25 free and not-so-expensive tools you need in order to dazzle with your content
When it comes to content, and specifically, digital content, many people assume it should cost a ton. For startups or an entrepreneurial thought leaders who are just starting out, it shouldn't. You don't need to spend too much in order to achieve the wow factor.
There's a lot of help available out there. And most of it comes in the form of easy-to-use tools and apps that are mostly free or inexpensive to use.
So whether you are a newbie or a veteran in the content marketing world, these tools can be a staple in your arsenal as they are in mine. Especially if you are trying to keep your digital content creation team slim and self-sufficient.
Since the list is quite extensive, I've divided it into the following:
Content writing platforms
Content scheduling and listening
Multimedia and content design
Planning, record keeping and collaboration
Content Writing Platforms
1. LinkedIn Pulse
LinkedIn is a leading platform for professionals. If you want to build your profile as a thought leader in your niche, it's the best place to start. It's easy to use and great for reaching exactly the kind of people you should be publishing to. All you need to do is click the little pencil icon (on your home page) and get started.
This is the only other place you should be publishing your content, whether or not you have your own personal blog. It's user friendly and syncs perfectly with Twitter.
Despite being a die-hard wix.com native, it's easy to recommend WordPress. For any website or blog, I'd recommend it because it's versatile and it powers over 30% of the internet - meaning it has a sort of home court advantage. You could start a blog on it for free although I would suggest buying a domain name and connecting that to it in order to add some credibility and professionalism to your brand, whether personal or organisational.
Content Scheduling and Listening
This is by far the best tool I've used for scheduling content for social media. It's simple to use and it offers a great free package plan, if you don't have too many accounts to handle. Another plus? The company itself is one that most should emulate and it usually shares useful content.
Hootsuite is the tool if you want to succeed in social media listening i.e. having an omnipresent look at what's happening on social media. The interface allows you to snoop on various accounts and topics at a time as well as allowing you to stay updated with what's trending.
6. Google Alerts
This is the first and obvious stop if you want to discover real-time content. Google Alerts allow you to stay updated with news and articles related to your niche topic(s). Setting them up is easy and they'll appear in your inbox as you please depending on the preferences you set.
7. Warble Alerts
This is pretty much the Google Alerts for tweets. It will send daily alerts according to the trends, hashtags and keywords you set.
8. Local Blog "Directories" e.g. Bake.co.ke for Kenya
There is nothing better than pushing content that's been created by your fellow country fellows, right?
Formerly, StumbleUpon, Mix.com is a great place to discover a wide array of articles around specific topics. Go give it a spin.
I'm never on Flipboard as regularly as I am on Mix.com, but on the off-chance that I find myself on it, I always find something interesting that's worth curating. It's definitely worth adding to your list of tools.
11. Twitter Lists
Creating lists is not just one of the tactics for gaining more followers, as I've mentioned before. It's also useful when you are in search of great content. Someone somewhere in those lists is always sharing something you'd love. Make sure you are always checking.
12. The Content Feeds in Your Own Backyard
You can also find content in your own backyard. From the blogs you've subscribed to (that are probably languishing in the Updates and Forums tabs on your Gmail inbox), to the Content Inbox offered on Buffer, to even the Content Suggestions feature that's new to LinkedIn pages. Make use of all of them.
Because it never hurts to add interesting and relevant videos to your content plan.
Pinterest is not exactly a social media platform. It is a search engine. An image search engine. And any topic under the sun can be searched via an image and possibly a link to the original website if curated. It's a great place for finding infographics and let's not forget - videos.
Multimedia and Content Design
Canva is by far the best thing since sliced bread (and, well, pizza). It allows you to sneakily create graphics by using the gazillion templates available on the platform. You can design anything from logos to e-books to animations even if you have zero-to-negative design skills. The free plan is great. The paid plan is even better.
This is a recent discovery for me. And since video is the biggest thing in content marketing right now, this tool is particularly necessary. It's pretty much the Canva for video. It has beautiful video templates and it's so impressive that the $29 a month, to get rid of the watermarks, seems kind of fair.
Podcasts are the in thing right now and if you want to get started, Anchor is where it's at. It's 100% free and as easy to use as putting your smartphone next to your mouth and talking. A few clicks later, your podcast is online. Just like that. It's just brilliant. You can find it on the Google Play Store.
If you want to capture video and edit it on your smartphone, FilmoraGo is a great choice. There will be times when it will crash, but those instances are likely to be few and far in between. Keep saving your projects as you work on them and you'll be just fine. Try it. Download it from the Google Play Store.
19. Adobe Lightroom CC
This is the only tool I cannot live without when it comes to Instagram. It has great features and is always a life-saver whenever I've wanted the photos on my feed to be uniform in tone and quality. It's available on Google Play Store.
This is the best place to go to for free and royalty-free photos that do not require any kind of attribution. I know there are many others but this is my go-to at the moment.
Long and ugly links are not very pleasing to the eye or to the cursor that's meant to click. And so Bit.ly is the best tool for shortening all the links you share on social media. Buffer integrates with Bit.ly, by the way. Most scheduling tools do. A top-level way to handle link shortening is to create custom links from short domain names you can buy so that they look like your name or your organisation's name. It's such a neat trick!
What if you could automate tiny tasks in your content strategy? Like tweeting a quote every morning (yes, I'm guilty as charged), or sharing your blog posts to your channels automatically, or tweeting content from specific news sites. All of these and more can be automated with one of my favourite online tools, IFTTT. It's worth checking out and tinkering with. You'll be amazed.
Planning, Record Keeping and Collaboration
23. Google Drive
Thank God for Google Drive. Specifically, Google Spreadsheets, which to me is way better to use for planning than Google Docs. All my content strategy templates are included in one spreadsheet or another with endless sheets carrying different information. The real-time edits and the shareability makes them perfect for collaboration.
24. Mass Follow Extension for Twitter
I have previously mentioned this as a staple for any follower management tasks on Twitter. It works on the Chrome browser. It's a lot more manual than other paid tools in the market but its free and a lot faster than single-handedly following 50+ accounts one by one.
25. Followers Assistant
This is a cheap and user friendly app that allows you to automate community management tasks on Instagram in order to grow your following. If you avoid the spam-my features like auto comments (which have backfired on me in the past), you'll be good to go. With this app, you no longer need to spend hours on end on Instagram. It will do the necessary work on your behalf. Find it on the Google Play Store.
So there it is. A list of tools to help you to dazzle with your content marketing efforts.
Try them out and let me know it goes.
In case you know of another tool or app that I might not be aware of, don't stay quiet. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line too.
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