9 Social Media-Related Tools E-Retailers Should Consider For Their Digital Toolbox

Written by  May 21, 2009

I am a self-confessed geek. From cool apps (geek speak for applications), to productivity-enhancing web tools, I’m what my IT colleagues call a “power user.”

My laptop is a treasure trove of sites, tools, gadgets and widgets I’ve found on list-blog posts like these. Don’t even get me started on my phone. It’s my laptop’s “mini me.”

For the sake of productivity — and to make your e-commerce toolbox as rich as they come — I’ve compiled a list of the tools I can’t go without throughout my day so that you can use them as well. (You’ll see a lot of Google products pop up on my list. This has more to do with their ease-of-use and free pricetag than anything. I highly suggest using Google’s applications as much as possible particularly if you’re watching your dimes.)

1. GMail/GCalendar. (http://mail.google.com/) Used by some of the most intelligent and techno-savvy minds I know, Google’s email platform, Gmail, is similar to Microsoft’s Outlook email client insofar as organizing e-mail is concerned. Where most e-mail systems use folders, Gmail uses Labels which are color-codable organizing tools. You can also create filters and rules to jettison your email into a particular “label” thereby keeping your inbox relatively clean. Gmail also works in concert with the Google Calendar which is a God-send for busy types like me. Both Gmail and Google Calendar are accessible by phone, which brings me to…

2. iPhone. I just bought mine a few weeks ago and quite honestly, I’m not sure how I managed without it. In a coming post, I’m going to detail some great social networking apps, but for now, I’m just going to rave about the phone. It’s true that the iPhone isn’t a social networking too, per se, but as I mentioned, it has a number of apps (applications) you can install to keep you as connected as you would be sitting in front of a computer screen. On my own phone, I have several applications that can tell me how far the nearest bathroom is — great when I need to change for a face-to-face meeting; where the nearest free wi-fi spot is; recipes I shouldn’t go without; up- and down-loadable shopping lists that I can concoct while I’m sitting in traffic. My iPhone has become my lifeline.

3. Skype. (http://www.skype.com) My phone only has so many minutes without my seeing a huge bill which is why I depend on Skype for cross-country, international or lengthy phone calls. To call Skype’s calls phone calls isn’t quite true. They’re computer-to-phone line calls. Skype is incredibly easy to use (and free for basic use) and even offers an instant messaging feature if you’re without one. Other options include an telephone address book and search tools to find people or businesses you may know also using Skype. Skype-to-Skype calls are free so you may want to invite everyone you’ve ever done business with to download and use.

4. Widgetbox (http://www.widgetbox.com) If you’ve ever seen a feed of recent video, blog, Twitter, etc. posts, odds are, the site was using a Widget. There are several widget sites you can use, but my favorite is Widgetbox. I’ve created easy-to-install widgets for my own sites to keep visitors updated on recent posts. Like most tools, there is a free, basic version and a pay-for-customization version. I’d play around with the free version and if you like what you see, pay for the rest.

5. Lijit (http://www.lijit.com/) I’ve talked about Lijit before. Lijit is useful when you get around in the social media sphere like I do. I have a membership on a lot of sites, blogs, etc. and I like to show them off which is why I’ve housed my networks in my Lijit account. I can use embed code Lijit gives me to display my social media-prowess on my own sites if I chose (which I often do).

6. Twitter. (http://www.twitter.com). I hope you’re not getting tired of hearing me talk about Twitter because I’m a huge fan. I can connect with thousands of people throughout the world in 140 characters or less (which is good, because I can get wordy). I can ask a question about a social media app, find other people like me who want to connect and even promote myself and my sites. I use a desktop application called Tweetdeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/) to manage my incoming and outgoing messages which clears up valuable real estate on my browser’s search bar.

7. Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics/) Another free tool, Google Analytics lets me know who is visiting my sites, when, where from, what terms they’re using to get there. I consider Google Analytics my owner personal website private investigator.

8. Google Docs. (http://docs.google.com) Similar to Gmail and Google Calendar, Google Docs has some similarities to Microsoft’s Office suite. Google Docs, unlike Microsoft, let you create and share online rather than emailing a document back and forth. Consider Google Docs the next time you need a word processing or spreadsheet tool and/or also need to share it with another person or group.

9. iGoogle. If you’ve signed up for any of the Google products mentioned above, odds are you now have a Google account. Great!!! Good job. Now you can also customize your Google homepage to include RSS feeds and other widgets that will keep you informed and more productive. Need an example? Using our fictitious animal toys e-commerce site, imagine you want to keep track of your e-mail, calendar and RSS feeds from your favorite animal-related websites. iGoogle lets you create a homepage that houses all of these things on one screen. Nifty, eh?

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6 Responses to “9 Social Media-Related Tools E-Retailers Should Consider For Their Digital Toolbox”

  1. Jeff D on May 21st, 2009 2:30 pm

    Microsoft does actually have a free service like Google docs that lets you share and collaborate with documents online instead of via e-mail. The service is called Office Live Workspace and it offers users 5GB of online storage, and each Workspace can be shared with up to 100 people. It can (but doesn’t have to) plug into MS Office as well, which makes saving your files online for anytime, anywhere access only a few clicks away.

    MSFT Office Live Outreach

  2. Eric on May 21st, 2009 10:19 pm

    Thanks for the info Jeff! It’s nice to have alternatives.

  3. Tara Anderson on May 22nd, 2009 3:55 pm

    Erin, thanks for including Lijit on your list of tools. In addition to housing all of your social networks, I think the value of our service is that we make all of that searchable for your blog readers.

    Lijit also gives detailed stats about where your readers are coming from, what they’re clicking on and what searches they’re doing that return no results…valuable information for better understanding your audience.

    If any of your readers have questions about Lijit, feel free to send them my way. I’m tara [at] lijit [dot] com.

  4. Saqib Ali on May 25th, 2009 3:36 pm

    Both Google Apps and Office Live Workspace provide a very capable collaboration platform. Sometimes I am struggling to decide to which platform to use for my classwork.

    Office Live Workspace, as expected, provides seamless integration with Microsoft Office, which is critical if you are working with lots of documents and spreadsheets. But with release of Offisync, a 3rd party plugin for MS Office, the same level of seamless integration with MS Office is now available for Google Docs users.

    MS needs to learn about collaborative editing from Google, and Google needs to learn about building user-friendly interfaces and seamless integration with desktop apps from MS.

  5. Jeff D on May 29th, 2009 3:55 pm

    Erik- Glad I could share Office Live Workspace with you!

    Saqib- This is great feedback. I will be sure to pass it on to the powers that be 🙂

    MSFT Office Live Outreach

  6. Keith Larrett on May 30th, 2009 8:16 pm

    Skype is an awesome product. I use it all the time to keep in touch with friends and family overseas. To be able to talk to and see friends so far away for no cost is amazing.

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