Please Note That This Site Has Moved

Posted: November 30, 2009 in Videos

This existing site was developed using WordPress.com. The actual web address for this location is http://www.networksboise.wordpress.com although entering http://www.networksboise.com would, in the past take you to here.

Our new site is built on a WordPress.org platform. Please click here to visit our new site at www.networksboise.com. All new content will be posted at this new site. All content found on this site has been moved to the new site. Unfortunately, the links for each of our previous posts are no longer valid at the new site. However, all posts found on this site can be found via search on the new site.

Thanks for visiting and we hope to see you at our new location!

Craig


Sometime over the next 30-45 days, this site will be making a move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. I’ve done enough reading about the technicalities involved in such a switch that I think I can accomplish this on my own. That being said, this might be one of those cases where … “That’s what you get for thinkin’!”  I may need to call in the geeks (smile)

While I have had a whole lot of fun and have learned a great deal in creating and maintaining these pages, the simple fact is that we have outgrown its capabilities. WordPress.org will …..

  1. Provide a vast array of new choices in terms of cool themes. I have already chosen one of these to at least get started with.
  2. Allow us to integrate some neat widgets that include java scripting. WordPress.com will only allow a small assortment of widgets that they have pre-approved. This is the same case with their selection of approved themes.

Additionally, the focus of this website will return to our members and their respective companies. The sites we developed on a Ning platform were designed for this purpose but they have been abysmal failures. That’s not Ning’s fault. I just can’t seem to get our members to sign up and use the sites period. As I like to say.. “stick a fork in them cause I’m done.” A huge part of this problem is based on the fact that we have been required to use multiple platforms to accomplish our goals including: WordPress, Ning, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Zoho. The sites themselves are o.k., it’s the jumping back and forth that gets confusing. I was working with another company on developing some software that would combine these functions however, part of our plan including offering this software for resale and we ultimately came to the conclusion that the demand for these capabilities simply was not sufficient.

On the brighter side, I continued to research alternatives in anticipation of the potential need for a “Plan B”. Our new site will be designed to ….

  1. Give our brand a new look including a new logo that is close to being finalized.
  2. Prominently feature members in each group along with their companies including appropriate contact information.
  3. Provide our members with the ability to submit their own contributions in terms of articles for the blog.
  4. Allow for a tighter integration with our CRM’s as well as the introduction of a new very easy to use group collaboration tool that I am presently evaluating.
  5. Minimize the number of platforms required and make those that we do need more user-friendly.

There may be some technical challenges involved but I believe that they can be overcome. The actual address of this site is http://www.networksboise.wordpress.com. The new site will be just http://www.networksboise.com which, incidentally, is how this site is already referenced in our printed materials. We do own this domain name and have been forwarding that address to this WordPress.com URL. I have confirmed that I will be able to export the contents of this site and import them to the new .org location. The big question revolves around the fact that all of our existing pages and blog posts are linked to our present WordPress.com address. I am not sure how exactly this works but I am led to believe that for less than $10 we can do something called “domain mapping” that will take care of this problem. If it takes care of the problem, great. If not, I’m already over it.

Thanks for visiting! Exciting times ahead!

Craig

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Some months ago, FireFox was running so slow and was so lame for me that I decided to make the switch to Chrome. After working with it a few weeks and finding that there were so many add-ons and intricacies where FireFox worked better for me, I decided to go back to FireFox and see if things had improved. They had but, after my last update, FireFox has been maybe even worse than before. So, back to Chrome and with the improvements I am discovering, and as long as Google doesn’t hose me, I see no reason right now to go back. Here’s what I have discovered since I last used Chrome …..

Good:

  1. Chrome is still blazing fast. Sweet!
  2. Wisestamp signature lines for Chrome are now available as an extension. Must have! Even better is that there is a hitch in the version for FireFox that automatically inserts a new signature line every time you open a draft. Not a problem with Chrome.
  3. Zemanta is now better integrated with Chrome. Perfect!
  4. My FaceBook gadget on my iGoogle home page now expands to multiple lines on the update where on FireFox it just kept scrolling on a single line to the point where you could not even remember what you type.
  5. A number of my other gadgets on iGoogle appear to be more stable.
  6. I had a FireFox add-on that allowed me to reduce tab widths. Chrome’s “pin tab” feature may be even better as it reduces selected tabs to favicons only.
  7. I was able to create a universal search box with an extension which was a feature that I had with FireFox and used almost exclusively for LinkedIn people searches.
  8. There is actually a LinkedIn extension that displays updates from my network. I did not have this with FireFox. It was a pain to get running as the RSS feed from LinkedIn refused to work (I know this to be a LinkedIn problem) but, after repeated tries, a feed link finally took and it works great!
  9. Rapportive for Gmail is now available on Chrome. This gives me a snap shot view of my contact’s social media networks.
  10. Every bookmark that I need on my toolbar, particularly those for sharing, are right where they should be.
  11. I actually have four different Ning sites and, previously, the editing commands did not play nice with Chrome. That issue has been since resolved.
  12. AddToAny is now a Chrome extension. I use this to circumvent WordPress.com and insert the sharing bar found at the end of each of my posts.

Not So Good:

  1. I can’t believe this but I cannot get a Gmail for hosted accounts iGoogle gadget to work with Chrome. This sucks. Mostly I want this to see if new items are in my inbox. My work around was to install Better Gmail, which I like, but it was doing funny things. This was yesterday when Gmail was announcing that it was going to a OAuth authorization system. I may have been caught up in that but was able to install the Gmail Notified extension that alerts me to items in my inbox.
  2. Sizing images in WordPress.com used to be something where you could select a point on the image and drag it to whatever size. With Chrome I need to manually specify the size needed which is more difficult as I have no visual. If this presents a problem, I can always log back in using FireFox.
  3. FireFox was not much good at remembering form-fills and the jury on this is still out on Chrome. However, Chrome is real flaky on remembering passwords. Some sites it does and others it does not. Part of this is form fill. For example, I have three different Zoho CRM accounts and Chrome is not remembering my usernames and passwords for any of them. This really sucks.

Overall, I really am liking Chrome. That being said, I am also quite fickle. We will see what tomorrow brings (smile).

Thanks for visiting!

Craig

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I’m beginning to think that I should convert this into an e-book or something (smile). When we left off on the last post we had successfully loaded all of our email and social media contacts into Gist in order to create a centralized CRM database. If we have not already done so, our next step would be to create a tag or tags for each contact that we have. Doing this from scratch could be challenging based on the number of contact records that we have but, it is necessary. Doing this as new contacts are added should painless.

Adding tags to Gist is pretty self-explanatory. You will, however, want to make sure that your tags are consistent. Let’s say we create tags for “A Client”, “B Client” and “C Client” (these tags are created on the fly and are free-typed). I have good news and I have bad news (smile). In order for you to make a decision regarding how you are going to classify a contact, you will probably want to go to each contacts record and evaluate the information found there in order to make an informed decision. Mind you, you do not have to do this as you can open up your “People” tab in Gist and go down the list and check boxes and then do a bulk tagging for all those who you have selected.

Why then, would I want to look at these records individually?

  1. Maybe you would like to get to know these people better? LOL
  2. You will be able to properly discern just how important they are as it pertains to your efforts.
  3. Gist does give you the ability to add notes to each record and that can become invaluable.
  4. Your record review will also allow you, through Gist, to request missing or additional contact information.  While Gist is great at mining most information, there will be occasions where you will want to manually add things like links, addresses, personal information, etc.

Once we have everyone classified, the magic can begin. Now when we open our “People” tab on Gist you will see each of your tags listed up top and you will now be able to click on any tag and see just those people who are associated with this designation. Sweet!

Finally, if it were me, I would want to establish some sort of reminder system that could be as simple as setting a reoccurring task in my calendar. Something like a monthly reminder to contact your “A” clients, bi-monthly for “B”, and quarterly for “C”. You will need to decide what that schedule needs to be and what is appropriate. Through the use of the Gist “note” field, you can keep track of what methods of contact you have used with that particular contact although Gist will automatically register emails etc. However, Gist does only hold these email records for 90 days (they will still remain within your actual email client after that as long as they have not been deleted).

Retaining good clients and developing them into better clients is largely based on showing them some love. Moving second tier contacts to first tier is based on the same principle. I would strongly suggest you view this slide show from one of our NetWorks! Boise members, Tom Gay with The Alternative Board – Boise, on this subject.

Happy hunting and thanks for staying tuned!!

Craig

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Please note:  We are going to suggest a workable solution to the quandary posed by having multiple lists generated from your social media & email accounts. It’s not particularly pretty but it is the best that I can offer based on the applications that I have found and have worked with. If you have a better solution, please share!

When we left off at the end of Part II, we had created lists of our “A”, “B”, and “C” accounts from each of our major social media networks (Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn) as well as from our email accounts. The question we were left with was .. “How can we aggregate these lists into a central database?”. If you have read Part II, and I suggest you do, you will recognize this as being an extremely complex task.

I posed this question on LinkedIn Answers and did receive some replies although that number was less than I had expected. I do believe that this is reflective of the fact that, right now, there is no great answer. At this stage, everything is so fragmented that nobody has yet figured a cost-effective way to pull all of this together (at least that I am aware of). There is only one tool that I have in my arsenal that is at least partially up to the task and that tool is Gist.

Why Gist? While Gist may not be a true CRM, it is very Social. It becomes the basis for our social media and email aggregation. Nothing that I have encountered is as powerful at mining contact data and social media information as is Gist. What this means is …

  1. Gist connects to your Twitter and FaceBook accounts and automatically pulls followers and friends into the Gist database and establishes an account record for that individual. It also automatically updates changes to those contact records.
  2. It does the same for your Gmail, Google Contacts, Yahoo, and AOL accounts
  3. New followers and friends are automatically added to Gist as a new contact record.
  4. You will need to do a manual upload of your Outlook and LinkedIn accounts however, we will also discuss a way that you can have Gist do this for you automatically.
  5. Once Gist has some information on a contact, it voraciously scours the internet for more. Things like news feeds, blogs, websites, addresses, whatever it can find on that individual.
  6. Providing the contact name is consistent, it is incredibly adept at merging data into one contact record and avoiding duplicates. Where you will create duplicates is when you have names like “Craig Jamieson” and “Craig M. Jamieson”. Still, there is a record merge utility that works very well.
  7. Your new combined contact record will include a listing of emails, files and links exchanged with this contact in addition to streams from Twitter, FaceBook, and other “news” feeds. You can even reply, retweet, and comment within these streams allowing you to interact with others directly through Gist.
  8. Gist will also rank your contacts by their importance to you based on your interaction with that individual and tells you when that last interaction occurred. Hello! Can you say “A”, “B”, “C”?

I think it is critical that I make sure that one key element is clearly understood. I am not entering links etc. into Gist in order to establish my contact’s social media profiles. Gist is doing all of this for me without any need for my interaction. None! That’s powerful.

As was stated, Gist will require you to manually export files from Outlook and LinkedIn and then import them into Gist. When doing so, Gist does a great job of merging that data into existing records if they are present. However, there is a way to circumvent manual imports for both. You will need to install two add-ons for your Outlook: The LinkedIn Toolbar for Outlook and the Gist Plug-In for Outlook (this link is an actual file upload of that utility). You are going to love this!

  1. The Gist plug-in, among other things, will connect Gist directly to your Outlook contact records and that will allow Gist to pull those records directly into Gist. Sweet!
  2. The LinkedIn Toolbar for Outlook works bi-directionally. It looks at your Outlook contact list and watches for when any of those contacts sign up for a LinkedIn account and, when they do, it notifies you of the new opportunity to connect. It also takes your LinkedIn connections and creates contact records for them in Outlook.
  3. Since my LinkedIn connections are now also contact records in Outlook, and since the Gist plug-in for Outlook grabs contact records from Outlook …  Voila! My LinkedIn contacts are also auto-loaded to Gist. Double sweet!
  4. If you do not use Outlook, you will need to perform regular manual export/imports from LinkedIn.
  5. Technically, providing I have exported files from Twitter and FaceBook, I could import these into Outlook but there is really little or no benefit that I can derive from that primarily as there would be no direct connection to keep these Outlook records updated without regularly doing a re-import with the latest data.
  6. For those of you who may be familiar with Xobni for Outlook, which is a great tool, and are thinking that it will do the same thing …..you would be incorrect. We are speaking of apples and oranges in this application. Xobni does not create or maintain records of its own.

In this scenario, Gist now becomes my central CRM database. I can also classify each contact as “A”. “B”, or “C” through the use of tags which eliminates the need to do that at the individual social media network level. Still, I have bad news people. I am afraid that there is going to need to be a Part IV where we can recap this and talk about practical application (smile). In this next post I would also like to bring some tools to your attention that may be of interest dependent upon your specific needs.

Thanks for visiting and please stay tuned!

Craig

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Please note: Before we get started on Part II of this three-part series, I did want to state that we will be discussing free solutions. I have no doubt that enterprise and customized solutions are available. Names that have been mentioned to me include: Microsoft CRM, vTiger, Sugar CRM paired with Pluck and others. Me, I’m on a budget and that budget is pretty slim (smile).

When we left off on the previous post we were discussing the need to classify our contacts as either being “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D”. You may wish to get rid of “D” (delete) from the get go which means that massive amounts of blood must be spilled. Don’t worry, you will thank me later (smile). However, social media does present its own unique twists in the classification process. If I communicate with somebody via email there is some evidence that I have probably engaged with that individual directly. Looking at my email and my CRM, it should also be fairly easy to identify who invests what dollars with me annually. On the other hand, with social media …

  1. How many people do I really know and how many of those have I engaged with directly? Be honest. For me, that is not too damn many.
  2. Social media connections make it more difficult to assess value. As an example, a lot of the folks that I follow on Twitter provide me with real value in terms of information that I want and need. Should this also be considered? I would think so. If I am an internet marketer or have 10,000′s of followers, this task may prove to be insurmountable, unnecessary, and maybe even undesirable.
  3. The same could be said for FaceBook and LinkedIn.
  4. What about each contact’s potential to connect me with others. Still another factor.
  5. How about distance? Is it important, even necessary, that your best connections be local? That is something that you will need to decide.

So, how do we need to go about the actual physical classification process with each of our four services?

  1. Email – with something like Gmail you can do groups. With Outlook, choose an open field that you would normally not use. Even something like “IM address”. Something that you can search and sort by.
  2. Twitter – create lists
  3. FaceBook – create lists
  4. LinkedIn – if you have a premium account, you can create profile folders. Otherwise use tags.

Now, and this assuming I have only one email account, I have four separate lists. And, if I wish, I can work all four of these lists separately based on the 80/20 rule where we will devoting the majority of our time and efforts toward the 20%. Having four sets of contacts sucks so this now gets even more complex. While all of these services are very adept at allowing you to import your contact lists to them, they are not so friendly about exporting contact information out so that you can import that into a central database. Most email and contact management programs would be the exception (easy to import/export) but, look at …

  1. FaceBook – I found some utilities that will go around FaceBook and get you some contact information but email addresses are totally blocked from any export.
  2. Twitter – Twitter does not even use email addresses per se. There are some utilities that will backup and allow you to export what Twitter does have. Click here to read an article with some great links to some options although I have tried none of them. For the sake of this example, let’s ass/u/me that they will work as described.
  3. LinkedIn – at least they have relented and will allow you to export which was not always the case.

Now I have four export files. That is also ass/u/ming that I was able to export my classification data along with everything else so that I can sort later. Otherwise, I could potentially be looking at export files for “A”, “B”, and “C” and for all four databases. That’s 12 files. Yikes! Are we having fun yet (smile)? What should I do with them? I’d like to have them all in one place but where would that place be?

Ideally, we would now import each of these files into a CRM and then we are off to the races. For purposes of demonstration we will use Outlook. Outlook is not much of a CRM (even with Business Contact Manager) but at least it is something that most of us are familiar with and can relate to. However, there are at least five glaring obstacles to this being a truly viable solution …

  1. The duplicates that will likely be generated by each database are huge. Remember, for a lot of these folks you are likely connected via more than one service. A massive amount of cleanup is going to be required.
  2. This same cleanup process is going to render the entire database useless from a Social CRM standpoint unless you can effectively merge records vs. delete duplicates.
  3. What you will end up with but will the final contact record reflect all of their social networks? If you are using Outlook, the simple answer is that it “will not”. There are no fields in Outlook dedicated to social networks. At least not in 2007. Perhaps in 2010? You are only allowed one web address so that is out. I suppose you could put them in “notes”.
  4. Will your choice of CRM monitor your contact’s ongoing social media activity?
  5. What happens when new contacts are added to one or more of your social media networks? Remember classification, export, import like we just completed? Do it all again. Repeatedly.

One of the most basic of sales principles is to “make them sick then make them well”. If at this point I don’t have you at least on all fours and praying at the porcelain altar, I haven’t done my job. My next post will, hopefully, dispense a little Pepto Bismol (smile).

Thanks for visiting! Watch for Part III!

Craig

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This will be Part I of a three-part post. It’s also the easy part. Part II is going to be a bitch (smile). Part III will discuss execution.

You’ve heard it all before … 20% of the people do 80% of the work. 20% of my efforts will yield 80% of my results. No matter what you do and where you are, there is an 80/20 rule in play. Being in sales, my axiom is that “80% of my business will be generated by 20% of my clients” and, it’s all true!

Which brings us to Social Media. Social Media is no different in terms of the formula. Where it does differ is in the huge size of the overall variables. Due to its incredible reach via the accompanying degrees of separation, the numbers are monstrous! If your directly connected numbers are huge, what are those numbers potentially? They are …. GINORMOUS.

My direct connects are not large by any comparison when it comes to Social Media. I have about 1,500 followers on Twitter, about 200 connections on LinkedIn and a little over 125 on FaceBook. Still, that is over 1,800 connections. God only knows what I would do with more. The numbers I have are totally unmanageable as it is. I also have approximately 1,500 contacts in my email database so this potentially brings the total to more like 3,300.

Now let’s apply the 80/20 rule. Can I find 660 folks in this mix who are my go-to people? If these 20% are going to help me to produce 80% of my revenue, does it not make sense that they should be receiving the lion’s share of my attention? Yes, it does. The following concepts are nothing new…

I already have the database(s) and presumably have those sorted. The next step is classification and this also involves qualification. We can use an “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” method with “A” being our best connections and with “D” being … well with “D” being “delete”. Dump them. Don’t need them. Give them to your competitors along with your compliments (smile). You are going to need to devote some time to first deciding what qualifies a connection as an “A” vs. “B” etc. I would say that an “A” connection is someone who …..

  1. Consistently invests large dollars toward your services
  2. Has the potential to maintain or increase their investment
  3. Knows you on a first name basis
  4. Is a huge supporter of you, your business, and your services
  5. Always takes your calls
  6. Actively refers others to you
  7. Speaks to you regularly about areas that are not business related
  8. Likes to pick up the check even though he or she is buying from you (smile)

Perhaps your “B” contact, while still very important today, is somebody who more so has a huge potential to be groomed into becoming an “A” client. The “C’s”? Let’s just say that they help pay the bills. They comprise the 20% of your volume and the 80% of your contacts. The fact is, you “A” category may only contain 5% of your total contact base which, in my case would be 165. Still, these 165 may contribute 65% of my total volume or more.

Here is where this all becomes very complicated. I may be connected with multiple contacts on multiple services. For example, I am connected to “Mr. Smith” via email, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If I use multiple email accounts, he may be listed on all of those. Therefore, my 3,300 contacts is quite likely a much smaller number in actuality. For me, all of this is true. I think that maybe I should just “gut” myself and get it over (smile).

It gets even worse. My four or more databases (email, Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn) are all separate databases. Please also remember that several of these contacts will appear in more than one of these lists. Do I classify each database separately? How do I keep them updated and all in sync? If all of this sounds easy to do … please leave a comment and hopefully the answer! Hell, I might even ask you to write Part II and Part III. LOL. Part II will be posted likely this coming weekend and will include my suggested solution to help mitigate this challenge.

Thanks for visiting!

Craig

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Please note that I said “difficult”, not “impossible” (smile). It just occurred to me that while I have talked about HootSuite quite a bit on this site, I have never done a dedicated post on this wonderful tool. My bad. I can still recall the first time that I had a chance encounter with this application. Not very long after I started this blog. my page hits were rapidly rising on a recent post. I tracked the source of this back to a tweet that had been generated by something called “HootSuite”. At the time I had absolutely no idea of what that was. When I investigated further, I quickly decided that this was a tool designed for “power users” and that certainly was not me. I am still no power user but, HootSuite is my top choice for the one client to manage my all my social networks. Trapped on a desert island, I’d be packing this Owl instead of TweetDeck, Seesmic, Brizzly, or any of the other very capable tools that are available and here is why…..

  • Multiple Twitter accounts, FaceBook, FaceBook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, & even WordPress
  • Ping.fm integration and all the networks that this tool can reach
  • Atom/RSS auto feed and send (think TwitterFeed)
  • Multiple tabbed user defined columns with a slider and adjustable column widths
  • Save draft, send now, or send later (as in … SocialOomph)
  • User stats as supplied by Klout
  • Integrated Tweet stats (like bit.ly)
  • Short link translation (so you can actually read what it is)
  • Integrated Twitter lists in addition to saved searches
  • Full reply, retweet, direct message, follow, and unfollow in Twitter
  • Comment and like in FaceBook with threaded conversations
  • Add photos and files to tweets

HootSuite also features a browser bookmarklet called the Hootlet ….

When visiting a website that you would like to share with others, simply go to your browser toolbar and click the Hootlet button (FireFox & Chrome). A tweet is created along with a description of the article and a shortened URL. You can also add your own comments within the 140 character Twitter limitation. Click on the social network or networks that you would like to post to and then choose to save as a draft, send now, or send later at a day and time of your choosing. You can even add a photo or file. I practically wear this button out on a daily basis.

Still, HootSuite is not perfect. It has one feature that many find to be annoying. The only method that HootSuite will use to shorten a URL is by their proprietary ow.ly system. Keep in mind that ow.ly does provide its own stats but many people would like to choose to use another method such as bit.ly. Some networks may not recognize an ow.ly link. You can, however, insert a bit.ly or other link in your tweet and it will send that without problem. Also, when somebody follows an ow.ly link they will be presented with what HootSuite calls the “social bar”. Among other things, the social bar will allow you to retweet that link which is nice. Still, some will find the bar itself to be annoying. You will also notice that the URL in the browser will remain in an ow.ly format. The good news is that you can close that bar and return everything to normal and you can also choose to not have that bar displayed in the future on your specific computer.

I myself can easily overlook the ow.ly handicap when comparing HootSuite to my other choices. It is also of note that HootSuite is a native web application vs. Adobe Air. Now, a lot of folks like Air but I would not be among them. For me, Air applications have proven to be unstable and always in need of an update. HootSuite is, therefore, a breath of fresh air. HootSuite is available for the iPhone and Android but not for for my BlackBerry. What is up with that!? Two strikes (smile).

Thanks again for visiting!

Craig

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