In this post we’ll share our favorite social media planning tools, our favorite places to find inspiration for content, and more tools to help maximize your efforts online. All of the tools listed below are FREE. Some offer subscriptions for more features, but we are only sharing tools that still have value in their free versions.
News and Articles
We like to ease into the work day with a strong cup of coffee, a quick check for urgent emails, and then we dive into our favorite websites while we wait for the caffeine to hit. We use the below websites to stay up-to-date on marketing news and our clients’ industries. We believe in sharing outside material for about one-third of posts, so here is where we find some of our outside content.
- Social Media Today: They share the latest news, trends, and tips in social media. We recommend subscribing to their newsletter to make sure you catch the most important updates.
- Social Media Examiner: Another great source for social media news! They release an annual social media report filled with so many helpful graphs. They also have a podcast that we listen to while working.
- Moz: Moz is more geared for SEO, but they offer great tips for promoting your content, and increasing your search engine page results.
- Medium: Medium is a great publishing platform to find industry related news, and to syndicate your content.
- Mix: We like to call this the Pinterest of interesting articles. You choose the topics your interested in viewing, and it creates a customized board of “pins” consisting of article snippets. We love using this a source to find articles to post on our clients’ pages, and to share our own content.
- Google Scholar: Nothing beats a scholarly peer-reviewed article.
Content Creation Inspiration and Tools
Every social media manager knows how important content creation is, but sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration. We keep an ongoing spreadsheet of interesting articles we find to sprinkle through our content calendar. When we’re in a rut, here are some tools we turn to.
- Track Maven’s National Day Calendar: Yes, your accounts are for your brand, but your followers will get tired if you ONLY promote your brand. Spruce it up every once awhile, and post pictures on national holidays like National Cupcake Day, National Margarita Day, etc.
- Forekast: This is a crowd-sourced internet calendar. Very similar to the above calendar, but it also includes international holidays, and events like the Grammys.
- Canva: This website is MAGIC. You are crazy if you are not already using it. You can easily create images for your social media platforms. It provides the optimal size for the post you are creating, templates, images, a huge text library, and more.
- Unsplash: Unsplash is our favorite place to get stock photos. EVERYTHING on their site is free (don’t you hate those sites that make you sift through a bunch of images just to find the free ones?). You also have the rights to do whatever you want with the photos. Just be sure to pick the more unique photos, because we have seen some of the “business” themed ones on other websites.
- Grammarly: It’s not necessarily a creation tool, but it is an app that checks your spelling and grammar. Your audience will appreciate your well-written captions and posts.
- Bitly: So you’ve finished your latest blog post, and it’s ready to be shared. We suggest using Bitly to shorten the link, and so you can track the clicks it receives, and where your viewers are located.
Search Engine Optimization is complicated considering Google updates their algorithm approximately 500 times a year. Here are some tools to help you pick the best keywords, and test factors for determining SEO.
- Google Search Console: Any tool made by Google is an important tool. This helps measure your site’s traffic and performance.
- Google Page Speed Insights: The rate at which your site loads factors into your SEO especially on mobile devices. This tool rates your upload speeds for both mobile devices and your desktop, and provides suggestions on speeding it up.
- Google Chrome’s Developer Tool: Through a few steps, you can see how your webpage loads on different devices. While using Chrome, go to your website, right click, and select “Inspect”. On the toolbar on the top and second to the left, click the icon with two boxes (one looks like a mobile device, and one looks like a tablet). After doing this, above the webpage, you will see options for different devices, and if you select the tab that says “Online”, you can choose different upload speeds. To see how it would load for a first time visitor, hold the refresh button, select “Empty Cache and Hard Reload”. It takes a few steps, but it does provide a lot of valuable information. Below are some images to help you access the right buttons.
- Broken Link Check: Dead links or links on your site that result in a 404 error hurt your SEO. This tool helps identify those dead links, so you can update them.
- SERPSTAT: You can search the SERP of your website, keywords, and more. We like that they provide the going rate of CPC ads for keywords you search for and related keywords also.
- SERPROBOT: Simple tool to see where your page ranks within the top 100 spots in a search engine.
- Text Optimizer: This tool rates your keyword, content, and writing-style optimization. It also provides insight on how often people are searching for that specific content, and how often that search has been already answered by others. This could be helpful for choosing niche content to blog about. However, the main downfall of this tool is that the free version doesn’t offer much, but the paid version looks really awesome. Unfortunately we will not be paying for a subscription based on two factors: 1) We think the price is steep ($60/month) and 2)as a small business, we have so many other paid subscriptions that we need to prioritize before purchasing this tool.
- Ubersuggest: This is our favorite keyword tool mainly because it’s not in your face with “RAWR! Buy our product!” advertising. Look, we’re all in marketing. We understand how this works, and we understand why you can’t offer your full service for free, but nothing annoys us more when you taunt us in our face about what we COULD have if budgets didn’t exist. Rant aside, we like the tool a lot. They score keywords on their search volume, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty, and they tell you the CPC for ads. They also include related keyword searches, and the top five articles for that search. We’re curious about the paid features, but this tool is still very valuable in its free edition.
Tagging and Trends
There are great tools to help you recognize trends in both your industry and on different social media platforms.
- Hashtagify: Enter a hashtag, and you’ll get suggestions for related hashtags. It also maps their popularity on Twitter and Instagram.
- RiteTag: Similar concept to Hashtagify. It looks at related hashtags in real time. They break it down by Twitter and Instagram results with additional statistics. There’s also a pretty detailed word map at the end of the page.
- Google Trends: Ah! We LOVE Google Trends… well, we love data, and Google Trends give you a lot of that. Google Trends graphs keyword searches for a selected amount of time (default is 12 months), and shows you related queries. This data can be used in so many ways. For example, we knew that we wanted our last blog post to be on social media policies. When we searched for that term, we noticed that there was an increase in searches for “examples of social media policies” and “social media policy template”. Using that information, it helped us outline our blog post, and let us know what keywords we needed to use. We’ve also used Google Trends to help a client who is a photographer. We searched for the keyword “photography” and saw that searches like “baby photography”, and “smoke bomb photography” were trending. We relayed that information to our client for potential inspiration in future photoshoots.
To be successful, you need to be able to quickly adapt to new information, technologies, and audiences. Learning just feels good. Here are our favorite sites to teach ourselves new skills.
- Hubspot Academy: YASSS Hubspot! They offer SEVERAL in depth courses with hours of learning. The courses have an emphasis on marketing and sales. Their courses are taught by qualified professionals, and provide a substantial amount of statistics to make you feel confident.
- Google Digital Garage: Google’s at it again! Learn digital marketing skills at your own pace with Google.
There are so many tools out there that we could go on forever. However, we know you have a life, and as much as you’re dying to spend the day on our site, there are things you HAVE to do. We have some beef with the last two that we’ll explain, but overall we think they’re worth giving a try.
- Squarespace: Okay, this one isn’t free… but it is affordable, and we’re really opinionated on why you should try it. If you would like to set up an e-commerce shop, this is the CMS you want to use. It is so intuitive, and newbie-friendly. We seriously can’t say enough good stuff about it.
- WordPress: Probably the most popular CMS/hosting service (at least for our customers). Free hosting is offered, but the features are limited. We’re a pretty tech-savvy team, and we had some trouble during our first few uses. It’s UX and UI are lacking. However, you can do A LOT with it once you figure it out. If you pay for the premium subscription, you get access to more themes, and can write custom CSS to get your site looking exactly how you want (and we just find it fun!). The absolute most frustrating thing to us is that there are a lot of cool and useful plugins… BUT you need a business account to use the plugins. Overall, it’s a great tool, but be prepared to dedicate some extra time with it.
- Hootsuite: This is a social media marketing and management tool. There are several on the market, but this is our preferred one for scheduling content. The free plan allows you to have one user, be logged into three accounts, and you can schedule 30 posts in advance on your content calendar. It lets you create “streams” acting a social media monitoring tool where you can track activity on your social profiles. The free plan is perfect if you have one or two social media managers who can share a password. We think great to use mainly for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and then just manually post on other sites (as we do not use them for daily posts). Our only complaint is the first paid plan is $29/month for 10 social profiles, unlimited scheduling, and 1 user. That seems pretty fair. However, the next plan is $129/month for 20 social profiles, unlimited scheduling, and 3 users. We have contacted their sales team and there is no in-between plan. We are just not fan on their pricing structure. The free plan is great for what it does, and we would recommend it if you are a small business.
Even though we have some concerns with the last two tools, we still totally recommend them! We’re just always going to be honest with you.
Have you tried any of these tools before or do you plan on using any of them?
This blog post was written by Sara Corbin, Owner of Good Karma Marketing. Sara likes items with unicorns on them, and is an enthusiastic gnome collector. She has a green thumb, and is aiming to grow a jungle in part of her living room.
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