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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
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 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 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 – 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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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