Being an entrepreneur ain’t easy! It’s hard to keep up with general administration tasks, stay on top of your finances, and even measure your marketing efforts. And let’s face it, that’s just starching the surface… there’s a lot more that you have to do every day.
Luckily enough there are some useful web applications and media tools that not only will make your life easier, but they will also help you grow your business.
Facebook is the social networking giant you’ll want to be sure your business has a presence on. A fun fact about Facebook is that if it were a country it would be the third largest in the world (Wow!) . It’s a very powerful tool for building relationships, raising visibility for your brand, and targeting your customer niche.
With a robust and relatively low-cost advertising platform, you can connect directly to the potential customers or clients who might want to know about you. Optimization tools help you fine-tune and target your ads more intelligently, and get detailed insight into who is responding to your ads.
Facebook Pages more like personal pages, your brand’s home on Facebook is no longer relegated to fairly static profile information. Since the Wall Feed is usually the main point of entry for your fans and visitors, think of it as an opportunity to provide some sort of utility to your visitors, whether it be information, entertainment, or relevant expressions of your company’s culture and mission.
LinkedIn – networking is a key part in running a successful business. Even if you don’t have much time, through LinkedIn you can network overthe web. From hiring to networking with cohorts and potential clients to participating in groups and question threads, LinkedIn is a powerful social network for entrepreneurs and business professionals of all stripes. It’s a great place to both discover and research potential job candidates (with a reported 75% of hiring managers using it over Facebook and Twitter), as well as both keeping up with and extending your network.
Twitter – reputation is everything. When you are small you have to please every one of your customers… even if they are wrong. Through Twitter you can see and respond to what people are saying about your company and your competition.
Try not to use Twitter as a purely broadcast medium; whether one person or several posts to your official account, make sure your company is listening and interacting as well as simply posting. Strive for authenticity in your company’s tweets and try to think of it as taking part in a conversation, not just another soapbox platform.
HootSuite helps organizations use the social web to launch marketing campaigns, identify and grow audience, and distribute targeted messages across multiple channels.
Using HootSuite’s unique social media dashboard, teams can collaboratively schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, WordPress and other social networks via web, desktop or mobile platforms plus track campaign results and industry trends to rapidly adjust tactics.
WordPress – blogging is a great way to acquire new customers. By using WordPress you can blog to help new customers find out more about your industry, and the solution your product provides.
Most reports and punditry on the death of email are a bit premature. The good old fashioned mailing list is still a good way to maintain relationships with customers, especially when done well.
The web-based mailing list manager MailChimp offers list management, tracking and analysis, and custom HTML templates for up to 500 subscribers and 3000 emails a month for free. Paid plans kick in at larger subscriber numbers. Featuring integration with WordPress ( ), Twitter, Salesforce and more, MailChimp is the list manager of choice for an impressive list of heavyweights including Mozilla, Intel, Canon, Fujitsu, Staples and more.
MailChimp has a well-documented API that allows you to integrate the service with your own existing applications, tools, content management system or CRM solution. There’s a growing list of plug-ins already created for a number of platforms.
From bug reports to feature requests, UserVoice can help track and manage the feedback of your users and customers. Not only does it assure your userbase that you care about what they have to say, but it can potentially leverage the best suggestions from the people who are actually using your tool or service. Since users can vote on the ideas of other users, you can start to get a picture of the most-requested features and fixes for your app or service to feed back into your products’ lifecycles. You can also use UserVoice to get feedback on a limited release or beta version of a product by setting up a private forum or forums. You can send invites to specific email addresses, or limit your feedback to company-wide participants by restricting access by email domain.
Manage Projects Better with Basecamp. Millions of people use Basecamp to collaborate and manage projects online.
If you’a startup, you’ve got a heck of a lot going on. You need to keep on top of your projects and open loops, not just internally but with your clients, partners, and customers as well. That’s where a good project management tool comes in.
Basecamp from 37signals is a great and cost-effective web-based tool for project management and collaboration. Featuring to-do lists, milestones for important due-dates, file sharing, blog-style messaging, wiki-style writeboards, time tracking, and integration with the excellent group chat product Campfire, basic plans for small businesses start at $24 a month.
I can’t say enough about how much I love Tweet Deck and all the features built in to make your Twitter experience much easier. When I first discovered Tweet Deck it was basically just a way to group your followers. Then they added Facebook, MySpace and most recently LinkedIn to the platform to monitor updates without ever leaving your Deck. Now that they have added Twitter lists, spam blocker and several other nifty features I am totally infatuated. As a matter of fact, I may just have to devote an entire post on getting the most out of Tweet Deck.
Ning is the leading online platform for the world’s organizers, activists and influencers to create their own social network. Design a custom social experience in under 60 seconds giving you the power to mobilize, organize and inspire. Based in Palo Alto, California, Ning offers an easy-to-use service that enables people to create custom branded social networks. With more than 300,000 active Ning Networks created across politics, entertainment, small business, non-profits, education and more, millions of people every day are coming together across Ning to connect around the topics they are passionate about.