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Cuckoo for Cacoo, Free Flow Charting for Entrepreneurs

It is always tricky envisioning how the various pieces of a startup business will fit together and interact. Cacoo (https://cacoo.com/) is a cool cloud-based application that can be used for project envisioning, flow charts and mockups. Cacoo offers free and reasonably priced product tiers that will fit into those very tight budgets. For entrepreneurs that think ‘visually’ this may be the right tool to add to your small business toolbox. Another great feature is Cacoo’s online collaboration tool for projects ‘on-the-fly’ and for times when the team just can’t meet.Cacoo image

Here’s what they say:

“Cacoo is a user friendly online drawing tool that allows you to create a variety of diagrams such as site maps, wire frames, UML and network charts. Cacoo can be used free of charge.

Draw a variety of diagrams

Creating attractive diagrams, such as wire frames, mind maps, network charts, and site maps, are very easy for anyone as you can simply pick and “drag and drop” elements from a large library of stencils.

Quick and Easy

Cacoo covers all the basic drawing functionalities. A huge number of stencils, aligning functionality, background sheet, freehand options, and many more assist you to draw nice diagrams efficiently.

On Web Browser

All you need for Cacoo is a Web browser. No troublesome installation is required. With a computer and access to the internet, anyone can sign in Cacoo and edit diagrams. Start drawing diagrams at home, at work or at hotels while you travel.

Real-Time Collaboration

Multiple users can share and edit one diagram simultaneously. Changes are shown on the sharers screen in real time. Collaboration will be more creative and productive as team members can plan and review cooperatively.”

Cacoo Store

Shop the Cacoo Store for stencils (icons) and templates to speed up your project. You’ll need to purchase Cacoo points, before you’ll be able to buy or earn them by submitting stencils or templates of your own.

Check Cacoo out and let me know if you find this helpful.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

The Dark Side Of The Cloud

I am often asked what cloud computing is. Most people know the buzzwords: working in the cloud, move to the cloud, life in the cloud, etc. Technically speaking, Wikipedia says cloud-computing means using multiple server computers via a digital network, as though they were one computer. Cloud computing, like regular computing, can be broken up into three layers: infrastructure, platform and application. Each layer has it’s own issues in cloud computing. For the most part this blog discussion is about the application side of cloud computing –consumer and business applications, but the principles pertain to the other layers, too.Cloud application relationships

In plain terms, you can tell that you are dealing with cloud computing when you have access to applications and data from a network device (smartphones, iPods, laptops, etc.). Cloud computing differs from the classic client-server model by providing applications that are executed and managed via a web browser, without an installed software program required. Google docs and Facebook are examples of cloud apps that get used everyday worldwide without anyone giving it a second thought.

Still don’t get it? Here’s a great simple video explanation.

There is a Saleforce.com video that says their cloud computing solution does away with businesses needing to purchase and implement their own databases, office space, servers and business apps. They don’t have to hire the staff to support the infrastructure. They claim that businesses will experience lower costs, more scalability and offer better security. Indeed cloud computing is a great concept, similar in nature to the Internet itself, just more capitalized. It’s all about consumer power and the benefits of using shared resources and technology.

There is no doubt that cloud computing is the wave of the future. Stopping the growth of cloud computing would be like stopping Internet expansion. Cloud computing can provide some very solid benefits like: lower costs, increased reach, collaboration, easy and stable software updates, no capital expenses, and working remotely. But there is a dark lining to many cloud apps and I’ve found a few things people should be watching for when deciding which ones to choose. Here’s my list of things to consider.

1. Assess the software or service carefully and have ‘an exit plan’

I started a couple of years ago with a new free cloud-based service called iCyte. It’s a bookmarking site that allows you to annotate and organize your web searches. After about a year and a half into using this software, they started charging a monthly fee. I decided not to pay the fee, but found the best I could do to export my vast collection of data was to export it to a very messy .csv file (aka spreadsheet). Lesson learned. I don’t give up info, pictures, and/or even clicks until I find out if I can get that info OUT in a usable manner. Test it early.

2. Does it fit the scope of your business?

When I ‘tested’ Salesforce.com within a small business, I found that although it may have been a good solution for a medium-sized business that had database-knowledgeable staff ready to customize these apps, it was not as easy as they portrayed. Most small businesses would not have the know-how or man-hours needed to get Salesforce.com or many other cloud apps to work easily for them.

3. Sales guys never think about security

Although the sales guys may tell you that cloud computing is safer, the proof is in the news recently. From Citigroup to Sony, this article explains how, in fact, there is cause for great alarm and  describes the vulnerability of cloud computing.

4. How supporting is your support personnel?

Do they even have support personnel? Can you get a  REAL PERSON on the phone to help? One of the first things that I check before choosing a cloud computing vendor is who will be the support team and if it offers live support. Since I speak only American, then they need to, too. Simple as that. If they do not speak American English, as in the same syntax, slang, etc. then I know when I get frustrated with an issue that I will not be able to get my point across. I’ve tried and tried it and now it is simply –my choice.

5. Beware the ‘free trial’

After the ‘free trial’ is done, businesses that ‘tested it out’ find difficulty in recovering the info and getting it back in house. If it’s a one month or 3-month trial, BEWARE. The longer you use a trial, that you decide later is not worth it, the more time and data you have added to someone else’s software. I suggest, in the event of the trial not working out, that you first assess (see point #1) how you will export the info out of their site and back into your system OR run dual processes (work in both places) while you test their system.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Right-Sizing Innovation for the Small Business Owner

Increasingly our world favors BIG. BIG Companies. BIG Stars. The next BIG thing. Big business seems to favor other BIG businesses, like during Christmas when ABC’s GMA seemingly supported only the online BIG Box stores, leaving small online entrepreneurs in the dust as reported in our December 8th blog, “Scrooge Strikes e-Commerce Small Business.”Big and small

What is the key to small businesses getting ahead? Many believe it is innovation. But it’s not that simple. Innovation tailored to the unique position and qualities of a small business propel it forward. Small business owners have certain advantages over their BIG business counterparts. They spend up to 80-90% of their days working directly with their customers, discovering their needs, solving their problems, finding the things that make them truly happy, and things, that no matter what, leave suppliers or service providers coming up short.

These insights from first-hand knowledge are the competitive edge of a small business.  BIG business might have the resources to implement innovation, but often they are so far removed from this fundamental information that they are not able to “see the forest for the trees”

In the article, “Think Small Innovations to Get Big” the author, Darrell Zahorsky describes the advantages of smaller incremental innovations found in the food industry. Small businesses that actively applied small innovations had better performance and competitive advantages over its two competing larger corporations.

How should your small business innovate? Perhaps they are things you already do. In a connected blog, Mr Zahorsky went on to list the “7 Principles of Small Innovations.” They are good tips all small business owners can benefit from.

In summary they are:

Free Time: Work smarter, not harder. Use new technology and outsource to work efficiently.

Collect Ideas: Carry around a small notebook to capture ideas throughout the day.

Look Outside: Look to other resources to succeed.

Be Customer Centric: If the innovation makes you feel uncomfortable but delights the customer, you are probably on the right track. Oh, and always consider your customer’s customer.

Use All Types of Innovation: Be alert for ALL innovation. Sometimes innovation occurs unexpectedly.

Ask The Right Questions: When talking with customers, ask about the experience, instead of the product or service.

Make a Daily Habit: Innovation can occur at any time and any place. Embracing daily innovation tactics into your lifestyle instead of as a main event will allow you to implement your best ideas.

Many of today’s leaders say the Small Business sector is likely to lead America to its next step in economic recovery. Learning the art of innovation within small businesses provides owners another competitive advantage needed to compete against all things ‘BIG’.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Top Three Trends Likely to Upset Your Social Media World

Start OverWhat’s going on?! Lately, it seems like the whole world is in a state of flux. First, countries like Eqypt and Libya are deciding to start over -or die trying. Then Wisconsin decides to do much the same thing… start over -or die trying. With this much upheaval in the world, it leads one to reflect on what’s happening and attempt to look into the future.

I can’t do much about these events, but they made me consider what will most likely impact the world ‘you and I’ live in, a world that increasingly depends on, and is driven by, the Internet, social media, and new media. What trends will arise, perhaps even merge, and continue to change and then further impact our lives?

Trend One

The first trend isn’t much of a departure from my lede. It’s the speed that news is bombarding us. Our ability to grasp and understand it before it has again evolved into a new story is creating an information-overloaded society. NPR recently published an insightful article on this topic called “Media Black Hole: So Much News That We’ll Implode?

Trend Two

Just as we’ve started to understand our communities, I find that they’ve moved and changed! Chris Brogan presents a nice update on how social media communities are evolving, and why, in “The Future of Community“.

Trend Three

Over half of all Americans will have smart phones by the end of 2011. Do you think this might impact marketing in America, just a little bit? Seriously, if there is so much news that we might implode, don’t you suppose that the same could be said of technology trends? Our marketing systems that just recently aligned to embrace Internet technologies must now evolve and align with mobile technology. Lucky for us, the B2C Marketing Insider has some tips in their article “Data-Driven Marketing: Mobile by the Numbers“.

Undoubtedly, right this minute, there is another new technology or trend on its way. What do you think will be the next mainstream trend? And how will we dodge, embrace or benefit from it?

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

This Should be Keeping You Up at Night

Saying “The world has changed” is a gross understatement. The momentum is building so quickly, there isn’t much you can do about it, right? What about evolutionizing your business, so that it doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur? Where do you begin? It begins with learning, in general, and, specifically, new technology, new media and embracing “all things Internet”.

Still skeptical? Check out this video from XPLANE | Visual thinking:

http://bit.ly/9GknN9

Scared? What do you think? Is it time to change how you are doing business?