone who is trying to get more followers or to gain more pseudo-credibility when they have little experience to back it up by thinly disguising a stunt as an experiment. I see this all the time on Twitter. Generally, I tend to stop listening to people who pull repeated stunts, though I just mute the user if it is their first time. There is also the “Help me get to XX number of followers” request, but I think this is more about not “getting” Twitter as a trust network and cutting corners, and less about scamming in most cases.
How do you make sure these stunt-pullers and follower-gamers aren’t polluting your stream with their hot air and dirty pool tactics? It’s all about using the tools you have at your disposal. Tools I recommend becoming familiar with:
Common Sense: It seems basic to some, but there are a few people who think that there is a requirement to follow all who follow you. Twitter is a la carte – you do not have to reciprocate! If you get your notification email, and it says “@username has 27,000 followers and is following 27,000 people with 100 updates” – that’s a person to not follow. If you have been on Twitter a long time, have organically built a trust network of thousands, and are not a bot, that ratio will look more like “@username has 27,000 followers and is following 27,000 people with 47,000 updates”. The updates indicate participation and conversation. If you still aren’t sure, go to their profile and read their tweets – you can tell if they are a link baiting bot, a spammer, a scammer or just someone you flat our don’t want to hear in your stream (or maybe you do, but check). Another red flag for your common sense: Following thousands, but only 10 follow back.
Twitterholic: this tool is valuable for telling you how long someone has been on Twitter, and graphing their interaction. For me you can see I started in the second wave of early(ish) adopters in May 2007, and you can watch my follower and following numbers organically grow as I tweeted more and more and interacted with more people, building my trust network. The scammers and spammers show as short bursts and spikes after little involvement.
Twalala: If you already follow someone who doesn’t always “get” Twitter, and who does sometimes pull a stunt, but occasionally has interesting things to say in spite of that, you may not want to block them outright. For these people, try using Twalala to surf Twitter while they are monkeying around with their stunt. This is also handy for muting people or hashtags during conferences and bitchmemes.
TweetDeck: This desktop client is based in Adobe Air and lets you sort people using columns, groups and more. It listens to a variety of your social networks, including FaceBook and 12 Seconds. Most importantly for this discussion, it allows filtering in each column. Those buttons at the bottom of the column let you add hashtags, keywords or user names to filter In or OUT of your stream. Very handy for temporarily shutting a stunt-puller down in your valuable brain space.
Block Button: This feature of Twitter serves several functions. It blocks scammers and spammers from being able to add you and remove you repeatedly to game their numbers. It blocks unsavory stalker types. It blocks bots. It blocks whoever you tell it to. Also, Twitter tracks blocked accounts. If an account receives massive amounts of blocks? They are booted for being spam.
@Spam: Follow Twitter’s official spam channel, @spam. You can use it to report spammers as well as to receive updates from Twitter on how they are handling site wide issues.
Patience: Often, you can spot a spammer or scammer or stunt puller before the trouble begins. Give yourself a day delay, minimum, in follow back decisions for new follows. You’ll see the scammers and spammers bounce in and our of your inbox like pin balls if they are trying to game you. In the same vein, before you go blocking or yelling at someone you already follow for starting to pull this kind of stunt, give them a day. Chances are they will figure out how transparent their attempt is and stop on their own. If that fails, then unfollow, block or otherwise mute the issue.