Brewster launched late last year with a simple goal: Replace your tired old A-to-Z contact list with an address book that actually understands your relationships and, in turn, helps you become a better friend. For some of us, this feels like a hopeless pursuit. We’re overworked, stressed, have terrible breath, and just can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to better manage our personal relationships. It starts in your twenties and gets worse from there.
Sure, Brewster’s mission sounds similar to the one that Plaxo launched with back in 2002, and there are enough smart, mobile address books out there to make your head spin. They’re all trying to simplify contact management, but there isn’t anything out there that’s based on the understanding of the people in your life and how those relationships fit together, which is how founder Steve Greenwood tells us he thinks that the team can actually transform the address book.
Today, Brewster launched its web application to let users enjoy a newly designed, fast Brewster experience on your phone, tablet or laptop. The app also introduces easier and faster contact sharing so that you no longer have to open your address book only to realize you’re missing a close friend’s number or have forgotten to update their work email.
If you’re anything like me, at least once in your life, this has probably happened to you. Or, you want to be a considerate friend and send them a birthday gift, but guess what? You have no idea what their address is. You scramble to find it, and a giant headache ensues and you send a birthday cake to the wrong house. Sigh.
When you scroll through your address book, Greenwood says, it’s almost appalling how much incorrect and incomplete information is in there for all the people you know, even for some of your closest friends. With its new contact sharing functionality, Brewster is looking to bring your relationships “to life” in your address book, enabling you to have each other’s current and complete contact info in your phone — or in your browser.
With one click, the founder says, you can take your contacts from static, probably out-of-date entities to something that’s at least a little more dynamic, and maybe even a realtime representation of the people in your life.
In terms of how it works?
Users sign on and create a personal contact card for the information they want to share with particular friends. You get to decide what information you’d like to share, whether it be phone numbers, emails, addresses, Skype IDs and usernames, etc. At any point, you can edit your contact card and the information you share with those friends and the card will update in realtime across platforms.
The app will list suggested friends based on its relationship algorithms, which Greenwood says “study each user’s closest relationships” in an attempt to streamline the connection process. If you don’t see someone in the list, you can add them yourself manually.
After sending requests to share info with friends and they accept (hopefully), you and those chosen will have complete and up-to-date contact info in your profile — and the same goes for them — or at least that’s the idea. If your friend gets a new job and updates their email address, for example, the new address will automatically update on each profile, for example, so you don’t have to worry about keeping contact info up to date for your close friends. Pretty cool.
Greenwood was sure to point out that users can disable sharing with any contact whenever you want, along with the ability to modify information that’s in your contact card and being shared with those select friends. Just in case you start to feel anxiety over lock-in. There’s a big market for the next-gen, automatically updated mobile contact manager, and, while there’s a lot of competition out there and many have come and gone trying to climb “Contact List Mountain,” but Brewster is off to a good start.
For more, find Brewster at home here or its iPhone app here.
Tencent’s social blogging site, Qzone, has Asia’s largest active social network user base, with 600 million (and counting) users who log in more than twice a month.
Besides Qzone, the Chinese Internet giant is perhaps better known for its flagship QQ instant messenger and the exploding WeChat smartphone messaging app.
I spoke to Peter Zheng, vice president of Tencent’s social network group. He’s been overseeing Qzone’s evolution for the past eight years. He told me that when Qzone was launched in 2005, it was initially planned as a Geocities-style blog community, before the company decided to add social aspects by linking blogs to users’ QQ accounts. “Luckily, when we started, Facebook wasn’t common in China. There were some challenges from other platforms like microblogs such as Weibo, but these [Twitter-like channels] are quite public, and people saw QZone as a more private space,” he said.
It wasn’t always supposed to be walled, but QZone inherited the company’s older QQ contact list that added people based on user IDs, not more universal identifiers like email addresses or phone numbers. And unlike what we’re used to on Facebook or LinkedIn for example, you can’t see who your friends’ friends are because of the way those lists were architected, said Zheng.
“For a while, we were concerned that that made it hard for people to expand their friends lists. Our legacy was closed, and we thought it hindered the expansion of the network,” he said. But it seemed to work out. “Over time, our users told us that they didn’t want to add contacts the way you do on Facebook. When everyone is added deliberately because you sought them out, you’re just adding buddies you want to share your updates with. Turns out that was a way to keep your friend circles tight, and our users are keener to share on Qzone because of that,” he said.
This is the mantra of some of the “private” sharing platforms like Path—some with more success than others—but Tencent seems to have stumbled upon the working formula and had its popularity multiplied by the sheer volume of users coming onboard in its home country.
Over 100 million users concurrently on Qzone, with most of them concentrated in China
Another way it has fueled its user growth is an early emphasis on the mobile phone. The Qzone app was released in early 2010, and included features like photo filters and the option to record voice memos. While a typical Twitter or Tumblr user would take a photo, open it in a separate app to dress it up, then open the blogging app to post it, all of this can be done within Qzone’s app, reducing the friction to post. (Instagram was launched towards Fall 2010.)
The Qzone app has also added features that caught on with Asian users earlier than they did in the West, such as decorative water marks. “Asian users like to decorate their photos, not just filter them,” he said. Qzone’s app also allows users to add a voice clip as a status update, or tag it to a photo. “That makes it feel more personal. You can send a gift and attach a voice clip from the phone too,” Zheng said.
When he showed me a typical Qzone page, I was boggled by how busy the page was, with animations and audio. “It’s almost like MySpace,” I say.
“Sort of,” he agreed. “But it isn’t really the form factor that matters the most. Maintaining the relationship with your existing user base and keeping them happy goes a long way. You want to be on the social network that your friends are on, and always keeping it fresh means users stay happy.”
Tapping the ideas of 22,000
It is here in Shenzhen’s hi-tech district that Zheng’s 2,000 or so engineers work on Qzone. The Tencent headquarters is a sprawling skyscraper, dwarfing its myriad grey-washed neighbors. While I had problems getting my cab driver to register exactly where I wanted to be in the already famous Hua Qiang Bei cluster, simply saying “Tencent” in English got him to immediately acknowledge, exclaiming “Teng Xun Da Sha”, which translates to Tencent Plaza in Mandarin.
Started in 1998, Tencent is China’s largest Internet company by revenue, and was the first Internet company in the country to break through the $1 billion revenue mark in 2009.
My arrival at the headquarters was kicked off with a tour of the impressive lobby showcase area. A big, gleaming board reflected how many users were concurrently on QQ—156 million that Wednesday afternoon, with a peak of 172 million. The company counts an active user as someone who logs in more than twice a month, and by that measure, has an impressively high retention rate of 700 million out of its 1 billion total users worldwide.
156 million users chatting on QQ instant messenger at the same time
“This is the same tour that our CEO, Pony Ma, gave to (Chinese Communist Party general secretary) Xi Jinping when he visited,” informed my guide in impeccable English. I asked her how long she’s been working for Tencent, and she said she’s been with the company for the past two years since she graduated. “I do not consider myself young here,” she said, shaking her head.
And perhaps she can’t. The average age of Tencent’s 22,000 employees is merely 26—a feat made possible by an aggressive, ongoing hiring campaign that takes Tencent to tertiary institutions in the country in order to sniff out their finest.
The constant influx of fresh blood could be one of the reasons why Tencent has kept up with China’s relatively young Internet population. China’s average age across its user base is just 25, while in the US, that number is much higher at 42.
How do you juggle ideas coming in from thousands of young, enthusiastic minds? “Unfortunately, you have to cancel projects if they don’t work after a certain time, usually several weeks or months,” said Zheng.
“There are no bad ideas, only bad execution. So we give all ideas a fair chance, but we look for teams with bad execution and we do kill their projects,” he said.
The 10 Best Mobile Productivity Applications Growing Your Business
Welcome to Barry’s Bite, a weekly article series from Barry Moltz, host of Business Insanity Radio. This week Barry shares with us his 10 favorite mobile productivity apps that help businesses grow.
There are a lot of mobile“productivity” apps out there that actually waste time. They are either too complicated to use or they do not sync across multiple platforms.
Here are my 10 best apps for increasing your productivity.
- Pushbullet (Android): Moves snippets of what you need easily from your computer to your phone for later use. This includes files, messages, to-do lists and addresses.
- Password Wallet (All): It is becoming increasingly hard to remember all your passwords. This app stores them all in one place on your phone. A real time saver!
- Everclip (Apple): Makes it easy to clip anything you find on your smartphone to Evernote.
- Pocket (All): This app creates a list of items to read later instead of the pressure to focus on it now.
- Sleep Pillow (All): Experts show that the key to being more productive is to get a good night sleep. This sleep machine app plays sounds that make it easy to fall asleep. (especially when in a noisy hotel room).
- Any.Do (All): This app not only syncs with all your devices, but allows you to share them with other team members to make sure they get tasks done.
- Text Web (All): This app lets you download only the text part of the website. A real time and battery saver!
- Cam Card (All): Put all those business cards to good use. Take them out of your pocket, scan them with your phone and either add them to your contact list or export them to your favorite CRM program.
- Ego (Apple): Stop wondering. Find all the stats for your website and social media feeds right on your phone.
- Flightview (All): This is a favorite app for frequent business travelers. It tells the user where a flight is originating from. Many times the airline does not update departures based on when the inbound flight gets to a departure location.
What are you favorite mobile productivity apps?
Barry is a nationally recognized expert on small business who has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging in size from 20 to 20,000. As a member of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, he has also taught entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He has appeared on many TV and radio programs such as CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, MSNBC’s Your Business and NPR’s The Tavis Smiley Show. He hosts his own radio show, Business Insanity Talk Radio, and writes regularly for the American Express Open Forum, and Forbes.com.
The post Barry’s Bite: The 10 Best Mobile Productivity Applications Growing Your Business appeared first on Small Business Technology.
While email marketing has the ability to deliver highly valuable, informative, and helpful content to your subscribers while keeping it personal and regular, new subscribers signing up for your email marketing list is a sure sign of your success in business – it’s a sign of trust, an intent to buy, or at least subscribers’ willingness to hear more from you. No wonder then that the need for building your contact list is relentless and all encompassing. Here’s our recipe for growing a top-notch contact list
Grow your list on merit
It’s easy enough to write out multiple series of emails with various intents and schedule them to arrive at your subscribers’ inboxes. The hard part is to develop emails with passion and purpose: what is the purpose of sending out emails that read like they’ve just been spewed out by a machine? How do emails fetch results without a sliver of life within them? Further, emails are just delivery vehicles but what really matters what you put in them. If there’s one way to grow a powerful, responsive, and high quality contact list, it’s to grow your list based on merit and hard work.
There are no shortcuts.
Exceptional contact list is built on value
Economics dwells on this lesson and pretty much all business runs on it: nothing of value can be traded with something, which is much lower in value. Every contact on your list is a highly valued, interested lead – a possible customer. To keep that interest alive and to ultimately help convert your leads into repeat customers, you’ll have to provide value – nothing less will do. Value exchange for your business could mean free trials or extended trials for your subscribers, exclusive information your customers don’t get anywhere else.
Be everywhere your customers are likely to be
There was a time when all you had to do was to have an email opt-in page on your blog, as a popup, or even as a landing page. Since the number of customer touch points have increased, it just makes sense to have “sign up pages”, “opt-in pages”, and “landing pages” at every possible point your customers are likely to be found: links to landing pages on forums, landing pages exclusive for every busy Q & A site, social media networks, etc.
Use Mobile Apps
Most leading email solutions also provide mobile apps (for both iPhone and Android) to improve your opt-in rates and increase your email subscribers. iCapture for Constant Contact allows you to use iPad to capture subscriber names, emails, and even tweak customer preferences on the move. iCapture free even works offline. Need some Inspiration? You might want to check out examples on how to grow your list to see how some businesses are building their contact lists. Vertical Response has an email marketing mobile application that you could use to manage your campaigns and even check on reports while on the go. GetResponse.com – another leading email marketing solution – also has a mobile app available for free downloads.
How do you intend to grow your mobile list?
The post Four Essentials For Growing a Top Notch Contact List For Your Email Marketing Campaigns appeared first on Small Business Technology.