Make GMail Social with Rapportive

A few weeks ago I visited an old friend who has spent his entire career in outside sales.  He asked me what my company did so I explained that we provide clients with technology solutions to business challenges; however, as soon as I mentioned Social Media he crossed his arms and got a sour look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said “Social Media is just a way for people to tell their friends what they had for lunch.  Who cares???”

Unfortunately my friend’s opinion of Social Media is not uncommon, although it is misguided.  Social Media is one of the newest ways for people to communicate although some have refused to try it and thus don’t understand it.  While Social Media is revolutionizing how humans are able to connect with each another, it’s still in its basic form, just another set of tools for people to use to communicate just like email or telephones.  And while there are those who use it to broadcast their daily culinary choices, there are millions of people who use social networking for business – just ask the 59 million Americans who use LinkedIn or the 4 million businesses with Facebook fan pages.  But what if you’re busy?  What if you don’t have time to keep up with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and every other social network out there?  Luckily, Rapportive is here to help.

Rapportive, pictured below, is a plugin for your web browser that consolidates social information about your contacts right into GMail.  Not only does it list your contacts’ name, title, and company right next to GMail’s “Compose” or “Reading” panes, but it also shows you their profile picture, latest status updates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

Rapportive Screenshot

As you can see above, Rapportive shows me all the networks I currently have connected to the plugin.  If I’m viewing one of my contacts, it shows their information instead of mine as well as updates for the social networks that contact participates in.  I now have an easy way of keeping up with my colleagues’ and clients’ social updates without having to dedicate time to checking Facebook and Twitter for them.  If I’m emailing someone Rapportive will even identify when I’m not yet connected to that contact on a given social network and show me a button I can use to connect with them in one single click!

Rapportive was purchased by LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) earlier this year but so far it is a free product and supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Mailplate (but not Internet Explorer or Opera).  To get started, all you have to do is go to the Rapportive install page and add the plugin to your favorite web browser, then link Rapportive to each of your social networks.  All in all installation and setup take only five minutes, depending on how many social networks you plan on connecting.

If you end up installing Rapportive come back here and let us know what you think about it.  Are there other tools you use to keep up with your business contacts?  Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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Twenty Time Saving Keyboard Shortcuts

Ticking ClockAs an IT consultant for small businesses, I spend a lot of time at the computer and most of that time is spent typing.  Whether I’m answering email, drafting a client proposal, or authoring a client status report I try to be as efficient as possible when I’m sitting in front of a keyboard.  One of the ways I save time is with keyboard shortcuts.  It sounds silly but the less time I have to spend using my mouse the more time I’m actually getting work done.

There are many types of computers used in small businesses today but statistically the most common operating system is still Microsoft Windows so these lists are built for Windows-based PCs.  That said, we don’t want our Mac users to feel left out so I’ve found the current list of Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts also.  Without further ado, in no particular order here are my favorite time-saving keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Windows:

Microsoft Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. Alt + Tab:  Hold Alt and tap Tab to cycle through all open applications.  When you land on the one you’d like to switch to, release Alt.
  2. Alt + Shift + Tab:  Same as above except the rotation is “backwards.”
  3. Ctrl + Arrow:  Hold Ctrl and tap the left or right arrow key to move through text a word at a time.  Handy for fixing a spelling a error a few words back as you type.
  4. Shift + Arrow:  Hold Shift to highlight text as you move through a document with the arrow keys.  If used with the left or right arrow key you will highlight one character at a time.  If used with the up or down arrow key you will highlight an entire line at a time.
  5. Ctrl + Shift + Arrow:  Same as above except text will be highlighted.  Handy for copying or deleting entire sections of text.  Keep in mind that you can use paste (Ctrl+C) in conjunction with the highlight function to replace text.  Use of Delete and backspace is not necessary.
  6. Windows + L:  Lock your PC.
  7. Windows + F:  Open the Windows “Search” dialog box.
  8. Windows + R:  Open the Windows “Run” dialog box.
  9. Windows + D:  Immediately minimize all windows and show your Desktop.
  10. Alt + F4:  Closes the selected program.

 

Web Browser Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. Tab:  When navigating a web form, Tab will move forward one field.
  2. Shift + Tab:  When navigating a web form, Shift + Tab will move backwards one field.
  3. Ctrl + Tab:  Cycles through the tabs of a single instance of most popular web browsers.  Works similar to Alt + Tab for applications.
  4. Ctrl + Shift + Tab:  Same as above except the rotation is “backwards.”
  5. Alt + Arrow Key:  Equivalent to using the “Forward” or “Back” buttons in your web browser.
  6. CtrlD:  Add Bookmark.
  7. Ctrl + T:  New Tab.
  8. Ctrl + F:  Find text within the currently-displayed webpage.
  9. Ctrl + +/-:  Holding Ctrl and tapping+ will “Zoom in” to a webpage (make the text larger) while holding Ctrl and tapping- will “Zoom Out” (make the text smaller).
  10. F5:  Refresh the current webpage.  Equivalent to clicking your browser’s reload button.

 

We realize this is a lot of keyboard shortcuts to learn but if you can integrate them into your daily routine they really will save you some time.  I suggest you bookmark this page or print it and keep a copy somewhere near your computer.  If you can learn one new shortcut a week you’ll have learned all of them in just a few months!

Have we left out any important shortcuts?  Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know, and don’t forget to click in the boxes to the right to Like us on Facebook and add us to your circles on Google+!

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Three Tools to Track your Brand’s Online Engagement

Most small businesses I speak with are wary of trying something as unfamiliar to them as building a website or spending money on social media marketing.  Luckily there are plenty of success stories and business cases out there to show them how many other businesses similar to theirs have had wild success with the same strategies I propose.  If you’d like to figure out how successful your own online marketing strategy is, here are three free tools we suggest you use to track your results.

Google Analytics

Google G Logo SmallGoogle Analytics will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about your website’s performance.  It is a free service offered by Google that tracks every visitor to your website and records several different sets of data about how each interacts with it.  This data includes, but is not limited to how the users found your site, what content they looked at and for how long, where they live, and more.

While that may sound very basic, the correlation and insights of Google Analytics are very powerful.  Tracking the source of visitors to your site can help you determine which off-line marketing campaigns are yielding conversions, whether that’s signing up for a newsletter or ordering a product online.  Examining the time spent on each page of your site can help you figure out which content may need a little facelift to more effectively present your business. All in all, tracking website traffic is the single most important thing you can do for your business if you care at all about your online presence.

Google Analytics Traffic Sources Screenshot  Google Analytics Site Referrals Screenshot  Google Analytics Pageviews Details Screenshot

Klout

Small Klout LogoWhile Google Analytics is the standard for tracking a website’s performance, it can’t give you any meaningful insights about the success of your social media campaigns, unless all you do with social media is repeatedly link back to your website.  Luckily we have Klout, which measures Facebook Likes, Tweets and Retweets, YouTube views and comments, and many more social metrics to construct an overall picture of your brand’s social influence.  Once it has an idea of your influence it assigns it a weighted numerical score from 1 to 100.  Just for reference, Justin Bieber’s Klout has recently fallen from 100 to 98.  President Barack Obama’s Klout Score is steady at 87.

While no one knows exactly how a Klout score is constructed, we know it measures primarily the size of your audience, your influence over it, and your likelihood of having your message to that audience amplified.  Additionally, now that Klout has released the “+K” feature, your followers can endorse your brand’s expertise and raise your Klout score simply by clicking a button corresponding to one of the subjects Klout judges you to be influential to.

Klout Dashboard Screenshot  Klout Influencers Screenshot

CrowdBooster

CrowdBooster LogoLast, but certainly not least, is CrowdBooster, which analyzes the performance of tweets and Facebook status updates to help you determine the best times for you to post and provide suggestions for who you should engage with.  Without measuring the more than dozen social networks of Klout it’s not incredibly comprehensive but the main advantage is that it provides suggestions for improving your engagement on the “Big Two” social networks.

The most helpful feature of CrowdBooster is the graph of all your recent status updates.  This allows you to see at a glance each recent Tweet or Facebook post and the impressions and retweets/comments of each, which helps you learn which status updates your audience is most receptive to.  Secondly, CrowdBooster will analyze your past updates’ performance and suggest to you which times of day you should be posting updates.  Lastly, the service will also tell you who your most influential recent followers are so you can reach out to them and start forming relationships.

CrowdBooster Recommendations ScreenshotCrowdBooster Tweet Analysis Screenshot

Conclusion

Individually, each of these tools offers incredible insight into how online marketing campaigns are performing but when the three are combined together one can really get a great understanding of how to increase brand awareness and hone campaigns with nearly surgical precision.  Do you have any tools that are invaluable in your brand management?  Leave a comment and let us know!

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Ten Reasons to Switch to Google Apps

Google Apps Logo

At DBS we’re pretty excited about the Google Apps productivity suite.  In fact, we use it every single day.  Here are ten reasons to join the three million other businesses running Google Apps.

  1. Gain the productivity, collaboration, and communication capabilities of a large enterprise at a small business price.
  2. No hardware to buy, maintain, or upgrade.  Ever.
  3. No complicated or expensive software licensing.  $50 per user per year.
  4. Provide employees secure remote access to corporate email, calendar, documents, and software.
  5. Mandatory SSL connections and additional security safeguards keep your data safe.
  6. Enable users to collaborate on project documents in real-time from anywhere in the world.
  7. Free up your IT staff to work on other strategic projects.
  8. Rely on Google’s geographical data center redundancy and 99.9% uptime SLA.
  9. Gain free access to 24x7x365 live technical support.
  10. Preserve your current technology investments with integration tools like Google Cloud Connect.
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OpenOffice vs. Google Apps as a free Office Productivity Suite

If you’ve ever bought a Microsoft product before you know they’re far from free.  A quick search online reveals most versions of Microsoft Office cost between $200 and $500.  Obviously this puts the world’s most popular productivity suite out of reach for most small businesses.  How then is a small business owner to create professional documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more?  Luckily there are a couple great options available, and both of them are FREE.

OpenOffice Writer Screenshot

A screenshot of OpenOffice's word processor

The first is OpenOffice, an open source software package available for download at the OpenOffice website.  Compared to Microsoft Office’s estimated 500 million users, OpenOffice recently celebrated its 100 millionth download.  It includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation software, desktop publishing, and more.  By default all files are stored in OpenOffice’s own proprietary formats, but they can easily be saved as Microsoft documents instead.  OpenOffice is laid out very similarly to Microsoft products so the learning curve for current Microsoft users is virtually non-existent.  Additionally, there are a plethora of support options available, including FREE community-based (peer) support, and a directory of local OpenOffice consultants.

Screenshot of GoogleDocs' word processor

Screenshot of GoogleDocs' word processor

The second option is Google Docs, which offers the same four basic software programs (word processor, spreadsheet, desktop publishing, and presentation) as the other suites, and also a “Form” tool that creates custom web surveys that one could embed into a website or blog.  All Google documents are stored on Google’s servers and accessed and edited in the owner’s web browser.  Thanks to its internet-based application delivery, Google Docs allows users to share documents with any other person with an e-mail address with just a couple clicks of the mouse.  Unfortunately, the overall feature set is very light compared to more full-featured suites like Office or OpenOffice.  Casual Google Docs users may not take notice of anything missing but more routine or power users will probably be unable to use Google Docs for anything other than minor edits.

While Google Docs is a great light-weight office productivity suite that can perform quick edits of a document from anywhere with an internet connection, it is lacking too many features to be considered a true desktop replacement.  On the plus side, Google Docs offers secure sharing and collaboration, which OpenOffice does not.  What OpenOffice DOES provide is  a full-featured office productivity suite for FREE.  Until Google beefs up the features of its Documents suite, OpenOffice will remain Denton Business Solutions’ productivity suite of choice.

For an in-depth comparison of Microsoft Office 2010 and OpenOffice 3.1, look here.

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