Five Tools To Base Your Online Life Around

I’ve written before about my social media life and the tools I use, but which of those are the most useful, and why?

Here are the five tools I base my online presence around, and why I think you should too.

Google Reader

ToolsI “subscribe” to several hundred blogs. Every day I go to one site – Google Reader – to read the new articles on those sites. It saves me hours It means I can read way more every day than I could by manually checking sites. That means I can learn more. I can even organize and prioritize the sites I subscribe to, so if I’m busy I know I’m likely to read the most relevant articles.

I probably spend more time using Google Reader than any other online tool.

Google Reader is an RSS reader. What Is RSS? Matt Mcdonald has a neat definition – RSS is “like an email subscription that goes to your reader instead of your email account.” I wrote a post giving an introduction to RSS a while back. Check it out if you want to learn more about RSS.

As Mitch Joel put it:

We used to have to go out and find stuff – news, sites, etc… RSS lets the web come to you.


Twitter is my online water cooler. It’s the centre of my social media community. It’s a resource, a meeting place, a networking hub and more. It’s also the first thing I check in the morning. Before I even turn on my computer, I’ve usually had several conversations using Twitter via my blackberry.

How powerful is Twitter for me? When someone I know wanted to know the leading blogs in a certain area today, I asked my Twitter friends. Moments later, I had three blog names and one of my contacts had pointed me to someone who knew more.

A month or two ago when I heard, at 4:30pm on a Friday, that we needed a graphic designer for some last-minute work, I asked my Twitter friends if they knew anyone who might be able to help. A few minutes later I had three names, and a local PR agency contacted my by phone and email that evening to offer their services.

I could go on and on about the value I get from Twitter. I’m still figuring out how it can be used best by businesses but for me personally, it’s incredibly valuable. I also track mentions of me in Twitter using Tweetscan (I subscribe to them in Google Reader).

If you haven’t come across before, here’s another great description from Matt Mcdonald:

[delicious] let’s (sic) you attach keywords called “tags” to sites. Like putting post-its in a magazine.

I recently wrote about six ways to make life easier with

  • Let other people do your surfing for you (by subscribing – in Google Reader – to see what your contacts save)
  • Queue up blog topics
  • Use it as a search engine
  • Track coverage of you/your organization/your clients (again, in Google Reader)
  • Track topics (guess where)
  • Provide a resource for others

Of course, that’s on top of using it as a place to save articles for future reference.

If I find an article interesting, it gets saved here.


iGoogle is my base; the hub for my online presence. iGoogle lets you customize your Google homepage to include whatever you want. I choose to have it link me into the most important of my Google services, and to see them at a glance:

It puts all of these services at my fingertips, and lets me see them all at a glance. In my workplace we’re limited to an old version of Internet Explorer; iGoogle is my alternative to Firefox‘s tabbed interface. I don’t use this tool as much as I used to, as I find ways to work around my technology limitations at work, but it’s still an important one for me.

Blog search engines

Blog search engines let me keep tabs on what people are writing about my organization, its programs, its leaders and our stakeholders. It keeps me on top of what’s going on outside the three-and-a-half walls of my cubicle. It also lets me know when someone mentions me or something I’ve written.

This is the only entry I’ve left as a category of tools, rather than a specific one. Why? Because I don’t think there’s a standout tool for this any more.

Technorati used to be the standout tool, but not any more. I use it in combination with Google Blog Search and BlogPulse to make sure I don’t miss anything.

What about you?

These are by no means the only tools I use, but these are central ones for me… well, those and Google search. What about you? Which tools do you find the most valuable?

(photo credit: tashland)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.