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Big Changes to 5 Important Online Tools

Some of my favorite tools and services have gone through some pretty big changes recently – enough so that felt it warranted a post just to point the changes out.

The first three, Gmail, Evernote and TweetDeck, are tools I use every day to run my business. The last two, Yelp and Foursquare, are familiar rating and location tools that have morphed a bit to go after the lucrative local search market and deserve a good hard look from local small businesses.

1) User interface changes for Gmail – This is a pretty big change as far as I’m concerned and addresses a number of needed enhancements for handling mail. You can switch back and forth from the new view to the old by clicking on the new view link in the compose window.

  • Composing Messages: One thing you may notice about the new interface is the way you compose a new message. It looks similar to a Gmail chat window but a little bigger. This makes things simpler by allowing you to check old emails and saved drafts because you don’t have to leave the current page you are on to write a new email.
  • Profile Pictures: It is now much easier to keep up with who is saying what within your email threads. Your contact profile pictures now show up within a conversation.
  • Themes: New HD themes are now provided by iStockphoto. Simply choose the theme that suits you in preferences.
  • Labels and Chat: These are constantly shown in the navigation panel on the left side. You can now customize that by size as well as completely hide your chat area.
  • Search Box: Gmail’s new interface has incorporated a better search function allowing a drop-down advanced search box, which makes things much easier to locate.
  • More here

2) Evernote 5 brings new look – probably the biggest news here is the totally overhauled and more visually appealing look of Evernote.

  • Sidebar: The new Evernote 5 has implemented a left hand sidebar. With this sidebar comes a section for shortcuts that enable you to use a customized variety of notes, previous searches, tags and notebooks. Along with this you have the ability to view your tags, notebooks and latest notes.
  • Notebooks: With the new changes you can now integrate your notebooks with shared notebooks that other people have allowed you to access.
  • Note Editor: You will be able to see how many people have access to the same note you are viewing. You will see that at the very top of the note. There is also a function to shared notes updates, as they are integrated with Mountain Lion’s Notification Center. This is helpful so it won’t overwhelm you as they come in.
  • Atlas Function: Simple way to view and access your notes is using this function. It allows people to search for entries geographically.
  • Card View: This will show you text notes and images in a thumbnail preview.
  • Type-Ahead: This is a search field that finishes your inquiry with ideas from previous entries, to include saved searches, keywords, and related notebooks. You are also able to improve your searches in more detail with advanced options.
  • More here

TweetDeck

3) Tweetdeck get a long overdo facelift – Now that Twitter owns TweetDeck it has finally ushered in some enhancements.

  • Twitter Cards: You can now embed a photo or other media into a tweet with the 2.1.0 version. This makes your twitter stream appealing and attractive.
  • Font: From your settings pane, you can now change your font size. There are only three options: 13 pt.-Small, 14 pt.-Medium or 15 pt.-Large.
  • Color Scheme: You now have a choice to change your colors to the white background which has dark gray text. The links, URLs, hash tags and twitter addresses are blue, making them much easier to see.
  • Columns: You are able to add a new column and check your twitter lists from the Tweetdeck toolbar. You can decide what you would like to incorporate into your columns, like a specific tweet stream from a particular group or person, or from one of your lists, or from a search. When adding a new column Tweetdeck will come up with suggestions for that particular subject, interactions, mentions and timeline.
  • Shortcuts: The toolbar has many shortcuts to make things easier and simpler. For example, it has buttons that control the columns that will enable you to move through it seamlessly. You can also conduct a Twitter search and start a new tweet. When creating a new tweet you can add pictures and schedule that tweet for when you would like for it to go out or you can email that specific tweet. If you press ‘N’ on your keyboard you can instantly create a tweet. To send it, simply press “command” and “return” at the same time.
  • More here

4) Foursquare Business Pages

The new business pages feature allows business owners to provide status updates, post deals, special promotions, photos, message and tips to the activity feeds of loyal or repeat customers who may be in the same vicinity. It automatically updates for those customers who are where the business is located.

Additionally, when a customer searches for places in the Foursquare app or through the web, these important updates will show up in search results.

The merchant dashboard has been redesigned to where merchants can manage updates more efficiently. This also allows SEO services, social media marketers and business owners to see data on businesses with numerous locations with improved analytics.

More here

yelp

5) Yelp keeps enhancing its Local Directory

In 2012 Yelp and Bing partnered to bring Yelp’s local business content to the local search pages of Bing. With this partnership, Yelp is able to bring its photos, business qualities and reviews to Bing’s search engine with hopes of strengthening Microsoft’s attempts to be competitive with Google+ Local.

Yelp listings are used in Apple’s Siri iPhone assistant, Yext listings and in the navigation systems in BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

Local small businesses have plenty of reasons to get more active with Yelp and other location based tools. Facebook recently revamped it’s “nearby” feature that allows people to discover businesses based on location.

More here

One thing is certain – we live in a rapidly changing world of business and technology that calls for staying on top of a never-ending stream of new and emerging tools. But, hey, that’s what I’m here for!

10 Apps I Use Every Single Day

Transmit app

More and more, we’re becoming an app happy world – Apps that run on our laptops, apps for the mobile and apps for the iPad or tablet. Even better are those apps that sync across all of our chosen devices, keeping us on task and on track in an increasingly online world.

Below are ten applications that I use on a daily basis to get more done, manage more information, communicate more ideas and generally keep the plates spinning.

TweetDeck – This is my primary social media dashboard. It’s a desktop application that runs on Adobe Air and while there are lots of alternative choices, I’ve just always stuck with TweetDeck. I do however use the Twitter app for the iPhone too.

I have groups, lists and searches set up at all times and use the scheduled Tweets feature to meter out content I want to share throughout the day.

Evernote – This is my brainstorming, idea clipping, bookmark storing powerhouse. Evernote syncs beautifully across all devices and allows me to outline my life in so many ways without having to commit anything to memory.

I’ve stored everything from ideas for my books to wines I want to remember. Here’s my Evernote routine in case your interested.

Dropbox – This is my online backup and file storage tool of choice. I probably overuse this tool, leaning on it as a file server for my team as well as a backup for important files, but it just works so well.

I also use it to share large files and grant conference attendees access to my PowerPoint presentations.

You can see my Dropbox routine here.

Reeder – This is an app that turns my chosen RSS reader, Google Reader, into something much more functional and much more attractive.

I do most of my blog reading on my iPhone or iPad and the Reeder app gives me a ton of functionality. I can easily share a post on Twitter, clip to Evernote and bookmark to delicious right from the post in Reeder. Great time saver.

Dragon Dictation – This iPhone app (at least that’s the only version I use) allows me to speak a memo and have it converted to text. I’ve not really tested this out, but I think I could compose a blog post using this tool.

The app then allows me to email the text or manage it in various other ways. I use this tool whenever I get a flash of brilliance while driving or think of something when trying go to sleep and want to capture the idea right away.

HelloFax – Actually this is billed as a fax machine replacement, but I don’t really use that function. What HelloFax allows me to do is receive a document, like a contract, agreement, vendor form or non disclosure (I get lots of these.) that need edits and my signature.

Instead of editing, printing, signing, scanning and emailing back I simply download the document, upload it to HelloFax, make my edits, drop in my stored signature and email it back.

And 4 just for the Mac

text expander

Text Expander – There are dozens of snippets of text that I need to use frequently. Text Expander allows me to write chunks of copy once and then paste those chunks whenever I need to with a couple keystrokes.

I have entire emails that I send in response to certain requests, email signatures, blog sponsorship messages, and even HTML code snippets that I use frequently committed to short, time saving keystrokes that are easy to recall.

Pixelmator – This is my replacement to Photoshop. Now, I’m not a graphic designer, so I don’t have major league design challenges, but I’ve used Photoshop for years and for $29 this tool does everything I need it to do and is much easier to use than Photoshop.

I’m sure Adobe would challenge this statement, but this tool is at least on par feature wise with the $99 Photoshop Elements.

Adium – I use Adium for all things related to IM – this Mac only client allows me to converse with folks via instant message regardless of the IM platform they use – Facebook, GTalk, or AIM. .

Transmit – This is my file transfer tool. It’s lightening fast and allows me to upload and manage files via FTP to my web sites. I also use it to access my Amazon S3 file storage as I use Amazon’s cheap hosting and streaming for my videos and other larger downloads that I make available on my sites.

I also use Transmit to move files around on my laptop. Instead of using two instances of the Finder on my Mac, I use a split window in Transmit that allows me to drag and drop files more easily.

3 Ways to Use Twitter to More Deeply Engage Influential Prospects

Amidst all the talk of Google+ and the new, new Facebook, Twitter has a lost a bit of its glow.

_DaniloRamos via Flickr

But, it’s still a very powerful and useful tool for marketers and in some cases the communications vehicle of choice for your best prospects and customers.

Today I want to talk about a couple of ways you can use your Twitter routine to more deeply engage customers and prospects.

If they are active Twitter users, then the following tips may help you gain insight about them and give you some ideas on how to create the kind of value for them that builds trust and opens doors.

Just to be clear, however, these are not meant to be used to manipulate or create a fake show of interest, these are just practical ways to get the most out of your Twitter use while also focusing on targeted users and creating good content for your followers.

Scan the favorites

Once you’ve identified prospects and customers on Twitter there is a tool that might help you learn a little more about what’s really important to them rather then just monitoring their entire stream. You should have customers and prospects in Twitter lists so you can easily monitor their activity in a tool like TweetDeck, but you’ll also want to scan their favorites.

This tip isn’t 100% foolproof, but many times people will mark favorite tweets because they represent the things they really like and care about. It might be their own tweets about their most important topics or those of their most influential friends – either way it can be great information.

You can find a list of favorites by adding the word favorites after a username – my friend Jason Falls is going to be in Kansas City this week to promote his new book, No Bullshit Social Media, so I’ll use him as an example. You’ll find Jason’s favorites here – http://twitter.com/JasonFalls/favorites

Retweet the best of the best

Another way to provide great content for your followers and also show up in the streams of those you want to get to know better is to Retweet their tweets. I know, duh, but here’s where I add a tip that makes this something more strategic. Don’t simply RT everything they write, it’s not very effective and won’t do a thing for your followers.

Go to Topsy and find the best Tweets from your customers and targeted prospects and RT those. Depending upon who you’re targeting, their best tweets are likely ones that have been RT’d by lots of other folks already.

You can find this on Topsy with the search query – from:twitterusername. So you could find my most popular tweets with this search – http://topsy.com/s?q=from:ducttape (You can also create email alerts for your searches.)

Filter targeted search

I’ve always touted the use of custom filtering and aggregating of content as a great way to add value to the world and, more specifically, customers and prospects. The idea here is that you set up all kinds of searches that automatically feed you information that could be useful to a prospect or even to your own education about a prospect’s world and then package that information in a way that’s useful to your prospect.

RSS technology is a great aid here so you can easily subscribe to or show your prospects how to subscribe to these custom searches. Unfortunately, Twitter decided to make it a little harder for just anyone to subscribe to searches via RSS. (Many services seem to be moving away from RSS in favor of their own custom APIs – so perhaps the Twitter Dev page is a place to start some advanced education.)

In the meantime, I’ve found a query that still produces an RSS feed for custom Twitter searches (no guarantees on how long this will work.) If you want to create an RSS feed, so you can subscribe to the updates via Google Reader for example, for the search phrase “small business marketing” you would create it like this – http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=”small business marketing”+filter:links – the key here is to add search.rss to the URL and then standard query stuff – ?q= – and then your search phrase. I also added +filter:links so that I would only get tweets that contained links to web pages.

Try this yourself and you’ll find that you can create RSS feeds for Twitter searches. Get creative and create some searches that you know will contain great content that your prospects would love and then start sharing bits with them. They’ll thank you for it.

Social Media Management Tips

Today’s post really started as an answer to a reader’s question – “Is there a way to schedule status updates to my Facebook Pages?”

As we branch out and accept that fact that the many outposts we create in social networks require content, participation and engagement in order to grow, the task of managing just gets harder and harder.

While creating systems and processes for listening and participating in ways that are inline with the objectives of your business are helpful, employing a social media management tool effectively is the grease that turns the wheel.

A scheduled Facebook Page Status Update using TweetDeck

So, to answer the question from my reader – yes it’s possible to schedule status updates to Facebook Pages using a tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite. In TweetDeck, you simply add your Facebook account and then add the Pages you wish to contribute to. (You can also add Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google Buzz and MySpace) Once you add the accounts, you choose the account you wish to manage and post a status update. If you wish to schedule several to post in the future, you choose the schedule updates feature and assign times.

Of course these tools also allow you to monitor and post to multiple accounts for each network and manage mentions, searches and groups of individuals and brands that are important to your engagement process. As with many 3rd party tools there can be some limitations. For instance, when you post this way to Facebook you don’t get the option to add an image – something that makes updates far more engaging.

This sort of multi-platform management from inside one tool is essential if you’re going to keep up with and nurture your outposts without going any further insane.

Short Link Branding Bliss for All

Link shortening, the act of turning a long URL into something more like 10-13 characters, has become an important online activity. So much so that tools have cropped up just to provide this service.

link shorten with bit.ly pro

Image caitra via flickr

For example the URL for this specific post is http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2011/01/10/link-shortening-for-branding/, but a shortened version that would direct people to the post could be this http://ducttape.me/shorter1

Tools such as bit.ly, ow.ly and even Google’s goo.gl convert links to tidy a version, and perhaps equally as important, provide link analytics that can teach you a great deal about the traffic to clicking of a certain link.

Sharing links to content, both your own and that which you find useful, has become a very important tactic and Twitter’s 140 character limit certainly made shorter links necessary.

As this tactic of aggregating, filtering and curating content grows, brands have started to look for ways to provide shortened links as a standard branding practice. You’ll find links throughout social media to Pepsi as pep.si and C-Span as cs.pn. Amazon links on Twitter automatically shorten to an amzn.to link.

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My Favorite Tools and Processes to Automate the Routine

Technology can be a great thing when it comes to getting more done. It can also be a way to wall yourself off from real engagement with human beings, but that’s a post for another day.

jottToday I would like to share a handful of tools and the actual processes I employ to get more done with these tools. I think it’s important to set-up routines that allow you to free up time to do the big things, the things that really make you money in the long term, so I don’t use technology so much because I love it, I use it because it allows me to spend more time engaging humans – and that’s where the real money lies.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive review of each of these tools, in many cases I many use one simple function, but that’s the trick sometimes, sifting through the hype about a tool and finding how to make it work for you.

  • Evernote
  • This handy little note taking application works for me because it syncs across offline, online and mobile devices. I am a list maker in the Getting Things Done style and this is my daily to-do as well as my idea pad.

  • Jott
  • Jott allows you to use voice messages to create actions. I call Jott and add appointments to Google Calendar. I call Jott to send an email to my staff or entire network of Duct Tape Coaches while driving down the road. I call Jott anytime I think of something I want to file and remember.

  • Delicious Firefox plugin
  • I’ve used the Delicious bookmarking tool since its inception, but my favorite way to use it is to post content to web pages. When I find a mention of Duct Tape Marketing in the news I right click and add to delicious with the Firefox plugin and use a special tag that produces and RSS feed. I’ve added that feed to a web page and viola! content added through surfing.

  • Central Desktop
  • This is a large and comprehensive tool that I use for my intranet and project management. My favorite process though is that I can email a task to a staff member and Central Desktop adds it to a task list for that person.

  • TripIt
  • TripIt is an online travel itinerary tool. I travel a fair amount and all I have to do is forward air, hotel, and car confirmations to TripIt and the tool builds an itinerary, including maps, local weather and events, and adds them to the mobile app so I can view at a glance. It also pushes out flight alerts for delays and gate changes.

  • Google Alerts
  • Google will send email or RSS alerts for any search term I want to save. I’ve set up a dozen or so terms that track and this tool brings them to my inbox as they happen. This is how I track brand mentions, for example, to use with Delicious plugin.

  • TextExpander
  • This application allows me to create unlimited text, emails, code snippets, etc, and paste them into any application with a few designated key strokes. I have dozens of email responses that are thoughtfully crafted, but used over and over again for questions and requests that come my way often. I have chunks of HTML code that I use over and over again and evoke with five keystrokes.

  • MyBlogLog
  • This is, among other things, a tool that allows me to track traffic to my blog in real time. What I love about it is I can know instantly when someone has linked to my blog and go jump in the conversation, adapt content accordingly and analyze where traffic comes from minute by minute. This may seem obsessive, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve joined a meaningful conversation because I knew about it in real time.

  • TweetDeck
  • This is my Twitter management tool of choice. I use this easily monitor mentions, search terms, hashtags, DMs and lists. Twitter isn’t very useful unless you can do this at a glance. The tool also has all the tools I use to engage in conversations and manage my account. Facebook and LinkedIn status updates are built in as well.

What automation processes and tools have you employed to be more efficient throughout your day?

TweetDeck Adds Lists and LinkedIn

The popular 3rd Party Twitter desktop client TweetDeck finally caught up with the recent Twitter add-ons with a significant update and I think they got it right.

As all these new features get added it’s easy to imagine the simple interface getting more cluttered but they’ve done a nice job of actually simplifying the interface while adding more to it.

A few new features include:

  • LinkedIn Status updates column
  • Lots of ways to add and filter Twitter Lists
  • Support for the new geolocation tweets
  • retweet via twitter or traditional style
  • More profile data on those you follow

One minor techie concern is that the lists you follow auto update and depending on how active those list are you may run into some API call limits.

The follow video from Tweetdeck covers the new features well.

Seesmic Desktop for Twitter Management

If you’re even a semi frequent twitter user, you’ve probably heard or maybe even use a 3rd party desktop application to manage your twitter account – I mean, going to twitter.com to tweet is so very last month.

I’ve been using tweetdeck so far because it allows you to create groups and searches as columns and then effectively respond to twitter from a dashboard on your laptop. I can’t really imagine using twitter any other way now. tweetdeck, however causes some folks some heartburn because it seems to be a bit of a resource hog.

This week I started to play with another desktop entry called Seesmic Desktop and I have to tell you there are some features I think I’m going to like.

seesmic desktop

Click to enlarge image

Here are some of the features that I think make it stand out.

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