HootSuite: Another Tool for Virtual Assistants


HootSuite

I came across this post recently by Robert Farrington on his blog “Beat the 9 to 5” about HootSuite and had to share, because it sounds like it could be a great tool for Virtual Assistants.  In his post, Robert mentions some main functions/ways he uses HootSuite to manage his social media accounts, and as I was reading I kept thinking about LastPass (see my blog post on LastPass here) and how this sounds like it performs a similar function, but so much more, so I had to write about it.  Not to mention, Robert is one of, if not the, most successful bloggers on the planet, with many different blogs, so I pretty much take his word as gold!

WHAT IS HOOTSUITE?

HootSuite is a social media management tool.  What exactly does this mean?  It means that you can manage all (or at least most) of your social media accounts in one place – how handy is that?  In other words, log in to HootSuite and you can see all activity in all of your social media accounts, you can post to those accounts, you can monitor the analytics for those accounts, you can interact with your readers through HootSuite, and much more!

Managing many different social media accounts can be daunting!

Currently, HootSuite is compatible with the following social media accounts:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • FourSquare
  • WordPress
  • Mixi

There is a lot of information on HootSuite’s website regarding what specific capabilities HootSuite has with each social media platform.  I’m not going to cover them all, as it would make this post very long!  But one feature I will mention that many seem to really enjoy is the ability to schedule tweets in advance.  That means that you can send tweets out at the most optimal times, even if you’re not at your computer (or even when you’re sleeping!).  This can really help get a Twitter campaign going!

HOW CAN HOOTSUITE HELP ME AS A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

Well, as anyone who has or is interested in starting a Virtual Assistant business should know, marketing is key, and social media is a very important part of any robust marketing plan in this digital age.  Also, we all know that time=money, and the more time you can spend on billable work vs. marketing equals more money in your pocket

Time = Money, and HootSuite will help save you time and, therefore, money!

HootSuite can also be a major time saver.  Imagine you have a Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter account (and most have more than this!).  Before, you had to go to each account, log in, and manage your content directly from that account.  With HootSuite, you log in once (to HootSuite’s webpage) and can view, access, edit, post, share, etc. to and from all of your accounts from one location.  Imagine the time this could save you!  

This also means that you are able to monitor all of your accounts from one place.  Before, if you were logged into Twitter, you probably didn’t know what was going on with your Facebook account (or you had to go to another tab or window at least to find out).  This can be priceless, especially for ensuring you reply to your followers/commenters in a timely manner.

HOW CAN HOOTSUITE HELP MY CLIENTS?

I can think of several ways.  First and foremost, for Virtual Assistants who manage social media for their clients, HootSuite could be a lifesaver – and a time-saver.  And guess what?  Clients whose VA’s save them time are therefore saving them money.  And guess what?  A client saving money is a happy client!  Imagine having a client ask you to manage 10 social media accounts for them.  They ask you how many hours per week you expect the work to take.  You can tell them that to manage all of the accounts separately would take – throwing a random number out here – 15 hours per week.  BUT, you could explain HootSuite to them and inform them that using HootSuite, you expect to be able to manage all of their accounts in just 10 hours per week.  Who wouldn’t be happy with that??? 

Here is an article on Alpha Efficiency about how one man used HootSuite and a team of Virtual Assistants to save himself time and money, and ultimately massively increase his social media presence.  It explains nicely how he used VA’s and HootSuite.   

Also, HootSuite is really great in that you can create teams to manage your accounts. 

HootSuite Teams

I must note here that this is a function of the Pro Version of HootSuite, which comes with a (very small) monthly fee of $8.99/month (I discuss pricing in further detail below). 

In his post, Robert discusses how he uses a Virtual Assistant to help him manage his accounts (of course he does – he’s a smart man!), but was wary of giving his VA passwords to all of his accounts (understandably).  With HootSuite, his VA logs in one time to HootSuite and is able to manage all accounts he gives her access to from there.  She never knows the passwords to each individual account!  This was the basis of my post on LastPass, and I imagine would be a great selling point to ease clients’ security fears. 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

HootSuitePro

There is a free version of HootSuite, as well as a Pro version and an Enterprise version.  They tout the free version as being good for individuals, the Pro being good for businesses and professionals, and the Enterprise being good for corporations, organizations or governments.  Robert mentions that he uses the Pro version, and I think that is what I will try, as it seems to have everything necessary for me.  It includes, among other things, 50 social media profiles included (up to 100 available); 1 team member included (up to 9 available); unlimited RSS; security; and 100 archived messages included (up to 100,000 available).  The Pro version costs $8.99/month, which I think is quite fair and reasonable. 

Also, please note that HootSuite offers a FREE 30-day trial of the Pro version.  So you can try it out, see if you like it, and if not, cancel with no further obligation.  What have you got to lose?    

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT HOOTSUITE?

HootSuite also offers over 60 additional add-on apps that you can utilize if you choose.  There are a few premium apps for a small additional charge, and lots of free ones.  I give a sampling of additional apps you can use with HootSuite below.  I’ve added notes to a few, but didn’t want to get too in-depth as to make this post too long or lose your interest, so go to their website and you can get lots more information about each of these if you desire.  HootSuite’s website can be found here

Premium Apps:

  • SoundCloud ($1.99/month)
  • Gmail ($1.99/month) – Access your Gmail account from within HootSuite (handy, though I’m bummed they charge for it)
  • ViralTag for Pinterest ($9.99/month)
  • YouTube Analytics ($4.99/month)
  • YouTube ($1.99/month)
  • TrendSpottr ($4.99/month)
  • Chattback ($4.99/month)

Free Apps:

  • FourSquare for Business
  • ChartBeat – analytic
  • Nimble
  • Cashie Commerce – share products, photos, descriptions; publish marketing promotions
  • Brandwatch
  • Brightkit – contests & campaigns
  • Zendesk
  • MailChimp
  • Vidcaster
  • Shopseen – promote products; view your Etsy, Shopify, BigCommerce, Ebay and other platforms; track inventory & orders
  • Survey Monkey
  • ContentGems
  • 123FormBuilder
  • RankSpeed
  • Blogger
  • Batchbook
  • Storeya
  • Instagram
  • YouTube Free
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • RSS Reader
  • WordPress.org – view published & draft posts & pages; post directly to WP
  • Reddit
  • Scoop.it
  • Constant Contact
  • Cmp.ly – create social media disclosures in-stream; add shortened cmp.ly links to social messages
  • NeedTagger – “customer search engine” for Twitter: find people who need your content, products & services now; directly engage prospects from within dash

I know that HootSuite is not the only program like this out there, and I will review and introduce others in the future.  But this one really grabbed my attention, for several reasons, so I had to write about it and I can’t wait to try it out as things get going for me over the next couple of months!

I would love to hear from you if you have used HootSuite, or if it seems like something you think would be helpful to Virtual Assistants, or if you have another favorite program that performs a similar function.  Well, I would love to hear from anyone on anything, actually 🙂

Transcription: Save Time & Money


As a business owner, saving time and money are top priorities.  One way many, many business owners can accomplish these, and more, is by utilizing dictation and transcription, and specifically utilizing a virtual assistant for the transcribing. “How?” you ask. Keep on reading and I’ll tell you.

Headphones are used for transcribing documents either from tape or digital sources.

Headphones are used for transcribing documents either from tape or digital sources.

Let’s think about all the ways business owners lose working time: commuting, traveling, waiting/idle time (before/after meetings, court hearings, etc.), lunch breaks (if not taken at desk), personal errands, etc. Lost time=lost money.  One easy and simple way to make use of this typically “lost” time is to utilize dictation and transcription.

WHAT IS TRANSCRIPTION?

Simply, dictation involves speaking into a voice recording machine, and transcription is the process of converting the spoken words into print.  I often use “transcription” to mean the process of both dictating and transcribing.  This process used to be (and occasionally still is) accomplished by using an analog voice recorder that would record spoken words onto a small cassette tape, which would then be played back from a special dictating machine and transcribed.  However, in this increasingly digital age, it has become much more commonplace for voice recorders to be digital; that is, the spoken word is recorded digitally (as a .WAV or similar audio file), then downloaded to a computer, after which it is transcribed using computer software.  There are even apps nowadays that can turn your cell phone into a voice recorder!  Watch this video to learn about the amazing benefits of digital dictation over the old analog dictation with cassette tapes.

The act of transcribing is simply listening to the audio (whether on a tape or a digital audio file) through headphones and typing what is heard into any desired program and format (for example, a Microsoft Word document as a memorandum).  A foot pedal is usually used, which connects directly to the transcriptionist’s playback machine (in the case of dictation on a tape) or computer (in the case of digital dictation) and controls the audio playback by manipulating the speed of the speech, allowing one to rewind, fast forward, pause or stop, among other functions, all without fingers having to leave the keyboard!

Foot pedals are used to control playback of dictated audio.

Foot pedals are used to control playback of dictated audio.

The foot pedal has revolutionized transcription and made turnaround times immensely faster than they once were.

WHO CAN UTILIZE TRANSCRIPTION?

The answer is: nearly anyone!  Transcription is exceedingly helpful for many professionals in a variety of industries. Two industries/professionals who frequently use transcription are doctors and other medical professionals (for dictating office notes, operative notes, correspondence, reports, among others) and lawyers (for dictating pleadings, memoranda, correspondence, outlines/digests, among others), but nearly any professional can benefit from transcription.  Some situations where using transcription could be beneficial include: lectures/speeches, meetings, brainstorming sessions, digesting voluminous information, reports, correspondence and memoranda.  Here is a great article titled Ten Great Uses for Transcription Services that I really like, as it’s a little bit “out of the box” and gives some other great examples of situations in which transcription could be beneficial.

Doctors use transcription frequently to dictate their notes.

Doctors use transcription frequently to dictate their notes.

Even students can benefit from using a transcription service, especially working students.  Imagine being able to listen to a lecture, while recording it with an audio recorder, and then after providing the audio file to your virtual assistant, being provided with a note/outline prepared for you with the pertinent points to study from!  There are so many uses for transcription I couldn’t possibly explore them all here.  Open your creative mind and I’m sure you will come to realize how transcription could benefit you personally.

HOW WILL UTILIZING TRANSCRIPTION BENEFIT ME?

Save Time

First, using dictation and transcription can save you time, by allowing you to make use of what would otherwise be “down” time” – sitting in the airport waiting for a flight, during a flight, driving or commuting to and from work, working from home without your assistant, idle time during errands, etc.  Since I’m willing to bet that 99.99% of people speak significantly faster than they type, transcription can save a great deal of time versus typing or writing the same information, which can take anywhere from 3 to 5 TIMES as long as it would take you to speak the content.

Save Money

Second, utilizing dictation and transcription can save you money.  You pay for only the services you need, as opposed to paying another employee (with benefits) who you may not utilize enough to be cost-effective.  In addition, your transcription needs may ebb and flow, making an employee further disadvantageous.  Not to mention, what are you to do if your employee is out sick and you need a project completed immediately?  Also, an experienced transcriptionist will be able to perform the job faster, which will also save you money.

Free Up Your Existing Staff

Third, utilizing a virtual assistant for your transcription needs will free up your existing staff to work on other projects and utilize their other skills which may better serve your needs of an in-house employee.  In addition, a virtual assistant who is only doing your transcription can likely turn around the final product to you faster than your assistant or secretary, who may be inundated with a hundred other tasks on their to-do list such that transcription is placed on a back burner.

Flexibility

Even if you have very rare transcription needs, or have an employee who generally performs your transcription but you occasionally have an increase in work load which is too much for your employee, you can still utilize a virtual assistant for those times that you need one!  See above, you only pay for what you need!

HOW CAN A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT HELP ME?

You dictate whatever you need transcribed on a digital audio recorder.  The .WAV or similar file is then downloaded from the recorder to your computer, where you can easily post it to a network that your virtual assistant has access to, or email it to her. 

Some digital audio recorders come with a dock that both charges the machine and (once a one-time initial setup is complete) automatically emails your audio file(s) to whomever you have set up to receive them – you don’t have to do anything except set the device in the dock – amazingly simple!!!  

Once your virtual assistant receives your audio file, she opens the .WAV or similar file on her computer utilizing one of a number of available transcription software programs and, along with a foot pedal to control playback, transcribes the spoken word to print in whichever format you require (memorandum, digest, verbatim transcript, agenda, meeting minutes, etc.). 

There are many software programs transcriptionists can utilize.  I have used in the past and loved Start Stop’s Universal Transcription System – it’s super easy to use and reliable.  Start Stop also sells digital audio recorders (as do a multitude of other places).   .

Lizzy’s Lending Hand would love to help with your transcription needs.  Pricing is fair and competitive and is generally priced at $1.00 per minute of audio.  For example, one hour of audio, which will take approximately 3-4 hours to transcribe (including proofreading, formatting and editing) will cost $60, which translates into approximately $15-20 per hour.  We feel this is the most fair pricing policy, as there is no disputing how much time was spent on a job – there is a concrete amount of audio.  In addition, this pricing structure makes it feasible and economical to use for small and large jobs alike.  Regular turnaround time for average-size jobs (up to 3 hours of audio) is 48 hours, though can be completed in as few as 24 hours (for an additional fee) on a rush basis, pending availability.  We look forward to helping with your transcription needs!

Find Your Backbone, And Your Wings


Thank you so much Monday Morning Inspirations! This post REALLY hit me today. It is just so pertinent to my life right now and what I am trying to do, and such a great reminder to stay inspired, keep on trying, live your dreams, and NEVER GIVE UP! Give it a read – I’m betting it will lift your spirits as it did mine!

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