Nine Tips for Saving Money in Your Office

On July 22, 2013, in Finance, by Layne

“Do more with less” has been a common mantra around many offices since the onset of the recession, but even as we move out of troubled economic times, reducing waste and unnecessary spending around your workplace is probably still a priority. After all, the fewer expenditures your business incurs, the more net profit it’s able to realize, so it always pays to be as thrifty as possible around the office.

As an added bonus, many practices that reduce expense are also environmentally friendly, so you’ll be doing your part to make your workspace greener as you cut costs.

Take a look at these nine tips to get started with scaling back on your office’s spending today:

Order in Bulk

Just as with purchasing cereal or paper plates for your home, buying office supplies in bulk can save big bucks. Consider investing in a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club to purchase bulk pens, pencils, paperclips and other office essentials at a steep discount.

Go as Paperless as Possible

Simply put, paper wastes money, so the more you can transition to paperless practices around your office, the more money you’ll save. For example, email your employees important information rather than using a paper memo; scan documents and send them via email instead of faxing or photocopying; use cloud-based storage for files instead of paper-based. All of these ideas will allow you to scale back significantly on paper-related expenses in your office.

If You Must Use Paper, Reuse It

If your workplace absolutely must use some paper, be sure that it’s being reused whenever possible. Printing documents on two sides will cut paper use in half, but if something prints one-sided, reuse the blank side for another purpose.

Use Timers

Energy bills are a major money-suck for a lot of offices, so putting your heating and air conditioning systems on timers so that they’ll automatically shut off overnight will go far in reducing this expense. You could also do the same for overhead lighting, which will add up to extra savings on energy.

Put Computers to Sleep

Another idea for cutting back on energy costs is to be sure that employees’ computers are set to go into sleep mode after a period of inactivity. Desktop computers use a lot of power, so setting them to automatically switch to sleep mode when they’re not in use makes sense if you’re looking to cut back on your power bill. Contact your department’s IT tech to set this up.

Switch to Laptops

If you’re really looking to reduce your energy expenses when it comes to computers, switching to laptops is your best bet. Laptops use much less energy than desktop computers, so transitioning to a laptop-only office will help you save significantly on the cost of power.

Recycle Office Equipment

Many states and municipalities offer cash-back rewards for office equipment (like computer parts, printers, and ink cartridges) that you recycle instead of throwing away. Contact your local recycling center to see if they offer this benefit; also get in touch with the office supply stores in your area, as some offer similar programs.

Shop Around for Business Phone and Internet Service

Cutting back on phone and Internet bills is an easy way to save money, and many service providers offer special deals for offices. Be sure to get price quotes from all the companies in your area that provide business phone and Internet service to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Don’t be afraid to play hard ball – many companies will negotiate if you make it clear you’ll take your business elsewhere if they won’t offer you the right price.

Rent Out Office Space

This is a somewhat out-of-the box savings tip that many offices around the country are beginning to employ: many businesses are only open during specified hours, so while your office space isn’t being used by your company, why not rent it out to a start-up looking to work odd hours? It never hurts to place an ad online and see if there’s an entrepreneur in your area who’s interested.

Keeping costs down at the office is easier than you think; with these simple tips your business will be holding on to more of its hard-earned profits in no time!

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps businesses and individuals save money by answering questions like, “Should I roll over my 401k?”
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Donna Paulsen of Suits

Donna Paulsen of Suits

Suits, now going into it’s 3rd season on the USA network, is about a high profile law firm in the big city of Manhattan. If you haven’t been watching, you will enjoy this show for the breadth of interplay the staff plays in the scheme of a professional office. It’s not your typical show about attorneys for attorneys. Everybody has a part in the success and failures of what it takes to manage a successful business.

Donna Paulsen, played by Sarah Rafferty, is spicy, direct, and knows everything about everybody. What I love about Donna is that she does not collect information to use as gossip or fodder for office conversation or gossip. She files it away in her mental file cabinet and retains the information for later use as leverage, if necessary. Which means, she maintains confidentiality in all that she does and the information she becomes privy to.

As the assistant to Harvey Specter, played by Gabriel Macht, she is loyal to a fault. And when I say to a “fault,” this is literal. Season 2, Donna decides to break the law, and knowing she would be breaking the law if she got caught, chooses to withhold (or actually destroy) a vital document that could cost Harvey his job and career. She does get found out, does lose her job, and feels that her loyalty and dedication is punished instead of rewarded.

As assistants, we are many times in a position to have to make decisions for our boss that affect their business. Loyalty and dedication can sometimes be a double-sword when your highest priority is protecting your boss. That is what we do. Probably the number one objective to our position is looking out for and protecting our boss, along with managing all that comes through their office so that (s)he can take care of business. It is our job to take care of the crazy and the details, leaving them to do business with an uncluttered mindset of what it took to get there.

Donna did get her job back, but it definitely was a lesson learned. As an assistant, it is important to know what lines to not cross. We may not always know what lines we can cross and learn to take liberties in order to get something done when the boss isn’t available. These can be helpful in thinking for your boss. This comes as you get to know your boss and their work and decision-making style. When it comes to the lines you don’t want to cross, breaking the law and business ethics carries a high price.

Another thing worth noting is we all make mistakes. In Donna’s case, she could have gone to jail, but the storyline revealed wrongdoing in the existence of the particular document in question and allows Donna to continue as Harvey’s assistant.

We also see Donna a little flawed. Which is great, because, in reality, we all are. We can be great at what we do, but sometimes we may not make the best judgment calls. And that is how we learn. Just don’t learn the same mistake over and over again. Get it and move on.

Conclusion

So the take away from our assistant is Donna not only knows her job very well (however, it helps that Harvey leaves his intercom on at all times permitting her to anticipate his needs before he even asks), but she makes every effort to know people, their likes, dislikes, faults, and ambitions. Therefore, she is able to achieve her objectives by tapping into these qualities that works as a win-win for both sides.

Can you relate to Donna? Are there qualities about Donna that you can implement in your own position? Leave your thoughts in the comments. Share this article with your fellow colleagues for an interesting conversation and/or debate on the realities of the administrative professional in the office.

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Office Etiquette – Breaking In

On June 27, 2013, in Office Etiquette, by Layne

Starting Out

I started out in the field as the assistant to the Assistant City Attorney. I know, I seemed to have bypassed the starter jobs in an office, but I’ve had to take those during changes in my career. However, I came into the field having finished a college program Legal Secretarial Specialist. This was over 20 years ago and I actually checked out the college website to see if they still offer this course. They don’t.

As a business college, they offer programs that are most current with practical related courses specific to get you out there prepared (are you ever prepared for the different scenarios to come – every office is different as you will learn). Anyway, courses have evolved in the legal field to Criminal Justice and School of Business, which includes Accounting and various Business Management programs.

I also had a friend who was the Office Manager for the law firm and informed me that they may have an opening for a Legal Secretary/Assistant and would put a word in for me.

Here are my tips for getting into the field as an assistant.

Develop the Necessary Skills

Take classes. You can find so many tutorials on the sidebar of my website that there is no reason not to be learning programs and technology used in the office. There are still colleges who offer programs in the Administrative Assistant field.

If you don’t think taking a college program is your idea of breaking into the field, at least research a program, find out what courses are required for the completion of the program, and make efforts to learn those on your own. Also, many courses are provided online, so it is something you can do at your own pace at home.

Research

Do you know someone in the position or management that would hire such a position? See if you can get some one-on-one time to pick their brain. Some rules to follow:

  1. You are requesting their time, a most valued resource, so be sure that it comes across as a request and not a demand or expectation.
  2. Come to the meeting prepared. Know your questions, names, and/or companies that you would like to get from the conversation.
  3. Keep it brief.
  4. Pay the tab. This is non-negotiable; so pick a location you afford to spring for.
  5. Remember all favors extended to you. If for no other reason than great stories to tell when it’s your turn to advise an aspiring young woman at the beginning of her career.

Start at the Beginning

You may have to start out as a receptionist just to get started. I found, during my job search, that there are a lot of companies that are looking for a secretary/receptionist. They don’t actually advertise that it is a receptionist position, but they are looking to fill a combined role to reduce staffing. Many small and mid-size companies will do this. It’s a start, but gets your foot in the door.

Even if you initially get in as a receptionist, find ways to be helpful to the administrative staff and the executives and they will see you as someone with initiative to take on an assistant position when one opens. It’s great when you can get into an office where the company looks within for already existing resources and personnel before posting the job outside.

Who You Know

If you aren’t networking, that is your first very big mistake in today’s technology age. You’ve heard two old adages, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” and “dress for the job you want.” In the latter, change it to “develop relationships and associations with the job and/or industry you want.”

Tell everyone you know, friends – family – network, the job you are interested in. People genuinely want to help others. Also, be someone who is reliable and knowledgeable so they feel confident in making recommendations on your behalf.

Give Back

As your friends move up the ladder, it’s only natural that we want to see each other advance in our careers. The reverse applies as well. As you advance in your career, be willing to help others on their path when given the opportunity.

That’s It!

Those are my suggestions for breaking into the office job with style. You will be informed, prepared, and a consummate professional that anyone would consider when a position becomes available.

Two more quotes to leave you with.

“Preparation + Opportunity = Success”

and

“If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” –Albert Einstein

Leave your thoughts and ideas, anything you would include, in the comments. I love hearing about your experiences and what your doing to be great in the office. Also, feel free to ask me questions. I will always do my best to give you an answer if I have one, from personal experience of course.

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Sitting on a File Cabinet, Naked with a GunSitting on a File Cabinet, Naked with a Gun, written by Linda McFarland and Joanne Lindon, with Sharon Turnoy, are the true stories by some of the Silicon Valley CEO assistants, their personal experiences to challenges they faced and what they did or learned from it.

It’s an interesting book to read and learn from other assistants. Each chapter provides a challenge, the developing story, and what they did and learned from the experience. My favorite part was the wrap-up at the end of each chapter called, POW (their acronym for “Points of Wisdom”). For example,

“Take control of your career by keeping abreast of new opportunities through formal and informal networks.”

The book is an easy read through. I try to get books on my computer so I can markup and highlight good suggestions, which is the majority of the POW advise at the end of each chapter.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and download as a Kindle. You don’t have to have an actual Kindle to do this. You can download their app on any computer or tablet.

Also Joan Burge, founder and CEO of Office Dynamics, who wrote the Forward for the book, writes and manages a fantastic website for the office professional that is worth checking out and signing up for her stream of articles.

If you’ve read the book (or come back later if you decided to read the book later), leave your comments and thoughts about the book. Can you relate to the expectations of these assistants? Are some expectations that are a bit unrealistic (and there are many)? Do you have a story to share about a challenge that made you a little crazy, but you came out the hero? We would love to hear how you overcame your obstacles and what you did to overcome the challenge.

Before wrapping up the article, I am including the website for Joanne Linden at Admin Universe. Stop by and check out what she’s doing over there.

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August Macke

August Macke

I do my research and in this case I tapped into interviewing my favorite men to give me their last word on the whole style and fashion for a man in the office. I won’t say they are overtly metrosexual, they just know the rules for putting together a professional look effortlessly. In their own environment, they are just big “boys.” They spent this past weekend jousting on quads in the mountains of Tahoe for their “Men’s Weekend” they do every year.

Meet the Experts

My two style experts are Shane and Rocco. You may remember me mentioning them in prior articles. They both have their own style, but agree on the basics. Rocco’s style is, essentially, preppie and works as a high school teacher. Shane, on the other hand, is the corporate suit and tie guy and his background is in managing fine dining restaurants.

I’m going to organize this mostly into lists to keep this article direct and to the point. You’re getting the meat here! So let’s getting into the essentials!

Acceptable Office Attire

Pants

  • Slacks
  • Chinos
  • Dockers
  • Khakis

Shirts

  • Dress shirt (collared)
  • Polo

Shoes

  • Dress Lace-up
  • Loafers

Special Note: In the office, wear socks. European will do loafers without socks. America, err on the side of wearing them.
Another Special Note: Shoes and belt should always match.

Accessories

  • Wedding ring or class ring
  • Watch
  • A classic, simple, tasteful bracelet
  • Cuff links
  • Tie bar or tie clip (no tie pin – don’t want holes in such a nice tie)

Essential Components to a Formal and Semi-Formal Office

  • Blazer
  • Dress shirt
  • Undershirt (yes, this is mandatory under a dress shirt)
  • Cuff links (a nice touch)
  • Tie (a nice touch in any office, mandatory in the formal office)
  • Dress pant
  • Belt
  • Dress shoes
  • Dress socks (like argyles)
  • Watch
  • **Attitude of Confidence**

Don’ts

  • If you plan on having an alternative lifestyle (tattoos, gauges, and piercings on your face), don’t expect to get these types of jobs or your opportunities for these jobs can be limited. And if you choose to wear nose piercings, brow piercings, lip piercings, or gauges, don’t get your expectations up receiving an offer for an office with a higher-end suit policy. Opt for personal expression that you can cover. Life isn’t fair, don’t tell me you haven’t got that figured out yet.
  • Don’t wear t-shirts (unless white and under the suit shirt) or graphic tees. These just don’t belong in the office.
  • Jeans could very well be considered acceptable, but you have so many great choices that look nice and are comfortable, such as Dockers and the like, to be wearing jeans to work. Jeans can also get rag-tag without your filter picking up on it.
  • Shorts. Even if you are pulling off the golf shorts and shirt, which looks great by the way, it just looks great on the golf course. Keep it away from the office. Once again, great choices in Dockers and Khakis for comfort on those hot days.
  • Flip-flops or sandals.  They just look stupid or unprofessional no matter how you slice it in the office.
  • No sport socks.

The No-Fault Shopping Trip

Here’s your ticket to great shopping, great deals, and I know at least one of these stores offer extra perks (such as free alteration with purchase).

  • Macy’s – Charter Club
  • JC Penny’s – Stafford Collection
  • Van Heusen
  • Nordstrom’s (ask about their alterations)
  • Nordstrom’s Rack
  • Joseph A. Banks
  • Banana Republic
  • Men’s Warehouse
  • Express

Conclusion

There’s a lot here and a really great snapshot to get it right every time. Other than the whole “don’t mix plaids with stripes” thing, but you already knew that, right?!

Would love to get input from the Men of the Office on this one. So leave your comments, suggestions, and, if you disagree, bring it! Ladies, share this with a man in your office who could use simple suggestions on how to bring really pull it together. Maybe they are just missing one thing or a combination of things.

One last final note… A good suit or outfit goes completely wrong when it is ill-fitting. Pay attention to the details that you are cleaned and pressed, wearing the right size and length and you will be they guy to watch out for when promotions come around.

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Being Father’s Day, this is my opportunity to give a “shout out” to the greatest fathers EVER! I have so many fathers in my life today that are the epitome of greatest, for what they do deserves my gratitude.

Shane & Marsh-Marsh

Shane & Marsh-Marsh

Shane, before you had children of your own you were the greatest thing to my own, when I was doing my best to pull off the single mom role, since the inception of ice cream. My children adore you to this day! Now that you are a father, there is nothing more important to you than family. Putting your career on hold as you nurture and cultivate their values, morals, and ideals, you are raising boys to be men of substance. Being a father has made you an even better man, if that is possible.

Rocco, I am giving you Father’s Day kudos! As a godfather, you are involved in every aspect of your godchildren’s lives. You are at every t-ball game, every birthday, everyTHING. Then off to work you go to influence the minds of our young adults as they prepare to go off to college or step into their career world. Your patience, compassion, understanding, and sense of humor influence so many kids who may not have that father-ideal at home.

Jeff, I didn’t think you were the “big kid.” I always saw you as the most responsible and serious of my circle of today’s dads. As I watch you coaching your son’s t-ball team and encourage your eldest daughter’s strength and independence, having kids brought out your lighter, “fun” side. You are a pretty cool dad! By the way, STOP making goofy faces when I’m taking pictures of everyone.

Karl, the father of our children, thank you for the best things in my life, Mo and Hanzi. We now have two exceptional children who have stepped out into the world to make their mark. They can’t go wrong when they have a father who makes every effort to be involved in all aspects of their lives even when they live so far away. If I don’t tell you enough, I appreciate you being a great dad!

Bill, my dad. You made me a stronger, more independent person. You taught me what to look for in a good man. My fondest memory will always be fishing off of a sunken ship on one of our many camping trips along the California coast growing up. I even scaled and gutted that fish! And, I know it was tough for you to be a dad when you didn’t have that influence when you were growing up. But you got two fabulous girls to celebrate a BBQ cookout just for you on Father’s Day.

Layne & Dad

Layne & Dad

To all the great dads in my life…

Happy Father’s Day!

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Office Chic – Accessories

On June 10, 2013, in Office Chic, by Layne

526614_291759330956786_1619431985_nAccessories are a simple way to take a plain or even average ensemble to fabulous. Accessories are a personal statement that is a reflection of you, your taste and style. Are you bold and colorful, more formal and dressy, or elegantly understated? Do you feel naked without accessories or a minimalist — a watch and simple earrings will do? My style will not be the same as yours. And it shouldn’t be. That is what makes accessorizing so unique and individual. That is what they do!

You can’t really go wrong, or CAN you, in the office? As with most things, more isn’t always better. It’s all about balance.

I thought I would share some personal (and fun) photos of my accessorizing style. The photo to the left is something I would typically wear to the office. Simple drop earrings and a three-strand pearl choker. I love pearls, so that is my “statement” piece.

A statement piece is usually a larger piece of jewelry that attracts primary focus. You will find my suggestion for a statement piece in the general tips below. Also, the majority of my jewelry is costume jewelry. Macy’s carries their own line, Charter Club, that is inexpensive and beautiful.

The picture below gives you an idea how using accessories can create interest in what you wear for whatever event you go to. This particular occasion is a hot summer day spent with friends. Aside from the hat, I’m wearing a matching necklace and earrings, and the “statement” piece is the big flower ring with a lady bug on top (I know, you can’t see it that well, but it’s fun and conveys the season with the rest of the outfit).Not something for work, but you get the idea how you can express yourself in the two different settings that exude your personality and style.

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Some types of accessories include:

  • Necklaces
  • Earrings
  • Rings
  • Bracelets
  • Brooches
  • Belts
  • Shoes
  • Handbags
  • Nail polish
  • Scarves
  • Hair clips and ties, headbands, and hair embellishments
  • Hats
  • Glasses and sunglasses
  • Gloves

Some classic pieces you can never go wrong with are your wedding band, a watch, pearls, and simple pearl or diamond stud earrings. Those make a great “go to” when you don’t want to over think and just pull something together pretty quick.

Some general tips:

  • If you like bold or chunky pieces, like a necklace, keep the rest of your accessory choices simple. More than one large or “statement” piece and you pull the focus, resulting in a look that can start to look “busy.”
  • A couple of bangles or a simple bracelet alongside your watch can be fun, but pay attention to what you might be doing for that day. Some bracelets and stacks can be jangley and distracting if you are meeting with people or conducting a presentation.
  • If your earrings are your statement piece, whether bold and chunky or dangle, mix it with a delicate necklace or sans necklace all together.
  • It’s always easy to keep everything in the same color, but a pop of color will take you out of the “popsicle” affect. Accessories are perfect this.

Some interesting accessory choices to think about:

  • Painting your nails.
  • Carlos Santana makes some beautiful, colorful shoes that are professional, but also a statement in themselves.
  • Scarves can add color, texture, and/or print and can be worn in a variety of different ways that make them an interesting and unconventional way to accessorize, akin to a man’s tie.
  • As much as I would love to carry around a book bag or gym bag to just shovel my day’s life into, their are so many beautiful and cost savvy selections in handbags to choose from, it doesn’t make sense not to have one or two that takes you to work in style.

From The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh

“The way you dress can definitely influence your success at work. When your boss is trying to decide between you and the smart but sloppy woman next to you for that management promotion, guess who gets the job? Dress for the job you wish was yours. Every workplace has a subtle dress code beyond the basic rules written up in your employee’s handbook. Take your cues from your boss’s own sense of style (unless he or she is a slob). And please, no whining that it’s not fair. Life is not fair — these are the tricks to winning the not-fair game.”

Back to point, how we dress is a reflection of our personal style. We also represent and reflect on our boss and place of work. Even if you feel you must tone down your personal style in the office, a well chosen accessory allows you your own stamp of personality. Most important, every piece you select is an investment, so it’s about choosing selections that make you happy.

What is your favorite accessory piece? Do you feel that you can express your individuality in your accessories? Have you ever used an accessory in a unique way — like wearing a clip-on earring as a brooch or clipped on the top of classic black pumps? I hope you had fun with me as you read the article. It can be a little embarrassing showing pictures to the whole world, but we’re friends, right? I’ll even let you get in a couple of snickers at my expense. So here’s to embracing all the choices you have in accessorizing and creating your “look” brand.

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EtiquetteEtiquette is so integral in the workplace, that I continue to be amazed at the lack of civility, courtesy, and, in essence, social grace to the people we spend the majority of our week and nearly complete day engaging our time and lives with. We live in an age where our behavior extends beyond on our backyard. We also work in an environment that includes a wide array of cultures and personalities; as well as a workforce whose generations are working later in their years and our younger generations are entering. We are a larger workforce than any prior generation.

Do we really need a series on office etiquette? Well, if “office bullying” is the hot topic today, maybe some tips on cultivating excellence in our behavior among one another isn’t such a bad idea. Most companies include behavior guidelines, along with some vague expectation of a dress code, in their “Welcome” package. However, behavior guidelines are rarely addressed until they are nearing possible legal ramifications and/or introducing HR intervention.

If you are not completely aware, HR represents the best interest of the company. Therefore, HR will take any necessary precautions or actions to ensure the problem is resolved. Now, we all know the problem is the individual whose conduct is of the offense, but it will be the person who is creating the waves that they will deal with in an expedient nature. It’s not fair, but until there is a “no tolerance,” and adhered to, that mandates acceptable behavior in the work environment.

So, with all that said, I hope you find the related articles to come interesting, informative, and even helpful. Here’s to creating excellence in business that encourages productivity, creativity, and collaboration. Ultimately, it is to the benefit of any company’s bottom line – revenue to do business, pay their employees, and provide quality product and service in their niche.

Let’s get busy!

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Apps & Gadgets: Evernote

On May 30, 2013, in Apps & Gadgets, by Layne

EvernoteAre you one of those people who like to keep all your information in one general place, tear out the pages of magazines for inspiration, research printed out from a website, notes? I still have folders where I put this stuff. This is the program for you. Put the app on all your devices so you have access to the information no matter where you are. Even if you don’t have access to your own computer, you can still grab your information on any computer by logging in. The advantages of putting information in the “cloud.”

I have Evernote on everything: iPad, computer, and phone.

“Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders – and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.”

Evernote has some other apps that are worth checking out as well.

  • Skitch
  • Evernote Food
  • Evernote Peek
  • Penultimate

What do you think of the Evernote? Is there a different app or program that you use? Let me in on what your secret weapon is in the comments.

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Apps & Gadgets: Hootsuite

On May 23, 2013, in Apps & Gadgets, by Layne

There are so many cool apps and gadgets coming out all the time and so many to pick from. What programs and apps are you using and loving? I thought it might be great to share some of the different technology, in a series, of some of the favorites that I’m using.

Don’t be afraid to share your favorites and why you like them. It’s great to see what our industry is using to keep on top of all the information that is out there.

So let’s get started with my first suggestion, HootSuite.

I have this app on both my iPad and phone. Being present on the various social media websites is imperative in research and networking. My practice was to put information on each website individually and according to what I wanted to go where. But I do have some things I want to blast out to multiple social sites. To be honest, that isn’t even the biggest advantage for me. What I find invaluable is the columns of activity for each of my social media displayed across the screen on my iPad. Even on my phone it is easy to switch between all the social activity instead of bopping in and out of different apps. Not too bad.

“Compose and converse on the go. HootSuite for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch allows you to manage your social media profiles, like Facebook, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Twitter, from almost anywhere.

Simple, elegant and powerful, HootSuite allows you to send and schedule updates, track click stats, and set up tracking columns to monitor keywords, #hashtags, and lists.”

Leave a comment and tell me what your pros and cons are, or your method of keeping up with social media. Would love to know what you think.

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