7 Smartphone Apps That You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

7 Smartphone Apps That You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

Social Media AppsAs a professional virtual assistant, I’m all about boosting productivity and improving efficiency. But when it comes to managing day-to-day tasks, communicating effectively and keeping my finger on the digital pulse, few devices afford me more productivity gains and efficiency hikes than my trusty iPhone.

But don’t think I’m about to start singing the praises of my iPhone – I’m not. While it’s been great, this post is all about the benefits of smartphones in general and in particular, how pivotal they can be when we’re ‘on the go’.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you’ll already know some of my top productivity tools. And while the following list focuses solely on the apps I use on my iPhone, there are a couple which crossover to my iMac too.

Mail

Okay, so first up, quite predictably, is email. Being able to receive, read and reply to my business emails right from my smartphone is absolutely fundamental. It means that I can immediately check if a message requires an urgent response and send one accordingly.

If I don’t have time to type something verbose on my phone or the email requires a more in-depth reply later, then I can send a brief message in the meantime simply acknowledging receipt. This keeps my clients informed and their minds at ease.

Asana

Everything I have to do on a daily basis is recorded in Asana. And the fact that there is an associated mobile app boosts my efficiency no end.

Asana enables me to keep track of every task and stay up-to-date with progress from my team members. The mobile version allows me to create new tasks as they come to mind and update existing ones with further info if needed.

Facebook Pages Manager

While the regular Facebook app for smartphones is great for personal profiles, the Facebook Pages Manager is indispensable for anyone who administers a business page – like mine!

Not only can you see notifications as they happen, but you can also garner valuable insights from the analytical data that’s available. Moreover, you can administer several pages all from one app. It really is a versatile solution for keeping abreast of your public pages while on the move.

Buffer

Buffer is the epitome of productivity and efficiency and the fact that I can access it from my smartphone, makes it even better. Literally, from the palm of my hand, I have a complete overview of all my social networks.

I can schedule updates to be posted as I think of them and also check how my previous posts have performed with the built in analytics. It even boasts Buffer’s URL shortening capability, so I can paste web links and they automatically get reduced as they’re posted.

Dropbox/Google Drive

I use both Dropbox and Google Drive. They’re intrinsically the same and mean that I have access to all my crucial files and documents no matter where I am.

While I don’t tend to create new documents and type for hours on my iPhone, having access to my crucial files means I can send them to clients and check them ad hoc if required. The fact that everything syncs up automatically with the cloud in the background, means that I never have to worry about manually copying my data.

XE Currency

I live in France and have clients all over the world, so keeping track of foreign exchange rates is something that’s pretty fundamental to my business. The XE Currency app allows me to see right from my phone the current market rates. It automatically refreshes and also features a calculator for converting currencies quickly.

Furthermore, you can setup numerous different foreign currencies and see the exchange rate quickly and efficiently across them all.

Twitter

Much like I use the Facebook Pages Manager for my business page, I use Twitter to keep track of my tweets. While Buffer has a lot of great features, there are times when the official app still gets the nod.

It has a familiar interface, works flawlessly and offers the full range of Twitter features that I need. That’s why it still retains a place on my phone, even when there are other applications that purport to do the same.

So that’s seven smartphone applications that I utilise while I’m ‘on the go’. It could have been a longer list, but these were the ones I felt I used most often while not in front of my computer.

Are there any smartphone apps that you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Are you using the right tool for the job?

Are you using the right tool for the job?

Having used many different tools over the last couple of years, I have finally found a few that I really rely on to help me with daily task management, and I thought I would let you know what these are.

I think I have written about all of these individually in the past, so I apologise if I’m repeating myself, but I really can’t say anything bad about these tools.

Social Media Scheduling

I use two scheduling tools for my social media, Hootsuite and Buffer. But I want to talk about Buffer, as they have recently added some new connections which I have been waiting for, for a long time.

One of those is Buffer to Google+, it’s been a long time coming but finally I can now fill up Buffer to post to my business Google+ page. You can read about it on the Buffer blog Introducing Buffer for Google+: The easiest way to post to your Google+ Business Page. The other connection recently introduced was Buffer to LinkedIn company pages, Introducing Buffer for LinkedIn Company pages: The easiest way to keep your LinkedIn page up to date.

With both of these new connections, I can now use Buffer as I have done with Twitter and Facebook for the past couple of years and top it up with great content from all the various blogs I try to keep up with.

I pay for my Buffer package, but it does mean I can have up to 12 accounts connected, which means for my most special clients I can add their social media accounts so they get the benefits of Buffer too!

If you haven’t tried Buffer, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

WordPress Maintenance

When you only have one website, it’s pretty easy to maintain it, cope with the regular plugin updates, and the not so regular WordPress and Theme updates. When you have more than one website, I now have nearly 10 WordPress websites to maintain I needed a quick and easy way of updating them all at the same time.

That’s where ManageWP comes in, I pay for it, but you can get a free version. I just need to login to the ManageWP Dashboard and I can do all the updates with one click. Not only does it do updates, it will also let you delete spam comments with one click across all of your websites, as well as some other cool features.

Many people think that updating themes and plugins can cause your website to crash, and in fact this has actually happened to me in the past, but by not updating these your website could be wide open to security vulnerabilities. When I use ManageWP I can exclude a website to update automatically, I sometimes do this with important client websites, I prefer to do these individually, especially big WordPress updates.

ManageWP saves me an enormous amount of time, and also ensures all my websites are up to date and plugs those security issues.

Task Management

I only wrote a blog post about using Asana last week, so I am not going to repeat myself here. You can read both Asana’s posts here:

Get Organised with this Free Resource
Organise your Clients (or Team) with this Free Resource 

I use Asana on a daily basis, with my own tasks and clients. It keeps me on track with my workload and ensures all my deadlines are met.

So those are my three top tools for keeping me organised, what are yours?
Do you use these tools, what do you think?

 

20 Blogs I Recommend!

Are you looking for some new blogs to follow? I’ve decided to let you in on all the blogs I follow where I get all the content I share on my social media networks. If I like a number of articles form one blog I tend to subscribe to their feed.

These are not in any particular order… why not have a click through these links and see if any look useful for you!

Micro Business Hub

ProBlogger

Becky Robinson Weaving Influence

Copyblogger

Daily Blog Tips

Dumb Little Man

HubSpot

Jeffbullas’s Blog

Juggle It All

Pushing Social

Smashwords

Social Media Examiner

Buffer

Ask Aaron Lee

Author Media Blog

Cygnis Media Blog

Impactiv8

Simply Social with Sara

Top Dog Social Media

eBook Formatting Blog

If you have any blogs that you think I might like to follow, comment below… it’s about time I had some new ones!

Social Media Top Tips

Last week I asked you to complete my very short survey Getting to Know You! I’ve had a great response and decided today I would cover a topic many of you asked for in the survey, Social Media help.

It’s a huge topic, Social Media encompasses the entire Internet, not just networks such as Facebook and Twitter. So where do I start? Well I thought I would provide you with my top 5 social media tips, what works for me and how you can incorporate these into your working day.

Choose your Social Media Networks Carefully

You don’t need to be on every single social media network ever invented, you’ll give yourself a heart attack trying to keep up with them all. You need to think carefully what networks your customers/clients are likely to be using, and if you don’t know, then ask them. It’s very easy to email your current customers/clients and find out where they hang out, it will give you a good starting point at least.

You can’t give 100% to more than 2 or 3 networks on a daily basis, well I certainly can’t. So choose 2 or 3 to begin with and see how it works for you, if you’re not having much luck with one of them, swap to another and see if it works better for you. It’s all about testing the water!

If you’re interested, I currently only use 2 social media networks on a daily basis and give them 100%, Facebook and Twitter. I have accounts on other networks which I update from time to time, but it’s impossible to be in all these places at once.

Social Media Management Tools

If you follow my blog on a regular basis you will know that I have tried and tested many different management tools for social media. These tools help you manage your networks in one place, as I only use two networks on a daily basis I can get by using a free service. In fact I only use tools for my Twitter account, and even though I always seem to be testing different tools, I always come back to Pluggio and Buffer to manage my tweets. They do everything I need them to do, I can drip-feed tweets throughout the day, I can schedule tweets and I can keep track of other variables.

You don’t want to choose a complicated tool to manage your social media, I have come across a few which I didn’t even understand. Keep it simple, some of the other tools I have mentioned before are Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, SocialOomph (I still use this too occasionally) and Bottlenose, to name just a few.

Don’t Sell your Products & Services on Social Media

This sounds like a stupid thing to say, but maybe I said it wrong. What I wanted to convey is, don’t barrage your fans/followers with sales messages all the time. It might get you the odd sale, but I bet it will lose you sales in the long run. I hate it when I see someone constantly flogging their stuff on their Facebook page or tweets. A nice mix of updates should have a better effect. I don’t tend to sell my services on Facebook at all, occasionally if I have a new product or service I’ll mention it, but that’s it. On Twitter I have some sales tweets that go out maybe once or twice a day, but most of my content comes from my own blogs or articles I think my fans/followers will appreciate.

By all means update your audience when you have a great deal to offer them, but be careful not to overdo the sales side of things.

Subscribe to Other Blogs

I get most of the content I share from other blogs. I want you to share my posts, so I need to go out and share others. I add many blog feeds to my Google Reader account and then most evenings I will go through the new posts of the day and either add them to Buffer, add them to Pocket for later reading or tweet them out immediately or post them to Facebook.

Reading a good amount of blogs on a regular basis will also give you good ideas, what you could be doing on social media, and more often then not if you start sharing all this great content from someone else, people will be interested to see what you’re all about.

Schedule your Social Media Time

It’s very easy to get carried away online and end up surfing for hours and hours and not actually getting anything done. I still have days like this occasionally, it’s not productive and you feel as if you’ve not achieved anything. So my advice would be to schedule in the time you spend on social media, it doesn’t have to be a long time, and you can schedule it in a couple of times a day. Using the management tools I mentioned above makes things a lot easier. Having a queue of updates in Buffer and SocialOomph for me is a life saver. Even if I don’t manage to get on Facebook all day I know that the scheduled posts will, without me having to be there to press the send button.

You have to be present on social media, you can’t just send out a load of content and expect anything back. You still need to interact with people, network online. This is the work you need to schedule into your day.

As an example, this is how I schedule my day – first thing in the morning I check my Twitter account and respond to any RT’s, messages, mentions since I switched off the night before. It doesn’t take long, sometimes if someone is online I continue a conversation or two, but usually it’s a case of reply and move on to the next. I also like to post on my Facebook page in the mornings, I call it free posting (ie. not using a tool to schedule) – I do sometimes set-up one or two scheduled posts for later that morning (actually in Facebook rather than a tool), but I only ever do these a couple of hours in advance. Throughout the day I have  notifications for Facebook and Twitter on my iMac and iPhone, so if something needs an immediate response I can deal with it there and then. If not, then I leave it until later in the day. I usually spend some more time on social media at lunchtime, and then again just before I switch off my computer.

I use a time tracking application on my iMac, it basically tracks everything I do (I am writing this part before I have even looked at my social media usage today, I hope it’s not horrendous), this gives you an idea of how much time I spend:

Phew not too bad!

So as you can see, hopefully I am pretty present on my social media networks of choice, but on a typical day I will only spend about an hour. Sometimes it might be more, sometimes less, I guess it really depends how much time you have to put into it.

I wish I could have come up with some more tips for you, if you sign up to my mailing list (box on the right) you’ll receive my monthly Social Media Clinic emails where I can answer more specific questions. I don’t post these articles anywhere else, so they are exclusive to my mailing list. 

I hope you will go away and implement some of my suggestions, feel free to comment below on what works best for you.

Tools to Streamline your Virtual Reading List

How many blogs do you subscribe to?
Do you manage to read all the blog posts you subscribe to each day?
Are you constantly reading blog posts and not doing any other work?

This used to be me, it was a struggle to keep up with the amount of online reading I needed to do, what with everything going on in the social media world and trying to find relevant content to share with my social media fans/followers. It felt like a really tough slog most days until I found ways to streamline my reading. 

I wrote Reading List Overwhelming You? 6 Tips That Will Help! (here’s a spooky fact, I wrote this on 17 January 2012, exactly a year to the day!) which provided some tips to help you with your ever growing reading list.  I also wrote How to Save Time with RSS! which explains how I went about setting up RSS feed subscriptions for all the blogs I follow.

I use two main tools, one I have mentioned many times before, Flipboard. I use it everyday, I would never be able to keep up with all the articles online without it.  I have tried others but they don’t come close to the Flipboard interface as far as I am concerned. You can download the app on both iOS and Android, so you will need a smartphone to use it. Click here for all my articles mentioning Flipboard.

The other tool, which I don’t think I have mentioned on my blog before is Pocket. I have the app on my iPhone and on my iMac, and I think you can get this as a Google Chrome add-on (please correct me if I’m wrong someone?).

Pocket used to be called Read It Later. When I am going through Flipboard in the evenings and I find a really interesting article, instead of reading it all the way through there and then, I will click ‘read later’ on my iPhone and it will be added to Pocket. As I have the app on my iMac, if I get a spare 10 minutes during the day I can quickly find all the articles I want to take another look at, it’s synced between devices which is great!

This is how it looks on my iMac:

As you can see I have quite a few articles still in Pocket to go through, but it’s a safe place to keep them if I want to refer back to them at any stage. I can even add articles to Buffer (yes, mentioning it again) directly from the Pocket app, which is very handy.

Typically on a daily basis I only use these two tools to keep up with the blogs and social media network articles I come across. If I stumble upon a new blog that looks interesting (like I did yesterday, see the article in my Pocket image above) then I add it to my Google Reader account which automatically syncs it through to Flipboard. Simple!

What tools do you use to keep up with blogs you’re subscribed to, or the latest news online?