27 outstanding online tools for communicators

Email, project management, teleconferencing and much more can become easier with these helpful sites and plug-ins. Check them out to see which might work best for you.

When I speak—particularly when I do my three-hour CEO workshop—I offer a list of tools that everyone should, at the very least, check out.

Most are free, but we have tested some premium tools and know them to be effective for the types of work I recommend.

I used to hand out a list of those tools and URLs, but one attendee quipped: I love that you talk about digital media and then hand us a piece of paper with your recommended tools.

I do that because the audience for those workshops are mostly old school and appreciate that more. (Also, the sheet of paper is branded so they always have my contact information.)

Still, I took the teasing to heart and figured this would be valuable to everyone, not just those who take that workshop.

Here are 27 tools we recommend:

1. Asana. We start with project management software. I prefer Basecamp (below), but Asana is free for up to 15 people. So, if you’re just starting out with project management or if you have a small team, it’d be a great tool for you.

2. Basecamp. This is my favorite for a few reasons: You can check things off a list, you can add the client to a project, you can assign projects with or without the client seeing, you can set up recurring tasks and more. You can use one project for free, and then pricing starts at $29 per month.

3. ConvertKit. We are just beginning to test this, but from what I hear, it’s much better than Infusionsoft or anything else. So far, I’m really happy with it. It’s easy to use, it’s intuitive, and it seems to be pretty powerful. It costs a bit more than Mailchimp, but its features are more robust.

4. Dropbox. When we moved to a virtual office, we were forced to use a server in the cloud. It was scary at first, mostly because no one was doing it, but I would never go back to changing tapes every night and carrying them home with me so we always had a backup. I prefer Dropbox over anything else, because when I’m on a plane without Wi-Fi, I can still access our files.

5. Excel. This probably seems like a strange tool to include, but I recommend Excel to anyone and everyone, because we all know how to use it and it’s very powerful. Some things don’t require fancy software, such as cash flow projections, communications dashboards and metrics tracking.

6. Facebook Live. I generally recommend livestreaming, but I prefer Facebook because you can download the videos and save them forever. Also, they’re soon going to allow you to add other people to your videos.

7. Google Alerts. It’s pretty easy to monitor the web, social media mentions and blog comments with Google Alerts. Just enter your search term(s) and your email address and—voila—you’ll receive a daily email with links to mentions of your search term.

8. Google Analytics. How do you know what is working and what isn’t if you don’t review your analytics? It’s free, it’s available on every website, and it’s something that you should review weekly.

9. Google Cardboard. Early this year Cision sent me a Google Cardboard virtual reality headset, and I have been hooked ever since. For a mere $15 you can have one, too. Just download an app to your phone, slide it in the back of Cardboard, and you’re in virtual reality. I recommend it as a gift to top prospects. Brand the thing, and send it out.

10. Google Drive. Though I prefer Dropbox for file storage, I love Drive for sharing files outside our organization. Sure, you can do the same with Dropbox, but it seems easier with Drive. This saves you from having to send attachments via email, and it prevents having to download and house the file on your hard drive.

11. Hootsuite. This is my preference for social media management, though some on my team also use Sprout Social or Buffer. If your job is not social media management, however, Hootsuite is a great tool to manage, review, monitor and engage in one spot.

12. HubSpot. I recommend this tool to anyone starting out with content marketing, email automation and lead generation. It’s not cheap (starts at $200 per month), but it’s the cheapest of anything else out there-and the best of anything in their price range.

13. Infusionsoft. I hate Infusionsoft. It’s not intuitive. It’s not user friendly. Heck, you have to take five days of training to be able to use it—but it’s the most powerful tool on the market. I’m hoping ConvertKit will replace it, but right now, it’s the best tool (once you figure out how to use it) for marketing automation, customer relationship management and segmentation and data analysis.

14. Insightly. This is a customer relationship management software, but I recommend it for something else. With a free account, you can upload your database, and it will pump out a pretty chart that gives you all the demographic information you could want about your clients and prospects.

15. LeadPages. I discovered LeadPages a year ago, and I’ve never looked back. It’s a WordPress plug-in that enables you to create beautiful landing pages without the help of a designer or programmer. It gives communicators total control. I use it for everything from webinar landing pages to blog subscription pages. I love it.

16. Mailchimp. This is, by far, the best email marketing solution out there, if you’re just starting out. It doesn’t start to get unruly until you reach 10,000 subscribers and/or you are trying to get more information out of your subscribers, such as sales lead timing or purchase intent. Until then, it’s a perfect tool, and you don’t need anything fancier.

17. OptIn Monster. This tool is, by far, the best out there. I know marketers hate pop-ups, but you’d be shocked to see our stats on how many Spin Sucks subscribers we get from this tool. It has “exit intent,” so no one gets a pop-up until they try to leave the site.

18. PESO Model. I recommend PESO Model to everyone I meet. It’s the only way to fully integrate a communications program and measure its effectiveness.

19. Postmatic. It enables readers to comment on and engage with other readers right from your inbox. You never have to go to the blog (unless you want to). For publishers, it gives you control of your readers. With every other commenting system, they keep the email addresses of the people who comment. With Postmatic, the email addresses are all right in your admin area.

20. Pulse. LinkedIn Pulse is the most powerful sales tool out there, because you can post content and LinkedIn gives you the information about who is “liking” and commenting. If they are second or third connections, you suddenly have yourself a warm lead.

21. Samcart. I recommend this is the shopping cart to everyone because it integrates with the tools you’re already using and it’s ridiculously easy to set up. It’s very intuitive and user friendly, so if you sell something online, start here.

22. Sanebox. I am in love with Sanebox. There is almost nothing better than going from 400 emails a day to maybe 30. Life got a lot less stressful for me when I installed this, and because I’m diligent about constantly training it, it’s been very, very good to me.

23. Slack. When Spin Sucks started using Slack, it replaced email and has enabled us to build a virtual watercooler. I can see conversations about client work-stuff I didn’t see before because I wasn’t copied on emails (thankfully) or I wasn’t in the client meetings. It helps me to keep an eye on things without micromanaging or stepping in at all.

24. Talkwalker Alerts. I prefer this to Google Alerts. It produces better results, and it hooks into Hootsuite so I can have the alerts go there instead of my inbox. Because they land in Hootsuite, it’s easy for me to schedule and share right from there.

25. WebinarNinja. I’m intrigued by these Google Hangout webinar overlays, but I don’t really love that they’re reliant on the tool. (WebinarJam is a good example of this.) WebinarNinja recently moved to WebRTC, so it’s not reliant on Hangouts and there isn’t a Google watermark on everything. We recently adopted it for our monthly and evergreen webinars.

26. WordPress. What the heck did we do without WordPress? It is, hands down, the best content management system out there. Of course, it also gives you way too much power: Our developer makes fun of me, because I’ve built Spin Sucks on plug-ins inside WordPress. It’ll probably all come tumbling down at some point, but we have a redo on the books this year.

27. Zoom. We end with my most favorite tool of all-video conferencing. They assign you a number (akin to a phone number), and you can hold all of your meetings in that one spot. Though it doesn’t replace in-person meetings, it comes close. Even if you work in an office, everyone should have this tool.

What’s on your list?

A version of this article first appeared on SpinSucks.

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