You probably encounter online information or resources each day that could help you with projects and clients. But without the right tools and strategy, it can be challenging to capture those links in a way that will make them easy to use later on.
Enter social bookmarking: free online services that let you save links in a personal library, organize them into folders or lists, tag them, make notes about them, search them and selectively share them with others.
Social bookmarking can offer significant productivity benefits. Most notably, your social bookmarks can become your "backup brain" for projects, allowing you to readily access relevant online information as needed, regardless of when or how you found it. The trick is to do this in ways that associate links with your projects or clients.
While social bookmarking isn't new -- one of the most popular services, Delicious.com, began in 2003 -- it can be particularly useful for organizing an endless flood of potentially valuable information. Now owned by Yahoo, Delicious features improved search and usability, and offers a simple browser bookmarklet -- a quick way to access interactive features via a URL that you can save in your web browser's toolbar for easy access from any page. There is also an iPhone/iPad app, and Droidlicious is a full-featured Android app for Delicious.
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But Delicious isn't your only option. Other social bookmarking tools include:
- Diigo: Its bookmarklet integrates with all popular web browsers to allow link saving, categorization, annotation, sharing and offline reading lists without having to visit the Diigo website. You can also highlight or add sticky notes to web pages that become visible when you activate the bookmarklet.
Diigo's own mobile apps mostly allow you to access links you've already bookmarked, but some third-party apps, such as Powernote for Android, allow you to add links to Diigo from your mobile device. An iPad app also supports mobile bookmarking.
- Clipboard: This visually appealing social bookmarking service lets you save screenshots and multimedia with sophisticated navigation, search and functionality. Clipboard also offers web browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, a browser bookmarklet, and tools to make it easy for visitors to clip and share content from your site. There are iPhone/iPad apps, but so far, no compatible Android apps available.
- Evernote: While billed as more of a personal productivity and organizing tool, you also can save, categorize, tag, share and search links via Evernote -- especially through the Web Clipper browser extension and bookmarklet. iPhone, iPad and Android apps are available.
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When using social bookmarking for business, here are a few tips:
Organize primarily by project or client, not by topic. Setting a work-related context forces you to consider upfront how you might use each interesting link. If your top level of organization (the folder, notebook or list, depending on the service) reflects your major projects or clients, it's also easier to view and use all links relevant to a specific assignment.
For instance, an architect might be tempted to create topical link folders entitled "code compliance," "Craftsman style" or "lighting." But if he or she is working on long-term projects, it might make more sense to label folders as "Henson Homes" or "Denver Housing Authority," which refer to clients.
Use tags to denote topics or sub-projects. Social bookmarking services let you label individual links with tags, which provide a different way to sort or search saved links and can be a better way to indicate topics. With a tag, the architect could still easily find all saved "Craftsman" links regardless of which project he or she was working on when the bookmark was saved.
Tags also can denote sub-projects. For instance, the architect might be designing homes for several Denver neighborhoods and could make each neighborhood name a tag, providing secondary navigation for easy sorting.
Make your links private. If your social bookmarking service defaults to making your links public, any other user of the service or the web might see potentially confidential information. So whenever you create a work-related links folder, take a moment to make it private. (Most services offer this option and instructions for how to do it.) Similarly, share links or folders selectively, especially if you have confidential clients or notes.
Integrate with your mobile device. These days, entrepreneurs are likely to encounter potentially useful online information while on a smartphone or tablet. When choosing a social bookmarking service, make sure it offers tools to easily save and categorize links from your mobile device.
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