Online contact management – Rapportive

The advent of social media sites has led to an annoying problem – the fracturing of contact lists. Rapportive goes a long way to healing the fractures.

The advent of social media sites has led to an annoying problem. My contact list is now fractured. There are some people who I contact through Facebook, others that I communicate through via Twitter and others by email.

Until recently, I’d been using Safari as my main browser – it’s the default browser on Macs. However, I’ve found that the amount of screen space sacrificed to toolbars reduces the amount of actual content I can see on the screen. So, I’ve gone back to using Google’s Chrome browser. That’s gained back some valuable pixels – important as my laptop is an 11-inch MacBook Air. However, another benefit of going to Chrome is that the GMail plug-in Rapportive works.

Rapportive is able to look at a number of social media services and searches for information about the sender of an email. It then displays that information on the right side of the screen making it easy for me to call, email or message the person.

The neat thing about Rapportive is that it simplifies the task of connecting with someone from within my email.

Email is where I spend most of my time. I receive a lot of mail each day and the GMail window is basically open on my screen all the time. When I receive a message I can instantly access that person by email, Facebook if I’m connected to them through that, LinkedIn and Twitter. Their phone numbers are put there as well.

If I click on the phone number, this automatically pulls Skype up and uses that to place the call. It can also work with Google Chat.

It’s difficult to quantify the benefits that Rapportive offers but being able to get live status updates of my contacts without having to leave my email saves me lots of time – albeit in small chunks.

Five Time Management Basics

Development of time management skills is a key to freelance success.

20110508-223655.jpgI’ve been freelancing full-time for almost a year. Prior to that, I was working in an office job and fitting freelancing in around that work. By necessity, my time was tightly managed. However, when I went 100% freelance, my diary was far more flexible. That meant I had to develop a new level of discipline with time management.

Here are the five things I do to manage my time.

1. Workflow management

I’ve been using a self-developed workflow system using a program called Bento on my Mac. The neat thing is the system can be synchronized to my iPad and iPhone easily so I can record ideas, pitches, commissioned work, work in progress and submitted work.

Without this system, I’d lose track of my work as in a typical week I’d have several deadlines on the go at any one time.

2. My whiteboard

I have a small whiteboard (900 x 450mm) on my wall that lists the week’s deadlines, to do items (such as bills and invoices) and other stuff I need to keep track of. It’s a low-tech solution but it works to keep my focussed each day.

3. Set daily goals

Each work day I set targets. The nature of the targets varies depending on where I am in my work cycle. Sometimes it’s to conduct a certain number of interviews or write a number of words or submit a number of stories.

Daily goals are important. By setting small, achievable targets that are linked to deadlines and budgets it makes the somewhat daunting tasks of hitting monthly or annual earning goals mo achievable.

4. Mix it up

I know my personality pretty well and know that I need to vary my work otherwise I lose focus. So, I try not to fill consecutive days with the same work. If I have a full day of writing, I make sure my next day involves something different.

If it’s not practical because of pending deadlines then I try to introduce some diversity by planning work for different clients. If I have a day of writing about consumer tech, I make the next day about enterprise or management. That gets my brain working in different ways.

5. Schedule some fun

In order to get the most out of my work time I always slow for some social time during the work day. If I was in a 9 to 5 office I’d occasionally grab a coffee with a friend or chat in the lunch room. There’s no reason that has to stop just because I’m self-employed.

Each week, I plan to catch up with a couple of friends on the phone and go out for lunch with my wife. While those activities can cut into work time, they actually help me be more productive by keeping my brain fresh.

So, what do you do to get the most from your time?

The 7-step guide to using social media for small business owners

Social media can be an immensely useful tool for small businesses. Here’s our 7-step guide to getting the most from social media for your business.

This guest post is by Phoebe Netto, the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a marketing and public relations consultancy for small-to-medium businesses. Phoebe has a background in public relations and marketing, and takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses with big budgets, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives. Visit www.goodbusiness.net.au (be sure to sign up for the Good Business Consulting newsletter and check out the blog while you’re there) or follow her on Twitter at @Phoebe_Netto

In marketing yourself and your business, you should aim to be at every watering hole where your ideal clients congregate. After all, if people do not know that you exist and what you can offer, how else will they become clients? For many of you, one of those waterholes will include social media.

Social media opens up a whole new audience to you, provides a means to make new connections, and gives you the tools to introduce yourself and your services in a subtle way to your ideal clients.

It allows you to extend the reach of your thought leadership and gives you the opportunity to share examples of your work and testimonials. Social media can also provide you with a constant flow of advice, ideas, and links to resources that are focused on your area of expertise or interest.

Regardless of what social media platform you decide to use, there are universal principles or golden rules that you must adhere to. You will notice that these rules are not much different to society’s rules for social engagement offline.

1.        Do things on purpose

If you are on twitter, know why you are on twitter and let your tweets reflect your purpose. The same rule applies for every social media platform. For example, I help small-to-medium businesses and sole operators grow with marketing and public relations. I need to ensure that the majority of my tweets on twitter are about small business, marketing and public relations. My twitter followers should know what to expect of my twitter content.

One of the mistakes that many small businesses and sole operators make when using social media is that they do not choose the right platform. This results in busy activity rather than productivity. Only focus on social media platforms that are a gathering place for your unique target group.

For example, young pet owners would be more inclined to interact with you on facebook than on LinkedIn. If you are a freelance journalist, twitter would be best as there are countless editors to interact with there and you can share links to examples of your work.

2.        It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason

Always remember that social media is not a foreign land speaking in another language. It is real life with real people, real relationships and real conversations.

This is why many of the same social etiquette principles that we value and operate by in business and in life, also apply to social media.

3.        It is better to give than to receive

In my business there are a couple of principles that lead to successful marketing and public relations. In media relations if you give others (journalists, editors and the publication’s readers) what they want, you will get what you want. For example, if I help a journalist by giving them a great piece of news or a well-written bylined article, I will get what I want which is great coverage for my client.

Similarly, marketing is most successful when it is focused on meeting needs and making life easier and more pleasant for others. When a small business addresses the deepest concerns and desires of both its clients and potential clients, and makes them feel special, they will attract leads and repeat business.

When operating by the following rules, social media can deliver your message to new audiences, provide you with new connections, and act as a platform to share your expertise and thought-leadership:

4.        No yelling in the hallway (or on social media)

Would you ever walk into a room full of strangers and announce, “I can take your business to the next level at half the price”? No? Didn’t think so. So don’t do it on social media.

If you notice that someone on your social media platform asks for a recommendation or complains that they can’t find a good provider of a certain product or service, then sure – feel free to suggest a solution or offer to discuss offline with them. You might even land a nice piece of new business. The point is to be helpful, with brings me to my next point.

5.        Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you

Use social media to share, give value, help others, provide helpful information, collaborate, and create a reason for people to want to know more about you and what you do.

You can give value and at the same time promote your business by sharing links to your blog, provide thought leadership, expertise and helpful advice. This shows that you are passionate about your industry area and gives people a non-confrontational and subtle way to experience your knowledge.

Make sure you also share other people’s blog posts, links to useful website, spread great social media content (such as tweets) from others, and promote other businesses (if worthy of promotion). Remember, it’s not all about you!

6.        You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason

My mother always used to tell me this and she was right (as usual). Social media is not a forum for monologues. Those who do not interact or listen to what others are saying on social media will eventually find themselves very lonely (offline and online).

Worthless tweets and overactive robots cause more harm than good.

Instead interact with others by asking questions, offering advice and responding to other people’s online questions.

7.       All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Show your personality. People do business with people, not companies. So make sure show your personality so people can feel a connection.

Be sincere. You can’t fake relationships – even on social media. Put a smile on the faces of those who follow you.

These principles are also golden rules of social media. Zig Ziglar summarised it by saying, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you follow these principles you are well on your way to building important connections with your ideal clients.

Social media is one of the greatest tools available to small-to-medium businesses and sole operators. You can communicate directly with your ideal clients without going through a ‘middle-man’ such as a journalist, advertisement or website.

Building a home office

If you’re a freelancer, then setting up a decent workspace at home is important. Not only is it a place to get work done but it’s a way of separating your work and personal life. Otherwise the whole house becomes your office and you can never switch off.

I wrote about how I created my home office a while ago and the story has just been reprinted at AusCam.

Next week, I’ll take you on a video tour of my home to office commute!

Free Course – The Practice of Online Journalism

One of the great untapped resources, in my view, is the iTunesU. This is Apple’s initiative to get further education into the hands of as many people as possible. One course that I recently saw featured is “The Practice of Online Journalism”. It’s presented by The Poynter Institute for Media Studies and features 15 video lectures of between 40 and 70 minutes each.

I’ve not watched them all but this course is just one of a series on the practice of journalism with visual journalism, leadership and ethics among the various topics also covered.

They’re all free to download and can be watched on a PC, iPad or any video-capable iPod. To find them, open iTunes, click the iTunesU link at the top of the screen and search for Poynter.