12 incredibly useful digital tools for PR

And all but one of them are free.

What are the key social media tools that PR professionals need to go from bumbling amateur to results-driven superstar?

Here are 12 of them:

1. Google Analytics

The standard tool for website statistics, Google Analytics is free, reliable and (mostly) easy to use. Advanced ecommerce sites can benefit from heavy-duty paid-for tools, but for PR work, Google Analytics lets you get all the key information about traffic levels and content popularity, and how people find your stories.

2. Google Insights for Search

Want to know how people’s online search habits are changing and how they vary around the world? Need to see how people’s search patterns fluctuate during the year? Or just want a fun comparison between the relative online interest in God and the Devil? Google Insights for Search is your friend, providing essential data on how search terms compare.

3. Google Keywords Tool

Turn to the Google Keywords Tool to determine the keywords to optimize your online work and the terms the public uses when searching for something. It’s another free service from Google. The data is not perfect, but is still a good starting point.

4. Namechk

A simple one-page service, Namechk lets you check your desired username against over 150 different Web services and social. It is a great way to see quickly if you can get your chosen name on the services you want—and a smart way to see what services a rival brand or product name has taken up.

5. PeerIndex

No, not Klout but PeerIndex. Klout may have won most of the attention, particularly in the US, but British based PeerIndex has some better features for looking at who is making the best use of their Twitter accounts. PeerIndex’s tool that enables you to analyze all the members of a Twitter list in one fell swoop is especially nifty.

6. Facebook Insights

Relying on the total number of “likes” for a Facebook page tells you almost nothing of use. Instead you need to be an administrator of a page and plunge into the “View insights” option. Herein lies a wealth of information about who is doing what and when with your page and its content. The tool is essential for determining what is and is not working.

7. YouTube Analytics

As with Facebook, YouTube has a rich seam of data available to those who upload films. That’s a strong reason to upload videos yourself rather than leaving it to third parties. For your own videos, view them on the stand-alone YouTube page and then click on “Analytics.” Among all of the rich data look out particularly for “Audience retention” which shows how viewership fluctuates as your video goes on.

8. Google Alerts

Google’s free email alerts service is the bedrock of many a PR team. To get the most of it, take a little while to learn how to construct more advanced searches that sort the wheat from the chaff in your results.

9. Radian6

The only tool in this list that does not have a free version, Radian6 is one of the market-leading online monitoring tools and with good reason. Its big advantage over rivals is a flexible charging model. You are not tied into heavy, long-term costs and can instead stop and start searches with great flexibility at competitive prices.

10. HootSuite

Free for entry-level use and cheap for more intensive use, HootSuite enables you to manage multiple social media accounts all from one secure web page. You can schedule content and even have a team of people work effectively together to manage one or more accounts.

11. Buffer

Despite some reliability hiccups, Buffer app has become the must-have scheduling tool. Tools such as Hootsuite let you schedule social network updates but Buffer goes one step further-slotting future updates to the most effective timeslots so people read them.

12. Bit.ly

Last, but by no means least, is the most popular website with a Libyan domain name, Bit.ly (the .ly is for brevity rather than due to any Libyan origin of the tool). Originally designed with just URL shortening in mind, Bit.ly now generates useful statistics that show whether people click your link, their location, and so on.

Of course, no such list, whether it has 12 or 12,000 entries, is definitive. What is your favorite tool?

Dr. Mark Pack is head of digital at MHP Communications, one of the top 10 communications consultancies by revenue in the U.K. A version of this story first appeared on the 12 Most blog.

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Topics: PR


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