I am a bit of a gadget geek and therefore all the Green Umbrella staff use various tools and gadgets to help make our lives easier and more productive at work. All the latest “groovy sites” are listed on the the Julia Doherty Pinterest Board, however here are the tools that we could not live without at Green Umbrella HQ.
WordPress: I have been using wordpress.org for my website and blogging platform since 2010 and I have not looked back. In my opinion it is the most robust, yet easy-to-use blogging platform out there. You will find thousands of themes, plugins, and tools that work with WordPress.
Akismet: This is the wordpress plugin I use to control comment spam. In the early days I actually turned the comments feature off as most of them were spam. Akismet creates less work for you and less friction for your readers. (For example, you don’t have to require them to register to leave a comment.) There is a small charge of $5 a month to use this service, but it is well worth the investment.
Disqus: This is my commenting platform. It is used by thousands of large sites and has become the de facto standard on professional blogs. It is super-easy for your readers and allows them to manage comments across many sites without having to sign in every time. It is also very useful to you as a blogger.
Digg Digg - I have tried many social sharing tools, but digg digg is by far the best because you can enable it to float with your post, therefore the sharing options are constant throughout the article. Tweet this
Google Analytics: This is the gold standard when it comes to analytics. If you want to track your unique visitors, page views, bounce rate, and a host of other metrics, you need to sign up for a free account and then follow the directions for installing it on your blog.
Zemanta: This amazing wordpress plugin is a complete no-brainer. If you want your posts to get noticed, you need to use copyright free photos on your blog and Zemanta will provide them for you. They pull people into the content. Zemanta also includes a related articles function, in-text links, and tag suggestions. The best bit is that it is free! Tweet this
MailChimp: As any Internet marketer will tell you, nothing is more important than building your own e-mail list. I use MailChimp to manage mine. It has a super easy-to-use interface, great analytics, and is 100 percent reliable.
Speakpipe - Speakpipe is the free software that we embed into our website and also Facebook application so that other businesses can leave a voicemail. We then use these audio bites in our podcasts and videos.
Website Alive - Website alive enables you to chat with your customers in real time on your website.
Podbean.com - This took me a while to figure out, but using a hosting site such as Podbean to upload your podcasts, you can then submit these to iTunes automatically. I have played with numerous sites and this one is the easiest to use and cost effective. There is also a Facebook application, so you can showcase your podcasts on facebook.
Audioboo - do provide very quick mini podcasts that do not need editing, then I use Audioboo. It’s quick and easy to use and also links to itunes. It gives you an embedded code so that you can embed the player into your website and is free up to 3 mins. I have upgraded my account so I can now record up to 30 minutes, which was not expensive.
Markerly - A micro sharing content facility. Rather than sharing the whole page by clicking “tweet this button” you are able to highlight a bit of text, or a picture and share it to all social networking sites, or email it to yourself. It’s free and you also get some fabulous statistics from it. Now you know who is sharing your content! Tweet this
HootSuite: I use Hootsuite as my Twitter dashboard. (It can also be used for Facebook, LinkedIn,YouTube too.) It allows me to monitor direct messages, mentions, and the tweets of those I follow. Hootsuite enables you to schedule posts, bulk upload posts to a variety of sources, including groups in LinkedIn and Google Plus. I also use Hootlet, which is my secret weapon as it is a Google Chrome extension and allows you to share and schedule posts from the internet.
Manageflitter.com - All of my social mediators use this service monthly to cleanse our clients Twitter accounts. It enables you to unfollow fake, inactive, and over talkative profiles at the press of a button, and much more.
Twibbon.com - We use Twibbon for our clients who wish to show their support for a charity or a cause. It connects to Facebook & Twitter. For example, you can add a pink ribbon to support breast cancer, or wear a poppy for remembrance Sunday etc.
YouTube - is now the 2nd largest search engine, so having a presence on YouTube is a no brainer. The key to being successful on YouTube is to produce evergreen content, and how to videos work really well to achieve this.
Camtasia Studio - this is the editing software that I use on my imac to produce both my podcasts and the videos.
Pinstamatic - I love Pinstamatic and all of our social mediators (staff who manage other businesses social media management), use this software daily.
Grazebox - We send grazeboxes to people that have answered quizzes online, or uploaded a picture of the Green Umbrella car (GUS), to the Green Umbrella Facebook Page. We like grazebox as you can add a little personal message, and the nibblebox always goes down well with clients.
Sliderocket - If you are not familiar with Sliderocket and you are a user of Powerpoint, then I strongly urge you to have a look. Sliderocket is a fantastic way to protect your intelectual property as you can share the slides with others, see when they have accessed them, and you can put an “expiry date” on it as well. You can record audio, embed videos and the best part is that there is an iPad app for it, so you can showcase your portfolio at the press of a button (great for networking). tweet this
Eventbrite - I use eventbrite to manage all of my events. It integrates with so many other applications that it really is a no-brainer. You can also email up to 2000 emails a day to publicise your events. With Eventbrite you can take payments, give complimentary tickets, add promocodes, sell merchandise and so much more. I have tried numerous event management systems and this one is by far the best (although there is a learning curve to get to grips with the software). The software itself is free, you just pay a small percentage when you have completed your event (depending on how many people have booked and paid).
Simple Events Calendar - I have tried lots and lots of different plugins to advertise my events on my website, but this one does exactly what it says on the tin. I also use the embedded code on Eventbrite as a calendar throughout the site.
Evergreen Business System - The most powerful automated webinar system. I use this system for my wifi workshops and also my monthly “keeping you informed” webinars.
Join.me - join.me is a ridiculously simple screen sharing tool for meetings on the fly and is completely free of charge. I use this tool to share my screen when providing online training, and presenting health checks.
Skype - I use Skype chat with people face to face, as well as conducting online training. (Some people prefer Skype than join.me, which is fine by me).
Anti-Social - Anti-Social is a productivity application for Macs that turns off the social parts of the internet. When Anti-Social is running, you’re locked away from distracting social media sites, including Facebook, Twitterand other sites you specify. With Anti-Social, you’ll be amazed how much you get done when you turn off your friends. Tweet this
Google Drive - Google Drive is a free service that lets you store all your files including documents, photos, videos and Google Docs online and access them anywhere. We use these to share files with our clients and also our staff.
Dropbox - Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Never email yourself a file again! It is a little bit like Google Drive. We use Dropbox for personal storage ie: contracts, terms, GU images, marketing ideas, terms of business, supplier information etc. We then use Google Drive for anything that is client related.
Wunderlist - Wunderlist is a very simple, well designed and easy-to-use task management tool. You can create to-dos from jobs that fill your daily life and assign them to certain lists. If you have any new tasks that spring to mind, just open Wunderlist and write them down. I like this particular software as it is available as an iphone and ipad app, so if I have an idea and put it on a list on my phone, it is then available on my iMac when I get to the office. You can even share your lists with colleagues, and we manage our projects this way. This tool will increase your productivity in every aspect of your life. Tweet this
SW2 - SW2 is the creation from a company called Projecthouse. It is a fantastic CRM system that integrates with social media sites, email marketing, SMS text messaging. We use the training module, however it’s primary function is actually for the recruitment industry. I have used many CRM systems, but this one is by far the most productive and cost effective. I love this software and again, because it is cloud based, we can all access it via a remote desktop app on our ipads or any computer.
Timetrade - Timetrade is the system that we use for our online appointment scheduling. It is quite time consuming to set up, but once it works, it saves so much time and looks extremely professional. It interacts with Google Calendar and iCal / MS Outlook. It is so much easier to send a client a link to your availability calendar and they can just book a date and time. Genius.
Freshbooks - Freshbooks is our secure billing system. We use Freshbooks to create quotations and manage invoices. By logging in to your Freshbooks account you can access your account history, generate reports for your accounting department, review open invoices, approve estimates, and more. The best part for me is the late payment reminder – they work a treat!
Chrome: This is my browser of choice. I find that it is faster than Safari or Firefox. However, it also has some memory quirks when you have too many tabs open, and more recently I have encountered some problems recording audio. But in general it is the best browser and the add ons are excellent.
Milebug – this is actually an iphone app which enables you to record your mileage easily. you do not even have to type your miles, you simply click the GPS tracking and it does it all for you. Then you press a “report” button at the end of each month and a CSV file can be sent to your accountant. Simples
iMargin – another iphone app that I could not live without. I am absolutely terrible when it comes to working out profit margins etc, so if you are using freelancers on a regular basis then this app is for you. Tweet this
Marketing Grader - How is your website performing as a marketing tool? Here is a free summary tool which shows you where you may be going wrong. We use this tool for all clients “health checks” on their business.