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4 Essential Apps for Increasing Profits in a Small Business

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When it comes to running a business, it’s important to take advantage of every tool you can find to make things run more efficiently. This is especially true of small businesses where you don’t have as many employees to take care of organization, payment and other tasks. Fortunately, the following apps are examples of tools  that can help your small business become more profitable by helping you save time and keep organized.

paypal PayPal – Stay Connected to Your Transactions

PayPal is easily one of the most used services for payment on the Internet. It’s become practically a staple for bother buyers and sellers. Additionally, both casual users and business users will find plenty to like about the app. Some features that are especially useful for streamlining the payment process for small business owners include the following.

  • Automated Shopping Carts

This allows you to setup an easy way for customers to buy items through stores like eBay. You can get “add to cart” buttons, add shipping costs automatically, and even receive automatic records about all of the funds that you have going in and out through that part of your business.

  • Accept Credit Cards in Person

As part of the Virtual Terminal program, you can sign up for a PayPal card reader that will connect to the top of your phone or other compatible consumer tech. PayPal will actually send you the reader device for free in the mail.

There are multiple options for taking payments in person. CardFellow has a great comparison of PayPal and Square, and this is another great comparison can be found on Digital Trends.

Image via Google Play


expensify Expensify – Keep Track of All Expenses

Managing expenses for a business can be a colossal time sync. The amount of time and paperwork required to keep track of everything your business and employees are spending can be staggering. This app lets you and your employees take pictures of receipts with your phone and upload them to an account.

The app can also keep track of additional business details including the following:

  • Time

By adding a rate per hour and an amount of time, the app can calculate any expense incurred based on time. An example could include any additional temporary personnel hired.

  • Mileage

The app can either let you add mileage directly, or use the “GPS” feature to  automatically add mileage based on your phone’s changing GPS location.

Image via iTunes


google drive app Google Drive – Store Information in a Limitless Cloud

One serious concern for small business owners is how you get employees who aren’t in the same area to work on the same projects.

Google Drive is a free solution for organizing all of your company’s documents in a single place. You can create a single document spreadsheet that all employees can add to no matter where they are. You can also give yourself, employees, outside collaborators or clients access to documents in a fast and efficient way, straight from your mobile phone, tablet, or other device.

In addition to Google Drive, the Dropbox app is a great way to share documents and resources among employees, even if you aren’t in the same office.

Image via Google Play


timebox Timebox – Efficiently Distribute Your Time

Timebox lets you keep track of the time you spend on various different tasks using the Pomodoro technique, which breaks down you work into cycles called pomodori.

Each cycle lasts for 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break given right after to help you refocus. Once you do four of the cycles in a row, the app will give you a longer break of 15-20 minutes. You can easily look down at the app on your phone at any given point to get a sense of how much time you have left in each cycle or task.

Looking for more time-saving tips? Check out this edition of Brilliant Bloggers.

Image via Google Play


Overall, management apps will do much more than save you time. They’ll save you energy and sanity as well, which small business owners often need to keep their stress low and their profits up. 

Find the Perfect Bite For Customers’ Mobile Appetite

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mobile appetite

Mobile web site up and running. Check. Reading latest trends on marketing for smartphones and tablets. Double Check. Wondering what to serve up next to your mobile audience. Triple Check.

Now is the time to…pause between courses. First off, congratulations on making the jump to mobile. Next up:  Step back and look at your business big picture and assess what to add to your mobile marketing menu.

Consider these factors before embarking on a deeper financial and time investment:

#1 Focus on short and long term business goals: Does mobile fit with how your customers engage with your business? Are you a local business seeking new customers? Do you have an established clientele? An online store with a wide-reaching audience?  These are but a few questions to answer before proceeding.

#2 Mobile is part of your marketing strategy, not  plate du jour: Mobile promotion is an extension of your  integrated marketing program and should not operate in its own silo nor be a stand-in for a plan. In the excitement of the collective mobile moment, best intentions can get burned, resulting in a disconnect between your online and offline messaging and brand look and feel—not to mention confusing your customers.

#3 To-go with your customer adds responsibility. Sounds heavy but it’s true. Or as Ford Global Head of Social Media Scott Monty said at his NMX keynote this January, “Mobile is like a piece of jewelry, you have to be invited there.” He advocated using that privilege wisely. Otherwise, your business could be dismissed just as quickly as it was sitting down at the table.

So…are you hungry to go further down the mobile marketing path? Here are some popular and effective ideas to consider:

The Free Appetizer: Search

One of the most basic but sometimes overlooked mobile marketing tactics is listing your business on mobile search engines, portals, and web sites. And if you’re a neighborhood business, even better: Google reports that half of all mobile searches are local. Keep these three things in mind:

  1. Duplication is a good thing: mobile search is often separate than “desktop” search.
  2. Use consistent contact information everywhere.
  3. List your business in as many broad categories as possible so it’s found searching multiple ways.

Google Maps and Facebook are the most popular search methods, but other major ones include Google Local, Bing Business Portal, Yahoo Local, and YP. Don’t forget about secondary listings like CitySearch, city and neighborhood directories, and industry/trade group listings. Make sure you are also covered on mobile business sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare. Think of all the places you do business with, official and unofficial partners, and awareness opportunities.

The Weekly Special: SMS (Short Messaging Service aka Texting) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)

According to Mogreet, SMS texts have a 95% open rate and are accessible to 98% of all mobile consumers, making it one of the most cost-effective, targeted marketing tactics—yet one of the most underutilized. Reason? Companies sometimes overlook the humble text as not sexy enough or  right “image”…they might want to think again, but proceed with care.

While the high open rates is great news, there are caveats: Make your text count with a strong CTA, especially since some receivers may incur a fee, and there are also reams of intimidating text marketing guidelines. The three most important ones:

  1. Get  opt-out permission.
  2. Document it.
  3. Be clear on what the receiver will get.

(See Guide to Text Messaging Regulations and Best Practices for complete rules).

There are numerous ways to laser-focus your text program: day/time (lunch specials, holidays), customer segments (repeat buyers, zip codes), or exclusive offers (VIP, limited-time), to name a few. There are no official “rules” on frequency, but general guidelines are no more than once a week or as part of a specific campaign. There are many text service vendors and prices vary on quantities and features.

MMS is a bigger time and money investment but also more attention-grabbing. Add video, mobile coupons, QR codes, music files, or any other visual elements. The same rules apply as SMS except it may eat up more data for the receiver or be slower loading.

Cross-promote SMS/MMS and provide ample opportunities to sign up on your web site, place of business, social media, business cards—anywhere your customers can see it.

The Fine Diner: Mobile Apps 

You might think apps are reserved for big budgets, large companies, and out of your league. These days, apps for your small business are within reach. There are many reasons to consider this prix fixe: For starters, if you are local business, research shows users prefer apps to connect.  Apps also show that you are catering to your customers, and lastly, they serve as a virtual mobile screen billboard  24/7. That said, an app should not replace a mobile web site, but serve as an alternate way to interact with your business. Make the app useful, intuitive, and require only few steps to complete a task. Be sure to cross-promote the app on your web, social sites, and ads.

There are several ways you can build an app for an iPhone or Android  (the most popular, but others are available): vendor-created or DIY . Because apps are now an established category, small businesses can take advantage of common pre-built functionality like maps, online ordering, appointment setting, social sharing, and other tasks that require  simple tailoring to your business. Not surprisingly, the more customization, the more expensive the app.

What’s the special sauce for your business?

These ideas may stir up  your mobile marketing recipe—there are also ads (including in-app ads), video,  and other tactics that haven’t even been introduced yet. Mobile marketing is a fast-paced, ever-changing landscape. Whatever approaches you take—like a new entrée—taste-test it, refine it, or decide it’s not delicious enough and scrap it altogether before making a big time or money commitments.

Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock

Mobile Apps That Would Make The Pentagon Proud

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Apps these days go far beyond fun games and finding a great restaurant. These extremely useful apps seem a little like something out of a spy movie. Nevertheless, this technology can really be helpful if you lose your phone, want to create hidden accounts or snap a stealth photo of the person who stole your iPad. After all, there is no such thing as having too much security for a device that holds some of your most sensitive information.

Find My iPhone 1. Find My iPhone

Forget cell phone insurance. Next time you lose your phone, simply track it on a map to pinpoint its exact location and go there to pick it up. It’s easier than you think with the Find My iPhone app.

This app has a ton of great features. You can display a custom message to the screen of your device, sound an alarm that will go off for up to 2 minutes, or even remotely wipe all of your personal data if there’s no chance of getting the actual device back.

This app also has a feature called “Lost Mode” that works with your passcode to display your phone number on the lock screen for the good Samaritan to call you once they find your phone.  It also tracks the various locations you phone might travel to if it happens to be stolen.

Editor’s note: This would be great to download before the next NMX, since lots of cell phones are misplaced during the course of the conference.

2. GadgetTrak

Whether you lose your iPhone or it gets lifted by a thief, you greatly increase your chances of getting it back if you have GadgetTrak. This app allows you to initiate tracking so you can pinpoint your device. You can even take a picture of the thief to help the police catch the criminal. Similar to the, Find My iPhone app, it also provides you with detailed reports about the location of the device and allows you to data wipe your device, which provides a piece of mind to those who save their banking information on their devices.

The app also has something called “SIM change detection.” This feature alerts the owner whenever the thief attempts to add his friends to your contact list. This feature should make finding your device much easier.

GadgetTrak is available on all your devices, not only your phone or tablet. And is designed to encrypt both your photos and contact information. As an added bonus, GadgetTrak is the, “first and only mobile security solution to be enterprise certified by AT&T,” according to the GadgetTrak website.

3. Stash: Private Photos, Videos, Docs and Browsing

Stash is a fantastic app if you want to make sure no one knows what you’re doing what you’re doing online via your phone. They’re the self-proclaimed “most advanced private media and download manager in the App Store.”

You can use Stash’s private web browser to download media directly to your library and make sure it’s all cloaked. You can create hidden accounts that are only accessible if you use a secret gesture, transfer photos and other media wirelessly, and utilize the boss button to immediately hide whatever it is that you’re doing.

4. Safe Eyes Mobile

This is the app every mom has been waiting for and is the “first internet filter for the Apple iPhone.” With Safe Eyes Mobile, you can ensure that your children are not exposed to inappropriate content, from websites to ads and more. The app allows you to block things like pornography, violence, certain websites, etc. You can even use the app to enforce time limits across devices.

This app was recommended by Parents.com for cyber-bullying safety, and is a great app for those who have youngsters that access the Internet. It was a Mom’s Choice Gold Award Winner in 2011.

What apps do you use to make your phone more secure? Leave a comment with your recommendations!

BlackBerry Wants to Reward You to Make Your Online Content an App

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Blackberry is excited to tell you about our port-a-thon that starts this Friday, January 18th at 12pm ET and runs for 36 hours straight. It’s your chance to earn big rewards for just a few minutes of work.

After our warm welcome, successful app generation efforts and many connections made at NMX in Vegas this month, the BlackBerry team came home to hold the third and fourth in a series of port-a-thons we have been running in our effort to generate apps for BlackBerry 10.

That said, we are thrilled to let you know about this weekend’s “BlackBerry 10 Last Chance Port-A-Thon.” This event expands the acceptable apps to include those built with our BlackBerry App Generator, as seen on site at NMX. It’s a great opportunity for anyone or any business to build an app for BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry PlayBook, and BlackBerry 6/7 smartphones, with no technical knowledge required.

Why does this matter to you? The app takes advantage of any existing content you have in an RSS feed, WordPress or Blogger blog, Tumblr or Posterous site, YouTube channel, Facebook page or Picasa/Flickr gallery.

That’s not all. There are some great rewards for participants, with up to $2 million (USD) available. Register and submit an app during the port-a-thon and you’re eligible for $100 per app, up to 20 apps. Submit five or more apps to be eligible for a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device draw (250 devices to be drawn)!

Register and port your content into an app to see for yourself how simple it can be to provide your readers with an engaging, shareable app.

Podcasting in a Mobile World

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Image Credit: Deposit Photos

When someone is looking at expanding their presence online (especially bloggers), I try to encourage them to look into starting a podcast if they have not already. I know that podcasting can seem like a daunting task and from that fear I know many people never give it a try.

I know that podcasting does take some work, but I also know that podcasting helps you reach people in a new way and many times people that otherwise may have never found out about you. And so to try and back this point up I thought it would be a good idea to look at a few statistics of the potential audience as a whole.

The Reach Of Mobile Devices

With the rise of mobile devices, it has opened up new possibilities for podcasters (or potential podcasters). Here are some of those interesting statistics when it comes to using some sort of mobile device:

  • Earlier this year it was found that about 43% of Americans owned a smartphone (most capable of listening to a podcast) and that number is rising quickly
  • Number of Ipods sold – 350 Million
  • Number of iPads sold – 84 million
  • Number of iPhones sold – 250 million

Here is the thing, all of these statistics have gone up even more as more mobile devices have been added to the market, not to mention most of these mentioned were Apple products. Think of how many people use Android devices.

So why do these stats matter? Well I can say that most (if not all) of these devices listed above have the ability to play podcasts with them. And with the rise of Apple’s podcast app, Stitcher’s App, and Dog Catcher or Pocket Cast for Android, it is already evident that people are taking advantage of podcasts today.

Think of all of the people driving to work in a car. In 2011 it was calculated that 100.3 million people drive to work alone in their car. More than likely they are listening to something during that time and it could be music, but it could also be a podcast.

From some of the statistics I tried to find it appears that there are 25 million people who have gym memberships. And I’m sure that number is probably really low even to the amount of people who just exercise. Statistically, most people who exercise have a mobile device of some kind that plays audio for them while they workout.  It is true that they might be listening to music, but they also could be listening to a podcast.  Talk about a great opportunity for fitness podcasts.

But even if we were to step back and think about all of the people working at their desks somewhere, a podcast would be something great to listen to during that time or some other daily activity.

The main point is that there is an increasing amount of accessibility to listen to podcasts for people today. With the rise of mobile devices, people can listen to podcasts anywhere. So why not give podcasting a try so that others get a chance to listen to your message and brand?

Editor’s Note: To learn more from Peder about starting a podcast, check out his NMX session this January called, “The Top Reasons Why Bloggers Should Launch A Podcast.” There’s still time to register!

BlogWorld app now available

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For those of you attending BlogWorld New York this week, we’ve just launched a new app to enhance your conference experience! The new BlogWorld app, powered by Mobile Roadie, will allow attendees to find conference sessions, connect with peers, and get the latest news about the event. The app is available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android and is available for free from iTunes.

Gimme the app!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing Me, Knowing You

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Extra points to those of you who recognized the title of the post as being an ABBA song from the 80’s! Music is a bit of a passion of mine. I have music playing all the time when I am writing. The other major passion in my life right now is Mobile; mobile technology and mobile platforms. That’s why I was incredibly excited to partner with Qualtrics, who provides survey tools and are enabling me to reach out to a huge slice of the U.S. population and ask them questions about how they use their mobile tech (you can take the survey here).

Mobile technology is moving at an amazing speed. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently, “Apple’s lifetime iPad sales across all generations have now topped 67 million. To put that into context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, five years for that many iPods, and three years for iPhones.” The world is shifting its preference for consuming and producing content to mobile devices. What can you, as a content producer, do about it?

With the increasing use of mobile devices for the consumption of content, you, as content producers, have to understand the mobile consumer so that you can produce content that reaches and appeals to them. This is not just about having a mobile-optimized website, this is about having the type of content that actually captures attention through all the other distractions that surround a mobile user. Content producers have to understand the setting and context of the mobile user and how it differs from that of the non-mobile user (even though those two may, in fact, be the same person at different times in their day).

The experience of consuming content while sitting at a desk is vastly different from that of sitting on a train or in front of the TV. While you may well believe you have optimized your existing content for mobile, did you do it because your audience needed it or did you do it because you were told it was something that should be done? If nothing else I suggest checking out your Google analytics and seeing how many of your readers/content consumers are viewing your content from a mobile device, and seeing which areas they are consuming. Then, place your focus for optimization on that content.

Remember mobile optimization isn’t about your content as much as it is about the audience experience. In our efforts to be better at what we do as content producers one of the most valuable assets in our arsenal is knowledge. Aside from reconnecting with friends and making new contacts, attending a conference like Blogworld Expo is one of the easiest ways of gaining new knowledge.

If you come to my session in New York, “Smartphones, Smarter Users – The Who, When, What of the Mobile Consumer,” I am going to discuss the day in the life of the mobile user. The research I will be unveiling is brand new, never seen before, and the presentation is tailored specifically toward content producers. So if you want to know the when, how, why and what of the mobile content, consumer I’ll see you in my session.

New Lightbox App Feature – Your Photo Journal

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Lightbox app 01

The social photo app for Android, Lightbox, unveiled a new app today with a new feature – The Photo Journal – which allows others to follow your updates, as well as like, comment and share. The fantastic thing about this new photo journal is it requires no extra work on your part. Just update the app and you’re good to go.

The previous URL Lightbox users were given has now been turned into their very own photo blog, where the photos are automatically organized. Here’s a description of The Photo Journal from the Lightbox app page:

YOUR PHOTO JOURNAL:Lightbox is a place to capture, enhance, and share your moments. Photos you post are automatically organized into a timeline of postcards on Lightbox.com. Keep them private or selectively share them with friends, family, or the entire Lightbox community.

MANAGE YOUR PHOTOS ONLINE:
All the photos you take with the Lightbox app are automatically uploaded to Lightbox.com for safe storage. So if you lose your phone, you won’t lose your memories.

As you can see in the screenshots of the app above, each user is given a follow button. When you hover over their photo, you’re given the opportunity to “like” that particular photo. And just like the blogs we are all familiar with, you can comment, Tweet, Facebook or add to Google+ each individual photo page.

The Lightbox app update was already added to the Android market this morning.

So Android users, what do you think of the new photo journal feature to Lightbox?

Google Re-Releases Gmail App for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Users

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Gmail App 01

When Google first released the Gmail app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch on November 2nd, there were some unfortunate glitches. The app kept crashing, was giving error messages and was over all a big huge mess.

They have re-released the app today. The problems have been fixed but users still aren’t happy with the outcome. Some say the notifications are super slow and that it’s still basically the same app that was originally pulled.

Google does plan on enhancing some of the features, which they mentioned in a blog post from today:

In the short time the app was public we received a lot of helpful feedback and feature requests. This included requests for everything from bigger features like multiple account support to customizations like improved notifications and mobile specific signatures.

We’re just getting started with the Gmail app for iOS and will be iterating rapidly to bring you more features, including all the ones listed above plus many more. Based on your comments we have already improved our handling of image HTML messages – they are now sized to fit to the screen and you can pinch to zoom in.

Here’s a description of the features from the iTunes app store:

With the Gmail app, you can:

  • Receive notification badges for new messages
  • Read your mail with threaded conversations
  • Organize your mail by archiving, labeling, starring, deleting, and reporting spam
  • Keep track of important messages with priority inbox
  • Auto-complete contact names as you type
  • Send and receive attachments
  • Search through all your mail

Have you tried out the new Gmail app for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch? Let us know what your experience has been with it.

Shuffler.fm Launches an iPad App

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Shuffler.fm iPad screenshot

Shuffler.fm, the audio magazine made up of music blogs, has launched an app for the iPad. The site received quite a bit of buzz this summer. For those of you not familiar with the site, it basically turns music blogs into streaming music. It plays a continuous stream of songs directly from the blogs.

Shuffler.fm iPad screenshot

Music blogs are an incredibly popular way for music lovers to discover new music. Shuffler.fm calls their iPad app a “flipboard for music”.

Shuffler.fm made the announcement today via their blog:

Shuffler.fm was made for tablets and today it’s finally here on the iPad. It’s the world’s first real audio magazine, one which compiles itself and changes by the hour, giving you the latest, hottest, newest music from around the globe. Sit back, relax, listen, and read.

Shuffler.fm is a free download from the App Store. Find out more about the app on their site.

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