People say social media is free. It’s not. Social media marketing costs less than traditional advertising, but it’s not free. The costs of your time and tools to help you manage social media add up.
To offset some of these costs and gain back time, invest in tools that can help you:
- Manage your social media profiles
- Schedule content
- Create images
- Curate content
- Analyze your data
This sounds like an expensive list, but there are some great affordable tools (less than $20 a month) that can help you save time and take control of social media.
Whether you manage your own social media or others’ accounts, it’s important to use a tool that helps you manage everything in one place. A good management tool saves time by allowing you to post to social networks, engage with your audiences and even schedule content. Hootsuite does all of this and more free (if you manage five or fewer social media accounts).
If you need features like bulk scheduling and the ability to manage more than five accounts, the price jumps to $8.99 per month. If you need to manage social media on the go, Hootsuite offers mobile apps.
One of the hardest parts about social media is sending a steady flow of content to your audience. It’s too time-consuming to visit each site and manually post the content you share.
Enter Buffer. It allows you to create a posting schedule for your social networks and, using the Buffer browser extension or Buffer button installed on websites, send content to your Buffer queue for scheduled delivery. If you’re on the go, you can share content through Buffer on your mobile device.
If you wish to connect multiple Twitter accounts or create different posting schedules for each day of the week, you can upgrade to the Awesome Plan for only $10 a month.
3. Social Oomph
This is one of my new favorite posting tools. While it’s not free, $6.97 every two weeks for the Twitter Unlimited Plan is very reasonable.
Social Oomph is similar to Buffer. You can use it for scheduling, but unlike Buffer, you can upload a set of tweets to a queue, and Social Oomph will tweet them automatically. This is effective for reposting evergreen content. The best part about this tool is that after your queue runs out, Social Oomph recycles the queue and starts again. This is a huge time saver.
I created a queue of 40 posts that I scheduled to go out every three hours, and noticed a dramatic increase in traffic to those posts.
Not everyone can afford a graphic designer or Photoshop. That’s where PicMonkey saves the day. It’s an easy-to-use image-editing tool that allows you to apply filters, touch up images, add text and borders, and even apply overlays and themes.
PicMonkey is easy to use and available in two flavors: a free version that offers plenty, or a $4.99 per month option that gives you access to more fonts, themes and filters.
If you look to create an image from scratch but don’t want to hire a graphic designer or pay for Photoshop, Canva may be the tool for you.
This tool offers a great selection of pre-sized templates to fit almost any social network requirement. You can use the free elements (there’s a variety to choose from), or the paid elements that only cost a dollar each.
Canva is easy to use and makes designing images quick and painless.
I would be lost without Feedly. It’s my go-to information source that helps me discover new content for sharing.
You can use Feedly as a feed reader or content discovery source. The free version has a number of integrated options, like the ability to send to Instapaper, tag an article, save it for later and more. With a pro account you’ll get faster feed refresh times, integration with Buffer, Hootsuite, Evernote and Pocket, custom sharing tools, and premium support. All that will set you back only $5 per month.
Finding content to share to your social networks can be difficult, but it’s necessary to keep your audience engaged. Scoop.it is free (or $12.99 per month for additional features like analytics and no restrictions on how many times you publish), and can help you discover new content to share with your communities. I enjoy Scoop.it’s discovery aspect, as it allows me to find content from blogs I may have never seen otherwise.
8. Google Docs
While visual content is hot in social media right now, written content is still tops in content creation. You can purchase an office suite, or use Google’s cloud-powered office suite that includes tools for creating documents, spreadsheets, slide decks, and even document collaboration. All your content is stored on the cloud for easy access from multiple devices and computers.
9. Google Analytics
If you want to know how people find your site, what they look at, how they interact with pages, where they come from, and how long they stay on your site, you need an analytics tool.
One of the best free analytics tools is Google Analytics. This is the platform most people think of for analyzing traffic, and the one I recommend most. You can use it to mine all those great bits of user data, which help you come up with new content ideas or find and fix user issues within your site.
Along with creating custom UTM parameters with the Google URL Builder, you can use Bit.ly to create shortened URLs you can track on each social network on which you share them. This can help you determine where most of your social media traffic comes from, which social networks produce the most shares, and on which social networks you need to build a more engaged audience.
SumAll is another analytics tool. It’s free (with a paid option at $19 per month), and does some things Google Analytics just can’t match.
While Google is heavy on data and numbers, SumAll presents your data in customizable graphs and charts. Unlike Google Analytics, where you place code onto your website to begin tracking data, SumAll has you connect platforms to the service. You can connect all the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as well as Google Analytics, Moz, Basecamp, Bit.ly, and more. Once connected, you can view data such as retweets, mentions, and other social media metrics, or view a chart containing any metrics you want.
I love that you can stack data in SumAll to get a cause-and-correlation view of what you have been doing. For example, I like to look at my tweets and follower count to see if I get more followers on the days I tweet more. This helps you make more informed decisions about your social media strategy.
If you’re looking for the Swiss army knife of tools, then IFTTT could be your solution. This application has a seemingly endless everyday uses. It does everything from making you more productive to helping you manage mundane social media tasks.
IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That.” That means when something happens, something should be done. There are “recipes” that can help you post Instagram photos to Twitter natively, send content to your read-it-later app of choice and send Google+ posts to Twitter. If that’s not enough, you can create your own recipes.
I use IFTTT in conjunction with Feedly to send content to Evernote, and to turn off my phone’s ringer at bedtime and turn it on again in the morning to wake me up. There are so many useful recipes for IFTTT. A simple search through the site will yield some gems.
Many of the free plans offered by these tools do about everything you could ever want them to. They help you manage your daily social media activities, be more productive and create new content-all without your spending a cent.
What are some of your favorite budget-friendly social media tools?
This article was published with permission, courtesy of 12 Most.