Archives for online social networking

iCloud OS: Good for Business?

Apple has finally released their new operating system, iOS5, complete with the highly anticipated iCloud. Drawing on principles of cloud computing, iCloud gives you access to all of your information but doesn’t rely on any one machine, whether it be a computer or dedicated server, to store or access information.

With documents, information, calendar dates, contacts and automatic backups now stored in the cloud, how we can we expect to see businesses utilize and thrive with these new resources? Or, can we expect a change at all?

 Paperless? Or Close To It?

 Whether to cut down on cost or become more eco-friendly, many businesses have been taking steps towards becoming paperless for a while. Though it’s difficult to completely leave paper behind, iCloud eliminates much of the need for paper.

With documents stored in the cloud, there’s no need to print. And, as you continue to re-draft your business model, there’s no need to print updates or make changes in every document. Any changes you make in sixth draft will be applied all across the cloud. All of your iOS devices will be kept up-to-date with changes.

Faster Pace?

 With many apps designed for iCloud and mobile use, the loading time will be significantly less. Not only will your apps and documents load faster, but the ability to work on the go and around the clock could mean people will do so. While we once had to stop working for the thirty minutes we rode the subway, or drove to a meeting or the hour we spent eating lunch, we could soon work straight through all that down time.

 

Sharing in the cloud means instant access to information, which means faster responses, which adds up to more business at the end of the day.

Will We Ever Have An Excuse Not to Work?

 iCloud allows you to access any document in the cloud from any iCloud enabled device. It boils down to you needing to find a new excuse for “I’m out of the office” or “I don’t have my computer.” With iCloud, your office, computer and information follow you wherever you go. As long as you have an iCloud-enabled device, you have access to your material. Start searching for new cop-outs.

 Never Lose Documents Again?

 iCloud automatically backs up all of the priceless information on your iGadget. Your music, TV shows, applications, books, photos, app data, organization, messages and ringtones will be backed up daily. When disaster strikes, your business plan or entertainment items won’t be casualties.

Could Staying Connected Be Any Easier?

 Your calendars, appointments and contacts will be with you all times now thanks to iCloud. If you wish you could remember Jeff’s email address, now you won’t have to. If you saved it on your computer, it’s now on your phone too. The iOS5 notification center will remind you of any date set in your calendar, any alarms set on your phone or upcoming deadlines.

More fun at Work?

 Lastly, with the ease of sharing photos, videos, sites and documents could we maybe all have a little fun too? If you stumbled across a great comic during work, why not share it? Businesses can certainly change with iCloud, so why not for the better?


 

 

 

Catalyst

With the American economy mired in the mud and fears of a double-dip recession looming, the professional world, it seems, has stagnated.  These can be worrisome times for businesses, as comparisons to the Great Depression are being regularly drawn.  However, a lot has changed since the last time this country has seen such financial turmoil, so entrepreneurs have more options available to them as they navigate the morass and lead the way into the future.  With fewer employees, the time it takes for those retained to do specific jobs must be balanced with the expense of keeping them on staff.  Thankfully, there are many tools which are available that can help this idea become practical.

Internally, software development has allowed businesses to streamline and increase productivity exponentially.  Doctors’ offices are now able to use medical billing software from companies like Kareo, freeing up office staff for more important tasks.  On a much smaller scale, improvements with small business accounting in programs like Quickbooks and Peachtree almost successfully automate the financial process.  There are also companies that can remotely manage your payroll, help you set up your company’s 401k, and other services.  In choosing these things, the company must (again) balance the expense and needs against such investments.

Externally, one of the most important innovations to date is the emergence of various social media outlets.  Businesses now have the ability to advertise their services in a forum where many different pairs of eyes can see, and consumers have the ability to show their like or dislike of businesses, services, even individual employees. With these new ways to externally promote and streamline your business, customer traffic can increase, and customer service can be refined.  In the past, most marketing was the result of many months and thousands (or millions) of dollars invested in make sure the product or service would be accepted by the public.  Now, in the world of viral videos and SEO, those results come in real time, and are measure through actual results of both use and opinion.

In addition to the external and internal, there is the “gray area” which exists in the form of apps and other resources available to the owner.  Adding to this smorgasbord are various phone apps, many of which are free.  Whereas cell phones used to be a novelty, most people have one now, and use them for far more than just making and receiving phone calls.  Foursquare, for example, is a free app that allows users to let their friends know where they are, and what is going on there.  If you happened to be the business that is being discussed, this will not only bring more people to your door, but it will also tell you what is noteworthy to your customers.

The thing to remember in your business is that there have been many who came before you, who felt the same apprehension and doubt that you are likely feeling now, as you watch news reports and listen to accounts of Wall Street.  But fear not!  Through innovation and maximum usage of the resources that are available to you, you can maximize your chances of success and lead your business into the future.  Whether that success is aided by medical billing software, or a simple points system generated by a social media outlet, is entirely up to your company.  The promoter which pulls your company to the next level may be something as simple as the organic nature of social media, or the many different adjustments made both internally and externally.

Top 3 Online Tools You Need to Track Your Social Media Growth

Tracking your Social Media

Do you know how to track your social media?

Social media is becoming increasingly important as a way for businesses to connect with buyers, prospects, and the market. As social media grows, it will become critical for businesses to brand themselves and build relationships as part of the sales and marketing process. Social media marketing can be a great way for brands to start conversations with their users, but it can also be a time suck. It’s very important for businesses to understand what it is that they want to track and how social media fits into their overall business strategy.

Facebook Insight

Facebook Insights is an excellent free analytics tool built right into Facebook that allows you to track trends among your fans and see how they are interacting with your page. Insights is split into two main sections: users and interactions.

Users give you lots of basic demographic information about your fans, as well as show top referrers to your page.

Interactions can be a real goldmine, offering deep analytics into the updates you’ve made to your page and how users have interacted with it.

You can see which content has been most popular and which tanked, which helps understand what fans like to see on your page. Site owners with Like buttons on their sites can use Insights to see how many people saw the button, clicked on it, and how they got to the page.

Social Mention

Social Mention is a real-time search engine for social media. It’s a great tool for tracking buzz about your firm, product, or launch through Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, and other social media sites. A widget shows statistics over time like number of retweets, unique authors, as well as twists like the relative passion of the sentiment about your brand. Social media stats are broken down by content type, so you can see where the most attention is coming from. You can also sign up for emails to alert you whenever a keyword comes up in social content.

Bit.ly

Not only is bit.ly the world’s most popular url shortening tool, it is also an excellent way to use analytics to track link clicks and user behavior. This kind of information would usually not be available if the link were to a social site or to one on which you didn’t have access to the analytics software. However, creating a bit.ly account gives you access to its full-fledged analytics suite, showing top referrers, historical data, and more. You can use their shortening service without having an account, but then you’d be missing out on all that analytical goodness.

 

Social media tracking is important. This list is only to get you thinking about how your business uses social media and how you can begin to track all those tweets and blog mentions. It’s important to analyze the data once you’ve gotten it. If social media isn’t directly helping your bottom line, it may be time to re-think your strategy. Above all, use your analytics to better engage and interact with your audience.


Ashyia Hill is a social media advocate at the small business credit cards comparison website, CreditDonkey.  Do you have any social media analytics tools that have helped you grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

The Serendipitous Nature of Social Media

Twitter bird with glasses, top hat and magic wand

No matter how targeted your efforts might be, serendipity is sprinkled over the web like magic pixie dust

How did we connect with people around the globe before the creation of social media networks? Perhaps all the technological advances today have a lot to do with the struggling airline industry. People don’t have to hop a plane to meet business prospects or get deals done. The Internet has increased productivity and the speed at which we do business, decreasing overhead for all types of companies.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but back in 1997, my outlook on the Internet was, “Why would I need that?” How life changes! Now I can’t envision successfully operating my business without Facebook updates, tweets or a blog.

Could this be magic?

Social media is more than broadcasting business announcements in 140 characters or less, tracking your Friends’ movements moment by moment, or surfing YouTube for the best wedding day bloopers. With no geographical limitations, social media gives you the ability to connect with people whose virtual lives cross paths with yours, whether by design or something beyond your control.

No matter how targeted your efforts might be, serendipity is sprinkled over the web like magic pixie dust, creating the most unexpected, but often lucrative connections, by a common thread — the social network.  “…one of the most wonderful things about blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, or (fill in the blank)-ing is that unpredictable and unanticipated connections happen. Strategy meets serendipity.”  It’s exciting!

Summoning serendipity

Is there a way to orchestrate serendipity? After all, if it is supposed to be and unexpected surprise, how could you possibly control or manage it? You cannot force serendipity any more than you can sit around just hoping for good things to happen.  You have to be open and available to it by taking strategic, if perhaps indirect, action:

  • Avoid falling into ruts or complacency in your business. As the saying goes, you cannot continue to do the same things over and over, hoping for different outcomes. Meet new people, share innovative ideas, try new things and expand your horizons.
  • Stop, look and listen. It’s so easy to let the pace and noise of business drown out everything else that is going on around you. Take time to look up and outside your little corner of the world and see what’s happening, so you don’t miss something great.

Social media has removed barriers and vastly expanded the horizons of business owners who leverage its networking power. It will never be a replacement for face-to-face interaction, but it can open doors of opportunity that traditional networking doesn’t. “You can’t count on serendipity happening to you…” Serendipitous events occur for those who take charge of their future, while remaining open to the unexpected. So get out there and embrace the surprises that await you.

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Dr. Shannon Reece - DrShannonReece - Women's Business Advisor Dr. Shannon Reece is a Women’s Business Adviser – Training women entrepreneurs how to leverage their unique strengths to create successful and competitive businesses.


Learn more: www.DrShannonReece.com on FACEBOOK and on TWITTER

Dr. Shannon Reece has a wonderful business program for women designed to educate and reinvigorate women in business.  If you are a small business, a solopreneur or thinking about starting your own business, take a look at the Refresh-Her Challenge.




A real email conversation?

Feet with a tin can telephones tattooed on top

Have your written off a communication technology? I had forgotten that email could still be a valuable networking tool.

I like to guest blog. I like to participate in forums and boards that other people host.  I get to meet and talk to people that I would otherwise not encounter.  This just happened to me again the other day.  I am a part of Dr. Shannon Reece’s panel of women business experts who lend their advice, opinions and experience to her weekly questions blog. It is a great board. Our answers are different and intelligent, and very real. None of us write as though we are trying to advise people; we write from our own experiences and the ways in which we have integrated them.  From this week’s question I received an email from someone who gave me a better solution to my answer.

The question was:

What’s on Your Business Christmas Wish List?

My answer:

My wish list would be for an assistant who is a clone of me.  Many days I feel like I need two or three of myself in order to get things done. It is easy to get excited and commit to a project and not truly take into account the time commitment. So if I could clone myself, or find a reasonable facsimile, I could take on all the projects I want!
A man who read the post came to the website, filled out the contact form, and emailed me.  He said that what would actually be better would be someone with complimentary skills rather than a clone of me.  I wrote back and told him that I agree with him.  Ultimately having a compliment and a clone would be ideal because then I could busy myself with touring museums in Europe while my compli-clone did everything I could ever dream!

What was great about this interaction was that it began a conversation. He signed up for my newsletter , wrote to tell me that he had done so, and told me that he was not sure I would have applicable Twitter tips.  I started following his Twitter and then started talking to him about his Twitter account for his site (Fit Packing).

Our conversation is continuing, all over email.  As strange as it sounds it feels like email has become the lost medium. I rarely network over email anymore.  Most of my networking is done through Facebook and Twitter…mostly through Twitter. It is nice to be reminded that email remains a very valuable tool and should not be written off.

Making a list, checking it twice…

Santa checking his list

Adding people to a list can help you grow your network and improve your engagement. Are you using lists to help your Twitter presence?

Lists are an important tool in Twitter. They can help you keep an eye on the people you really want to pay attention to. They can help you organize your tweeps into content-related groupings, like “Funny Tweeps” or “Real Estate Tweeps”.  You can also use lists as a way to grow your network and your sales.

A great tool was recommended to me by one of my tweeps.

The interface is easy to use and the lists are easy to manage. Once you create them they are synced with your Twitter account, which means that they will also sync with applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

Formulists.com

This is a tool that links to your Twitter account and creates lists for you.

It has suggestions for the types of lists you can have or you can create your own custom list.

What makes this so useful is that it aggregates the list for you based on selected criteria and updates the list daily.

Suggested Lists

These are the lists that Formulists.com suggests for you.  They are a good starting point and give you some great building blocks.

  • Filter your following
    This allows you to add filters like location, tweet frequency or keyword. So you can limit a given list of people you follow to filter only those who talk about their cats.
  • Track your Interactions
    This is a great one for keeping track of your engagement levels. You can create a list of people you talk to, people you retweet and people who retweet you. Set yourself a goal for growing your engagement lists.
  • Manage your followers
    Who is following you? Who is not following you back?  Here you can see what is going on with your follows and followers. If you see a lot of fluctuation in your Twitter numbers this can be a good tool to help get to the bottom of why people are unfollowing you.
  • Expand your interactions
    This is my favorite tool for growing your network.  You can create a list to find people who are like you, based on Twitter suggestions. You can set it to find people who are like someone you follow, so you can find an influencer and then easily find more people like them. You can follow the people your friends are talking to, or people who are mutual friends.  This makes it very easy to target your networking to people who are likely to be interested in you.

Set yourself a goal to increase the size of your engagement base list every day and watch your Twitter network grow!

Make sure to sign up for the newsletter and get more social media tips!

10 reasons why I won’t follow you

A drawing of a sheep with a caption that says, don't follow me I haven't got a clueYesterday I talked about who I follow on Twitter. But a more important question might be, who don’t I follow?  Why wouldn’t I follow you?

Once a week I look at my new followers. This is when I make my decision about whether or not I am going to follow them.

10 Reasons I won’t follow back:

  1. Your account is obviously Spam
    If you follow hundreds, or thousands of people and only have 2 tweets.  Yeah…spam.
  2. Zero engagement
    If all your tweets are about spreadng your message and there are no interactions with other people, then I am not interested in following you.
  3. Inappropriate content
    If your content is not suitable for my network.
  4. All you do is sell
    Even if you engage with people, but all you try to do is sell, that tells me you are not here for the relationships.
  5. Your tweets are abrasive
    If your tweets are aggressive or generally rude….not following
  6. Not interesting
    If your profile is not in my field and is not a topic that interests me, or if your tweets are really boring. I have followed many people who do not tweet about topics I am interested in, but because their tweets are engaging or funny, I will follow.
  7. You generally make no sense
    If your tweets don’t make sense, i.e. the sentence structure is really badly worded, for example: you dun not cuz we R friends. No, we’re not.
  8. I don’t speak your language
    If I don’t speak your language I am not going to follow you.  In case you are wondering, there are three languages I will follow. 🙂
  9. Advertisements
    I don’t like it when people advertise on their Twitter. If I see that you do a lot of paid tweets, I won’t follow you.
  10. Bad Bio
    If your bio is bad, off-putting or not engaging this can be a deciding factor.

New Facebook Profile brings YOU to the forefront

Lauren MacEwens' Facebook Profile Screenshot

Facebook is bringing YOU to the forefront. The new profile layout is already being criticized, of course, but like every Facebook change we will all adjust and then wonder why we ever liked it the other way.

The most noticeable shift is that your tagged pictures are right at the top of your profile.  This makes it easy for your friends to see the newest pictures of you.

Directly above that is your info, which was previously on the info tab. Now where you work, your school, where you live, where you are from, your birthday and your relationship listing is right at the very top of your profile like an elevator pitch summary of who you are.

Don’t worry, your privacy settings have not been affected. Whatever they were before, they are now.

The nav bar on the left is easier and more straightforward. It is simply Wall, Info, Photos, Notes and Friends.  This nav bar is replacing the tabs.

Oh yeah…no tabs!  I personally think eliminating them is a good idea.  Many people do not like them, and more often than not they get ignored.  Unless a photo or a piece of information is on your wall, people won’t click the tab and therefore don’t see it.

The Wall

The wall hasn’t changed much.  The status update interface is a little different. It is not as obvious as it was before, but it is actually a cleaner interface.

Info

The info tab is much more graphically oriented.  Every piece of information has a picture or a placeholder photo.

Your contact information is still on the very bottom.  Unfortunately, if you are trying to drive traffic to your website from your info area, that has not been made any easier. FB did not give prominent placement to web addresses.

Photos

I like the change in this interface. It is cleaner and seems to load faster.  Your albums are prominently featured on top and then photos of you are like an endless sea flowing beneath the albums.

One thing I don’t like is that it is not immediately clear about how to add new photos. But once I oriented myself to the new layout I saw the “upload photos” button in the upper right corner.

Friends

Friends never had an info tab.  I have spoken with many people who did not know how to find their friends, unless it was from the news feed.  The addition of a friends category on the nav bar is a big improvement.

Another change is that your friends no longer come up in a pop-up window, now they are listed on the page with a prominent search box at the top. This makes finding friends much easier and seemingly more accessible.

No more boxes!

All those little boxes that ran down the left side bar of your profile are gone!  FB has been threatening to remove them for a long time and has been phasing them out for quite a while.  But in this new profile they are gone.  The side bar is now reserved for your nav bar and a listing of your friends and family.

I actually prefer this to the boxes.  They always seemed clumsy to me.  Now your nav bar is easy to find; if you have a relationship listed, your status and their profile link and thumbnail are prominent, and then your friends and family stream down in a big column.  It is as though the sidebar has changed its focus to your relationships.

Here is the promo video from Facebook.

If you don’t have the new Facebook profile yet, you can get it by going to www.facebook.com/about/profile/

What do you think about the new profile layout?

The Evolution of Engagement

Today I received a comment on a post I wrote about MySpacefrom a guy named Spencer Kline.  I appreciated his positive feedback and responded to his comment.  I then noticed that he started following me on Twitter.  Since I had just interacted with him, I recognized who he was. I followed him back and tweeted about his comment.

Later that day I got a trackback to my post about MySpace.  An interesting post was referenced that linked to me. The post was called MySpace’s Future.

Since they were nice enough to link me in their post, I thought I would comment on it. So I did.  Though this was a new blog for me, I did not spend the time to explore it just then.  I didn’t even look at the URL. Blame it on being sick, being busy with projects, being lazy, who knows.

A little while later I got an email that someone responded to my comment.  Lo and behold it was Spencer Kline.  So I realized that he was likely the author of the blog.  I hopped back over to the site and dug in a little deeper.  Not only is he the author, it is his blog! Which if I had bothered to look at the URL I would have immediately realized, www.spencerkline.com. But, lazy, sick, busy..blah blah.

Once I FINALLY made the connection, it was a wonderful AHA moment.  What a wonderful circle of connection. He read my post. Commented. I commented back. He followed me. I followed him. He linked me. I commented. He commented back. I link him!

All of this happened within the span of a few hours. It is perfect!

Is your community page stealing your network?

sillouette of two men having lunch

As I am sure many of you have noticed, Facebook has community pages. These are pages that have been created because the Facebook bot has noticed that your page, website or company name has been mentioned repeatedly in people’s posts. When I first discovered the community page for SM Cubed, I was pretty excited. I felt like it was a nod from Facebook. Since then I have changed my mind. Now it often seems like a community page is stealing the network from your actual fan page.

Think of Facebook’s community page for your business as a duplicate page.  Now when someone searches for you, they will see your page and another page. Your page may have your logo, but so might the other one. The other one will also have “company” written underneath it as a subheading that seemingly gives it authority.  The problem is that it is not the page created by you, it is the page created by Facebook.

Sometimes this will cause enough confusion that people interested in fanning your page will actually fan the community page.  This means that your custom landing page and communications are not being seen by any of the people who “liked” the other page instead.

JCPenny Community Page in Facebook search

The social path gives some great examples of community pages and search suggestions with auto-populating causing huge confusion. They focus on  JC Penney, which also has some variations if the spelling. If you look at the above image, note that none of these suggested pages are the real JCPenney Fan Page.

Some primary pages aren’t even showing up in searches, only the community page. This means that when people search for your page they may only be presented with the option of going to the community page.  If this is happening to your page you can remedy this situation by making sure you have claimed the vanity URL for your page and that you have done some SEO to help your Facebook search results.

The best thing to do is to claim your community page.  This is a process that will allow you to establish yourself as the “owner” of the page and it will be merged with your Facebook fan page. This puts the control back in your hands.

Do you have a community page? If so, what have you done about it?