*** NOTE: ALL INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AT DATE OF PUBLISHING ***
It likely doesn’t surprise you, but I love tech and tools that help me with productivity. I did a post last year showing 6 tools I had used throughout 2020 that I found useful. I reviewed it, and realised I had quite a few new ones, and some that made the cut again in 2021. So let’s take a look, and hopefully you’ll find something you can use to make YOUR life easier.
DISCLAIMER: I am not getting paid to promote any of these brands, I just really rate them highly! For those that have an affiliate link, I have used those. For this I might get a discount but nothing more!
I started using this in January 2020 but then forgot about it 🙄 Now I am not sure how I did without it for so long. TubeBuddy is quite frankly a must for anyone creating and sharing video content on YouTube. It kind of has two parts, one is within the TubeBuddy website itself, and the other is accessed within YouTube with their Chrome/Edge extension added.
I can check out the Health Report for my channel, and see how it’s performing in terms of views, subscribers, and engagement, but also for specific search terms within YouTube search itself, and via search engines and other websites. Another feature I’ve used a few times is the ability to export all of the data, which makes it a whole lot easier when updating MVP contributions. Different license options give you different functionality, but right now the STAR level is what works best for my needs.
When viewing in YouTube, I can compare my stats with those of other users, and one of the best features is the ability to add a video to a playlist and add a comment automatically AFTER it’s been published. Also using their bulk edit feature makes making changes a breeze. Definitely worth checking out!
Back in April 2020, Lisa Crosbie and I started talking about doing a podcast. How hard could it be we figured? Well, turns out there is a lot to think about and consider from your name, branding, website and finally where to host it. The audio files have to go SOMEWHERE. After a bit of research, we settled on using BuzzSprout and then launched The UP Podcast in May last year.
In November of this year I decided to create my own new podcast called 365 Community Chats. I didn’t even bother looking anywhere else and went directly to BuzzSprout to set up a new account for hosting those audio files. I knew it was reliable and also that they made it easy to walk through and submit your podcast to all of the various directories that exist (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts etc.). For anyone just getting started, it’s an easy process to follow and the website is clear and straightforward.
Creating a podcast is one of the things I am most proud of from a community content perspective, and I have a feeling Lisa would agree. It’s a great new avenue to share knowledge and information with others, and the feedback we’ve received is always really lovely and heartwarming. So, if you want to do the same, I can definitely recommend using BuzzSprout to make the process easy.
Recording The UP Podcast with Lisa is easy. We use Microsoft Teams and record our meetings. This is then added to Camtasia and exported as an audio file. Quick, easy, and simple. However, with 365 Community Chats, I knew I wanted to do both audio and a visual version uploaded to YouTube. Teams just doesn’t cut it because the video quality is dependent on each person’s internet connection quality. I searched for options that provided the best possible high-quality recordings, even going so far as to try one out that failed, only recording half of the meeting. Thanks to Scott Durow who currently records the XrmToolCast Podcast with Daryl LaBar (while Jonas Rapp takes a break) who suggested Iris.
I tried it out, and it’s such an easy-to-use interface. It’s also REALLY cheap in terms of the amount of recording time you get. 2 hours is just $9 USD a month and the quality of the files is really high. It also makes it easy for any guests to use, just joining with a link and they also don’t need to worry about their own internet quality or bandwidth. I can just have the call, then download the individual files I need, and not wonder if it will have all recorded or how good it will look and sound. They are relatively new, but in comparison with other similar services, Iris by far exceeds in terms of quality and price.
You can see there is a bit of a theme here with the tools I’ve been embracing this year. I recently came across an awesome site for a tool called My Podcast Reviews. Starting and growing a podcast is hard, not going to lie. People say they love it, then you find out they haven’t actually listened to an episode 😉 Asking people to give a review helps, but then you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do that right? My Podcast Reviews gives you a way to do that. I wasn’t aware but different countries and different operating systems of phones (think Android vs. iPhones) means some people can leave reviews on some podcast directories but not on others and so on. This means you are never really sure if you have reviews or where they are.
The first thing you can do with this tool is set up a custom link to share with people, like this one for 365 Community Chats. Someone can click on the link, and depending on where they are reviewing it from, it will show options relevant to them and their location and device of choice. I then get a dashboard that shows all ratings and reviews regardless of the platform or country they have come from.
The creator of My Podcast Reviews, Daniel J. Lewis is extremely responsive and helpful, not to mention the fact he uses his middle initial in his own branding…. great move 😂 I’m looking forward to seeing any new features or functionality he adds, it’s such a clever service, and VERY reasonably priced at only $50 USD for a full year for two podcasts.
Back in the day, when Form Pro was a thing, I created an online course. I needed a place to sell it, somewhere that allowed people to go through the course material at their own pace, and provided a process for purchasing the course. Zenler has been around for a while, but they rebranded and launched a beta version a few years ago. I was able to get in during that beta phase and got a really good deal. I then added an SSRS Reports for CDS & D365 Course and have continued to use Zenler ever since.
If you are interested in creating your own courses, selling them online hopefully means you can generate passive income and don’t really have to do a whole lot once you’ve made it live. I kind of forget it’s there until I get a nice email letting me know someone has bought a course. It has great functionality for affiliates, so you can generate a custom link for someone that they can share on their website or social media on your behalf. If someone then buys your course, the person who shared their custom link gets a percentage of that sale.
So, if 2022 is your year to make and sell your own course, be sure to check out Zenler as a possible option.
In my post last year, I had MailChimp on my list. Although I still rate it very highly as a tool, I needed something that would give me more flexibility and more of a customer journey automation tool. A lot of this was linked to the online course I was selling too. So, Convertkit was my answer.
I use Convertkit for all of my blog subscriptions, so if you are reading this because you received an email, thank you! You are getting this because of Convertkit. I love that I can track if people are reading emails, clicking on links, and what they are subscribing to. I use it when someone signs up for my SSRS Course online via Zenler and can send them out reminder prompts, congratulation emails once they complete a section of the course and a final completion certificate at the end.
It’s not the cheapest tool, but for me, Convertkit is one of the better ones that gives me more flexibility and control of what I want to do in terms of communicating with subscribers.
I talked about Zapier in my productivity tools post last year too… and it’s too good not to share again. You might be wondering why a Power Platform person using Power Automate is suggesting another workflow tool, but there is definitely room for both! I use it in conjunction with my courses via a connection to Zenler and one to Convertkit. I’ve got workflows (or Zaps as they call them) going from Convertkit to Dynamics 365 and then back to Zenler to help with the total automation when someone signs up for my online SSRS course.
I’m also using it when I publish a new episode of my 365 Community Chats podcast, going out to LinkedIn, Twitter, and my Facebook Page. Another one is if someone leaves a review, utilising the RSS Feed generated by My Podcast Reviews and sharing the review on social media.
Zapier is very reasonable from a price perspective, with a free option giving you 100 tasks a month, or the $20 USD a month one I use which gives me 750 tasks a month. You are also notified immediately if one of your zaps fails and can quickly resolve the issue and allow it to continue. No trying to force a failed flow to run again from the beginning!
This last one also made my list last year. I am still blown away that this is a free tool! Rebrandly is a service you can connect to your own domain then create personalised shorten URLs that you can track and share. For example, this year I took part in a walking challenge (25K) to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society and I shared http://link.meganvwalker.com/donate as the link asking for people to donate. I am doing another challenge (100K) next summer, and rather than sharing a different link, I can just swap out the final URL so that the same custom link can be used but take people to my new Just Giving page. Makes it a great feature to use if you are doing demos or presentations and asking people to go to a link. Quick and easy!
As always, I am keen to hear what other people use for productivity or building your own brand. Have you found anything cool? Share with me and others in the comments below!
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