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February 20, 2018

Our Four Favorite Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Four Productivity Tools for Busy Business Owners

Thanks for joining us! This is a members-only premium article in our Favorite Things series. In this series, we share the digital marketing tools that we’ve discovered and actually use ourselves, after almost two years of testing and experimenting. We’ve done the research and test-driving, so you don’t have to. Today’s topic: productivity tools for busy business owners.

No affiliate or promotional links. We are committed to providing you with unbiased digital marketing advice. That means nothing you find in this, or any other series, will ever contain affiliate or promotional links. Rest assured that when we recommend something, it’s because we use it and like it. We never recommend products, companies, or tools because we get a kickback.

In this post, we’ll be sharing our favorite productivity tools

The thing about being a business owner is you’re always busy. Ever feel that way? Do you feel like your mind is always running in 5 different directions at the same time? Often wonder how you’ll fit everything in? For us, time literally is our most precious resource and as we juggle two side hustles and a full-time job. There are certain productivity tools that are total lifesavers. Without these tools, we couldn’t be half as productive as are and would certainly have lost our minds a long time ago.

The productivity tools

Evernote – searchable, shareable note-taking anywhere

You never know where you’ll be when great ideas pop into your head. Waiting in line at the grocery store, at the gym, waiting for your food to be brought out at a restaurant… anywhere. Without a tool to capture these ideas, you could lose them forever – maybe even the next million-dollar one! Evernote is our favorite mobile note-taking app. Huge portions of the ideas behind Communication Hackers were recorded in Evernote notes! With pretty sophisticated editing tools, you can even brainstorm, outline, and write entire blog posts directly on your phone in Evernote so you can be productive literally anywhere!! The coolest thing is that Evernote is available for virtually all of your devices: laptops, iPhones, Android phones, tablets… So you can start a note on one device, continue on another, and retrieve it on a third!

Evernote is perfect for teams too. You can share individual notes or entire notebooks and the sync function works pretty seamlessly and perfectly in our experience.

Finally, all of our notes are infinitely searchable, and quickly too. Wanna know when you wrote the phrase “killer idea?” Whether it was yesterday or last decade, the search function will serve it up in an instant.

If you’re a busy business owner, Evernote belongs in your toolbox.

Details: Evernote website. Free basic account. Minimally priced premium features including additional storage, priority uploading of images, and ability to sync more devices.

Grammarly – your very own copy editor

Few things make you look more like an amateur than poor grammar or spelling. Of course, the problem is, spell-checker only works in certain apps (like Microsoft Word) and who can afford their own copy-editor right? Well, the folks at Grammarly heard us loud and clear and gave us a powerful spelling and grammar-checking tool that works (almost) everywhere.

Want to make sure emails to clients look good so you don’t let dumb grammar mistakes erode their trust (or get misunderstood)? Grammarly has you covered with an Outlook plugin.

Need an extra eye on your blog posts so they make you look good? Grammarly works on just about any website you’re on. In fact, Grammarly is giving us helpful hints on our spelling and grammar as we type this very blog post (it just told us about the missing comma after “Of course” at the beginning of this paragraph.

Look your best across all of your digital marketing with Grammarly!

Details: Grammarly website. Free basic account including plugins for Microsoft Office products. Upgrade options for even more intelligent copy-editing (like editing for a specific style of writing).

Cloudapp – screen capture, video capture, & annotation too

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Nowhere is that more true than when you’re trying to explain something to someone.

Ever wanted to describe something on your computer screen to someone and wish you could just snap a pic and mark it up or make a quick video of it? Maybe you even tried hobbling together a solution using your iPhone that didn’t work quite so good (not to mention the 5+ steps it takes). This is a problem when you’re trying share information with friends and family. When sharing info is part of your business, that problem starts to cost you money.

Cloudapp is our go-to solution to easily take screen grabs and even capture video so we can explain things really easily. We find ourselves using Cloudapp all the time – whether we’re collaborating with each other remotely and want to explain something real quick, working with a client and need to explain what we just found on their website, or are calling to customer service for some app we have and want to show them what we need fixed.

You’ll want to add Cloudapp to your toolbox for sure. It will make your life much easier anytime you need to explain something digital to anyone.

Details: Cloudapp website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts offer longer video capture length, more storage, and more bandwidth.

Slack – team collaboration at its best

Communication. Where would we be without it? Just about everything in business revolves around good communication.

In the digital age, communication often means email. Email might be fine for customers, old roommates, or people you’d like to keep at a distance but it downright sucks for communication between teammates. Attachments can be clunky, privacy is a nightmare, send delays can result in your teammate down the hall cursing you and yelling “where’s that file again?” and don’t even try to do anything useful with the search function.

We’ve entirely jettisoned email for team communication and use Slack instead. Slack is one of the biggest growing players in the small business and entrepreneurial scene and it’s no wonder. Think of Slack as secure, infinitely searchable, highly organized instant messaging. You can easily attach images, video, URLs, or just about anything else you can think of to your Slack conversations so you can get more work done! Oh, and the list of Slack integrations is endless. For example, we use a Drift Bot on our website to be as responsive as possible to our customers and the Slack-Drift integration allows us to answer Drift messages right in our Slack stream. It’s like magic!

If you haven’t migrated your team communications to Slack yet, you’re really missing out on some huge productivity gains and super cool integrations.

Details: Slack website. Free basic account. Upgraded accounts for unlimited archiving/searching, guest access, screen sharing, and more.

Here’s to more digital productivity!

There you have it. Our favorite digital productivity tools! These tools will have you doing much more in less time and staying sane in the process.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you tried any of these tools? What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorite productivity tools? Let us know in the comments or come drop us a line on our Facebook page.

January 16, 2018

3 Good Reasons to Rejoice About the Latest Facebook Announcement

Don’t fret about the latest Facebook announcement. Rejoice instead.

Facebook made a big announcement last week that set the marketing world on edge.

For those of you who missed it, the point of this announcement was that Facebook will be making a major change to its algorithm to favor personal interactions and news, over publisher content.

Facebook’s announcement is great for users. Just as an experiment, right after we read the announcement we counted how many posts by marketers were interpersed into our personal feed. The number, roughly 1 in 6, was becoming a serious distraction. Add to that the fact that most of these posts were more about selling a product than sharing interesting content, and “serious distractio”n was starting to become “annoying distraction.”

What does this all mean for your business though?

Reactions have run the spectrum from “oh no” (reflected in Facebook’s share price) or serious concern, to “ho hum.”

Here’s why I think you should rejoice instead. Read More

July 7, 2017

5 deadly social media profile mistakes you can easily avoid

Avoid these 5 deadly social media profile mistakes

Social media profile mistakes are like the Asian Giant Hornet.

People often underestimate it.

But in Japan, where this monster lives, it kills an average of 40 people a year.

Just like hornet stings, social media profile mistakes can kill your business’ brand & digital reputation if you don’t watch out.

Fortunately, you can easily avoid the most common of these social media profile mistakes.

Take a few minutes and take stock of all your social media profiles (especially the inactive ones). Are you making any of the mistakes in this article? A few minutes to clean things up could really boost your business’ brand, digital reputation, and ultimately your bottom line.

Ready for the mistakes you should be avoiding? Here they are!

Mistake #1 – Not having a profile

This is a mistake that is all too common but really shouldn’t be. Don’t just leave your profile blank!!! This is probably the most common of the social media profile mistakes I see (but shouldn’t).

I don’t care if it’s your personal Instagram page or the Twitter profile that you just use for following your long lost cousins who have a traveling oompah band in Germany. If your social media account references your business in any way whatsoever, or if your mug in the profile is easily associated with your business, don’t leave your profile blank.

First impressions happen fast and last a very long time. For example, these psychological studies demonstrate that people stick to their snap judgments even when shown evidence to the contrary.

A blank profile screams “I don’t care” or “I’m just too busy to do this right.” Is that the (possibly first) impression you want to leave anyone?

A title or headline isn’t a complete profile. It’s just the start. Make sure you include a good profile pic along with that title or headline, and a write-up about your business. On social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, & Snapchat, this write-up will have to be brief. You can elaborate a bit more on LinkedIn. Specific listings of the solutions you provide to your customers, or types of projects you can work on, are appropriate there. When it comes to your Facebook page, fill in absolutely as much as you can on your profile. A completed Facebook page is good not just for attracting fans. It also helps with search engine optimization and visibility within Facebook’s own search algorithm.

Mistake #2 – A bad (or nonexistent) profile pic

Your profile pic is often the first thing people will see when your profile pops up on searches or in follow notifications. For example, lots of people use the search pane in the native Instagram app to look for interesting people or posts. The results of searches here will just show three things: The profile pic, the username, & the actual name. Guess what grabs the most attention from people on this very visually driven platform?

Yeah, your profile pic.

In fact, people are inherently visual and form first impressions in split seconds when they see faces. So spend some time and maybe even some money to get that profile pic right.

Don’t crop yourself out of a family pic or just take a random selfie while sitting at your computer. You know what I’m talking about. If I had a dollar for every profile pic that has an unattached arm over a shoulder, or a few strands of hair from the person who’s face was inartfully cropped out…

People will judge your profile pic. Then they will subconsciously extend that judgment to your business.

So spend the time (and even money) on a good profile pic. Try to find a photographer who has experience doing profile pics and has a studio where you can get some done. This will be some of the best money you’ve ever spent on your digital marketing efforts.

Or, if you have to take the DIY route, look for a good step-by-step, well-shared article by someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Mistake #3 – Writing in 3rd person

Social media is supposed to be conversational. As soon as you start talking about yourself or your business in 3rd person, you start sounding a bit arrogant. Or, at least you sound stilted, removed, and not very personable. Writing in 3rd person is an easily avoidable social media profile mistake.

By the way, what I mean by writing in 3rd person is something like: “XYZ company was founded in 2005 and is the premier seller of coffee in downtown Mytown.”

The alternative, using 1st and 2nd person, would be something more like this. “We love coffee and have searched the world for the best brews to serve you. Since 2005 we’ve been brightening days with a bit of caffeine and lots of great service. We’d love to brighten yours!”

People relate better with peple. When it comes to brands, they relate better to brands with personality. Even the commonly held notion that credentials are highly important when it comes to first impressions (which might lead to writing third person) has been disproved by research. See our earlier blog post: Your credentials don’t matter. This does for more insight into why your customers value warmth, trust, and relatability with first impressions.

Write your profile like you’re having a conversation with your audience. That’s how you create a human-sounding brand that your customers can engage with.

Mistake #4 – Not tailoring the profile to the platform

Have you ever gone to an event and forgotten to ask about the dress code? Maybe you showed up to a business casual work social in something way too casual. Or, even worse, showed up dressed to the nines to an even where everyone is in T-shirt and shorts.

Well, each social media platform also has its etiquette and not understanding it can be as embarrassing as a dress code faux pas. Don’t just write a profile once and then cut and paste them on all of your profiles. Using a generic profile (and ignoring etiquette) is a social media profile mistake you can easily avoid.

Here are just a few examples if platform-specific etiquette. Some quick internet research will give you even more insight.

  • Use abbreviations (recognizable ones) and hashtags in your Twitter profile. Your space is really limited here.
  • Don’t use hashtags in your Instagram profile or you’ll look like you just cut and pasted your Twitter profile. Don’t do that by the way.
  • Use appropriate emoticons in your Instagram profile.
  • Provide more than just a short, Twitter-length description in your Facebook page “about” and “story” sections. Your Facebook fans expect more than that.
  • In your LinkedIn profile, make sure to explain and give examples of exactly what your business can do for people, especially if you provide services. Your connections are great referral sources but they can’t refer you any business unless they know exactly what you do.

Mistake #5 – Not taking advantage of the URL link

One of your main goals in social media marketing should be to lead prospects back to your business website. While having followers on social media is great, nothing beats getting those people to visit your website instead. Not having a URL link to get people back to your website is a huge social media profile mistake.

Social media is rented property (and you can have your account suspended or shut down anytime for breaking the rules there). Your website is owned property where you make the rules.

If e-commerce is part of your business (or you ever want it to be) then you need people to visit your site in order to sell to them.

Newsletters (or whatever you want to call them) are one of the best ways to build customer loyalty. Of course, the best way to build your mailing list is through your website.

You’ve gotta get people to your website. So use that URL link to do it.

Leaving the URL link blank defeats half (if not more) of the entire purpose of using social media marketing in the first place!

Ideally, this URL link should point to a customized landing page (here’s the landing page we use for social here at Communication Hackers) but at the very least it should point somewhere interesting on your site. This could be your blog page or your homepage.

Mistake #6 (bonus) – Writing to highlight yourself

Here’s where a social media profile for your personal use is MUCH different than one for your business.

When you have a social media profile for personal use the profile is all about you: likes, dislikes, hobbies, location, status, etc etc. That’s expected.

When your social media is for business, the rules of the game are different.

How often do you read business social media profiles that are just a generic self-description?

Or, in the instances when a business does write in more detail, it’s details that are important to them, not their customers.

The fact is, people really don’t care about you or your business. Sorry. They’re too busy for that.

Instead, what people do care about is what your business can do for them. So that’s what you should focus on.

Show your readers you understand them. Identify an urgent problem they have. Then show how you solve it in a unique and effective way.

Say you own an HVAC business. Don’t just put a generic description of your business (“we provide full service HVAC services in the greater ____ area and service all major brands”) or put details that your audience doesn’t care about (“we are the largest HVAC service company in the ____ city and have been keeping HVACs working since 1950”). The reaction from your readers will be “yawn” if they even stop to read your profile!

Instead, focus on your audience and their problems. Maybe it’s convenience and price in this case. Explain to them why you’ve thought long and hard about these exact problems and have a solution. Something like “Whenever your HVAC needs us – 2 PM or 2 AM – we’ll be there with conscientious, competitive service. No high pressure upsells. Financing always available” can show your audience that you’ve been thinking about them instead of just yourself.

There you have it. Six common, deadly, and avoidable social media profile mistakes.

I know I promised five but I thought I’d over-deliver 🙂

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you. Did we miss any social media profile mistakes that you’ve seen? Will you be changing any of your social media profiles? If you’d like some help with your profiles feel free to drop us a line and we’d love to help!

Finally, no matter what, stay away from that Giant Hornet!!