My Favourite Tools & Apps in 2014 [Podcast]

My Favourite Tools & Apps in 2014 [Podcast]

I took part in a Podcast with one of my clients last week, it had been in the pipeline for a while, so really pleased that we managed to get it done before the New Year. It’s all about the tools and apps we’ve been using in 2014. As you know from my blog, I love testing out new tools so this podcast was right up my street. I got to talk about my top 3 apps/tools/resources I’d been using for the last year, some golden oldies and a new resource I hope you’ll all check out.

You can listen to the Podcast here: Our Favourite Apps and Tools of 2014 – Podcast – it’s just less than 20 minutes long, so a great thing to do while having your morning coffee!

 

Which Social Network Is Right for You and Your Business?

Which Social Network Is Right for You and Your Business?

December’s here and that means you should be focussing on one thing: your social media strategy for 2015, of course! Okay, so there’s the small matter of Christmas to get out of the way first, but that shouldn’t stop you from thinking about where your social media marketing efforts are going to be focussed next year.

But with so many social media platforms available, how can you be sure which one is right for your business?

Facebook is the largest, Twitter is the timeliest and Google+ (whether you believe it or not) is thought to have an impact on search rankings. Then there’s Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Tumblr to consider. And you should really consider them; especially, for example, as Tumblr has just been revealed as the fastest-growing social platform at present.

So with all that in mind, and to prevent you wasting your time on platforms that perhaps aren’t the right fit for your business, we’ve broken them down to help you decide which ones you’ll leverage.

Facebook

It may no longer be the fastest-growing social network but it’s still the biggest (by quite a margin). Therefore, Facebook should definitely still be a part of your marketing mix in 2015.

Facebook is great for engaging with your audience and building a community presence, but you need to ensure that you offer real value in your posts. A mistake that some businesses make is to use Facebook as a one-way advertising platform – something that will see your page ‘unliked’ in a heartbeat.

Twitter

Despite its simplicity, people still love Twitter. There’s something alluring, almost exciting, about expressing yourself in 140-characters or less.

Similar to Facebook, Twitter affords the best results when it’s utilised for two-way communications. If you want people to retweet your updates, comment on them and actively follow you then you need to engage them and reciprocate.

Twitter works best when you post timely updates that contain topic-based news and/or up to the minute insights.

Google+

Can you afford not to use a social network that’s associated with the world’s largest search engine? After all, if the other social networks have the ability to impact search engine rankings then Google+ must surely be the king.

Furthermore, the fact that Google also own Youtube means that integration between the two is absolutely seamless. So if your business lends itself nicely to video-based content, Google+ could be the social network you’ve been looking for.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is probably the most business-focussed of all the social networks we’ll talk about and the fact that your contacts are referred to as ‘connections’ shows the importance it places on professional networking.

Perhaps best suited for B2B, LinkedIn provides a great platform on which you can discuss and share industry insights. Don’t, however, expect to see amusing cat videos though as LinkedIn is all about peer networking and industry insights.

Defining your message for your LinkedIn audience will be the key to your success and brazen self-promotion won’t go down as well as posts that provide real value.

The Best of the Rest

Tumblr, as we’ve already mentioned, is growing fast and tends to attract a much younger audience than most other social networks. Bear this in mind if you’re thinking of using it and ensure your posts appeal to the demographics that you’re targeting.

Pinterest and Instagram are almost completely visual networks and so if your business expresses itself effectively through images, these two could be for you. Pinterest is also very popular among women, so if they’re your target market, you could be missing a trick by not having a Pinterest presence. Instagram, on the other hand, tends to appeal more to urbanites who like to share their daily experiences through photos.

Final Thoughts

The key to social media marketing is achieving the perfect campaign mix. That means the perfect mix of networks, posts and audiences. Adapt your style according to the platform and the people you’re trying to reach.

Also, remember that the best results will be realised from genuine two-way interactions. Therefore, if you’re looking to capitalise, be prepared to engage with your audience and provide them with genuinely valuable updates.

Welcome to the World of Spokal

Last week, I gave you an insight into my top 5 productivity tools. Whittling that list down to the final 5 was actually quite difficult and I’ll tell you why… When I started planning the post, I soon realised just how many tools and applications I use on a day-to-day basis!

In fact, it could have quite easily been “My Top 10” or “My Top 15” but I felt that that would detract somewhat from the overall impact and meaning of the list. That said, there was one other application that nearly made the list but didn’t – and there’s a reason for that.

You see, when I was composing the other post, I was in two minds about whether to include Spokal or not. In the end I chose not to, but promised myself that I would write a separate post on it.

Spokal – for those of you who haven’t tried it – is quite simply, brilliant! Basically, if you want a fast and easy way to create highly effective inbound marketing campaigns then Spokal is for you.

It works in unison with your existing WordPress website/blog and a host of other applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ Facebook and Mailchimp. From my point of view as a virtual assistant, the best thing about Spokal is that incorporates so much functionality into a single tool, which saves a huge amount of time and immensely boosts productivity.

Spokal has many features and I can’t begin to go into them all. Therefore, I’ll outline the three that I find the most useful – which was difficult to determine as every aspect provides real value.

Content Creation

You’ll no doubt understand the importance of great content as part of an inbound marketing strategy and Spokal makes creating it not just easier but also more fun. That’s because Spokal features a content editor that is predominantly drag & drop.

Therefore, you can create exceptional pieces of content in just a few clicks using your imagination. Spokal even serves up a variety of Creative Commons images, from sources like Flickr, which you can use royalty-free and the relevant photo attributions are automatically created.

Also, the real-time SEO advice is great for anyone who is looking to really optimise their content for the search engines – aren’t we all!? It provides an SEO overview for your post as you create it and offers tips on how to improve your post’s SEO score.

The Twitter integration is really powerful and allows you to literally drag relevant tweets right into your content to add extra depth. Spokal will display a list of relevant tweets and you can choose the ones you want to include.

Social Media Sharing

With your high-quality and engaging content created, Spokal then enables you to schedule it in a highly efficient way. Basically, Spokal will automatically share your content based on a custom schedule that you define.

Again, the social media calendar is drag & drop, which makes the whole process much quicker. You can start building a comprehensive schedule in a short period of time. Once configured, Spokal will take care of the rest and you can concentrate on doing what you do best: running your business.

Furthermore, the Feedly integration allows you to curate content from other people in the same calendar, thus saving you a lot of time.

Twitter Builder

We all know that social media is no longer an optional extra to boost marketing. In fact, it now represents a significant part of our marketing arsenals and, when used correctly, can drive traffic, create more business and allow us to really engage our customers and potential customers.

Spokal’s Twitter builder is perfect for those of you who want to tackle the social network but aren’t sure where to start. It’s designed to get you leads and traffic more quickly than you would alone.

It’s designed to help grow your Twitter following on autopilot with genuine followers who have an interest in what you have to say. This allows you to forge new relationships and steadily engage more people to boost your brand’s reputation, ultimately driving more sales.

I’d love to hear if any of you have tried Spokal – or any similar tools for that matter – and if so what your experience has been.

Photo credits: Spokal

My Top 5 Productivity Tools Revealed

In my role as a virtual assistant, I’m constantly looking for ways to boost productivity – both for myself and for my clients. And while productivity is hugely influenced by psychological factors, such as mindset, mood and motivation to name but a few, there is also a plethora of tools available to help us be the most productive versions of ourselves.

But using tools to boost productivity isn’t new and it’s certainly not revolutionary. After all, we’ve been using tools to make our lives easier and increase our efficiency since the Stone Age. Therefore, it stands to reason that the ubiquity of the internet would lead to the development of countless productivity tools.

On a day-to-day basis I use loads of different tools and applications to help me with my work. Everything from Skype for communicating with clients to Evernote for capturing all of my thoughts and sharing ideas. However, whilst these two applications are extremely useful, they didn’t make my top 5 productivity-boosting tools list.

Let’s see what did…

Asana

Without Asana, my days would be an absolute nightmare. Sure there are numerous other applications out there that help manage workloads, but I’ve found Asana to be the best. Their slogan says it all, “Teamwork without email” and that’s exactly my experience with it.

I use Asana for keeping track of every piece of work that I do for my clients. Every outstanding task is created and a due date entered. The way everything is managed is just perfect as the tasks are all grouped by client and you can see a general overview of your schedule with the calendar feature.

I’m able to create separate workspaces for everyone I collaborate with, like my writers, virtual assistants, eBook formatters and graphic designers. Asana even gives me the ability to chat with them and see real-time task updates.

Get Started in Asana from Asana on Vimeo.

Dropbox

I honestly can’t imagine what my working life would be like nowadays without Dropbox. I use it for absolutely everything in terms of file management and sharing. And the fact that it synchronises silently in the background means I am never stuck without my files wherever I am.

The beauty of Dropbox is that it not only provides a cloud storage solution for everyday people like you and I but it also allows files to be shared effortlessly. For example, if I have a new brief for one of my writers I simply drop it into the relevant Dropbox folder on my computer and it takes care of the rest. The files are sync’d in the background and ultimately end up on my writer’s computer.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is my one stop shop for everything social media related and my life would be a whole lot more complicated without it.

Basically, Hootsuite allows you to manage all your Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn (and many more) activity in one centralised interface. Perhaps its most useful feature is the ability to schedule messages and updates. You can rack up a significant amount of updates and let Hootsuite do the rest.

Moreover, there are analytical tools to let you see which of your campaigns are working and there’s even a clock that tells you how much time you’re saving by using Hootsuite – priceless!

Feedly

Find yourself regularly checking the major social networks for updates that are relevant to you and your clients? Most of us do but a lot of time can be wasted trawling through page after page of irrelevant content.

Feedly, however, allows me to check all of my regular sources of news in one centralised application. I can configure all of the sources I want to glean information from in one place and peruse a simplified version of all of them.

If any of you are still waking up each morning and checking a variety of online sources for updates then you are wasting both time and energy. Simply add your favourite news sources to Feedly and let it do the rest – you’ll be glad you did!

If This Then That

Okay, so the name sounds bizarre and the URL even stranger but If This Then That is one of my biggest time savers.

It’s difficult to explain but anyone who’s familiar using it will understand the benefits and the name really does say it all: If This Then That.

The basic premise is that you can configure IFTTT to handle numerous scenarios for you automatically and trigger certain actions. For example, your social media channels, like Facebook and LinkedIn, can have triggers associated to them. When something happens on one of these channels that satisfies your configured trigger criteria something else happens.

It all sounds very confusing, but once you get used to it you will realise its true value. For example, you can configure IFTTT to automatically create a status message on Facebook every time you are tagged in someone else’s status.

That’s a very simple example but the possibilities are almost endless. Check it out for yourself to see its full potential.

So that’s my top 5 tools for boosting productivity. I’d love to hear if you’ve got any others that you use and the reasons why you use them.

Social Media Suggestions

Sometimes it only takes a few updates per day to keep your name/brand/company in the minds of your followers/fans.  You only need put aside a little time each day, or even every other day to keep the interaction going with your potential clients/customers.  I promise you it will be worth it!

Here are some suggestions about what sort of updates you could post on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn:

  • Quotes related to your field of work – you can easily Google these and keep a list of them handy to copy and paste into an update
  • Questions – people love to answer questions
  • Interesting articles aimed at your customers – e.g. authors could aim their articles at readers in their genre
  • Tips – a useful way of giving out some free advice as little tit bits, making people want more advice from you
  • Photo’s and/or videos – these will get people interacting with you – they don’t need to be overly related to your field but it will help if they are
  • Links – Links to blogs, video’s, articles, and interesting websites – make sure you have checked out the links yourself first to make sure they are suitable before you post them on your profiles for others

Things you need to remember about social media:

Interaction

  • The aim of using social media is to interact with people, get them talking
  • Thank people for sharing – when someone has shared something of yours, thank them; it goes a long way in developing trust and gaining new clients/customers. 
  • If you ignore messages and comments it could potentially put people off bothering again, aim to respond within 48 hours.

Share Everywhere

  • If you have a blog, share it on all the social networks where you have an account
  • Post it in groups and forums you are part of
  • Stumble it using StumbleUpon, a lot of traffic comes from this site!

Guest Blog

  • Look for blogs and websites where you can be a guest poster, either articles or just short blog posts
  • Offer to write guest posts for free and you’ll get interest from people immediately

Create Video’s

  • Depending on your line of work, could you create short instructional videos?
  • Upload them to YouTube and try to update your channel regularly
  • Share these on your other networks when you post a new one

I put these suggestions together for my own clients because many of them didn’t know how to get started on social media. These are just the basics, there is plenty more strategies you could try.

Why not check out some of my other social media posts!

Paid Facebook Likes Anyone?

I always knew in the back of my mind that some people/businesses paid for Facebook likes and Twitter followers, and possibly for other social networks too. But it’s only really been on my radar recently when I started using the website Fiverr for a client, and also looking closer at the freelancer site PeoplePerHour which I have used quite a bit recently for various freelancer needs.

You only have to look at the data

While looking at a Facebook page yesterday, of someone I actually know, I noticed a huge increase in likes, and also the ‘people talking about’ was massive. Only the week before the likes had been reasonably low.

Here are some stats and a screenshot of what anyone can see on any Facebook page:

  • Between the 31/07 – 06/08 this page had 750 likes
  • At this moment 11/08 it has 8,592 likes and the people talking about it is 8,340!!!

I was pretty shocked at this. I am sure other Facebook pages have a similar looking picture, but this is someone I know so I was even more surprised. The question for me now is, do I mention this to them? They had told me that their Facebook page had been doing really well, and they didn’t know why they were getting so many likes. It’s quite deceptive I think.

So how do you get these new likes? I have no idea… I don’t know how you can get new likes added to your page just like that, I can go and buy one of these gigs on Fiverr, or hourlies on PeoplePerHour but I have no clue how it all works.

Organic is best

I am a firm believer that increasing your likes and followers on social networks should be done organically. Yes it takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight. I have been running my Facebook page since August 2011, so 2 years exactly… and I only have 493 likes as of today! It’s not a lot at all comparing it to other pages I see on Facebook, but my fans interact with me, I don’t feel there is anything else I can do to increase them at a faster pace.

The same goes for my Twitter account, I started that at the same time as my Facebook page, admittedly I already had some followers from when I used it as a personal Twitter account, but that was just a couple of hundred. I now only have 3,178 followers. Again, it’s not a lot but it’s enough for me.

What are the rules?

Facebook clearly states that you cannot buy likes for your page

I’ve seen some suggestions that if you don’t buy over 1000 likes at a time, Facebook won’t pick up on this. For the page I mentioned above, I don’t know whether that’s going to be around for much longer, an increase in that many likes is surely going to tip Facebook off.

It just leaves me to say, think carefully about doing this. Ask yourself some questions, will buying likes (which are likely to be fake profiles) improve my business? Is it worth risking Facebook removing my page? Will this deception cause more harm to my business than good?

I’m now going to see what other pages I can find which have paid for likes… it will be interesting to see whether this is a growing trend.

What are your thoughts on this?