SOCIAL NETWORKING MANAGEMENT: A COMPARISON OF HOOTSUITE, TWEETDECK AND SEESMIC

 

As a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Owner in general, do you find it difficult to manage your Social Networking activities? If so, you re not alone. With the emergence and growing prominence of Social Media Marketing, it can be overwhelming to keep everything organized and ensure that your activities are well timed and effective.

For this reason, some cool tools have been created to help Marketers get the most out of their Social Networking and save a lot of time and frustration. The most popular ones are HootSuite.com, TweetDeck.com and Seesmic.com, and we d like to show you a little comparison of them so that you can decide which one would work best for you.

First of all, check out this video showing how their dashboards can be used to manage Twitter activities:

Thankfully, though they began as Twitter clients, these tools have in some cases also begun to integrate multiple social networks, a great improvement as Social Marketing activities are certainly not limited to Twitter.

Below is a comparison of some of the more distinguishing features of HootSuite, TweetDeck and Seesmic:

HootSuite:

- Entirely web-based

- Manages multiple social networks

- Tracks link statistics

- Tabbed layout for different accounts

- Schedules tweets and status updates

- Built-in URL shortener

TweetDeck:

- Has Desktop, iPhone and iPad browsers

- Manages multiple social networks

- Ability to customize tweets with groups, columns, saved searches and automatic

- Schedules tweets

Seesmic:

- Has web-based, Desktop and Mobile applications for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Blackberry

- Manages multiple social networks

- Ability to customize columns and save searches

- Ability to personalize the application

Paul Sutton s blog post “TweetDeck v Seesmic v HootSuite: Which is the Most Awesome Twitter Client?” has a great analysis of the big three and concludes that “HootSuite is best for those who need to manage several Livejasmin accounts, and anyone who wants integrated statistical link reporting. It s also very useful as a tweet scheduler in its own right due to the integrated URL shortening. Seesmic, on the other hand, is best for everyday management of Twitter accounts and engaging in conversations, making it easy to keep on top of timelines with its clear views and unobtrusive but effective notifications.”

In terms of TweetDeck, however, Sutton feels it has some good features, but “the white on black interface is hard on the eyes and is stylized to the expense of usability, and the column functionality is limited, especially when compared to that of Seesmic.”

Tastes may vary, though, so check them out and see which one works best for you in your Social Networking and Virtual Assistance services. If you already have a favorite, please comment below and let us know which tool you like and how it has helped you and your clients!

CHOOSING THE RIGHT VENUE FOR YOUR VIRTUAL EVENTS

 

Often times we ve discussed the growing importance of Virtual Events and the undeniable fact that they re quickly replacing offline meetings as a more economical and environmentally friendly option. But how do you choose the right Virtual Venue for your big event?

Just as you would investigate conference rooms, hotels or restaurants before booking an offline meeting, it s important to investigate different types of Virtual Venues so that you can choose the one that s most appropriate for the type of event you re hosting.

One of our VAClassroom graduates, Carlana Charles, recently published a blog post entitled “Virtual Events – Why They are Hit” and featured a jasminlive video that explains the different options that are available:

Let s look more closely at the four options discussed here and see which types of events are best suited to them:

- Webinars –Since these are typically one-way, from the speaker to the audience with little audience interaction, they work best for online teaching sessions or workshops. We ve used Yugma or GoToWebinar in the past, which also offer the option of connecting participants via a phone line, VoIP or an online chat box.

- Internet Live TV – This venue works great for presenting dynamic talk shows, presentations or interviews, the types of shows you would normally broadcast on television. In this case, Ustream or Livestream is used, and the presenter has a webcam on themselves and a camera on other presenters.

- Internet Live Radio – This is a good option for events that require or invite audience participation, as people can call in live and interact with the presenter via a tool like Blog Talk Radio. Another advantage is that they are syndicated and can be listened to and subscribed to long after the event has taken place.

- Teleseminars – Since these involve mainly audio, they work best for conference calls or group coaching sessions. Usually there is a certain period of time devoted to a presentation, followed by a question and answer session. Often online handouts will be given out for participants to refer to during the Livesexchat presentation. In this case, tools like GoToMeeting or Skype can be used to facilitate the event.

So there you have it – four popular Virtual Event venues to choose from! There are many factors to consider, but as the tools become more streamlined, the choices are becoming easier to make, and the emergence of Virtual Event Specialists has provided business owners with a valuable resource to draw on when planning their big events.

What Virtual Venues have worked for you or your clients in the past? We d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

THE “TIME TRACKING” CHALLENGE FOR VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

 

Over the past couple weeks, we have received many responses to our question (on the optin form at VAClassroom), “What is the greatest challenge facing your Virtual Assistant Business today?” We will be reviewing these common challenges in the next few posts to come.

A couple subscribers admitted that one of their ongoing challenges is effectively tracking time for the different clients they work with. You might be thinking tracking time is a piece of cake – just wear a watch, use a stop clock and you should be fine

Yes, it may seem simple, but with short Instant messenger chats, calls on your cell phone, quick email questions from clients, the tracking of time can start to become a little murky, especially if you are a busy VA with multiple clients and projects on the go simultaneously! I know with the VAs I work with, I will often “Skype” them a quick question and have a little chat – they need to keep track of these little chats, calls, emails that they do on a daily basis for many different clients.

Well, here are three ideas to help manage this time tracking challenge

1. I would recommend being upfront with your clients on your minimum time intervals for any task or inpromptu question they may have. In other words, you might set a minimum time interval of 10 minutes (or whatever you decide), so if you have a quick skype chat with a client, you will bill them at a minimum of 10 minutes of work. Again, it is important to be clear on this with client s upfront so they don t think you are padding the invoice:).

In the name of building long-term relationships with clients, you might also consider not charging for that occassional quick chat – that could go a long way to keeping a happy client as along as it does not become too frequent!

2. Another strategy for managing the time tracking issue is to shut off MSN, Skype, Cell Phones, PDAs when you are working on a specific client s project in order to make your time tracking a little more cut and dry. I know this is easier said than done at times, but do you best to focus on one project or task at a time – this will help to maximize your productivity as well.

3. Invest in a Time Tracking Solution. There are a number of cool time tracking applications you can use to keep track of clients works on a minute by minute basis. I personally like FreshBooks as it also offers the billing and payment features for managing your clients invoices and payments.

FreshBooks enables you to track time across specific client tasks and projects as well as tracking the time of any staff you may have working on the same project. This is particularly useful for Multi-VA firms. I also like the accountability piece in which you can provide your client access to your Freshbooks account so they can monitor their budget and project activities. I think this adds a level of professionalism and credibility to your business efforts.

TOP FIVE TIPS FOR RESPONDING TO RFPS

 

If you receive notifications for New Forum Threads at VAClassroom, you may have seen the literal flood of RFPs coming in last week. During tough economic times like these, it s very encouraging to see the amount of work available for talented Virtual Assistants and online professionals. But this begs the question, how do you effectively respond to an RFP? First of all, check out this video from 2minuteswithava.com for some great advice.

And now here are some more valuable tips to make sure you re putting your best foot forward:

1) Read the two books recommended in the above video for more information on RFPs:

• Entrepreneurial Freedom: How to Start and Grow a Profitable Virtual Assistance Practice by Jeannine Clontz and Lauren Hidden

• Virtual Assistant, The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker

2) Develop a proposal template that you re happy with and simply tweak it to suit each RFP you apply for (especially if it s successful!).

• Our self-study VA Success Blueprint program contains some sample RFP proposals, as well as other important strategies and templates that may help you.

3) Be sure to include the following items in your response so the person evaluating has as much information as possible:

• Date – Let them know you responded prior to closing date (if applicable).

• Reference Number – Check the proposal for any reference numbers or specific proposal references so information is clearly communicated.

• Reference to their original request – Repeat it either word-for-word so they can easily reference it, or rewrite their needs to show your level of comprehension of the project.

• Outline your experience in relation to the project or tasks – Keep it organized and simple for the client to review.

• Specific or special skills that you have – If they list special skills, let them know your expertise in that area. If you are still learning, just be honest and let them know how committed you are to continual learning!

• Special connections that you share – Groups/People/Activities

• Project estimate (timeline & costs) – Include how you calculate your costs and measure your effectiveness.

• Any additional charges that you can foresee – Include any further information you think might help them.

• Testimonials – Everyone loves to hear how successful you ve been for other clients, so include some recommendations from similar projects in your proposal.

• Contact information and availability – Don t forget to let them know how to connect with you and the best way to do it.

4) Prepare your response carefully and thoughtfully, including the following elements:

• Show some interest. Research the company, and if anything excites you about it, let them know!

• Include any similar experience you ve had. Describe how your similar or past experiences can benefit them.

• Are you an industry expert? If you have worked in the industry before, include some specific industry information to show them how familiar you are in their area of expertise.

• What specific skills do you feel would enhance their business? Shout out your strengths and tell them how your specific skill sets will impact their business.

• Point out any spelling or technical errors on their site or marketing material. Impress them by showing them that you are paying attention and letting them know how to solve any errors.

5) Take note of how different businesses handle RFP proposals. For example, at VAClassroom, the process of responding directly to clients is handled a little differently than screened requests. Since the client has us to pre-screen the proposals we will be looking at a few key elements when we make our recommendations:

• Specific industry knowledge & experience

• Examples of similar tasks/situations

• Availability and match of project scope/requirements

Hope these tips for responding to RFPs have helped demystify the process. If you are a VAClassroom Premium Member, be sure to check the Monday Memo and our forum for new job postings, a great way to add new client and income opportunities to your business!

If you have any questions or further tips on submitting RFP proposals, please leave us a note in the comment box below.