5 Tools to Get Things Done in a Startup

This is a guest post by Stefanos Karakasis (@SKarakasis) from  rockstart accelerator

Why this post? Because I believe startups can benefit greatly when they organize their value creating activities, via online tools, to minimize waste. In a startup, especially one working towards Product/Market-Fit, you are continuously switching between activities. The most effective startups manage this pull between ‘inside the building’ and ‘outside the building’ activities and the different schedules of the people involved, whether they are managers or makers. The key element is to identify all the value creating activities and organizing them in such a way that it reduces waiting and context switching, to achieve flow. As defined by Womak/Jones in their book“Lean Thinking” (a must-read):

When we start thinking about the ways to line up essential steps to get a job done to achieve a steady continuous flow with no wasted energy, batches, or queues, it changes everything including how we collaborate and the tools we devise to get the job done.

Focus on allocation, delegation, automation and leadership; optimizing these activities gets more things done. Why? Because you don’t want to trade time for money. Danny Iny wrote an excellent post about that and even wrote a book about it. 

Here are a few questions to ask before batching activities:

  • Which of my activities requires feedback from others?; 
  • Which of my activities have tangible outcomes; 
  • Does the activity challenge me. 

So now we have covered the "why", let’s move on to the tools, which allow you to scale flow in a startup on a personal and team level. 

Tool 1:

Trello – Use Kanban For Project Overview

Trello

is a great way for visualizing the work that needs to be done, plan and collaborate. By organizing your projects into boards, you can see in a glimpse; who is working on what and what they are working on and where someone is at in the process in case somebody can help out. 

It is easy to schedule interruptible time block for maker work, to achieve these tasks as soon as possible. For me that is in the morning between 6-8 AM. Trello

is a great tool to manage the schedules between managers and makers.

Tool 2:

Su.pr – The Extraordinary Link Shortener from StumbleUpon

Spending a little time upfront to automate routine task goes a long way. When putting yourself out there, in terms of content, you want to engage a wide audience. Su.pr is such a tool since you have the StumbleUpon community behind it. I have been using it for quite some time and it allows you to share and promote your content on Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon at once.  You are able to track the link real-time, since Su.pr provides you with statistics regarding the number of StumbleUpon (SU) reviews, the number of retweets, numbers of click throughs and even the traffic source for the past 30 days. 

Since Su.pr is part of the StumbleUpon family, it has an enormous community of readers (over 20 million) looking to read your post. Unlike other link shortening services, Su.pr gives you the additional benefit of your link going viral within StumbleUpon’s network. Average lifetime a post gets on SU is over a month, which allows more people to discover the link over the course of time. Just make sure you also click the thumbnail photo next to your posts and write a short review for each article. If you pick the proper category and the keyword tags, you will attract readers who are interested in your specified content that are looking specifically for your niche content. 

Su.pr will also analyze your data and suggest the best time to post your stuff for great exposure. That is where Crowdbooster and the Buffer App

come in. (For a more in depth review of Su.pr, check out 20 Million Reasons To Use Su.pr ). 

Tool 3 & 4: CrowdBooster & Buffer App – Some Followers are More Equal Then Others

Being involved in several other activities, you want to reach your audience at the best times to make sure you don’t fill up their subscriber’s inbox. When you look beyond the clicks, you want your audience to actually engage with your content. For startups, or any other business, it is key to know their target audience. The solution: dual use of the infamous CrowdBooster and the Buffer App.

This ideal couple of tools gives you an array of interesting statistics and analytics about your Twitter account and followers, including how your tweets are doing in terms of reach, the most influential users who have interacted with your content and when the most optimal times to tweet are.

You can take this last bit of information from Su.Pr and head on over to the Buffer App and manually input these optimal times as your ‘scheduled’ post times so you are sure to reach your most active followers. These are the people that you want to include in your customer development interviews. For everybody else, we have Survey.io.

 

Tool 5: Survey.io – Online Customer Development

Most of the time it’s gut feeling that determines whether your product is good enough. Something that hits you or just feels right. Trying to scale to early, can easily kill your startup.

Introducing: Survey.io, an objective metric that also gives lots of important qualitative information back.

The key question on which the survey revolves is focused on the emotion, which a customer would experience if he or she no longer could use the product. The key here is to get over the magical 40%. Then there is a great chance you can build sustainable, scalable customer acquisition growth on your “must have” product. 

Flow & Work Hacks

These are just a few tools to automate, collaborate and delegate, which should make life easier and scale flow beyond yourself. In a startup context: Ash Maurya is sharing his experiences in his

Running Lean Mastery Series

where he also provides ways to scale beyond yourself and organize your activities to reach flow on a daily and weekly basis by pitching in a few

work hacks

How do you organize your activities for flow and get things done?

Stefanos Karakasis (

@SKarakasis

) is a Startup Marketer at rockstart accelerator (

@rockstartaccel

), a new program that helps the most promising teams from around the world to launch their startups and break through on a global scale. 

10 Twitter Tools To Improve Your Tweeting Experience

I will admit, I'm LOVE discovering new tools. And with so many fantastic Twitter tools out there, I thought I'd share 10 new Twitter tools that I've recently spotted.

Some of these use on a regular basis, and others are worth exploring and I would like to hear YOUR feedback on them (in the comments below). Also, I am not endorsed by any of these companies in anyway.



SocialBro is a tool I discovered that lets you manage and analyze your Twitter community. I use it to analyze high traffic times on Twitter.

Tweet Caddy
















Tweet Caddy handles everything from posting tweets, promoting your website, to auto follow-backs, helping take the frustration out of your twitter campaigns.


Compete Tweet
















CompeteTweet is designed to help businesses see social networks as another platform in which they can compete against their competition and gain customers. It is a free Twitter Analytics tool to help boost your business.


Twitter to Rss















Twitter to RSS is a tool that allows you to read twitter and get the latest news of twitter users chosen by you (import these into your Google Reader for easy management)

TweepFeed
















Tweepfeed allows you to get the articles a person shares on twitter into an RSS Feed. The articles are scraped from the websites without ads, annoying buttons.

Tweetport
















TweetPort is a Twitter summary report that condenses all of your tweets into one, simplified, daily email. It automatically organizes Tweet by their importance.

Twittapolls














Twittapolls is a self-serve poll service for companies wanted to understand opinions tied to content that flows through the Twittersphere.  It allows you to create Twitter polls easily to collect and participation can be monitored in real time.

Tweriod
















Tweriod will analyze your followers' streams, determine when they are most online and then let you know the optimum times to be sending out your tweets

Honourable Mentions

SproutSocial


















SproutSocial has been one of my favorite web applications for quite some time now. It allows you to integrates Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, Foursquare and other networks so that you can understand and monitor where consumers are engaging. If you have never tried it before, they offer a 30 day free trial.

Another quick point worth mentioning:SproutSocial's team and support is PHENOMENAL. They are prompt, courteous, and genuinely care about the user's experience. I highly recommend them when choosing a all-in-one platform.

BufferApp











BufferApp is a tool that has truly simplified my life. It enables you to add Tweets and Facebook posts from across the web, scheduling them into a queue so that it can share them for you throughout the day. 

Have you tried any of the tools? What are your thoughts on them?

4 LinkedIn Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

This is a guest post by Daniel G Hebert (@DanielGHebert)

A few months ago, I found myself in a pickle: I was simply not getting enough traffic through my blog. I kept pushing stuff through Facebook and Twitter, and only received a few nibbles. So I started thinking. I mostly blog about marketing and branding, so where could I find followers that would find my posts relevant?


This is where I turned to LinkedIn for the primary media channel of my blog. Here are some strategies that you can adopt on LinkedIn that are a sure-fire way of increasing your blog traffic.

1. Blog App
If you haven’t already, set up the blog app for your profile. Your blog is probably what you want to show off the most to others. So make it available on your LinkedIn profile. If you set it up as the first thing you see on your profile, you’ll get more traffic that way.

2. Link your Twitter Account
Link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile. When people check out your profile, they can see your Twitter feed on the right panel. If you share your blog on Twitter, they’ll also be able to see it on your profile. Also, your connections will be able to stream your tweets on their home feed. Most people don’t have the same connections on LinkedIn than Twitter, so it’s another way to showcase your Twitter feed to non-followers.

3. Post your Blog in Discussion Groups 
This is by far what I have found most effective for increasing traffic to my blog. When you have a new post, share it in discussion groups that are related to the topic. However, don’t just post a link and leave it as it is - that would be spam, and nobody likes that. Post it as a question that will spark discussion. Have your blog set the stage for discussion. 















E.g. - If you have a post that gives tips about personal branding, post the link in a marketing and branding group. For the title of the discussion, use something like “What is your opinion on personal branding? Do you believe in it? What are your personal branding tips?” and attach a link to your blog with it.

4. Create your own LinkedIn Group
By creating your own LinkedIn group, you have the option of featuring some of the discussions within the group. If you share your posts in your group, you can feature them as a manager’s choice. Also, you can set up news feeds in the group. This means you can set an RSS feed of your blog, and your friends blogs in the group! Awesome!

These are all methods that should help you increase traffic to your blog. I would say over 60% of my traffic comes exclusively from LinkedIn. So what do you think about these methods? Will you give them a shot? Do you have any other LinkedIn tips that could be used to increase blog traffic?

Guest post: Daniel G Hebert (@DanielGHebert) a 4th year Commerce and Marketing student at Mount Allison University and Social Media Manager with NuFocus Group (@nufocusgroup).

20 Awesome Resources to Help You Master Social Media

These consist of a variety of helpful how-to's, templates, and posts that I've bookmarked to help you master your craft. 

All of the links below either lead to a downloadable pdf file, scribd, box.net , or the author's website where you can read the post, ebook, or guide.

Also, a quick disclaimer: I REALLY encourage you to contribute to the author in some way, whether it following them on Twitter, or subscribing to their email newsletter.


Here they are:
What is Social Media by iCrossing
A bit of an older guide, but still a straightforward summary on social media, intended to give you a brief overview and act as a reference guide. 

How to Turn Complaints Into Compliments & Compliments Into Brand Advocates
We all need to be listening online. KissMetrics posted an excellent article on how exactly to monitor your online brand mentions, and essentially address and convert complaints into compliments creating stronger brand advocates.

218 Ways to Make Your Online Marketing Rule in 2012
And I thought coming up with 20 ways were great, 218? Unbounce really takes it to the next level, sharing their top 218 resources of online marketing for 2012.

101 Examples of Social Business ROI
It's critical when approaching companies that we clearly understand and are able to demonstrate the ROI with social initiatives. Peter Kim from the Dachis Group shares with us 101 examples of Social Business ROI.

7 Twitter Habits To Adopt In 2012 To Double Your Followers
Leo at Bufferapp shares with us 6 easy twitter habits that will help anyone looking to expand their Twitter following and make it work more effectively. I will admit, I've implemented some of the recommended habits last week, and have already notice a difference

The Ultimate Guide to Marketing With Facebook's Social Plugins
HubSpot's is known for their exceptional content. In this post they cover each of Facebook's Social Plugins, demonstrating how you can put them to use to improve you websites social capabilities.

Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2011 by Social Media Examiner
A significant 3300 social media marketers provided valuable insight you won’t find elsewhere.

9 Companies Doing Social Media Right and What You Need to Know by Social Media Examiner
How are other companies using social media and what can we learn from them?

Developing a Social Media Strategy by Red Cube Marketing
A step-by-step guide, from getting buy-in at the start to ongoing management, in an easy to follow, straightforward style.

7 Steps to Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Business
7 critical questions which first need to be answered before you, or your company, decides to dive into a social media or digital marketing.

How to Leverage Social Media for Public Relations Success by HubSpot
An ebook by HubSpot to using social media to generate media coverage and improve brand sentiment.

How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day by HubSpot
A guide to streamlining your social media process.

Let’s talk Social Media for Small Business by Duct Tape Marketing
This eBook helps break social media down into easy-to-understand pieces, so you can make use of this powerful resource in a way that grows your business.

Podcast Marketing eBook by Christopher Penn
This guide also assumes that you have a podcast, that you’ve already created at least one episode, and that you have a web site & blog to support your podcast.

Social Media and Social Networking Starting Points by Chris Brogan
An ebook if you’re looking to show an organization how to get into social media and social networking.

Social Media and the Banking Industry
This report looks at community building and blogging within the banking industry.

Social Media Marketing Kit by HubSpot
HubSpot's free Social Media Marketing Kit gives you the tips and tricks you need to harness the power of the social media to find more potential customers, develop meaningful relationships with others in your industry, and position yourself as an expert in your field.

Social Media Press Release Template by Shift Communications
SHIFT Communications have created a new kind of press release — a social media press release.

The Art of Community Now by Art of Community Online
This is an awesome ebook recommended by Mashable for anyone interested in community development. (You can download the entire book for free and share and modify it under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial license.)

The Essential Guide to Social Media by Brian Solis
An executive outline of social media tools and resources needed to listen and participate, guiding PR, customer service, product development, and marketing.

What others would you add to this list? Post them below (even if their your own) and I will include them in an upcoming post!


Google, Plus Your World

This is a guest post by Ray Hiltz (@NewRayCom)

On Tuesday, January 10th Google launched it’s latest weapon for world wide web domination, “Search, plus your World”. Apparently this came as a complete surprise resulting in many people getting their “knickers in a knot” over unfair bias and advantage for Google+.

Privacy watchdog, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Commission) cited Google's decision to include personal data, such as photos, posts, and contact details, gathered from Google+ in Google Search results in its complaint to the FTC: “Google’s business practices raise concerns related to both competition and the implementation of the Commission’s consent order.”

Hmmm…privacy concerns and social platforms, where have we heard that before?

The feature is still rolling out. I haven’t got it yet so it’s difficult to give you a first hand perspective so I’ll share with you a screenshot of what the page looks like with this Machiavellian feature attached. It comes from Francisco Rosales (@socialmouths)’ blog post: Google+ Brings Out the Big Guns

SocialMouths: Google+ Brings Out The Big Guns
Now, see the green arrow? The little guy icon means you want to use “Search plus the World” meaning you want to see Personal Results, Profiles in search and People and PagesThe other one, means just give me the public stuff.

Google's Announcement
In announcing Search Plus, Google says in its blog: "Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about."

"These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience. Search is still limited to a universe of web pages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search."

From the very onset, Google has made no secret about it's plan to integrate Google+ into every property on their web real estate. We see it on YouTube where you can even start a hangout and surf videos live with online friends. We see it in Gmail where we can circle contacts directly from the application. (As we can now do on Search Plus your World).

This increases the sociability of Google+ and as a G+ user, we have the option of sharing publicly or just to our circles regardless of what Google platform we’re connecting on. 

I think this is a smart move by Google. If Facebook and Twitter want to get in on it, then the three of them will have to work out a deal. But because they couldn’t, Google’s social network comes out on top in personal searches.

Mike Elgan (@MikeElgan) wrote a great post on the integration of social data and search: Why Twitter, Facebook and Google Need to be More SocialIt’s his opinion that in a better world, every social network would be represented on every major search service in a way that would reflect each user’s connections on those social platforms.

Let’s say you wanted to stay at a certain hotel in New York and did a search to check it out. If you’ve opted for the Personal Search, not only would you see the usual Hotel listing, but may see a post in a friend’s circle detailing his experience there – with photos. As I’ve said repeatedly to my friends; I’m not on Google’s payroll and don’t consider myself a Google fan boy. But I do enjoy my experience with Google+ and believe that businesses will benefit a lot by participating on the platform. 

The whole idea of integrating all of the Google applications is genius. I love that I don’t have to log in and out every time I want to check my Google+ notifications. This is the future. The other platforms need open their wall gates a bit to to see the bigger world out there.

Do you see Google’s move to integrate Google+ Search as giving them an unfair advantage?

Guest post: Ray Hiltz (@NewRayCom) is a business consultant and founder of NewRayCom, a social media consultancy that specializes in the integration of social media within organizations.