Station combines all your messy web apps into a single app

Meet Station, a startup that was created by startup studio eFounders. Station has been working on the only work app you need. It combines all the services you need into a single window and handles notifications and documents better than a normal browser.

If you don’t spend your life in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook, chances are you spend most of your days in a web browser, navigating between countless of tabs. When you are working with five different Google Spreadsheets, a couple of Trello dashboards and a handful of other services, it gets harder to find what you’re looking for.

With Station, you can find the document you’re looking for more easily. Station is a Mac and Windows app. You then need to add all your accounts one by one. Station supports dozens of services, but the most popular ones are Gmail, Google Drive, Slack and Trello.

“We have 300 app integrations. We have a good user base with 2,500 people who use Station at least 4 days per week,” co-founder and CTO Alexandre Lacheze told me.

Each service has its own icon in the bar on the left. You can switch from one service to another just like you’d switch from one account to another in Slack. This app metaphor works quite well for document-based apps, such as Google Drive. When you click on the icon, Station shows you your most recent documents and you don’t get lost between multiple tabs.

By centralizing everything in one app, Station adds a couple of nifty features. For instance, there’s a universal search bar that lets you search for content across all your apps. Think about it as a sort of Spotlight for web apps.

Notifications also get their own tab. You can scan recent emails, Trello notifications and Slack messages in the same interface. And there’s also a focus mode that lets you silence notifications for a 15 minutes or an hour.

“We noticed high retention rates among marketing and sales teams,” co-founder and CEO Julien Berthomier told me. “It works well for operational, support and marketing profiles. The usual marketing person is going to use more than 20 different apps.”

While Station is free for now, the startup is working on a paid offering for teams. Companies will be able to subscribe to Station to build pre-configured profiles. If a company recruits new marketing persons, the marketing team will be able to share a Station template so that new employees have everything they need from day one.

Station is also a good way to get insights about who is using what. For instance, if a company pays for a service but nobody is using it, chances are you can cancel your corporate subscription. Let’s see if this will be enough to make companies pay for Station.


Review of Hootsuite: Manage Social Media From A Single Dashboard

hootsuite apps directory


Last year we published a list of 20 Social Media Monitoring Tools. One of the more popular tools on that list is Hootsuite. Today we give you a deep dive into Hootsuite:  what it is and how it can make you more productive with social media.

If you are looking for a tool that lets you manage all of your social media accounts and presence in a single place, and collaborate as a team on them, then Hootsuite should be at the top of your list to investigate.

Hootsuite is a Web-based tool (although it also can be used on popular mobile devices- see screenshot above).

You take a few minutes to set up a Hootsuite account;  then connect your various social media profiles.  After this one-time setup, you will be able to use it.  Here are 4 essential functions that Hootsuite performs:

1. Manage Your Social Accounts in One Place

You do this from the Hootsuite dashboard, without visiting each site separately or using a multitude of different mobile apps.  This includes replying to others, retweeting, “liking,” sharing and responding to private messages, and otherwise carrying out activity on your social accounts.

The activities that you can perform vary by social media platform. You won’t be able to do every single thing for your Facebook Page, for instance. But we’ve found that we can do 90% of our day-to-day social activities from within Hootsuite.

You can manage Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google Plus, MySpace, WordPress and Mixi — individual profiles and business pages.

2. Schedule Updates

The built-in calendar is one of the most important features. Use it to schedule posts to your social accounts.  In other words, you can keep your accounts active. More importantly, you can be efficient by scheduling all your social updates at one time for, say scheduling once a day or once a week. In other words, you can “batch” your work. Then you aren’t constantly interrupting other activities to update social accounts throughout the day or week.

There’s also an auto-schedule feature that will automatically schedule your tweets and updates to go out at optimal times.

Running a marketing campaign and have a lot of updates to make over a period of say, two weeks?  You can actually upload a CSV spreadsheet for all the messages.

If you prefer “set it and forget it” automation, you can add RSS feeds to automatically update social accounts every time a new article goes out from your company blog, for example.  You can set it to post one item at a time (recommended) or more.  You can direct it to check for new items in the feed and post them, once per hour or up to once per day.

hootsuite team assignment

3. Communicate and Collaborate as a Team

You can assign tasks, such as responding to a tweet or a private direct message, to a team member, as seen above.  No emails or separate instant message instructions needed. Assignments are right there within the Hootsuite dashboard.

Also, because multiple users can use Hootsuite, everyone can “see” what activity is completed or hasn’t been done yet.  Again, no communicating via email or messaging programs to find out if someone followed up on that Twitter customer complaint yet, or not.   How many users you can have depends on which product level and upgrades you have purchased.

4. Get Analytics and Reports

Fragmented results here and there don’t do much to help you analyze and understand how well social media is working — or not.  For that, you really need to see a bird’s eye view of activity over a period of time, and be able to compare it.

Many social media platforms now offer analytics.  But who has time to run and grab those analytics from Facebook Insights, or a multitude of other social sites?  Hootsuite’s built-in analytics and reports  give this kind ability to track your progress and understand what’s working best, in one place.

Best of all, you can get weekly reports emailed to you.  These are extremely helpful.  For instance, here at Small Business Trends we review the analytics reports in staff meetings from time to time.

What I Like About Hootsuite

The company keeps investing in enhancements to its platform.  Hootsuite just keeps getting better.  And that’s not always true with products.

Here are two aspects that are particularly impressive:

Integration / Interoperability With Other Marketing Applications

You’re not limited to managing just the 8 social media platforms Hootsuite currently covers. You can extend capabilities to other social media sites and even other programs, by adding “apps” from the Hootsuite Apps Directory.

For instance, you’ll find apps for social sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr,, YouTube and several more (see screenshot below).

Then there are apps that offer some level of integration or interoperability with popular marketing and CRM programs that businesses use.  There are apps for ConstantContact, Nimble, HubSpot, Salesforce, ZenDesk and more.  What exactly the apps allow you to do with Hootsuite varies by app.  For a description of one such app, see our write-up about the Batchbook and Hootsuite integration.

Most apps are free.  Some, like the app for Salesforce, require an additional monthly fee. But even the paid premium apps are relatively inexpensive. Apps usually cost less than $5 per month per premium app.

I like the fact that Hoosuite has been open to allowing these kinds of apps, through its developer program.  It makes Hootsuite more useful as a central dashboard and management tool.

Different Pricing Levels to Meet Different Needs

Another positive aspect of Hoosuite is that it offers different pricing and feature levels.

There’s a free level, for a single user to update 5 social profiles.  This is good for a really small startup or sole proprietor.  It’s also a risk-free way to try out Hootsuite.

The Pro version, currently $8.99  a month  — the price recently went up — can be used with a small team of two users.  Additional users can be added for a fee.  The added users can vary — anywhere from $10 to $15 for the third user, and $15 to $30 each additional after that.  It all depends on whether you are under the “new” pricing or old.

Note that some of the features in this review may only be available at the Pro level.

With Pro you can manage an unlimited number of social profiles.  You receive an enhanced analytics report, and can choose an unlimited number of apps.  There’s a 30-day free trial of this version, too.  The Pro version is what most small businesses likely will use.

The Enterprise version is for, well, large enterprises.  Pricing is not even available on the site for Enterprise.  The Enterprise version adds advanced features, such as advanced security, geo-targeting, advanced customer support. It also adds Hootsuite University, an online training program for social media and learning to use Hootsuite.

There’s a discount of 10% for annual billing instead of monthly, for some savings.

What I’d Like to See Hootsuite Do Differently

While I like the different levels of Hootsuite, some small businesses may consider it expensive to purchase certain add-ons ala carte.  The cost can really add up.

Hootsuite University is one such add-on I’ve heard people kvetch about.  Ala carte it’s $21 per month.  Small business teams really could benefit from training. But the pricing model poses a challenge.  Small business owners I’ve heard from are concerned that once you sign up for a monthly fee, if team members don’t use it, you could find your organization a year later paying for a service that’s rarely been used – just because somebody forgot to cancel it.  A one-time fee per user would solve that issue.

Another pricing issue is the limitations and expense of using vanity URL shorteners for brand enhancement of your links shared.  For instance, at Small Business Trends we’ve started using our own URL shortener of    Hootsuite allows custom URLs — but only if you sign up for Owly Pro.  That costs $49.99 per month.

Small businesses will be very cost sensitive about social media tools. Just 39% of small businesses say they get ROI from social media. Of those the majority isolate the dollar value to under $1,000 per year.

Still, at the base price of under ten bucks a month, Hootsuite Pro delivers excellent value. The base price should be affordable by most small businesses.  Just be careful about those add-ons!

At Small Business Trends we are paying customers of Hootsuite. We did not get any special consideration for this review.

More About Hootsuite

As mentioned, Hootsuite is a Web-based based app, and can be used from most modern browsers.  There are extensions (“hootlets” or “hootbars”) for Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Hootsuite offers mobile apps so that you can manage your social presence from an iPhone, Android devices and the iPad.

HootSuite Media, Inc. was founded in 2008 by Ryan Holmes, who is also the company CEO. Its headquarters is located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  It has over 6 million users, who send 3 million messages a day through the dashboard.

Overall, Hootsuite is the gold standard today for managing your social media accounts.  It offers a strong affordable mix for small business users.


Study: 23 Percent Abandon Apps After Single Use

App Retention RateApp Retention Rate

Small business owners are often told they need a mobile app to drive sales, boost brand visibility or just bring potential customers into the door of a brick and mortar store. But do apps really serve their purpose for the majority of businesses? It’s a question that should be on every business owner’s mind as a new study emerges creating a much more nuanced picture of app use.

App Abandonment Findings

According to the new data from analytics firm Localytics, about 23 percent of mobile users abandon an app after their first use, a slight improvement from 25 percent in 2015.

The findings are based on data gathered from Localytics’ user base of 37,000 apps.

App Retention Rate

App abandonment findings aside, the study reveals some interesting data about user retention. It shows user retention has improved to 38 percent, up from 34 percent in 2015.

While the numbers indicate slight improvement, it’s important to remember that businesses still need to do a lot to avoid churn and to convert more users to loyal customers. That’s because a large number of users (62 percent) will use an app less than 11 times, the study found.

Takeaways for Small Businesses

A surprising highlight of the study is that just two years ago, only 20 percent of users were abandoning apps. It’s perhaps not difficult to understand what must have gone wrong.

To begin with, businesses operate in an increasingly competitive marketplace today. In this crowded marketplace, consumers have a shorter attention span and too many options to choose from. To succeed, companies need to focus on customer engagement.

The Localytics study also points in the same direction. Its data shows using push notifications, in-app messages, email or remarketing is helping companies boost customer loyalty. In fact, user retention is as high as 49 percent for users who have push notification enabled.

Businesses need to focus on mobile engagement to create more value for their users. The first step is to formulate a clear mobile marketing strategy. Is there a real need for an app? How soon can it be launched? What kind of content will be used to make the most of it? These are some of the questions that businesses must answer before developing an app.

Boston-based Localytics supports more than 6,000 customers and reaches 2.7 billion devices and 120 billion data points monthly.

Image: Localytics


A single MF folio nomination can have multiple nominees



How can I change a nominee?

—Rakesh Poddar

Every mutual fund (MF) has a nomination change form. When you fill and submit it, the previous nomination information will be overwritten by the new one. This means that at any time, there can be only one nomination instruction for a folio. If the folio has multiple unit holders (joint holding), each should sign the change request. Nomination for all folios is essential to cover unforeseen eventualities. A single nomination can contain multiple nominees.

In the event of an unforeseen event, proceeds can be spread to up to three nominees as specified in the nomination request. The request should also contain the percentage shares of nominees. Minors can be nominees as well, but a guardian has to be specified.

I am 40 and planning for retirement. Can you suggest a good mix of funds?

—Kavya Sharma

If you are in your mid-40s and just beginning to build a retirement portfolio, ensure investments are sufficient. You can use an online calculator to estimate how much you need to invest to have a post-retirement lifestyle comparable to now. Once you know the investment amount, decide on the level of risk to take. My recommendation would be a 60:40 allocation between equity and debt funds.

For schemes, in equity go with a large-cap fund such as Birla Sun Life Front Line Equity and a diversified fund like Franklin India Prima Plus. If you can handle market volatility, you can add a mid-cap fund such as HDFC Mid Cap Opportunities, up to 20% of your portfolio. For debt, you can go for simple short-term debt funds like UTI Short-term fund. You can start with systematic investment plans (SIPs) but do not dig into this portfolio before retirement since you are already starting a bit late.

Are short-term debt funds safe? I want to use these instead of recurring deposits (RDs).

—Ranjith Krishnan

Short-term debt funds are good if you have a time frame of at least 1-2 years. Unlike fixed deposits (FDs), these funds do not give fixed, guaranteed returns. Also, there could be days when the net asset value (NAV) turns negative, if only a little.

But over a longer time frame, such risks of negative returns diminish significantly and short-term debt funds can be a far superior returning option.

These funds invest in a combination of certificates of deposit from banks, short-term commercial papers and top-rated short-term bonds and debentures. So, they can provide better returns than FDs. Consider starting with funds such as HDFC Short-term fund or ICICI Prudential Short-term fund as these have so far delivered better returns than bank deposits. Use the growth option instead of the dividend option for more tax efficiency. If you plan to invest for over 3 years, you can also get capital gains indexation benefit.