Archive | November, 2008

User Name Check: Another Cool Tool

How do they do that ?

I came across a handy little toy the other day that has some interesting applications for those playing in social spaces for fun and profit. It’s called User Name Check.com

Where is Your Username registered

Usernamecheck.com – Check your username availability across the leading social networks, micro blogs and web 2.0 apps from one simple location. http://usernamecheck.com/

username checker
Click to Enlarge

This funky little application searches a TON of the more popular social media, networking, book marking and multimedia websites to see if a given username has been taken. While that is, on the surface, pretty cool, there are a few things your can do with it such as:

  • Researching company/website names – if you are starting a new company or website, you could definitely use this in co-ordination with domain name research to ensure the best possible choices. If there are SMM elements in your marketing plan, certainly something to look into.
  • Securing all profiles for SMM campaigns – obviously if you have a new client/business/website and are including elements of a social media marketing campaign, this tool is wicked handy. There are so many listed that it makes securing all the relevant ones a much easier task. It also helps when researching the potential usernames to ensure you get one that is fairly Virgin across the majors.
  • Researching targets for marketing campaigns – let’s say you’re crafting some link bait and want to target various social media influencers, this tool would be great to stalk them and really understand what types of content might appeal to them. Cyber stalking is made easy with this little bad boy.
  • Monitor the competition – you can also use it to keep a close eye on the competition by identifying profiles and setting up some monitoring.

This little toy should definitely find its way into your social media marketing toolbox. Great for business and stalking too.

Have a good week-make it a great one

Michael
MD

http://www.thewebsitemarketinggroup.com/

A Better Business Website

Building A Better Business Website

A look of a website can make or break your business. First impressions always count. Here are ten tips to building a better business website.

1. Colour – A black background is not recommended. It’s hard on the eyes. I don’t know how many people have problems reading white or coloured text on a black background and with that said, don’t go neon pink or glaring orange either. Generally black text on white background is best. Ideally you can choose two colours, but make sure they match and use it consistently on all your pages to maintain fluidity and continuity.

For example: Reds and oranges which stimulates appetite works well on a food site while warm pastel colours matches a baby site.

2. Layout – Don’t cram everything into one page. Cluttered websites overwhelms the visitors. Keep it clean, crisp and concise. I had a CMS style website before and although it looked organized because there were three columns, there were also a lot of text. Navigation wasn’t as plain as day and it overloaded the senses. Take these three words to heart, less is more.

3. Navigation – The more user-friendly the better and your visitors are bound to stay longer. You don’t want your visitors to be jumping through hoops to find what they are looking for. Make shopping carts or payment buttons visible and easily accessible. Everything should be just a click away. Make sure all your links are working. Finding broken links becomes frustrating and annoying.

4. Proper spelling and grammar – There’s nothing good about visiting a website to find loads of misspelled words and poor grammar. It’s unprofessional and you can bet your visitors will leave.

5. Speed – When it comes to website loading, no one likes to be kept waiting. They will definitely leave a site if it won’t load properly. People’s time is precious; don’t make them wait.

6. Graphics – Be careful of using big flashy graphics or banners. Too many animated and too many big banners take away a site’s credibility. It also slows down the loading time of your site considerably. Not everyone uses high speed Internet. Remember people don’t wait around for slow loading sites.

7. Audio – If you like it and want it, change the default setting to give the visitor control if they want to hear audio or not. Make sure it’s visibly accessible to the visitor. The last time I landed on a site, I couldn’t find the button to disable the audio so I immediately X’ed out.

8. Pop-up anything – Although many people now have pop-up blockers, it may not be so much of a nuisance, but a pop-up of anything is intrusive, unwanted and annoying. Adding a form to your page in a highly visible spot is much more effective and non-intrusive.

9. Content – Informative, resourceful content will keep a visitor coming back. No one wants to visit a site that hasn’t been updated in a long time. You can add a small graphic or a simple text in red with the word “NEW” or a “What’s New?” page to inform your visitors you have made updates.

10. AdSense ads – Too many AdSense ads on any page looks scammy and it downgrades the quality of your site. If you can handle honest opinions, have someone critique your website. It really all comes down to personal preference and you will never be able to please everyone and that’s okay.

The main goal is building a functioning, well laid out website that is successful and prosperous to you for many years to come.

How to Choose a Web Designer or Web Design Company

guide-to-mobile-friendly-website

You have the often unenviable task of finding someone to build your website. Chances are you know little to nothing about web design and, let’s face it, you don’t even know what you don’t know. Let’s change that, shall we?

Let me start by making a few assumptions about you and your business:

* You either own or are part of a small business.

* You’re not trying to do this on the cheap.

* You’re looking for an experienced professional or organization. Your nephew or your neighbour’s daughter isn’t going to cut it.

* You care enough about your business that you’re willing to invest some time and money to get the job done right the first time (see the above two points).

Regardless of whom you choose to build your website you need to have, at the very least, a defined set of goals or objectives for your website. In other words, you need to figure out what you want your website to do.

Forget about PHP, ASP, CMS or any other acronyms you’ve heard; the right web designer will figure all that out for you. It’s your job to create the wish líst from the perspective of your business. Do you want the website to help sell your products or services? Recruit new employees? Stay in touch with clients? You define the problem and we’ll let the web designer propose the best solution.

(If your project is quite large you may want to write a more formal Request for Proposal document (RFP). But for the purposes of this article you’re part of a small business, so let’s not get mired down in RFP-land, OK?)

Armed with your high level requirements, here’s how to identify the right web designer for you:

1) Decide on Geography.

A local designer/company will have more invested in ensuring that you’re a happy customer. If things go poorly you can actually walk down the street and yell at them. That said, a web designer who has a good reputation or comes to you through a referral shouldn’t be overlooked if they’re not located where you are. Technology can greatly enhance communication and keep things running smoothly. Make a decision based on your comfort level.

2) Locate Candidates.

This is easy thanks to the nature of web design and Google. Do a search for ‘web design sydney‘ where ‘sydney’ is your city. Pay attention to two different areas of the search results:

a) the first three to five listings in the natural or ‘organic’ results, and

b) the top three to five paid advertisers. Create a líst of between five and ten possible candidates.

3) Go Surfing.
Visit each candidate’s website and look for the following:

* Quality content. Are they interested in solving problems? Does the writing make sense to you as a consumer rather than a geek? If yes, good. Do they provide their services in ‘packages’ based on number of web pages and whether you want fries or a side salad? If yes, bad. The right web designer will be someone who understands your unique issues rather than trying to jam your business into a bronze, silver or gold package.

* Presentation. This is not only the design of their website, but the organization. Does it make sense to you? Do you like it? Would your customers like it? The design and layout of a web designer’s website is typically indicative of their ‘style’.

* Happy clients. Look for testimonials, a portfolio and case studies. Do they show an aptitude at being flexible enough to work with different industries? Ideally their testimonials include full names, which means they’re not trying to hide anything. Web designers without some sort of portfolio or client líst are either bad or lazy; either way, they’re not for you.

* Contact info. Are you forced to fill out an online form to get in contact? Is there a phone number listed? A physical address (other than a PO Box)? You’ll need to speak to someone before moving forward, so be sure you can actually call and get a hold of a human being. Companies without phone numbers or addresses are typically located in a basement.

4) Revise Your List.

Based on your surfing adventure, choose your top three candidates.

* Call. Ideally, don’t email or fill out an online form; pick up the phone. You want to ensure that you’re dealing with a professional, so call them up and see how they respond. A good web designer will get you talking about your business. They will listen to your problem, try to assess whether or not you’re a good client for them, and take things to the next step, which is:

* Meet. Assuming your candidates are all local, meet with them. Sometimes this is referred to as a Needs Analysis meeting. The goal is to give the web designer enough information to prepare a proposal for you. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re comfortable dealing with them, and a face-to-face meeting is the best way.

* Proposals. Get three of them. Any fewer and you’re not exploring your options, any more and you’re wasting your time. Three is the magic number. Ensure that the web designer gives you the proposal within a week of your meeting.

* Assess. Here’s how to assess the proposal:

* Problem solving. They need to have proposed a solution to your problem that makes sense to you and is relatively free of geek-speak.

* Comprehensiveness. Did they cover off all of your issues?

* Follow up. What happens when the project is over? Will they help you market it? Train you? What about on-going maintenance? Do they guarantee their work? For how long?

* Ideas. A good web design company might have some really good ideas that you had not considered. These can demonstrate creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

* Timeline. Ensure that they tell you how long the project will take, and that you can live with that timeframe.

* Budget. You don’t have unlímited funds, so be sure you can live with the costs.

Your ultimate goal is to get quotes from a few web designers that you feel good about. You want to compare apples to apples, and only by going through the above process can you weed out the oranges.

Web design as an industry is still very much in its infancy, so unfortunately this is not like shopping for a car or a pair of jeans. You’ll need to do a bit more homework to ensure that you find and choose the right web designer for your business. Good luck!

The best ones in sydney are wiliam, and the website marketing group

Steps to Building a Successful Website

twmg-website-designers-sydney

Doing business in the 21st century will eventually require every company to have a website in one form or another.

Whether your site is interactive or simply informational, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right track to creating a successful web presence, seven to be exact (at least from our humble perspective).

While following these steps will not guarantee a successful website, it is certainly an intelligent place to start.

1. Perform a Business Analysis.

What is a business analysis? Simply put, review your business requirements and your objectives. What do you want to accomplish? How does your website fit into your overall business plan? What… no business plan? Develop a business plan first before you go any further into the process.

Your business plan will be your roadmap to success, so make sure the objective of your website fits into your overall business plan. I’ll say it again, BUSINESS PLAN, don’t have one? GET ONE!

2. Perform some research, also known as, the Research phase.

Research your competition and industry sites. See what kind of competition is out there. What kind of marketing does your competition engage in? Don’t look to “reinvent the wheel”, take a look at how the current market works; develop a list of pros and cons about your competition and then make your web presence work better.

3. Develop a concept and a design.

Finally time for the creative and fun stuff! This involves the selection of specific content, the layout of the site structure and navigation and the overall “look and feel” of your website.

Remember to pay special attention to your navigational structure!!! If visitors can’t navigate your website or feel lost when doing so, your “pretty” site will have been a waste of time; don’t go there, keep the navigation simple and for SEO purposes, make sure your navigation is text based. Although Flash driven websites look cool, they are not SEO friendly and can create more problems than the “coolness” factor they express (we’ll discuss Flash sites in another article ).

4. Develop your website.

When considering which technology to develop your website, think cutting edge technology, not bleeding edge. Make sure the technology you use, such as ASP, PHP, HTML, CSS, will be useful for the next three to five years.

Database driven website are ultimately the easiest to maintain through the use of a content management system, but make sure the CMS you use is SEO friendly. An SEO friendly CMS will utilize real URLs, not strange looking query strings with lots of strange characters and question marks. Search engines despise query strings and rank these site accordingly.

5. Choose a host provider and implement your website.

When deciding on a host provider, make sure the host is not only reputable, but has been in business long enough that you can be sure they will be in business next year. Also, ask about site uptime. If your site is down for any reason, this will not only affect your potential and current customers, but the search engines as well. If the search engines decide on a given day to spider your site and it is unavailable, it could cost you your rank.

6. Promote and market your website.

Register your site with the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Initiate other marketing activities such as an email blasts to prospective customers. Consider “Pay per Click” advertising with the major search engines and don’t forget about a long term SEO campaign to drive targeted traffic to your site.

7. Finally, maintain your website.

Probably the most important long term step is continuing to provide current and relevant information on your website. Keep your site content current to encourage return visitors and give them something to return for! Related to SEO, search engines just LOVE sites which provide new content on a regular basis and rank such websites accordingly.

Overall, remember, your website is not just a marketing tool, it’s a business tool, and it should be generating a revenue stream for your business.

Choosing Your Website Colours

web-colors

Choosing the right color scheme for your new website might be the most important single decision you will make in the start-up phase of your new website.

But, how do you make sure that the colors you choose are right for your web site?

Don’t Choose The Colors that you Prefer

The best advice is to not determine the colors based on what you like. It doesn’t really matter. This is especially important if you are not part of the demographic group that you targeting.

You want to choose colors based on what sells the most or what keeps the visitors at your web site the longest and allows them to leave with a positive perception of the web site.

Overview of Web Site Colors

Let’s take a look at the rainbow of color possibilities you have for your web site.

Red

Red is the most powerful color available. It is associated with energy, aggressiveness, passion, and danger. It is friendly and attractive. Red enhances metabolism and raises blood pressure.

Red is often used on web sites that:

Promote increased energy and enthusiasm.
Are for children.

Red is great if used as an accent color to stimulate visitors to “buy now” or “click here.”

Think of all the chinese colours RED it signifies strength and if used well on a website it works

Think of HSBC ,Qantas Virgin all of their sites revolve around the colour red.

Orange

Orange is a powerful color that is the most undesirable to women. It offers happiness, courage, and success. It is funny and bold. Orange combines the energy of red with the cheerfulness of yellow. Orange increases blood supply to the brain and stimulates thought.

Orange is best used on web sites that:

Wish to increase appetite (food products).
Stimulate enthusiasm.
Promote positive thinking.
Wish to increase creativity.
Offer relief from boredom (games).
Have a youthful audience.
Promote toys.

Yellow

Yellow is sunshine, joy, creativity, cheerfulness, and intelligence. It also is symbolic of cowardice so it is not an ideal color choice for men. It is also a highly communicative color.

Pure yellow puts more strain on your eye than any other color. Therefore, it is recommended that yellow be used sparingly. If used too much on a site, it may fatigue the visitor and cause them to leave sooner. That being said, yellow is often the color that the eye will gravitate to first. Hence, it is a great color to use in banners or for “can’t miss” text.

Yellow is best used on web sites that:

Appeal to children.
Promote leisure products.
Promote improved memory.
Promote relief from personality disorders like depression.
Do not need to appeal to men.

Green

Green reminds the user of nature. It is symbolic of prosperity, wealth and safety. It is flexible and harmonious. Green is the most restful color to the human eye.

Green is best used on web sites that:

Propose change (Surprisingly, the primary color of Barack Obama for President Barack Obama’s web site is blue.)
Give new ideas.
Offer protection.
Promise financial success.
Are for a nature group.

Blue

Blue is the color of the sea and the sky and is the most conservative choice you have for a web site color. When in doubt, choose blue and you won’t go wrong. Blue conveys trust, loyalty, confidence, and intelligence. Studies show that the color blue relaxes the nervous system and increases productivity.

Blue is best used on web sites that:

Appeal to a wide demographic of age and sex like an like a news site.
Wish to relax the viewer.
Offer new information.
Are for web design companies in sydney
Have an international audience.
Are related to clean and professional
Promote precision high-tech products.
Offer diet products (blue suppresses appetite).

Avoid using blue for any small text or thin line diagrams on a web site. Small blue print is difficult for the eye to perceive.

Purple

Purple offers a web site a sense of sophistication, dignity, sensitivity, and romance. It is admired and intuitive.

Purple is best used on web sites that:

Offer spiritual fulfillment (religion).
Want you to use your imagination.
Offer a calming effect (some vacations).
Target pre-adolescent children.

White

White is associated with cleanliness, simplicity, and youth. It’s hard to imagine a business-oriented web site without any white on it.

White is best used on a web site that:

Requires significant reading of text
Is high-tech, but wants to appear to be easy to use.
Promotes a charitable organization.
Sells medical products.
Sells diet foods or dairy products.

Black

Black is authoritative, reliable, and constant.

Black is best used on a web site that:

Is formal (banking)
Is authoritative (legal)
Sells art or photography products (it will make the pictures stand out).

Choose Colors that Your Visitors Can Actually See

This seems like simple advice, but web browsers don’t have an unlimited amount of colors available to them. Web browsers can show 256 different colors; of those colors, 216 are common on all major web browsers.

If you don’t use one of the 216 colors, the browser has to attempt to mix the color that it does not support. This is known as “dithering” and the results are often less than satisfactory.

More Color Tips

Take a look at a white web site with black print. It’s the easiest to read, but there’s certainly nothing attractive or exciting about it. Start by thinking about putting a dark font on a light background.

In addition to white, another safe background choice is gray.

Extremely bright colors such as greens, reds, yellows, or blues will cause eye fatigue and chase visitors away prematurely.

Avoid mixing blue and yellow or blue and red.

It is best to limit a site to five color choices. Certainly, there should be no more than seven for a larger site. Use the same color shades consistently throughout the web site.

When using a dull color such as gray or black, make it pop by adding a bright color like orange for an outstanding effect.

When in doubt, use white for the background.

The younger your audience is, the more vivid colors you should use.

Men prefer blue and orange to red and yellow. Women prefer red and yellow versus blue and orange.

Another good color for a male-oriented site is brown. Brown promotes masculine qualities.

Color-blindness is prevalent in men. In fact, one in twelve men have some form of color deficient vision. If your web site is aimed at men, make sure your color scheme is simple and clear.

Women are far more likely than men to respond both positively or negatively to a web site based on its color. Women prefer softer pastel colors. Women are more likely to view contrasting colors negatively.

Colors mean different things internationally. White signifies bad luck in China, Japan, and India. Purple is associated with prostitution in Arabic cultures. Green, while symbolic of money in the United States, does not have the same appeal in foreign countries where money is multi-colored. The safest color that appears to not have any negative connotation in any country is blue.

Gold is another good choice for a web site color. Gold evokes feeling of prestige and quality.

Choose the Right Colors

The goal of your web site is to connect with your visitors. It really doesn’t matter what you like or what your significant other likes. What matters is what colors your audience likes. Your color scheme must be carefully selected, because choosing the wrong color scheme can adversely affect your visitor’s experience and decrease your sales.

By choosing the right colors that your audience desires, you can invoke increased feelings of a positive reaction to your web site and actually increase sales.

Your color selection is the single most important first impression that your site will give your visitors. Make a great first impression by using the best possible color scheme for your target audience.

20 Things All Successful Direct Marketing Companies Should Know

1. Direct Marketing Is a Strategy, Not a Tactic

2. The Consumer, Not the Product, Must Be the Hero-and the winner

3. Communicate with Each Customer or Prospect as an Audience of One

4. Answer the Question “Why Should I buy or try?”

5. Advertising Must Change Behavior, Not Just Attitudes

6. The Next Step: Profitable Advertising

7. Build the “Brand Experience” let them play-touch-smell-trial

8. Create Relationships-they are people you know

9. Know and Invest in Each Customer’s Lifetime Value

10. “Suspects” Are Not Prospects they are people

11. Media Is a Contact Strategy-contact them often but not too often (thats harrassment !)

12. Be Accessible to Your Customers anytime

13. Encourage Interactive Dialogues-get honest feedback

14. Learn the Missing “When?”

15. Create an Advertising Curriculum That Teaches as it Sells

16. Acquire Customers with the Intention to Loyalize Them

17. Loyalty Is A Continuity Program

18. Your Share of Loyal Customers, Not Your Share of Market Creates Profits

19. You Are What You Know-become an advisor and customers will flow

20. Apply these rules to your business it has proved it with the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook

Give them what they want and they will tell others….

Top 20 | Web Design & Marketing – Web Advice & Tips

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The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Web 2.0: 25 Apps to Grow your Business

entrepreneur-tools

You know that to be successful you need to be a jack-of-all-trades. The smart way to manage everything from company finances, to client relations, to marketing, is to use the right tools that are simple enough that they won’t require you to spend a lot of time and money you don’t have setting them up.

In this guide we cover the 25 best web2.0 applications for entrepreneurs who are looking for simple, cheap, and effective solutions to solving some of the tasks facing their small business or startup. The 25 applications selected were chosen both on the basis of their usefulness for the individual small business manager as well as their effectiveness in providing community support and networking opportunities for users.

Finances, Money Management, Payments

You’re in business to make money. However, if you can’t manage your finances, payments, and assets, you’re going to find that expenses start to creep up, financing runs short, and your ability to plan for the future is nil. Thankfully, the following five apps are designed specifically to help you manage your finances. With these apps, you’ll know where every dime is spent and what you owe at all times, allowing you to start planning your company’s future rather than always trying to play catch up.

  1. Prosper.
    Prosper
    Got a business idea but little or no capital? Prosper is a new type of peer lending service which brings individual lenders and small business borrowers together. Each loanee creates a profile, describes what the loan will be used for, and what interest rate they are able to pay. Lenders indicate how much they are offering, at what rates, and who they want to offer sums to. So your loan may come from multiple sources, or a single person. Alternatively, if you already have a group of investors you already know, such as friends and family, Prosper manages the transaction’s lifecycle for you. Regardless of whom you borrow from, Prosper takes a small percentage for managing each loan. For the entrepreneur looking for alternative financing, peer lending can be a great solution. The only downside, however, is that everyone knows your business, literally and figuratively.
  2. Dimewise.
    Dimewise
    Dimewise lets you record your purchases/expenses and categorizes them. Then, when you’re wondering where the heck last month’s budget went to, you can produce a pretty pie chart showing you exactly what you’re spending your money on. You can also set recurring expenses as well as track balances in one or more accounts, which will make it easier to predict what your future months’ total expenses will be. Of course, you could do much of this with a spreadsheet, but Dimewise lets you do it from anywhere with a web browser, and saves you the time of setting up macros.
  3. NetworthIQ.
    NetworthIQ
    NetworthIQ, winner of an SEOmoz web2.0 award, will help you keep track of your company’s finances as well as your personal net worth. It also includes a fun tool that lets you compare your income to other entrepreneurs of the same age or industry, so you can keep track of your company’s success relative to your peers.
  4. Wesabe.
    Wesabe
    Wesabe goes a step further than both Dimewise and NetworthIQ by integrating its financial organization and planning tools with your bank account. This allows you to complete a monthly accounting report and simultaneously use that report to manage and pay your bills. In addition to this added function, Wesabe also serves as a meeting point for other entrepreneurs to discuss financial advice. While this application won’t be robust enough to meet the needs of larger companies, for small startups Wesabe can serve as a one-stop finance resource. Update: as per 2010, Wesabe has discontinued its service.  Additionally, you might want to check out Pocketbook as a substitute app.
  5. Instacalc.
    Instacalc
    Whether you’re rolling in the dough or just squeaking by, every entrepreneur has to crunch the numbers. There’s no easier tool to do long financial equations than instacalc, which will also give you a variety of charting options to display your figures. And if you need to go beyond basic algebra, calcoolate will help you add up all your moola in ways that would make your calculus teacher proud.

Timesheets, Invoicing, Billing

For a small business to succeed, managers need to maximize the amount of time they spend on developing the business, and try to minimize the time they spend on mundane tasks like creating timesheets and invoices. The following three web2.0 apps are all designed to help you cut the time you have to spend on these mundane tasks while simultaneously increasing your company’s accuracy and effectiveness in doing them.

  1. FreshBooks.
    FreshBooks
    FreshBooks is an app designed with the web-based entrepreneur in mind. Not only does the program let you bill clients via email with professional-looking invoices, but clients can also pay you online via PayPal, Authorize.net, and other options through FreshBooks. The wide range of invoicing options is certainly enough for most small business owners, and because the generated billing reports the application generates can handle imported data, FreshBooks will work well with your current billing system.
  2. Harvest.
    Harvest
    If after a long work day you often find yourself trying to wonder what exactly you did with all your time, both you and your small business would probably benefit from some time tracking. GetHarvest offers ten reasons why you should use their time tracking solution, including professional quality reports, Internet-based access, daily data backups, and privacy. Perhaps the most important feature is the application’s ability to analyze the hours worked by your entire staff, thus enabling you to identify company-wide inefficiencies.
  3. SidejobTrack.
    SideJobTrack
    SidejobTrack is billed as a software tool for the part-time independent contractor. If your startup involves providing services for a number of different clients, this all-in-one finance app is ideal for you. With SidejobTrack you can organize all the various jobs and services you’re performing, send estimates, do invoicing, tax reporting and even manage projects.

Communication and Collaboration

A common ingredient in every small company’s success is teamwork and communication. We’ve got both covered here with five web applications designed for conferencing, voice communication, text chat, team/project management, live customer support, and workspace sharing.

  1. Campfire.
    Campfire
    The much celebrated product company 37 Signals has a suite of award-winning tools for collaboration and productivity: Campfire for group chat, Basecamp
    for collaboration and project management, and Backpack for organization (calendaring).Among these, the most useful tool for small business owners is Campfire. The application offers password-protected chat rooms to which you can invite clients, vendors, colleagues, and employees. These secured rooms are an excellent place to conduct negotiations that may involve sensitive company data without fear of having that information compromised.
  2. Meebo.
    Meebo
    If you’ve used any of the text chat IM clients such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, or MSN Messenger (aka Windows Live Messenger), you’re aware of one fundamental problem: they don’t play nice together. If you have one contact on one IM and another contact using another service, how do you stay accessible to both of them? You could open a whole group of IM clients and chew up your free RAM memory, or you could use Meebo as a web-based bridge. For online companies where an increasing amount of business is conducted over IM clients, making yourself accessible to everyone through a bridging app like Meebo can mean the difference between success and failure.
  3. Userplane.
    Userplane
    Userplane offers a suite of communication and conferencing tools, the most useful of which is called Presence. Presence is the new hot niche tool in telecom, be it over the Internet, cellular networks, or the good old regular telephone system. The technology allows a communication system to “know” where a user is and to reroute calls and messages accordingly to the specific device he is near. For those entrepreneurs who work from home, the office, and the road, this app is really helpful.
  4. ConceptShare.
    ConceptShare
    Of all the above conferencing and collaboration solutions, none of them is suited for creative live interaction, such as having multiple people in different locations designing artwork or editing a document. ConceptShare solves the need for having a way to collaborate on a project in real-time by providing a creative workspace where employees can add to and modify graphic presentations. Changes made on the artwork or web design are even tagged by contributor, so different filtering combinations will allow your team to look at a variety of different filtering options.
  5. Near-time.
    Near-Time
    Near-time offers collaboration tools including group calendars with event and activity tracking, private shared weblogs, author pages, categories and tagging, and more. Near-time is designed specifically for small businesses, work groups and professionals, which no doubt includes the collaborative entrepreneur.

Organization

As a small business owner you don’t have the luxury of having a personal assistant to keep you organized. But just because you can’t afford to devote hours or dollars to staying on top of things, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. The following three apps are designed to help you quickly and easily keep track of deadlines and schedule your work week so you can focus on the most important task, building your business.

  1. Google Calendar.
    Google Calendar
    There are numerous web2.0 calendaring applications out there, including CalendarHub, Planzo, and spongecell. But what sets Google Calendar apart from the rest is its ease of setup and use. With Google Calendar you can quickly set up multiple calendars for different projects or clients, as well as link up to public calendars which can help you stay synched with your client’s activities. And for the entrepreneur on the go, Google Calendar even lets you check on your schedule from a mobile phone through SMS messaging.
  2. Remember the milk.
    Remember The Milk
    Have you ever tied string around your finger to remind yourself of something but then forgot what it was?Remember the milk can help you and your company remember all of the days important details. The app will let you set and receive reminders via email, SMS and IM. And to minimize the total number of apps you’re running independently on a daily basis, Remember the Milk even works as an add-on to Google Calendar.
  3. Neptune.
    Neptune
    Neptune is the ultimate in practical planning. This web2.0 application won a spot on this list primarily because of its ease of use and simplicity. It’s a GTD (get things done) type of to-do list application with multiple project folders and drag and drop task reordering. Neptune also sends you email each day reminding you what your most urgent task for each defined project is. And for those of you daunted by the idea of having to go in and constantly update your to-do list, Neptune will even allow you to set up events and reminders simply by mailing items to your personal inbox.

Networking, Social Spaces

While big companies can afford just wait until contacts come to them, as a small business owner you have to go out and make your own opportunities. That means being proactive about developing relationships with people in your niche and finding new ways to introduce yourself and your company to prospective clients. The two apps in this section are designed to help you to be more effective at professional networking.

  1. LinkedIn.
    LinkedIn
    LinkedIn is the new, hot, de rigueur networking tool for professionals and entrepreneurs. It builds on the concept of six degrees of separation, which says that every human being is connected to every other human being through at most 6 people. Entering into a network means being able to take advantage of business opportunities, asking for, or offering advice, and letting people in your network know about your projects. The best part? You’re connected to everyone that your direct connections are networked with. That means that you can quickly expand your contacts and develop your professional reputation with minimal effort, since you already have something in common with the other person (a common contact).
  2. Ning.
    Ning
    Ning is easily one of the most unique web2.0 application sites out there. Ning takes web2.0 to a whole new level by letting you build your own networking and social space. The plug-n-play social space creator will allow you to create your own community space for other entrepreneurs and potential clients in your niche to communicate and share ideas. With hundreds of pre-fabricated modules no programming is needed to get the space up and running making it just the sort of marketing boost your company needs.

Content Creation, Office and Productivity Tools

No matter the service or product that your startup company sells, you are going to need to maintain accurate records if you want to stay productive and steer clear of legal issues. But since you’re already strapped for time, recordkeeping is often one of the first dropped tasks if a small business doesn’t have a good plan in place to make sure that it gets done. In this section we cover four of the best web-based apps to help you take notes, write documents, preserve records, and create spreadsheets. When used correctly, these tools will minimize the time it takes you to make and keep hard copies, records, and backups so that you will actually follow through and get them done.

  1. Zoho.
    Zoho OfficeSuite
    Zoho has one of the most well-rounded offerings of web-based tools for the entrepreneur/ business person, including an Office Suite (Writer, Sheet, Show, Wiki, Virtual Office), Productivity Tools (Projects, CRM, Creator, Planner, Chat), Polls, and website monitoring. One of the most useful applications, however, is Zoho Challenge, which lets you test and evaluate job candidates using a combination of multiple choice and descriptive questions. Candidates can then be emailed results for one or more tests. Perhaps the best feature is Zoho Writer, a superb web-based replacement for Microsoft Word. Zoho Writer’s only limitation is its own popularity, which has been known to cause slow server response times. By using a web-based writing program, your employees and clients will be able to access their work at any time without the need for email attachments.
  2. ThinkFree.
    ThinkFree Online
    ThinkFree calls itself “the best Online Office on earth.” Their suite of apps includes ThinkFree Online, Server, Desktop, and Portable. Of these numerous tools, the two most useful for entrepreneurs are ThinkFree Online, a document management and sharing application, and Desktop, a Microsoft Office compatible word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tool. Together, these two tools will allow small business owners and their employees to access a project no matter their location.
  3. MyStickies.
    MyStickies
    Does your business involve online research, but keeping a pad of paper and a pen handy for notes seems arcane to you? Or maybe you’ve made the cost-effective choice to try to make your company paper free. Whatever your reason, MyStickies is one of a number of digital sticky note apps (among others are stikkit, jotcloud, sticky tag, and webnote) available to you to quickly record short notes. In addition to putting post-its on your desktop, MyStickies will also let you put digital stickies on a particular web page so that when you return to the page later on, you won’t need to spend time trying to remember where you were in your research.
  4. EyeOS.
    eyeOS
    If your company would benefit from having multiple employees having access to the same documents, images, and programs, but they’re spread around the world, a shared online operating system might be the answer. EyeOS, one of the new breed of web-based “operating systems” is one of the best options available. EyeOS is Open Source and can either be downloaded and installed to your own server, or run off their public server. Once EyeOS is setup, anyone with the correct username and password can access the “desktop”, no matter where they are located. That means that if you and your employees are frequently working off the same data or tools, EyeOS may be the ideal application for your company.

Promotion, Marketing, Sales and Support

Fortune 500 companies have entire departments devoted to branding, marketing and supporting their products. For the small business owner, however, you need to replace all those departments and still have time left over to meet the other needs of your company. As the face and driving force behind your startup, it will be largely up to you to get your product in front of new customers, control the way it is perceived in the market, and answer questions from potential clients. The following four Web2.0 apps are all designed to maximize the effectiveness of your time by helping you promote your product and provide customer support.

  1. Veetro.
    Veetro
    Veetro is designed to be a one-stop organizational and promotional application for small businesses. It offers a wide range of tools from invoicing and project management to customer support.The most useful aspect of Veetro, however, is its emphasis on client development and sales. With built-in lead tracking, email marketing, customer support and direct advertising functions, Veetro is an excellent tool for small businesses that are making a push to expand their client base or break into a new niche.
  2. eBay.
    eBay
    eBay is the classic early web2.0 application because of it’s pseudo-social network reviewing system. For small businesses trying to generate buzz, selling a few early product examples on eBay is a good way to get your product out early without a lot of overhead cost. In fact, some people legitimately make their living selling products full-time on eBay, though it’s not necessarily as easy as all those $97 e-books would have you believe. But if you’re an entrepreneur with volume purchasing and drop-shipping experience or just looking for some pre-launch exposure, eBay might be perfect for you.
  3. Qoop.
    Qoop
    Qoop, there it is. When it comes to promotional/ advertising efforts for your small business, Qoop is an excellent resource as it allows you to create calendars, posters and other “memorabilia” with your company’s logo added. Qoop goes beyond sites like cafepress by taking numerous web2.0 photo sharing sites and networks including photobucket, webshots, and flickr and mashing them up. So if you have, say, a flickr photostream, you can create custom calendars using your images. Qoop has also partnered up with sites like blogprinting and fundprinting to outsource volume printing.
  4. Bonus App: YouTube.
    YouTube
    Don’t underestimate the value of YouTube to a business, especially because of its pseudo-social network and category tagging. Real estate agents use YouTube to post video walkthroughs of properties they’ve listed on their website. Other web2.0 applications in alpha and beta stage post screencasts of their “secret” software to create some buzz. The innovative entrepreneur will come up with some way to utilize YouTube or similar sites such as revver to promote their business. If new media advertising doesn’t work for your company, you might want to promote via traditional TV through spotrunner. Spotrunner lets you pick pre-shot footage snippets to mashup, and then finds you budget ad spots with TV stations across the USA.

Being an entrepreneur has always been a high risk/ high reward venture. This year, more than 50% of new startups will close up shop before they reach their first anniversary. And while you cannot control things like market fluctuations, being smart about how you spend your time and energy can dramatically improve your company’s chances of success. This article has introduced you to 25 of the best Web 2.0 applications, all of which are designed to help you organize, control and promote your company, so that by working smarter you can maximize the chances of your startup’s success.

Facebook – Advertising and Apps

facebook-new-cpc-policy

Facebook applications. I consider it a minor daily triumph to remember to update my status. I feel guilty when I don’t approve a “friendship” from someone in the industry I vaguely remember meeting at a booze-fueled party (or someone I clearly remember meeting at a booze-fueled party). I don’t respond to Facebook invites. And I’ve never met a Facebook application I was interested in enough to have it cluttering up my profile. But today, not only did I sign up for the Ad Battle application, but I’ve been playing with it for an hour (purely in the interest of work-related research).

What is it? In its simplest form Ad Battle, a collaboration between Buddy Media and Atmosphere BBDO’s Jason Culbertson, is sort of like Hot or Not, but with ads. Watch two spots or look at two print ads, then decide which is better. You’re told if you voted with the majority or not and then you move on to two new ads. Anyone who’s wasted a half hour on Hot or Not or any similar website knows how ridiculously addictive this can be. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

You can upload your own contenders and see how the ads you choose fare against those uploaded by others. You can see where this would get interesting for marketers and agencies. I’d call it something similar to consumer ad testing, but I suspect most of the people playing along at the moment are people in the industry — like the folks in the “I’m in advertising … Hell yeah!” Facebook group.

Still, I can envision a marketer or two sneaking on to Facebook to see how his agency’s employees are judging advertising. It could be a problem if your creative director picks the losing ad 9 out of 10 times. (Not that I advocate Facebook stalking.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to upload one of my favorite ads. I wonder how it’ll hold up against “Flea Market Montgomery.”

Using Twitter to Attract More Followers and Get More Clients

I do wonder at times if some Twitter users have any time to get any work done. Several of the more prolific ones that I follow swear they spend no more than 30 minutes a day on Twitter, but I really find that hard to believe. Many times it seems they are twittering just to say something, like “Good morning Twitter universe” when they begin their day, give more details than I want to know about what they had for lunch, what their children said to them, or when they take a nap.

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I realize that this is part of the “like, know, and trust” process that enables people to get to know each other, but sometimes it’s simply too much information..LOL. I’m Twittering primarily to market my business. Consequently, I try and limit my personal twitters to no more than 2 per day. My clients, who create Twitter accounts for marketing, as well, tell me, “I’m signed up. Now what in the world do I Twitter about? How do I market my business with this tool?”

Here are 10 strategies that I use regularly to market my business and my expertise via Twitter. Remember, you have only 140 characters for your tweet (Twitter post).

1. How you’re helping clients. Talk about specific ways that your business helps clients and use their Twitter ID if you have their permission, i.e. “Just finished @clientname brainstorm great Internet marketing plan for 2009” or “Finally finished setting up Quickbooks for local hardware store — now they can invoice their clients”

2. What you’re doing in your business. This is a perfect time to tell others when you’re blogging, writing an article, creating your weekly ezine, recording your podcast, i.e. “Had great interview with Jane Smith today on speaking to grow your biz. Great ideas! Subscribe to podcast & listen here (URL here)”

3. Useful tool or resource you’ve found. I run across these all the time in my daily activities, and Twitter is a perfect place to share, i.e. “Found great new Firefox plug-in to monitor & check multiple Gmail accounts at same time at (URL here)” or “Read great blog post on workíng at home with kids under 5 at (URL here)”

4. Ask a question. Need some ideas or some quick brainstorming? Twitter is an ideal place to gather opinions, i.e. “Help! Desperately seeking new laser prínter. Recommendations?” or “How do I find training organizations online?”
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5. Conduct a survey. What do your Tweeps think about a particular issue? Ask them via Twitter, i.e. “Quick poll: Do you get more clients from Facebook or Twitter? Respond at (URL here)”

6. Report on live events. The latest Twitter trend seems to be tweeting what’s happening at conferences or workshops. In order for Twitter users to follow a particular event, it’s usually referred to by a name preceded by a # sign, as in #JVAlert, for example, to make it simpler for people who want to follow those posts. So, if you were at an event, you might tweet “#JVAlert John Smith speaking on affiliate programs. Just got great idea on training affiliate managers!” Just don’t get so wrapped up in tweeting that you ignore the content delivered in the conference!

7. Product or service launch. If you’re about to launch a new product or introduce a new product, let your Twitter followers know, i.e. “Pre-launch pricing for new DVD set about how baby boomers can start an online biz. Get $100 early bird discount at (URL here)”

8. Responding to others with advice or answers. The way to build professional relationships on Twitter is to help your followers. So, if someone asks a question, comments about something to which you have a response or an idea, or you want to ask a followup question, this is the perfect place to do so.

9. Acknowledging new followers. I’ve noticed a recent trend of acknowledging people who’ve decided to follow a Twitter user in the past day or so. I initially thought that others were doing this as a measure of popularity, but what I’ve come to realize is that it’s actually helping out the new followers because it exposes their Twitter profiles to others who may have never heard of them and who might like to follow them. So, to thank your followers, you’d tweet, “Welcome new followers @twittername, @twittername, etc.”

10. Automate your tweets. Many of my tweets have been automated and connected to other things I do. TwitterFeed turns all of my blog posts into tweets. aWeber turns each ezine issue into a tweet. EzineArticles.com tweets my followers every time I publish an article through their service. Typically all that’s involved here is connecting the particular service to my Twitter account. Once all the services are connected, I get free and automated Twitter posts with no additional effort on my part.

Twitter can be a great time-waster or a wonderful way to market your business and leverage your expertise online. Follow these 10 strategies and you’ll begin to attract more followers and get more clients through social networking.