Other than video and graphics, such as using YouTube.com and Flickr.com, which are the most popular but not really important when you have your own dedicated server like I do, there are some tools to allow my websites to be a little more interactive.
(If you remember from my report, The Death of The Salesletter,” I talk about the rise in “samplification.” If there are any tools that I would prefer, other than video and audio, they would certainly be those that helped to give my readers more proof, and to make their buying experiences easier and more secure.)
I will blog about those once I get more statistics to share with you.
But the second part of that question is, when it comes to running my business, there are a few Web 2.0 tools and services that have helped my life quite tremendously. Here's a list of some of them.
(This is only a partial list. And if you're a copywriter or a service provider, you'll appreciate these, too.)
1. Mint 2.0
Mint is a Web 2.0, “widgetized” statistics platform. It offers everything you need, from referrers, pageviews, searches to graphs. Now, I do use other stats programs, like Google Analytics (in fact, I use about 6 of them in all). But the statistics are limiting.
For instance, most of them provide a daily list of the top 10 or 100 referrals. Problem is, I get over 6,000 to 10,000 unique visitors a day. So naturally, this is insufficient.
What I like about Mint is that it's not only versatile and unlimited, but also you can even subscribe to your stats, in real time, via a private RSS feed.
Plus, you can add various “plug-and-play” widget panels of your choice for added statistics — these plugins are called “peppers,” including monitor resolutions, browsers, platforms, etc. For example, I use Feedburner.com as my feed tracker. But Mint also has a pepper called “Bird Feeder,” which does the same thing.
(The more versatile a program is, the less I need all these statstics programs running concurrently. Simplifying also helps to lighten the load on the server, too. This is why I love Mint so much.)
As you probably already know, WikiPedia stands for “wiki encyclopedia.” (And the word “Wiki” means user-based, where contribitions are submitted and edited by users.)
In spite of all the controversy of late with Microsoft paying users to submit content, WikiPedia is still one of the most insightful and comprehensive research tools I use when I write copy.
From definitions and factoids, to articles and demographic data, WikiPedia serves a lot of information that arms any copywriter with powerful information they can use to give their copy some kick.
Plus, the interlinking of certain keywords within the articles makes it easy to find information related to the topic, and gather additional information that might provide you with a lot of angles and hooks — especially when writer's block hits you between the eyes.
This one is cool. It's a Web 2.0 online form building, hosting, tracking and reporting tool. It's form management made easy, “on the fly.” In fact, I'm using it right now with my copywriting quote requests .
(I was forced to do so, actually, since form spammers were killing the system. And I've tried several self-hosted scripts, which were all eventually hacked or spammed. But Wufoo seems to be working out well.)
Creating a form is extremely flexible, and you can add copy, form elements and even form properties (like “thank you” results, which open up on the same page once submitted, along with confirmation emails sent to the submitter, too). You can even change colors, CSS, graphics and backgrounds.
But the best part is, it also has security features as well as online reporting of your forms. That way, I, and my staff, can easily track, respond to and manage all my form submissions in one single location.
Picnik is new, and it's neat. It's not a photo storage system like Flickr (although it can also work with Flickr, or any other online photo album and storage system). It's really an online photo “fixer.”
From tweaking exposure and removing red eyes, to cropping and rotating the photo, you can fix your photos online in a snap. You can even use their “auto-fix” feature to make them perfect in just one click.
I use PhotoShop, so I don't need it much. But when I'm on the road with my laptop, this service makes it easy for me to modify photos and graphics on the fly. It can even store photos, create slideshows and email your results.
It also offers some special effects (although limited, but more are promised to be added soon according to their website), such as adding shadows, black and white, frames, etc.
This one is my favorite. I manage all my copywriting projects — and even other projects, including personal and business-related ones — with this one central collaboration and project management interface.
I create to-do lists, assign milestones, upload files, use the whiteboard (such as for posting rough copy drafts for review), chat with key personnel or clients, and discuss specific items with an email list of people involved in the project.
I also use it for personal to-do lists as well as for launching new businesses. This is not only a great tool to manage projects, but it allows me to stay on top of my staff and freelancers, as well as give my clients the ability to know what's going on at any time, too.
The best part is, when I outsource any part of a project, such as research, editing, proofreading, formatting and so forth, I can allow freelancers access to specific items and accomplish projects in far less time.
BaseCamp tracks timesheets, too. This way, I know how much time someone spent on a particular task. However, BaseCamp does miss out on something. It lacks the ability to invoice clients.
(For now, I use BillMyClients.com. However, if you're a copywriter “on the side” or any kind of service provider part-time, and you want an all-in-one solution, including invoicing, there's also SideJobTrack.com.)
Nevertheless, if you want a comprehensive list of Web 2.0 tools out there, you can also check out the Web 2.0 Awards, which offers a pretty hefty list of the most popular ones currently available.
Finally, in my report “The Death of The Salesletter,” some people have emailed me asking me what are the names of the tools I use, which I list on pages 17 and 18.
(This is specifically when I mention the “ping factor,” where I talk about some of the tools running on my own computer, which “ping” for my attention.)
Let me list some of them here:
Tracking And Statistics
The stats packages I run are varied. Some are included on this web page. Some of them are proprietary and customized for my business. But for split-testing and multivariate testing, I use Multitrack Generator.
For my RSS feeds, I use FeedDemon by Newsgator. Instead of using my email client or an online service like Google Reader, I use FeedDemon because the number of feeds in my OPML file are so numerous (I'm subscribed to about 400 feeds), it makes navigating and reading them too unwieldy.
For instant messenging, I use an all-in-one tool called “Trillian.” I do so for various reasons: it's better (for computer performance sake) to have one application running than to have 5 or 6. For example, Trillian can run AIM, ICQ, MSN, IRC, Jabber (Google Talk), all within a single application.
For all my ClickBank reporting and affiliate management, I use CB Accountant. This tool is pretty useful, because I can poll and query my ClickBank sales in ways not possible with ClickBank's own reporting feature.
I keep track of all my Google AdSense results (from pageviews to revenues) with MetalGrass' AdSenseLog. It sits in your system tray and notifies you at specified intervals of your ads' performance.
(The benefit, for me, is that when I make any changes to my AdSense ads, I know almost instantly how well they're doing.)
PayPal Monitor sits in your system tray as well, and notifies you whenever your account has a new transaction. Like CB Accountant and AdSense Log, the beauty of this tool is that you can check to see your account status at any time, without having to log in their websites to view your results.
There are quite a few helpdesk software out there. (You've probably heard of Kayako, for instance.) But the one I and my assistants use is Cerberus.
For example, you can see it in action here: Michel Fortin's Support Website. All emails, contacts, messages, support tickets and website monitoring are done through this powerful tool.
Granted, my wife owns a very special customized version of the software, since she uses it with thousands of clients. (Call it a fringe benefit!) But let me tell you, having this tool alone to control your inbox has been an absolute godsend.
OK, hopefully this covers everything.
The bottom line is, Web 2.0 or not, and aside from using tools on your website to “samplify” your offer to improve your sales, there are many tools that can simplify your life and drastically improve your productivity.
The above are some of mine. I hope some of them become useful to you, too. Whether you choose those tools or not, remember that any tool that can help you focus on moneymaking activities — or what my friend John Carlton calls “Operation Moneysuck” — is better than trying to do everything yourself.
Believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way.