Monday, May 25, 2009

10 Twitter tools for busy business people – and why.

My experience with Twitter so far has been predominantly positive. Initial misgivings have moved aside and I have now adopted a more focussed approach to the Twitter potential as a productive business tool. 

This potential has been realised by the discovery of some very useful tools that made twitter move from a random jumble of short messages to a massive network of valuable conversation. Twitter has been around for a few years now so if you haven’t engaged yet why bother, right? I would suggest you may want to reconsider.

I guess its a little like Neo’s discovery of the Matrix in the cult classic Wachowski brother trilogy. As Morpheus so eloquently put it” I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it. “ 

We can ignore Twitter as a passing fancy and hope it goes away, but somehow I think its here to stay. If you don’t use it there’s one thing that is for certain, your competition will be using it to their advantage.  

Here are ten suggested tools to get you started.

1: Twitter Search
A start-up concept that was just last month acquired by Twitter. Use the advanced search features to drill down content by keyword, location, attitude (positive or negative) link content and more. 
Business use – target followers who have an interest in your industry, track conversations that have relevance to your business.

2: TweetDeck
This is my desktop tweet management tool of choice. TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook and more. TweetDeck shows you everything you want to see at once, so you can stay organised and up to date. Also a handy tool for shortening URL’s on the go. Download application for Free.
Business use – Keep track of direct messages and use the search function to track keywords that may have relevance to your business in breal time.

3: Tweetburner
Tweetburner allows you to track the website links you post on Twitter and find out how many times people clicked on the link. It does this by converting the link to a short URL and tracking how many times this URL was used to transport someone to the destination website.
Business use – Track your messages and know how effective they are.

Post your tweets to over 40 social media sites with a single post
Business use – Save time and spread the word.

5: Twitpic
Post photos on Twitter via your phone, and API or from their site.
Business use – A picture tells a thousand words.

6: Tweetstats
Get a visual graph of your tweet frequency, replies and other detail. For your, or someone else’s account. Nice additional feature is the “twitcloud” showing your most frequent words used in your tweet history.
Business use – Good tools for reporting against your strategy

7: Twist.Flaptor
This Twitter tool shows trends within the Twittersphere by graphing your keyword selection by the date. Just enter in words or concepts separated by a comma, for instance Hillary, Obama, and search. Each item is colour coded, and as you move across the graph, you’ll see numbered comparisons. On the home page you’ll find a list of things that are ‘hot now’ and things that were ‘hot before’. 
Business use – See what people are talking about.

8: Twitterlocal
Desktop application that allows you to search tweets from  a specified location. E.g. within100km from your location.
Business use – Find out who is discussing what in your neighbourhood.

9: Twitterholic
See where you rank in the Twittersphere overall or by your selected region. Top 100 – Top 1000 – search your profile, or others.
Business use – Great tool for tracking your twitter growth strategy

10: VisibleTweets
This one is a bit of indulgence, after all even business should involve a bit of escapism and enjoyment on occasion.  Great visual tool to display your tweets via some very clever animation, choose letter by letter, rotation or clod.
Business use – This would be great for trade shows or in the waiting room of the office, memorising and attention getting way of displaying your tweets to a passive audience.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Face to face has its place and webinars are great

The irony of my presentation last Friday was not lost on some of those present. I had travelled several hours in stormy weather to present to a group of business people on the subject of Webinars. "If this technology is so great why are you here" asked one attendee, "Why didn’t you just beam in over the Internet" he continued. From my perspective this was great dialogue because he had got the point of what made webinars so useful. 

Yes, I could have done just that, sent a link and been there at the appropriate time to display images and make my pitch over the speaker system. Having said that, and to use the comparison of the telephone, if there is no-one at the other end to pick up I’m not going to have a very productive phone conversation. My purpose of being there was to represent the value of webinars and our organisations services. The other reason I made the effort to be there so willingly in person was to re-establish some old relationships and cement some new ones.

 Over the ages new forms of communication have emerged to keep pace with technology and the needs of the few. Cave painting would have been a real conversation piece to several clans of cave people in 10,000BC; the pony express connected the elite in new frontiers, the telegraph made it possible to unite the affluent in expanding empires covering several continents. Commercial reality means modern technology is servicing the needs of not just the few but the many. Telephones, mobiles, skype and email are mainstream communication methods, yet have not, and should not replace the face to face meeting. 

Human interaction and relationships are built on more than just information exchange. There is a lot to be gained from looking into someone’s eye and shaking their hand. More evolved individuals will be able to sum you up quite accurately in that moment and know if they will do business with you into the future.

Having said that there is a great case for increased use of new technology, some, like the pony express are made redundant by newer more efficient information delivery. This is usually because its replacement is faster and safer, today’s highway robbers are called hackers and pirates are called, well pirates. Webinars will be replaced one day soon with 3D interactive holographic images simulating more efficiently the face to face experience, the technology exists today so don’t hold your breathe. Webinars or teleconferencing is affordable and relevant to our businesses now. Implementable without huge infrastructural costs they save time, money and reduce our environmental footprint. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

A cure for Mondayitus at last.

Do you suffer from Mondayitus and is there a cure for it? If the best answer you can come up with is Tuesday then you had better read on. If you get excited about the weekend and dread the start of the working week the great news is there is a very simple solution, and that doesn’t mean you have to start hating the weekend too. Like most conditions that are created via a state of mind the best cure is an adjustment to our thinking.  

What is it that makes you dread Monday? Hate your job, loosing control of your world, feel like you are going nowhere? The very reason you look forward to the weekend is you have made a plan, you’re off to visit friends, doing some gardening or spending some time with the kids.  It maybe in your head or a discussion with your partner but it’s still a plan. Have you done the same for the rest of the week?

Because you have no plan in place for the working week ahead you are achieving everything you have set out for yourself, nothing. Psychologically that’s the kiss of death for motivation and self esteem. You don’t have to be the business owner or CEO to have a business plan in place that you can use, call it a life plan, or even better an avoid Mondayitus plan.

To get started you need to keep this simple. One of the most effective tools for planning is a piece of paper and a pen. Use your diary or a note pad and make a to-do list. Have it prepared the night before and add to the next days list as new ideas or tasks come up. If you don’t achieve something on the list that day don’t beat yourself up, reprioritise it and move it to a day when it can be attended to. You will feel less stress, and importantly you can see what you are achieving and celebrate the milestones. Make big jobs a list on a separate page and break them down into bite sized junks then spread them across your to-do lists. 

This may sound a little ho-hum but it works. The challenge for you is to keep at it and make it a habit. You will be blown away by how much you get done and how much more in control you will feel. Leave me a comment if you have a similar or better system that works for you.