26 Free Social Media Tools for Small and Medium-Size Business Owners

social media toolbox

New social media tools are popping up quite frequently. But not all tools are created equal and not all meet the demands of small and medium size enterprises. Most business owners with a small or midsize company would want to opt for free or minimal cost tools that are effective to use. So how do you determine which are the most effective social media tools for you?

How Do you Determine A Social Media Tool’s Efficacy?

While technology is a great enabler, it’s also important to learn the tech, apply it and get results from it quickly. Social media for the sake of social media is a huge time-suck. In order to determine if your social media tool is effective, consider the following:

  • Will it save you time once you have completed the learning curve?
  • How much time will it save you from having to manually do the same tasks?
  • How steep is the learning curve and is it worth the effort in terms of time saved?
  • Will it help automate a process?
  • Will it help make employees spend time on more constructive tasks rather than routine/mundane tasks?

I find that the more repetitive a task is, the better it becomes to use social media software to automate it. The second scenario for using software is when you don’t have the skills or the inclination to do the work yourself – such as look up analytics.

So if you have determined that using social media tools will save you time and money, here are some of the top free tools for small and mid-size business owners to use, categorized by function.

Listening Tools

Mention

https://mention.com/

Mention is a great way to receive alerts about your brand or your name or any other keyword you choose. It coagulates results from a variety of places on the web, including social networks and presents them to in a nicely designed email or via the web interface. Each result has a link you can click through to see context.

Talkwalker Alerts

http://www.talkwalker.com/alerts

Talkwalker bills itself as the Google alerts alternative. It also typically shows the highest number of results for the keywords that you are monitoring. This often leads to results being shown from less reputable sites too, but I find it’s a great way to see if anyone is plagiarizing your content or linking to you on some unsavouray website. After all, it’s important to know everything being said about you/your brand so you can then decide what to do with that information! Talkwalker has the option to deliver results via email or web.

IFTTT

https://ifttt.com

If This Then That is a service loved by many folks for it’s ease in getting the Internet to perform complex actions on auto-pilot. Called “recipes”, each set of actions pulls in information from where you want it to and delivers it where you want it go. So, as a listening tool, you could for example, give it instructions to gather all tweets mentioning your campaign’s hashtag and email them to you every week. There are thousands of applications of this tool and some ready-made recipes you’re sure to find useful.

Content Creation Tools

Evernote + Skitch

https://evernote.com/ + https://evernote.com/skitch/?utm_source=interspire

On it’s own Evernote is a powerful note-taking and draft-composing application, but when powered with Skitch – a visual editor and annotations tool – it becomes super necessary in the arsenal of any self-respecting content creating business owner. Use Evernote to jot down ideas, write blog posts, draft emails, and sort and segment all your projects and business departments in different files and folders.

Storify

https://storify.com/

On its website, Storify says it is “the easiest way to find, collect, and share what people are saying all over the web”. Using Storify, you can pull in your brand’s story’s from multiple social networks into the Storify interface to give meaning and context to disparate events. It’s a very cool tool to use when you want to show the timeline of events or campaigns and how they developed as time progressed to show a cohesive story.

Listly

list.ly/

Everyone loves lists! or at least that’s the premise of content creation service Listly. You can use it to easily build lists and then embed those lists across your content networks. Given the rise of websites such as buzzfeed and upworthy and even serious business websites such as LinkedIn’s Pulse, writing list posts should definitely be among the types of content you create. Lists are easy to digest, scan and share and have the potential to spread fast.

Community Building Tools

Buffer

https://bufferapp.com/

Buffer has become the defacto standard for writing social media posts across networks. It seamlessly integrates with many popular applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus and just about any website or mobile. This integration means that you can (usually via one-click) share a social media updates across multiple connected networks and from connected apps. Buffer also has some cool side features such as “suggestions” which, as the name suggests, gives you status update suggestions in case you are out of ideas or just don’t have the time to manually look for interesting stories to share with your community.

Hootsuite

hootsuite.com

Hootsuite is the reigning king of Twitter apps, and rightly so. This robust tool – both a web interface and a mobile app – is high on functionality when posting across social networks, managing lists, mentions, direct messages and adding team members, analytics and following conversations. Use hootsuite you manage your social media conversations across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn especially.

Facebook Pages Manager

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.pages.app&hl=en

https://itunes.apple.com/pk/app/facebook-pages-manager/id514643583?mt=8

As the name says, this app is a must-have if you have a happening Facebook Page and would like to keep a check on it on-the-go. It’s more robust than the regular Facebook app for mobiles and has extended insights and analytics using which you can see how your Page is performing and reply to messages and comments from within the app itself. You can also block unwanted users and edit your entire page from within this app.

Influencers Tools

FollowerWonk

https://followerwonk.com/

Followerwonk is a nifty little tool for identifying the top personalities according to industry, region or keyword. You can use this info to know who to follow, who to approach for mutual business interests and who to connect with as an influencer in your industry. It can also come in handy if you wish to set benchmarks for your performance against someone else’s.

BuzzSumo

http://buzzsumo.com/

On Buzzsumo, you input your main keyword or phrase, and buzzsumo will give you an awesome medley or colorful results which include: Facebook shares, LinkedIn Shares, Twitter Shares, Google Plus Shares, and Pinterest Shares. You can also filter the results by content types, such as article, infographic, guest, post, interview, video, etc. Further you can segment by content or by influencer. All in all a super awesome free tool with tons of influencer insights.

Keyhole

http://keyhole.co/

keyhole is all about hashtag tracking. Set up a hashtag for your brand or a marketign campaign you want to run, put it into keyhole and track all the results. Keyhole shows you posts, reach and impressions for your hashtag, as well as which websites and users used it the most. It’s a great way to keep track of who in the industry is using and following which hashtags.

Lead Generation Tools

MailChimp

http://mailchimp.com/

Mailchimp is super easy to use email automation software that is free for the first 2000 subscribers. It’s drag and drop wizards make creating forms a cinch! And it’s fun and quirky interface and responsive support team makes email marketing a fun endeavour. In recent months Mailchimp has added a ton of functionality to its suite of services and for a free service, it packs quite a punch. Use it to immediately start gathering leads for your business.

SlideShare

slideshare.net

SlideShare – the silent giant of Internet Marketing – offers a very cool option for users to sign up for your offer using a lead generation form placed at the end of your slideshow presentation. It’s an extremely effective technique in gathering email address and it even integrates with all well-known email marketing software tools such as MailChimp to offer cross-platform compatibility and ease of use.

Quora

www.quora.com

Quora is a Q&A site populated by niche experts. You answer questions on quora based on your industry’s expertise and you can also repurpose your blog on Quora for added influencer points. As people start to follow you and your questions, they will check out your bio where you give a link to your landing page. It’s not exactly a tool per se, but nevertheless a very useful website to generate highly targeted and qualified leads from.

LinkedIn Groups

www.linkedin.com/directory/groups

Falling in a similar category to Quora, LinkedIn Groups are a goldmine for targeed relevant followers. Join active groups in your industry and start contributing to them. Share articles of interest, including your own wherever the Group’s rules allow self-promotion. It’s a great way to find like-minded people, establish relationships and find future customers.

Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box

https://wordpress.org/plugins/dreamgrow-scroll-triggered-box/

There are people who swear that pop-up boxes asking for email information work. however there are many others who find the pop-ups intrusive and annoying. So which is it? Turns out there’s a midway path and that is by using a scroll triggered box (which adds on as WordPress plugin to your site). The box only pops up in a specific location, such as the bottom corner of your page, and only when you specify, such as when a reader has consumed 90% of the content on your page. In this way, it is not as intrusive as other pop-up boxes. You will also love the fact that you can fully customise the text within the scroll box, you can include your latest offer, or a free trial or whatever in exchange for an email address. It is compatible with MailChimp and other major email marketing software.

Analytics Tools

Google Analytics

google.com/analytics/

Possibly the most in-depth reporting suite of applications designed for free, but also the most complex to understand for a layperson. If you can wrap your head around it, Google Analaytics will give you all the information you need to see how our website is performing. It even integrates your social channels to pull in data from your social profiles. You can download it’s reports in .csv format.

SproutSocial

sproutsocial.com

If you want pretty reports (either for yourself or to show your manager/staff), then Sprout Social is the way to go. It really does make your data look beautiful and makes sense of all the activity by presenting it visually in the form of good-lookign graphics and charts. It’s simple to use and understand; however the free trial version is just for 30 days after which you have to purchase a pricing plan.

Social Bakers

socialbakers.com

Social Bakers is a free utility that does a great job at providing analytics data for your social networks, including facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and YouTube you can also view data by country, region, keyword, free social analytics reports, fake follower checks and more.

Visual Content Tools

Canva

canva.com

Canva has some cool templates that are ready-to-use to create social posts or posters or any other kinds of images with. They also have a free range of graphics, photos and text that you can use to put together eye-catching graphics. Canva’s blog offers many techniques and templates that even a novice can use to make some great designs.

Visually

visual.ly/

Visual.ly is the got-to platform for creating infographics, which have been the rage lately in the field of visual content. Thanks to their ability to combine data with graphics, infographics can be used to explain virtually any concept. Visually has free templates that you can use to get started designing your very own infographics.

HaikuDeck

haikudeck.com

Haiku Deck is a platform to create visually stunning presentations. You choose the orientation, style and text and select a background image from their vast and very good collection. The images are high quality and quite varied. Your final presentation looks polished and share-ready on social media or SlideShare.

Curation Tools

Scoopit

scoop.it

Scoopit is an easy-to-use application that allows you pull any article into a folder containing more articles pertaining to a specific topic. If you’re looking to host a hub for your industry content, scoopit is a tool that would come in handy.

Swayy

swayy.co

Swayy is a funky tool which emails you a daily or weekly curation of content that you have previously specified by topic. If you don’t have the time to find relevant content in your topic, you just subscribe to swaay and they’ll do the heavy lifting for you. From there its a one-click job to share that content with your followers on any social network you like.

Feedly

feedly.com

Feedly is a reader. You subscribe to blogs and other types of content you read and segment it acccording to topic.Then you open the Feedly app on your mobile to quickly read or skim the day’s stories in each topic. It’s an easy share from there to distribute that content further to your audience. Curation tools such as Feedly and Swayy help you become recognized as industry experts who have their pulse on new and noteworthy stories.

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As always, we would love to hear your suggestions on tools that make your business life easier and save you time, money and effort. Please share in the comments below any specific tools you use and how they help you!

Image credits: Webtreats

How to Apply the 80/20 Principle to Your Business & Earn More Profit In Less Time

 

80/20 for business

You may have heard the business mantra “work smarter, not harder”. It refers to the concept of finding systems and processes to make you more efficient. It also recognises that the effort you put into a small number of crucial tasks yields the highest returns for your business.

Have you heard of the 80/20 principle? If you haven’t then you are in for a treat. This principle can transform your business and your life. If you have heard of it, hopefully you’ll get some new ideas for how powerful it is to apply.

It’s curious that such a widely accepted principle of doing business should have originated in the 19th century. Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who discovered that income distribution was skewed between the population, so that 80% of the wealth was owned and controlled by just 20% of the people.

Today this observation has become known as the 80/20 rule and also called the Pareto Principle after it’s inventor.

What is the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 Rule)?

The Pareto Principle can be stated and re-stated in many different ways but with a common theme. Here are a few variations:

  • 80% of revenue is generated by 20% of customers
  • 80% of results are due to 20% of the actions
  • 80% of income is earned by 20% of the products
  • 80% of time is spent is spent with 20% of people
  • 80% of money is spent on 20% of household items
  • 80% of features account for 20% of use
  • 80% of emails are opened by 20% of the list
  • 80% of website traffic is driven by 20% of keywords
  • 80% of your stress is caused by 20% of your customers
  • 80% of the results of a sales team will be created by 20% of the team
  • 80% of new customers comes from 20% of advertising sources

and on and on…

Now, it’s important to note a few details about the 80/20 rule:

  • The ratio doesn’t have to be exactly 80-20. In fact the statistics could be skewed even more in some cases – 90/10, or even 99/1
  • The Pareto Principle is not a law, just a rule of observation. That is to say, this is how things generally are in the world
  • It works ‘recursively’, meaning that if 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers then if you take that 20% and split THEM into 80/20 as well you will find that 20% of that 20% are responsible for 80% of your 80% or more simply stated, 64% of your revenue comes from an important 4% of your customers. Special note: Even if this is NOT currently the case in your business, you’ve got an awesome opportunity here.

The 80/20 has been proven to be remarkably accurate in describing the cause and effect relationships between elements in business and life.

Why is the 80/20 Rule So Useful in Business?

One of the greatest eye-openers of the 80/20 rule is that it makes you realise and see the imbalances in life. And once you see these imbalances, you can start to find the specific actions that result in the highest business success.

When you become aware of the 80/20 rule in your business, you can:

  • Identify the 20% of your customers who are making you 80% of your revenue and focus on them.
  • Conversely: consider getting rid of the 20% of your customers who are responsible for 80% of your stress if they are not also part of those that bring you the most revenue.
  • Find out who your best employees are (the 20% that are responsible for 80% of your results) and focus on rewarding them
  • Conversely: Consider what you can do about the employees that are not part of that. How can they be turned into ‘20%’ employees?
  • Work out which forms of advertising are truly effective and focus your efforts on them.
  • Conversely: Find the 80% of advertising that doesn’t work and drop it.
  • Figure out the tasks that YOU can do that are the 20% of tasks that are responsible for 80% of your success.

In short, by applying the 80/20 rule in your business (and your life), you will be able to do more with less. You’ll be able to put the resources you have to their most efficient use. And you will consequently work smarter, not harder to achieve your goals in a less stressful manner.

According to the 80/20 principle you SHOULD be able to work 20% of the hours (1 hour and 36 minutes each day instead of 8 hours) and still get 80% of the results. If this is the case then my question to you is WHAT are you wasting your time on for the other 6 hours and 24 minutes each day?

Here’s the kicker: What if, instead of doing an hour and a half each day of your MOST productive tasks, what if you were to extend that to 4 hours or 6 hours. Imagine the results you would achieve! Making the most of this does involve you focusing on the RESULTS of everything you do all day long. Is it extra work? It starts off that way but the massive increase to results you get is worth the initial pain until it becomes a daily habit.

Let’s look at some specific ways in which the Pareto Principle helps business owners accomplish tasks faster.

How to Use the 80/20 Principle to Boost your Business Conversions

To boost conversions, you need to find out the 20% of your website or other marketing tactics that are causing 80% of the conversions.

Here’s how:

  • If you run an ad campaign to boost conversions, check in your ad manager application to see which keywords are driving the most traffic. Find and isolate the 20% of keywords that are driving the most traffic to your website. Now start to focus on increasing the efficacy of those keywords even more and start using them in other appropriate places of your website. Perhaps (in Google Adwords for example), you can peel them off and put those keywords in their own ad group.
  • Eliminate all “extras’ from your landing page that don’t encourage a reader to convert. What’s your Call To Action – what is it that you want someone to do when they reach a particular page of your website. When you know the answer to this, then concentrate on removing everything from the website that is not directly related to the CTA. Often such items include sidebars widgets, social media buttons, external links, etc.

How to Use the 80/20 Principle to Bring in More Customers At Less Cost

Your advertising funds are limited, why spend them on advertising solutions that aren’t working?

  • Identify the 20% of advertising solutions (like getting a featured listing on StartLocal.com.au!) that will work to bring in 80% of your customers.
  • Find out if there are ways to put more money into those 20% advertising sources.

How to Use the 80/20 Principle for Better Time Management

  • Your time is limited. Find the tasks that are eating most of your time and either delete them or automate them or delegate them. This will free up time to work on the crucial 20% without leaving you overwhelmed.
  • Take frequent breaks. Although seemingly counter-productive, the 20% time off will yield a higher output and ability to focus when you do get back to work. Short breaks during the work day are essential!
  • Don’t waste your time (remember the 80/20 break up of your hours each day!) learning complicated ad platforms if you can have someone set your advertising up for you and be getting you the results (like on StartLocal.com.au :-) ).
  • Personally, I know that I have a peak period of the day when I am most productive – if you are the same then make SURE that in this period of the day you are doing the 20% of 20% of tasks that are most useful.

How to Use the 80/20 Principle to Find your Ideal Customers

To find the customers that bring in the most revenue:

  • Create a list of characteristics exhibited by your most ideal customers. Ruthlessly market to just this segment. Ignore all others. Even though you’ll be missing out on mass marketing to everyone, this technique will make your ideal customer feel you are talking directly to them.
  • Eliminate problems customers. It can be hard to let go of paying customers but eventually you’ll see that 20% of your customers are responsible for all your headaches. Eliminate them and you can now focus on the 80% of majority buying from you without complaining!
  • Make your 20% Ideal Customer feel special. Give them access to special deals, front row seats, special attention, etc
  • SELL MORE TO YOUR 20% CUSTOMER – this is a big one. If your top priced product is

How to Use the 80/20 Principle to Make MORE Money from your EXISTING Customers

A hidden part of the the 80/20 principle says that if you identify the 20% of your customers that are currently responsible for 80% of your income then many of those customers will pay a lot more for your services BUT only if you can provide them with something that is more valuable. The point is that you are NOT tapping out your current customers at all. If you can work out ways to provide more value to them then there will be current customers who will be happy to spend more money with you. You do have to provide something of an increased value, not just hike your prices.

How to Use the 80/20 Principle in Social Media Marketing

When marketing using social media’s 80/20 rules, here’s what to do:

  • Make sure that 80% of items you share have educational, entertainment or information value. The rest of the 20% of shared items can be promotional.
  • When creating content for social media, focus on producing the 20% of content type (e.g. videos, memes, podcasts, etc) that brings in the most eyeballs.
  • Pay attention to your most vocal 20% fans who are your most die-hard customers and will support you through good times and bad

How to Use the 80/20 Principle in Blogging

When blogging, there are typically a few techniques that result in a post becoming the most viewed, the most commented, the most shared, etc. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Spend more time crafting the perfect headline since, according to David Ogilvy, the headline is likely to be read 5 times more than the body of the post. Testing and using the most clicked headline will help a posts’ visibility.
  • Don’t blog more times a week if that doesn’t increase the bottom line. Too many businesses figure that if they increase their blog posts from once a week to four times a week, it will quadruple views. But that’s not the case – your blog has an optimal frequency, test it and find out what it is.

How to SUPERCHARGE Your Use of the 80/20 Principle

Ok, so you don’t HAVE to understand this section to put the 80/20 principle to work for you but it will blast your results into the stratosphere.

If you want to SUPERCHARGE your understanding of the 80/20 principle (and I highly recommend you do!) then use the free tool from master marketer Perry Marshall at www.8020Curve.com. Read the instructions there carefully and it can reveal some amazing facts. if it still doesn’t make any sense then buy and read his book on Amazon (or on your Kindle) which goes into much more depth on how to use it (by the way, I don’t make any money by recommending this, it’s just one of the books I’ve read that is amazing and a game changer).

Here is an example of the type of information this tool can provide:

Let’s say you have a mailing list with your customers on it and you send out a post to your list to encourage them to buy a new product you are selling.

Number of emails that go out: 1,000

Number of people that buy: 50 customers

What was the value of the product they bought? $50

So, from this mailout, you made a total of $2,500.

Here’s a picture of what the 8020 curve looks like for this data:

80 20 Power Curve Example

The importance of this data is that the theoretical amount you COULD be earning from that list of 1000 people per mailout is actually $17,657 not $2,500. Now this is not completely accurate as there will be some people on the bottom of the list that won’t even buy a $5 product however it gives you an idea of the difference. It says that some of the 50 people who bought would have been more than happy to pay a lot more per product (as long as there is VALUE there for them) up to about $1,400:

80-20-curve-top-10

It also shows that if you had a cheaper alternative as well, you might well be able to sell the next 100 people on your list (for 150 total) on a cheaper product:

80-20-curve-51-150

So, you’ll see if you found ways to better cater to the top 150 people on your email list, instead of $2,500 from the mailout, you would have made closer to $8,000.

Amazing eh?

Summary

The 80/20 rule itself is not a solution. It’s what you do with the findings of the rule that show you the benefits and how to implement them. Applying the 80/20 to every aspect of your business will help you hone into activities that are crucial and ones that are just a waste of space. From there, you can clearly decide where you’d rather spend your time and money to boost your business.

Other Resources

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch on Amazon – The book that introduced the Pareto Principle to most people who have heard of it in the last 10 years and made it applicable.

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall on Amazon

As always, if you have questions or comments (or examples of how you’ve used the 80/20 principle in your own life) I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

 

 

Copywriting for Small Business & Why These 7 Tips Will Put More Profit In Your Pocket – How to Sell without Selling Part 1

Copywriting for Small Business

While it’s true that copywriting is a specialised field, it IS definitely possible for a business owner with no previous knowledge on the subject to learn some great techniques that will favourably impact your website’s (and other marketing channels)  sales and marketing efforts (almost) instantly.

I know this post is long but bookmark it now so you can come back later easily. If you use the advice on this page, there’s no reason you can’t dramatically increase your sales.

Part 2 of this post (coming soon) will have a FULL, real example of a sales letter that we use, broken down into steps showing the easiest method I know to create an effective sales letter (hint: it’s not as hard as you think!) In the meantime, understanding and putting into use some of the tips in PART 1 on this page will increase your conversion.

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the ability to create a piece of writing that encourages the reader to take action or behave in a particular manner. In this particular instance, we’re talking about having a potential customer take action to become your customer.

Uses for Your New Sales Letter & Copywriting

Your new, persuasive sales letter can be used to turn potential customers into new customers but it can also be used to encourage your existing customers to spend more and become better customers. Remember that the cardinal rule is you must provide VALUE. Your customer will pay more if you are providing 5x or 10x more value to them somehow. I’ll be doing a post on the 80/20 principle soon that goes into more detail on this idea.

You don’t just have to send this sales letter in the mail as was done in ye olde days. This can be used (sometimes in an abbreviated version) wherever a potential customer is seeing your business for the first time. Think your website, business profile on directories like StartLocal and anywhere else it might be seen. [Read more…]

How to Get your First Relevant 1000 Fans on Facebook

How to get your first 1000 fans on facebook

In financial circles, they say that making your first million dollars is the hardest, but once you’ve made it, your next million becomes easier. Similarly, on social networks, getting your first 1000 fans or followers takes the most amount of thoughtful planning. Once you’ve got the first thousand, then you start to build up momentum and it gets easier.

When trying to attract your first 1000 fans on Facebook, it’s crucial to take only those actions that will get you relevant and targeted traffic. Because Facebook can be a place for spammers and fake fans, you want to be cautious and build your page on the right foundation.
[Read more…]