Front and center Stay on top of Facebook activity with the new Notifications desktop app

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

facebook-logoEvery once in awhile, a product upgrade comes around and you wonder “what took so long?”.

That’s how we felt when we discovered Facebook Notifications for Mac.   Notifications is a desktop app that alerts you when there is new activity on your profile.  To boot, you can update your status from your desktop.  The rest of your basic Facebook functionality (newsfeed, email, profile, etc) is a mere click way.

One of Facebook’s drawbacks (and a serious one at that) has been the lack of a proper desktop client.   Sure, you could stream updates with a handful of independent applications, but anything more required a user to log into the site.   Quite the hassle if you’re trying to juggle a proactive social media campaign with your regular workload.

Notifications is actually one of several new apps released through Facebook’s Prototypes.  Prototypes is a testing ground for new features and improvements – very Google Labs in flavor.  If widely adopted, we could see an improved version of Notifications being rolled out.   We’re not complaining, but it would be nice to have a real interface with this application.  Not to mention, the ability to toggle between different Facebook profiles.

facebook desktop notifications

Other Facebook Prototypes include a photo tag search, a comments filter, and enhanced events emails.

Prototypes gives Facebook developers an opportunity to create products and enhancements off-the-clock. Not exactly an open-source model, but still, it paves the way for new features and functionality that Facebook is sorely lacking.

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  The sum of all parts Get a quick snapshot of your site and compare to industry benchmarks with Quarkbase

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 15, 2009 at 9:12 am

quarkbase logo

There’s no shortage of website monitoring tools.  While most are free and easy to use, it can be a lot of grunt work to compile data from all those sources.

Try using Quarkbase instead.  This services provides a quick snapshot of your website or blog, including a site overview (surprisingly, dead-on), traffic stats, similar sites, social popularity, and much much more.

All information is presented clearly and concisely, so you don’t have to root around for the good stuff.  Actually, Quarkbase only gives you the good stuff.  It took a single glance for me to see:

  • My traffic is increasing, but social activity is low
  • I have a new crop of competitors (some I didn’t know existed)
  • Who’s Tweeting, Digging, and Delicious bookmarking my articles
  • How my blog is publicly perceived

The latter tidbit being very useful if you’re trying to get a better handle on who your audience is and why they come to your site.

Quarkbase is a free tool.  All you have to do is enter your URL (or any URL) in the search bar, and you’re set.  There’s also the added benefit of checking out stats on your competitors.   Given that there are blogs of all sizes, shapes, and flavors out there, it’s hard to tell how your site should be performing.

Quarkbase website information

Quarkbase even gives you a rundown of all the tools used to power your site. For example, it knew all the analytics software installed on this blog.

Quarkbase also provides a list of Fastest Growing Websites, Top Web Tools, Top Hosting Providers, and Sites with Competing traffic, so you can see who the players really are.

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  Safety in numbers Book large meetings and events with the improved Tungle

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 14, 2009 at 6:42 am

tungle-logo

You may recall Tungle from Time after Time.  This web-based application lets you book appointments with multiple parties through your existing calendar and email system.

Tungle already had a pretty good offering, but now, you can book large meetings and events with the same ease as your day-to-day appointments.    Here’s a breakdown of the new functionality:

Improved Group Booking: Wrangling a large crowd can be tough.  Now, invitees can see all your proposed times and select the options that work for them.  The system then uses an algorithm to come up with the best mutual time and books it.   If there are no common times, it notifies you, so you an propose more times or modify your schedule.

Optional Booking: If you’re the type that likes to be in charge and wants to look at all replies before setting a time, you can cut out the Tungle middle man.  This is ideal if certain attendees are deal-breakers.  You can assign priority to their schedules when choosing a time.

Edit Meetings: Nothing is ever set in stone, even after all members have accepted an invite.   This features lets you edit a meeting after it’s been proposed or booked.  Tungle’s automated features will ensure you don’t double book or forget to put the new time on your calendar.

tungle meeting scheduler

If you think about the amount of time spent organizing a large gathering – scheduling and rescheduling as acceptances trickle in, it’s a lot.  It may even distract you from your core business.  Tungle’s free and determined to create the best online group scheduling experience.

Tungle.me lets you publish your Tungle schedules on your social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), blog, or email signature. Now, you can use Tungle.me with Ning accounts, using their click-to-meet technology to connect with prospects.

Tungle spent 9 months in usability testing with their core users to learn how to improve the group meeting experience. They published some key findings on their blog and even anted up a notebook computer for users to submit their worst scheduling experience.

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Round and round Promote your business locally with MerchantCircle’s Answers & Neighbors

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

merchant cirlce logo

We believe it’s important to establish – and maintain – a presence on the various online business directories. Consumers turn to sites like Yelp and MerchantCircle, because they trust recommendations from other consumers.

For the most part, these conversations happen organically.  Consumer A writes a review of a restaurant.  Consumer B reads it and makes a reservation.  When you, the business, have an opportunity to be apart of the conversation, you should take it.

Merchant Circle recently introduced two new features, Neighbors and Answers.   On the surface, both appear to be geared toward the consumer, but we see them as excellent marketing tools.

Answers lets consumers post a question, and merchants offer advice.  For example, if you’re looking for a personal trainer in Miami, you can post a question about beach workouts.  A local trainer can respond with tips, but really, he’s establishing a connection with you and promoting his own services.

Neighbors is a social network within MerchantCircle.  Consumers can follow a business and receive updates on promotions and events.  There’s no mistaking the Twitter feel here, but Neighbors lets consumers keep an eye on their favorite merchants without leaving the site or sifting through tweets.  For example, a coupon for a half-price manicure at my favorite nail salon is automatically deposited in the coupons area of my profile, where I can easily retrieve and print it.

With over 20 million unique consumer visitors a month, MerchantCircle has already arrived.   The service is free, so there’s really no reason not to register your business.  Features like Answers and Neighbors are just the cherry on top.

merchant circle answers

MerchantCircle was created with the small business in mind. The service offers a free web page listing, blogging and email newsletters, and a local business social network, which connects you to other businesses in your area.

Most businesses are struggling to find a way to use social networking to their advantage. Here's a way to connect one-on-one with a customer when they actually want more information about your products and/or services.

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  Form follows function Create an elegant survey and embed it in your site with Google Forms

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 4, 2009 at 10:39 am

google_logoSurveys are an easy way to let customers weigh in on your products and offer up new ideas.  We’d probably use them more if price wasn’t a factor.  I mean, paying for every question and survey participant kinda deters you from using a tool to its full potential.

We recommend taking a look at Google Forms.   This data collection tool just got a makeover, making it less clunky and more user-friendly.  Not to mention, it’s free.

If you’re not familiar, Forms is part of Google Docs.  We’ve discussed the virtues of Google’s whole productivity suite in the past – it’s web-based, easy to use, and the fact that it’s free is definitely worth mentioning again.   Prior to the upgrade, Forms was a very basic offering.  You’d create questions and input fields, share a link with survey participants, and watch as the live form populated a spreadsheet.   Simple.  Efficient.  Boring.

Now, creating (and taking) a survey with Google Forms is fun.   The interface is cleaner, with customization options within the form builder (e.g. multiple choice questions, supporting text to explain a question, etc).  You can also add a theme to your survey, which makes for a better presentation than a plain, black and white screen.  Google offers up a library of 60+ designs to choose from.


When you’re finished formatting the survey, you can share via email, direct link, or embed the form in your website or blog.  As survey results come in, you can view the data in real time, either through a Google Spreadsheet or in graph summary.  It would be nice if you could put the graph on your site, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Feedback is a crucial ingredient in any marketing strategy. What Google has done here is make their simple form service a real contender for your survey needs.   You’re getting the same functionality and frills as a paid solution, with no penalties for success.

Google Labs is like Google's playground for new products and feature updates. There's a whole section devoted to enhancements of their core products: Gmail, Documents, Calendar, Toolbar, etc.

The Digital Marketing Standard was a survey of over 100 top marketing executives to get their take on digital marketing and how they've adapted their strategy and workforce for the digital age.

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