Marketing Strategy, Product Thoughts, Social Networking

Be More Timely with Your Twitter Updates

Dear Twitter Friends (Tweeps):

We’ve all done it – thought of a clever idea, jotted down 140 120 characters and then clicked “send.” Yet, as Dan Zarrella and others have noted, now is not always the best time to publish content. There are a million (or at least, as many as you can think of) ways to publish content (to Twitter or another channel) at a time of your choosing, and I don’t use any of them.  Why?

I’m Lazy

Enter #lazyweb. I love to have conversations and to share content with people. I don’t love having to schedule when the updates appear, what time they should show up, and from what Twitter handle they should originate. I manage 5-6 handles – so this might be a problem specific to the very socially active – but I think it’s a challenge (and a response to that challenge) that more software companies should address.

Enter Timely

I’ve been using Timely by the folks at Flowtown for several months now, and I can honestly say it’s changed my life. For the better.

Timely gives me three things I can’t seem to find anywhere else:

  • The ability to schedule content updates from the browser and not have to specify which time they are published;
  • Publishing content to multiple twitter handles and scheduling the frequency and publication of that content automatically;
  • And (this is most important) the outstanding product UI/UXeasy editing of that content and good-enough analytics that let me know when I have shared or written content that others care about.
Ok, cool! It’s easy to use and provides some utility. So how do I use Timely?

Sharing Relevant Content to Different Audiences and Segments

Timely helps me to publish content at a time in the week when I’m more productive (Thursday Mornings, Saturday Mornings) and to spread out that publishing activity for an entire week. That way, I can spend less time gathering content I think my different audiences might want to read or share (whether that’s for a personal blog, a professional feed, or #justbecause) and more time engaging in conversations with my friends (and future connections I don’t know yet.)

Timely is also excellent at allowing me to schedule content I find from a discreet audience segment. I find great content sources from Email newsletters, from @Gist, from Google Alerts, and other sources, and it’s a quick bookmark action to schedule something in Timely (and then to get right back to what I was doing.)

There are some cool updates dropping soon for Timely, chief among these the improvements you see in the screenshot for this post:

  • See the entire conversation around the post, without having to go to Twitter;
  • Enhanced analytics to tell you more interesting things about your content.
If I had one thing to ask from the Timely team, it would be to allow me to save my favorite posts into a bucket in my account so that I could post them later. If I had one thing to ask from you, it would be that you give Timely a try if you’ve ever scheduled or thought about scheduling Twitter updates. And if you don’t like it (or if you do), let the team know! They are responsive and provide great feedback.
Productivity, Social Networking

Make a Timely addition to your web toolkit

Ever find some information you’d love to tweet?  And then another? And then another?  You know you shouldn’t really be posting these all at the same time, but scheduling that tweet to hit at a particular time is a pain.  This is the exact problem that Timely ( tries to solve, and does so quite well.  I’ve made Timely part of my productivity tool kit.

Timely allows me to bookmark tweets for later publication (very easily) and to do that for multiple accounts at a time.  The coolest part?  It picks when to publish those tweets, favoring weekdays and high-traffic times of the day.  This process is painless and makes it possible for me to take a few minutes at the beginning of my week and schedule 1, 3, or 5 tweets per day for the rest of my week.  Timely allows me to spend more of my time on the things that matter, not just publishing tweets.

So, why use this over any other scheduling feature like CoTweet ( or Tweetdeck (  I don’t – Timely fills my need for scheduling, CoTweet for notification of mentions, and Tweetdeck for everyday posting. Timely is from the folks at Flowtown ( and their care for user experience and ease of use shows.  I’d recommend Timely for anyone who’d like to delegate the task of “when should I publish that tweet.” And – as a bonus – they have statistics on the results of those tweets as well, letting you know which tweets garnered the most clicks, retweets, and reach.

Customer Service, Marketing Strategy, Productivity

Automate the stuff you do all the time

Example of snippet used to invite for a meeting

Do you sign your emails the same way 80% (or even 100% of the time)? Do you find yourself retyping bits of text, like “let’s meet up – send me your information” and “here’s our latest press list”. If you’re like me, you’d really benefit from using a small piece of software to help you be more productive (a little bit at a time) all the time.

I’ve been using Smile Software’s TextExpander for several months now, and I’m amazed at the amount of time I save from emails I send a lot of the time.

Instead of writing, “what’s a good time to meet? Send me a few dates and times and we can find a suitable time?” I just time “t-meet” and the following text is auto-filled whereever my cursor is pointing:

Please suggest a time for us to talk at – this is a service I use to schedule meetings with fewer back-and-forth emails – I hope you find it useful.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

This is useful for a few reasons:

I don’t spend as much time typing stuff over and over and make fewer mistakes.
I send similar standard emails based on tasks, which saves a lot of time in my day when I already know what I’m going to write.  I can focus on the message I’m adding to the email and less upon the actual nuts-and-bolts of the process. This makes a four- or five-sentence email into a much shorter process.

I have a standard reply when I’m solicited by people I don’t know.
This one’s my favorite – how many times have you received semi-junk email (“bacn”) and thought, “I’d like to reply, but I don’t have the time.” I now have boilerplate that I’m able to customize quickly and respond to the other email quickly without breaking my flow.

I can share my best “snippets” with my teammates.
Now that several people on my team at work are also using TextExpander, I can literally make them more productive immediately by writing a TextExpander snippet and saving it in our group Dropbox folder. This is an excellent way to standardize a marketing message, prepare three or four standard replies to an inbound query, or just to make everyone happier that they can type less.

My best productivity hack is that I get to think more about what I want to say.
Thanks TextExpander! You’ve helped me to spend more time crafting an effective message and less time typing it.


Deadlines force you to act

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It’s easy to say “I don’t want to do it today, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

It’s also easy say “that thing you asked me to do — I’ll take care of it.”

It’s a lot harder to wiggle out of your commitments if you say (to your whole team) that the launch is going to happen on Tuesday night at 7pm.  Going to happen, not just planned.  People can do amazing things especially if you encourage them to say out loud what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do it, and how they’ll know that they succeeded.

You might think that this is a discipline that only works for software teams building products in an Agile environment, but surprise!  It works for much more than that.

Saying what you’re going to do

Be specific – state that “I’m going to send a survey to the customers who have tried our product in the last 30 days” or “I’m going to vacuum the living room” or “I will walk 3 miles today.”  Be as detailed as possible, but don’t get hung up on the fact that you haven’t figured out exactly what you’re going to do yet.  Pick the smallest big description of what you can do, and make sure you say  it out loud to another person.

Say when you’re going to finish

Setting a deadline is a key factor to make you accountable to delivering what you said you were going to deliver at the time you’re going to deliver it.  This one’s easy – say out loud when you’re going to be done, and set one more more intermediate check-ins where you can say (as early as possible) whether you’re on track or not.  Be as accurate and honest as you can – remember, you’re setting a commitment that others will measure.

How will you know that you’ve succeeded?

If you don’t know how to measure when you’re done, you’ve got a problem ;)  Set some goal that will tell you that you’ve succeeded.  If it’s too hard, call it a stretch goal — but make sure you know that by someone else’s assessment (“the widget does x”, “the press release was written for review”, “the living room is clean”) that you can call the job done.

Deadlines are the first step to knowing that you’re done — they tell you when the job needs to be finished.  And you also need to make sure that you have a good idea of what you’re going to do and how you’ll know that you’ve succeeded.  What are you going to plan (and do) today?


Having a to-do list (even if you hate it)

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I hate to-do lists.  Let’s be clear.  A to-do list is the best way for me to remember that I haven’t finished doing something.  If I start making lists I’ll remember all of the things I once thought were important and then didn’t have time to do.  But wait – I think that’s actually the point.

Most definitions of short-term memory suggest that we can hold 7 items (+/- 2) in our active memory at any one time.  Given that some of these slots are held by much more important things than “should I do that thing that’s on my list”, it stands to reason that one of the most important things to remember is a reliable collection device where you can store that list.  There are lots of different tools to help with this process: I use Evernote.

Store the list and share it

I have a list marked “status” — it’s a list of my current commitments, what I said I would do, what I’m working on, and where I need help.  It’s a modified form of GTD, and it helps me to collect all of the things that I’m working on so that I don’t miss a step.  I also have one other list, called “weekly report”, which is a rolled-up version of the status list.  I share each of these lists (status, 3x weekly, and the weekly report, 1x weekly) which keeps me honest — I don’t want to put something on that list unless I want to commit to thinking about how it will get done, doing it, or asking for help so that I can get it done.

Decide (from a few choices)

This is the easy part — when new work comes in, I make a decision.  File it (many filters take care of this for me), leave it for action, or respond immediately to the work?  If the work is only a few minute task or less, I try to respond to it.  I use TextExpander to automate some of this process, so that the types of work that are most easily done can be done with a minimum of keystrokes.

Act (if it’s a longer term item)

Several times a week, I try to make time to work on longer term items.  When I file them or store them for later action, I try to be as specific as possible in noting what it will take to move that item forward.  “Make the widget better” is not usually useful, but “spend 30 minutes thinking about 3 ways to improve the widget” often is — especially if you make a commitment to document your thoughts and get feedback from other team members.

Bonus Item: Don’t be afraid to take something off of your to-do list

This may sound counter-intuitive, but when To-do lists become so long as to not easily be scannable, they become much less useful as lists.  Once a week (or maybe twice a month), make sure you look at the items that persistently don’t get done.  They might have turned out to be not as important as you thought; you might have found another way around that problem; or you just might not want to do that thing.  Don’t be afraid to cross it off the list.  If it’s still important, your team member (or your customer) will tell you.  (And then, of course, it needs to go higher up on your list.)


An Online Elephant Never Forgets

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I make lists. Top 10 lists, lists of things to do, and lists of things that I ought to do and haven’t gotten around to doing yet.

Recently I started using Evernote – a cloud-based note-taking system available on my iPhone, web, and elsewhere – and it’s made a huge change in the success rate of note-taking and completing those notes. In fact, it’s become my “cloud brain.”

Evernote helps me with three key problems that I struggled with before:

I need to remember something, and I don’t have anywhere to put it.

People can maintain 5-7 things in short term memory, and a few of those things are likely already in use ;). With Evernote, I can just open an iPhone application, add to an existing list, and not have to worry about forgetting … whatever it is that was.

I need to compile a list of things to share with a team.

At work, we have an all-team standup meeting three times a week – you have two minutes (or less) to give your status, tell the team what’s going well, and where you need help. Using Evernote, I can create a concise list to share with the team.

I maintain a weekly report.

Sometimes, I update it from my desk, and sometimes while I’m on the go. Evernote allows me to maintain the same document and synchronize it to multiple places. Not everything is perfect (editing rich text on the iPhone inexplicably doesn’t work) but it provides the perfect 80% solution to this problem.  At the end of the week, if I’ve got all of my formatting right, I can just cut and paste into my report.  Building the system in this way (before an automatic solution is available) also makes me think of better ways to automate it — and I can tweak the report when the development effort is cheap (cut and paste) rather than expensive (dev time).

My lists have moved to the cloud — this is great, as my cloud brain is great at maintaining information, retrieving it for quick recall, and for building a list of all of the things I did (since the last time). Thanks Evernote!