Add Netvibes to your small business toolbox

As business owners, all of us are so busy building our businesses that it becomes very easy to drop the ball on something. Maybe we don’t keep in touch with prospects as well as we should. Maybe our competitive research falls short. Maybe there are just too many social media sites to keep track of. Maybe we’re not closely watching the people we aspire to be like. (haha, as I write this, I realize that these are all criticisms I’ve had with my own business in recent years!)

Netvibes (www.netvibes.com) solves these problems. Netvibes is a site that lets you build dashboards so you can view your business landscape all in one place. It’s like the cockpit of your business.

I’ve started using Netvibes recently and have been really impressed by it and I suspect that a lot of business owners will find it as useful as I have.

DISCLAIMER: This blog was not sponsored, endorsed, or approved by Netvibes and I have no affiliation with them beyond my free account. And I’ve only been using it for a little while so there might be additional functionality or problems that I’m not aware of. Check it out and decide for yourself.

Netvibes works like this: You sign up for free and build a bunch of public or private dashboards and each dashboard can have a bunch of tabs. Your dashboard can pull in all kinds of data from all over the place: RSS feeds, calendar information (like from iCal), your email inboxes, stock market feeds, social media feeds, and there are other tools you can add like a calculator, notepad, Box.net access, and more.

The dashboard concept itself isn’t new. It’s been used by large companies for a long time (I’ve done some writing for SAP a few years ago and they were big on dashboards in their Enterprise Performance Management solutions). And sites like myYahoo, iGoogle, PageFlakes, and more all tried their hand at this… but (in my opinion) none of them are as easy to use or have as nice of an interface as Netvibes. (Oh, and Netvibes looks like it’s getting into the enterprise dashboard space, too).

So, why will a business benefit from using Netvibes? The biggest benefit is this: You don’t have to go to a million different places and sign in to each one of them to stay on top of your business. It’s all pulled together for you in one place. That’s going to be a huge timesaver. Now you can have your email and calendar and social media all in one place rather than handling a calendar and email in Google, and some social media in Tweetdeck and another email elsewhere and some more social media directly in the site interface… (etc., etc.) One place for everything. Easy!

And, you can extend the effectiveness of your dashboard even more:

  • As mentioned, pull all of your email and social media into one place.
  • Consolidate your calendars.
  • Set up feeds of competitors’ blogs and tweets so you can keep an eye on them.
  • Set up feeds of your prospects so you can listen closely to them.
  • Set up feeds of your customers so you can listen closely to them.
  • Set up feeds with your name and brand so you can see how other people are talking about you.
  • Set up feeds of all the stuff you are paying attention to in your industry, or in marketing trends, or in the news… wherever your product or service and customers are impacted.
  • Set up a feed of all of your stuff and publish it as a Lifestream on your public page.
  • Keep bookmarks handy
  • Set up feeds from various marketing opportunities
  • Set up feeds from sites where you get business (i.e., RFP sites or Elance)

Okay, I could keep writing forever. You can set up your dashboard in different ways. This is what I’m working toward: One dashboard with pages for Admin (email and calendar and social media), Trends and News, Listening Post (Competitive), Listening Post (Prospects/Customers), Sales and Marketing. I might end up with a few others in the future but that’s where I’m starting.

Okay, lest you think that I have converted to the church of Netvibes, let me give you one criticism that I haven’t been happy with: Their mobile interface hasn’t worked so well for me. At first it didn’t display anything and now I’m getting error messages. That’s something I would *really* like to see improved but hey, you can’t have everything and I’m not paying for the service… and maybe it’s just me.

So, stop running around and signing in to a million different places to stay on top of everything. Pull it all together and fine-tune it so you can spend more time on your business.

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