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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What is Twitter?

Block t Twitter IconI coach small businesses on how to use technology and social media to their advantage so Twitter comes up in conversation quite a bit.  And rightfully so!  Twitter is a very important part of the social media world and is growing every day.  While it’s several times smaller than Facebook it is showing up more and more in marketing, product packaging, and even TV shows.  The question of course – what IS Twitter?  And more importantly, what does it mean to my business?

What is it?

Twitter is an information-sharing service.  Its 100 million users from around the world publicly share their thoughts and opinions on every topic imaginable in short status updates of only 140 characters called “Tweets.”  While 140 characters may not sound like a lot, there are tools out there that allow people to include links to websites, to share pictures and to add all sorts of rich content to their tweets, all while staying under the 140-character limit.

Twitter Follow ButtonLots of people you know use Twitter.  Political figures like Barack Obama, celebrities like Justin Beiber, companies like Coca Cola, and regular  folks like me all use Twitter on a daily basis.  The nice thing is Twitter accounts are public by default so if you’d like to see someone’s tweets all you have to do is search for them on Twitter.com and see what they’re saying.  To subscribe to their tweets simply click the “Follow” button on their profile.

Once you’ve clicked the “Follow” button you’ll begin to see that individuals tweets; however, unless that person follows you back by clicking the “Follow” button on your profile they won’t see any of your status updates.  You don’t need to sign up for a Twitter account to make use of the service though.  By default you can see anyone’s profile (and tweets) just by searching for them.  You can also search Twitter to see what topics are trending around the world at any time for free!

Twitter Signup FormWhy then bother to sign up?  Because Twitter, like all other social media outlets, is about building relationships.  That starts with listening to what other people have to say but at some point you’ll want to begin responding to the tweets you come across and “Following” your favorite accounts.  Additionally, signing up for a Twitter account makes it much easier to manage your Twitter experience – you can group people of common subject matter together in Lists, send private messages back and forth to users, etc.

 

What is it not?

Twitter is not Facebook.  By default it’s a much more public service.  Tweets are public and you don’t need someone’s permission to follow them (unless they’ve made their account private).  Unlike friending someone on Facebook, following someone on Twitter is a one-way relationship.  Just because you have “Bieber Fever” and follow JustinBieber so you can hang on his every tweet doesn’t mean he’s going to follow you back.

Farmville is AnnoyingYou’ll also notice Twitter is missing Farmville, Mafia Wars and all other built-in applications.  Twitter profiles are very simple compared to Facebook.  There’s no life history, photo galleries, or any extra fluff – just recent tweets, a profile picture, information about friends and followers, and a short bio.

Twitter is not complicated.  There are really only a few things you can do with the service:  Search, Tweet, Follow, ReTweet, Create lists, and send Direct Messages.  That’s it!  But don’t be fooled.  Much of Twitter’s power lies in its simplicity.  Because the service is capped at 140 characters people have to be clever with how they craft their thoughts.

 

What does it mean to my business?

Believe it or not, people are already talking about your business on Twitter.  The question is whether you’ll answer or not.  And I know at this point you’re incredulous – you think your business is too small to be talked about and you may be right.  What’s important to note is even if people are not talking about your business by name yet, they are certainly talking about your industry, products, services, or even your competition.  There are many uses for Twitter – it can be a customer service tool, a marketing tool, or even a market research tool.  The possibilities are endless.  How could Twitter be useful to your business?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

 

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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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The Great Twitter Experiment – Listening for a Change

Yep, we’re doing an experiment.  The Great Twitter experiment.  You see, large companies like Coke already had global brand recognition before they engaged in social media so it’s no surprise that they were able to quickly grow to over 26 million Facebook fans and tens of thousands of Twitter followers.  But what about the the little guy?  How can “Joe the Plumber” or any other small business owner grow their social media following?  And more importantly, how can the small business owner grow a quality following?  The one word answer is “relationships”.  And hopefully we’re going to prove that.

Why relationships?  Because that’s what social media is all about.  Sure, social media gives anyone a platform from which to spread the gospel of their business or their product, but who’s going to listen?  Established brands like Coke have spent billions of dollars to acquire their customer base and build their brand.  How can a small business do that on a small business budget?  Well, it’s not easy but it’s simple:

  • Listen to what people are saying in and around your industry.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make some new contacts who share some of your interests.
  • Grow relationships.
  • Share your expertise.

Growing your following is so simple in fact, that for the month of May Denton Business Solutions is going to be listening for a change.  Rather than sharing content that we think would be useful to small business owners we’re going to be using the Twitter “Search” feature to actively listen to what people are saying and try to learn more about their technology challenges.  We’ll also be actively engaging with other people who work within some of our core competencies such as Google Analytics, Social Media, etc and work on developing some new peer relationships as well.

What we won’t do is self-promote.  We won’t post a link to our website or blog unless it’s in direct response to a person’s question.  We won’t retweet other people’s posts, and we won’t be tweeting any new content unless it’s in response to another person’s Tweet we found through searching on keywords.  We also won’t seek out new followers.  We won’t redeem any Twiends seeds or ask anyone to follow us.  We will continue to auto follow-back.

In summary, if we knew what the results of our experiment would be we wouldn’t do it.  Over the course of The Great Twitter Experiment we’ll be checking several metrics.  First off, the rate of Twitter growth, our Klout scores, and website traffic.  Secondly, we’ll be tracking other interaction escalation from Twitter to e-mail, phone, RSS, or web traffic.  All in all we’re pretty excited about what the month may bring.  If you have questions, comments, or predictions let us know.  Otherwise let the Great Twitter Experiment begin!

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