Thursday, January 20, 2011
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Alison Diana 01/15/2011 While many of Facebook's 500 million users waste part of their days growing virtual crops or committing imaginary crimes, there are many Facebook applications designed to actually improve business productivity. There are more than 550,000 active applications on the Facebook platform, according to the social network, with many designed specifically to improve business practices or better-integrate Facebook into a company's operations. Many business apps are free. Often, fee-based apps offer a basic service at no charge. Frequently, only limited support, usually via Facebook, is available. In addition to general-purpose business applications, there are apps for specific verticals and jobs such as real estate, education, the entertainment industry, Web design, and marketing. These 15 are worth a look.
RSS Graffiti, originally designed for Facebook page administrators, is useful for anyone dealing with multiple RSS feeds, especially those overseeing Facebook fan pages or multiple pages. The free app, developed by RSS Graffiti, checks user-specified RSS/Atom feeds and posts any new entries it finds to pre-selected Facebook walls. More than 353,000 people are using the app each month.
Well-established, easily recognized companies -- such as Microsoft and Twitter -- are behind some business apps. In other cases, smaller and newer enterprises like CircleUp and Huddle developed business-specific Facebook apps. In some instances, individuals looking to resolve a problem or rise to a technology challenge created apps, and then shared them on Facebook. No matter who did the coding, these business apps were designed to address issues such as group and individual calendaring; marketing campaigns; online collaboration; media feeds and analytics, and business networking. And, as Facebook continues toward its stated goal of 1 billion users, it's highly likely more business-friendly apps -- as well as productivity hogs -- will continue to arrive.
In August, Americans spent 685,000 hours on Facebook, accounting for 10% of overall time spent on the Internet in the United States, according to comScore. In fact, U.S. Internet users spent 22.7% of their time on social networking sites -- up 43% from the 15.8% they spent in 2009, according to an August 2010 study by The Nielsen Co. By comparison, users spent 8.3% of their online time reading and sending emails, the report found.
Pagemodo Pagebuilder is a free tool that lets individuals and businesses design a Facebook page without design or graphic arts skills. Organizations can add photos, embed video, change the fonts and text and showcase their products on their Facebook pages, using Pagemodo's templates. More than 2,600 like the startup's solution.
Social Revitalizer's Social RSS supports all major versions of RSS and ATOM, including media feeds. With the free Facebook app -- used by more than 640,000 people -- users can add their blog and RSS feeds to their Facebook fan page, and plays flash, MP3 and Silverlight files directly from the tab, Social Revitalizer said. A free toolbar delivers web radio, eBay, YouTube and Amazon, as well as RSS feeds. For $24 a year -- a 14-day trial version is available -- Social Revitalizer provides metrics and a greater number of RSS feeds to subscribers' walls, the company said.
With Huddle, businesses can merge Facebook with its online collaboration tool, allowing companies and consumers to create secure workspaces, or huddles. Within this space, colleagues can schedule tasks, share files and approve actions. Using Facebook, Huddle users can add team members and update profiles. Huddle also developed a BlackBerry and iPhone app. The Facebook app is free. Huddle offers a free version of its online tool for end-users and charitable organizations, as well as fee-based services ranging from $8 per month for an individual account to $200 for a professional account. About 600 people 'like' the software, according to Huddle's Facebook site.
Memorable Web Addresses
Individuals or businesses cursed with a common or easy to forget name can separate themselves from the fray using Memorable Web Addresses, a free Facebook app that creates short, easy to remember personal web addresses that take visitors directly to a Facebook profile, page or group. This allows account-holders to share the link with others, post it on forums, show it on other social networking sites or include it on business cards or websites. Individuals and executives also can give the Memorable Web Address to people they know but don't want on their friend list, so they still can send private messages. The app, by Profile Technology, has almost 110,000 users.
NetworkedBlogs is a user-generated blog directory organized by subject or geographical location, a tool designed to help organizations marketing to specific regions. Businesses or individuals can import their blog feeds for posting a Facebook fan page or profile, where Facebook account holders can read and like the blog, then share it via their NetworkedBlogs tab. NetworkedBlogs was developed by Ninua, a winner of Facebook's fbFund in summer 2009. The free blog promotion app has more than 1.4 million monthly users, and corporate users include Facebook, ProBlogger and 500,000 other blogs, according to the company.
Using SlideShare, people can share presentations and documents with members of their Facebook network, embed YouTube videos into presentations and add audio to create a webinar. SlideShare account-holders can import existing presentations into Facebook or LinkedIn, and they automatically will show up on SlideShare.net and the two social networking sites. The application supports all formats -- including ppt, pps, pptx, odp, pdf, doc, docx, odt, Keynote and iWork pages, according to the developer. SlideShare, which has almost 400,000 monthly users, offers a free, personal account; a professional version for $14 a month; a business edition for $36 a month, and an enterprise version for $249 per month. Paid versions have no ads, deliver analytics and buzz tracking, and capture leads.
RatePoint helps businesses keep in touch with clients and prospects by making it free and easy to create email newsletters, collect reviews and testimonials and build surveys. The tool connects to Facebook and Twitter, allowing companies to share information with Facebook friends and company fans, as well as Twitter followers. Currently, more than 8,000 people each month use a href="http://www.ratepoint.com/"> RatePoint. The company provides customer review, testimonial and online reputation management services.
Those trying to keep track of colleagues may want to consider 30 Boxes' calendar utility, a free Facebook application that allows users to share their schedule with select individuals or their entire Facebook network. The calendar app includes simple SMS reminders and an integrated to-do list, and integrates with both Facebook and MySpace. The no-fee tool is used by more than 12,000 Facebook users.
Promotions For Fan Pages
Administrators of Facebook groups and pages are well aware of the value promotions can bring. And Wildfire Interactive's Promotions app makes it easy to add giveaways, sweepstakes, coupon giveaways, special deals and contests to a Facebook fan page. Simply go to developer Wildfire , create a free account and connect the registered app to the Facebook group or page. At that point, the promotions created using a step-by-step process will populate the fan page or group page tab.
Marketplace is a virtual classified ad for Facebook, where people can post free ads and search millions of classified ads for used cars, jobs, apartments, real estate, pets, tickets and more. Like CraigsList, there is no fee for listings, which appear both online and via social media sites, and are seen by about 8 million active monthly users. Developer Oodle also offers a business service -- Oodle Pro -- that features one-stop syndication covering Oodle, Facebook, MySpace and others; access to more than 500 million customers across Facebook Marketplace and the Oodle Network, and reporting tools that enable companies to measure the effectiveness of listings and social media leads.
Businesses -- as well as musicians, athletes, celebrities and brand owners -- can build, engage and monetize their fan base using Fan Appz, a suite of tools built for fans and fan pages. Managers of fan pages can use the apps to create Top 5 rankings, polls, quizzes and gift applications to engage and grow their fan base. Fans can discover the newest fashions, gadgets, trends, popular culture and content from their favorite companies, performers or artists on Facebook. The standard app is free; the professional version costs $50 a month, and includes fan page promotions and coupons, as well as video support for quizzes and polls. About 578,000 people use the app each month. The professional version of Fan Appz also eliminates ads.
Facebook Poll Application
As the Gap recently discovered, people are quick to respond -- sometimes vocally -- about logo changes. But smaller businesses or companies making less public changes may not get the same feedback. Polls can change that. And placing daily or weekly polls on serious or silly subjects also can create another reason for people to visit a company's site. Recognizing that, Kremsa developed a free Facebook poll app, used by about 1.8 million people monthly.
Payvment E-Commerce Storefront
Almost 12 million Facebook users have created virtual storefronts on the social media site, using the Payvment E-Commerce Storefront app. This free tool from Payvment lets e-tailers sell an unlimited number of items; includes built-in and full-featured storefront administrative capabilities, and launches in minutes, according to the developer. It supports multiple currencies and languages, as well as a number of payment options, and is used by more than 416,000 Facebook users.
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