I know a little about social-media tools, like how to get more leads and referrals on LinkedIn, how to find awesome LinkedIn groups, how to optimize your LinkedIn profile so other people can more easily find you, and how some people use the power of LinkedIn to irritate the living crap out of others.
But since my knowledge tends to be mainly LinkedIn focused, that means I don't know a lot about the myriad of social-media tools available for businesses.
So I asked for help, and Kevan Lee of Buffer, the tool that lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social-media updates, rode to my rescue.
He's tested over 100 different tools and narrowed the field to the 60 he likes best. The list is broken down into categories: Twitter tools, Facebook tools, analytics tools, visual-content tools, monitoring tools, content tools, WordPress tools, and miscellaneous tools, so feel free to jump ahead to the sections you're most interested in.
Here's Kevan's reasoning: "Banana Republic and Susan's Neighborhood Shirt Shop could be using the same social networks--Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.--but their marketing plans and their marketing tools are likely quite different. Enterprise solutions are great for the big guys, but the rest of us are in the market for something more our size.
"Small businesses are eager to find valuable tools that take a lot of the time and trouble out of social-media marketing and that do so without costing an arm and a leg. Hopefully you find one or two here you can use in your marketing that will produce big results."
Here's Kevan's list:
Dashboards & Management Tools
A complete Twitter management tool (that also comes complete with Buffer integration), SocialBro can tell you everything you want to know about your Twitter account: community information, analytics on all your posts, and much, much more. There's a 15-day free trial to test out all the features.
Put it to use: The community insights are fascinating, and there's real value to be gained from the tweet analytics that show which posts got the most engagement, and when.
Now owned by Twitter, Tweetdeck is one of the most popular tools for complete Twitter management. Tweetdeck lets you track, organize, and engage with your followers through a customizable dashboard where you can see at a glance the activity from different lists, followers, hashtags, and more.
Put it to use: What do you find yourself checking when you go to Twitter? Whatever that is, add it to your Tweetdeck dashboard to see everything in one view. Could be a huge time saver.
Tweetcaster is a Twitter management tool for iOS and Android devices and provides the basics of what you'd expect from a Twitter dashboard plus a few fun extras: enhanced search and lists, hiding unwanted tweets, and photo effects for your images.
Put it to use: Keep the app on the first screen of your phone and tablet so you can easily dip in and out of your Twitter streams when time allows.
Followerwonk is one of our favorite ways to analyze and optimize our Twitter accounts at Buffer. With Followerwonk, you can do all sorts of amazingly helpful things, like analyze your Twitter followers, compare different users, and search through bios--all for free. There are even more features--like tracking and sorting your followers--that you can access with a 30-day trial.
Put it to use: One of our favorite uses of Followerwonk is to take the time-of-day charts and sync to a Buffer account. You can also take a close up look at various stats from the people you follow to see which accounts you could prune because of, say, inactivity.
Social Rank identifies your top 10 followers in three specific areas: Best Followers, Most Engaged, and Most Valuable. Your most engaged followers are those who interact with you most often (replies, retweets, and favorites); your most valuable followers are the influential accounts; and your best followers are a combination of the two. Social Rank will run the numbers for free and show you the results today, then follow-up each month with an email report.
Put it to use: Social Rank can help you hone your Twitter focus so you're aware of followers who might deserve extra attention. You can even place these MVPs onto a specific Twitter list.
For quite a while I read the name of this tool as Manager "Filter," which actually isn't too far off from what ManageFlitterdoes. The Twitter tool helps you filter whom you follow and easily unfollow, say, those who don't follow you back, who've never changed their profile photos, and who are inactive.
Put it to use: You can batch select groups of inactive or non-following users in order to give yourself a better following count (and closer to a golden ratio).
Must Be Present
Built by the team at Sprout Social, Must Be Present searches your Twitter account to find how quickly you respond to mentions. Their engagement reports place you in a percentile based on other accounts so you can see how you stack up to the speed of others.
Put it to use: Set goals for response time on Twitter and use Must Be Present to track them. Aim for a certain percentile or a particular average response time.
Find out when you'll receive the most exposure for your tweets by letting Tweriod analyze your account. A Tweriod reports breaks your account down into daily and hourly windows when you can expect the highest engagement.
Put it to use: If you use social-media scheduling apps for your automation, it goes without saying to share at optimal times. Use your Tweriod insights to check your scheduling or plan your social-media drive-bys for those times.
Tweepi has a number of useful Twitter features, many of which fall into a couple categories: managing your followers and supercharging who you're following. For management, you can unfollow in batches those who don't follow you back, and you can bulk follow another account's complete list of followers or who they're following.
Put it to use: Try the cleanup section to bulk edit your connections on Twitter.
To schedule tweets from any app, simply ask Tweet4me to do it for you. Once you're signed up, you can send a direct message that contains a certain prefix containing information on when and what to post.
Put it to use: If you find yourself double-booked and needing to post to Twitter in 30 minutes, Tweet4Me could be your saving grace.
Commun.it can help you organize, increase, and manage your followers, and can do so across multiple accounts and profiles. At a glance you can see different aspects of your community management, like the latest tweets from your stream and which new followers might appreciate a welcome message.
Put it to use: Keep on top of whom you should follow by listening to Commun.it's advice on the most influential accounts around your brand.
Twtrland provides a snapshot of your Twitter profile and can even track Facebook and Instagram as well. Two of Twtrland's most helpful tools are a live count of how many followers are currently online and advanced search functionality that includes keywords, locations, and companies.
Put it to use: Local companies can perform a location search to see which area accounts are most popular and potentially worth following.
A super-powered Twitter search tool, NeedTagger runs language filters and keyword searches to determine which Twitter users might need your products or services. The tool shows you real-time search results and sends a daily email digest of new finds.
Put it to use: Build a Twitter list of potential customers so you can learn and understand their needs and how they communicate.
The click tracking at Tweeter Spy can determine which tweets result in the most traffic back to your site. To install it, you'll need to insert a line of code on your website.
Put it to use: Tweeter Spy has a neat feature that allows you to "Say Thanks" (with a tweet) to Twitter profiles who refer big traffic to your site.
For those looking to feed an RSS of a blog straight to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn profiles, Twitter Feed has you covered. Simply enter your feed, connect your social accounts, and send your posts complete with tracking tools for follow-up.
Put it to use: If you have feeds for separate categories on your blog, you can set up Twitter Feed to blast only particular content, such as product announcements or featured content.
This Twitter tool shows you the reach and exposure of the tweets you send, collecting data on who retweets you and the influence of each.
Put it to use: Identify which of your tweets has spread the furthest (and why) and then try to repeat the formula with future tweets.
Twazzup offers real-time monitoring and analytics for Twitter on any name, keyword, or hashtag you choose. The Twazzup results page delivers interesting insights like the top influencers for your keyword and which top links are associated with your search.
Put it to use: You can track your first and last name to see what is said about you outside of direct @-replies. You might be particularly interested to peek at the links and influencers associated with your name.
Topsy is as a powerful search engine for Twitter content. Want to know how a certain term is being used on Twitter? You can search links, tweets, photos, videos, and influencers.
Put it to use: See how often your blog is being linked to on Twitter. Type in "site:yourdomain.com" and you can see how many tweets have included links back to your website.
What changes should you make to your Facebook page? LikeAlyzer will tell you. This Facebook analysis tool comes up with stats and insights into your page and begins every report with a list of recommendations.
Put it to use: Keep track of where yours stands compared to other pages by following the comparison to average page rank, industry-specific page rank, and rank of similar brands.
Fanpage Karma shows a variety of valuable information related to your Facebook page, such as growth, engagement, service and response time, and of course Karma (a weighted engagement value).
Put it to use: FanKarma also provides insight into Twitter and YouTube; the latter could be particularly valuable if you're creating a video marketing strategy.
Wolfram Alpha Facebook Report
The knowledge engine of Wolfram Alpha has a neat tool to analyze your Facebook profile. Their Facebook report (a free feature with any Wolfram account) is incredibly detailed--everything from the content you share to the relationship status pie charts of your friends.
Put it to use: See at a glance how your profile updates are received. If you use your personal Facebook for marketing your business, you can optimize the type of content you share to your profile.
Facebook Custom Audiences
If you're advertising on Facebook you can use a handy, built-in tool to cater to a specific audience of your choosing by telling Facebook whom to target. Upload an Excel file or link directly to your MailChimp lists. Facebook will create a custom audience based on which of your contacts are on Facebook. This feature can be added by clicking on the Audiences link inside Facebook's Ads Manager.
Put it to use: Create custom campaigns that target a list of leads or customers. You can be extremely specific with ads, since the demographic already has a familiarity with your brand. (Facebook recommends that audience sizes be at least 1,000 people so that your ad dollars are well spent.)
Social Media Analytics Tools
Ever wonder what your competition is up to? Rival IQ tracks a list of brands of your choosing and monitors their activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and even SEO. Your free 14-day trial gives you full access to competitor tracking and the dashboards for each of the different networks and search factors.
Put it to use: Rival IQ provides insight into the competition but also insight into an industry as a whole. For instance, learn from the "Day of the Week" chart when content from your industry is most likely to go viral.
Curious what the most popular content is on any given topic or website? Buzz Sumo has this covered with a search tool that tracks content and ranks according to shares on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Pinterest.
Put it to use: With Buzz Sumo you can use the insights to steer the content you create and share on social media, learn how to craft headlines, and determine the types of content each network is most interested in.
Klout is one of the more-well known tools on this list. It collects information on a person's various social profiles to come up with a popularity score of 1 to 100 and then lets you follow your score over time as it ebbs and flows.
Put it to use: The site has added quite a bit of functionality beyond Klout scores. You can now track topics, view content suggestions, and post straight to your connected social profiles.
Put it to use: Click over to SharedCount's multi-URL dashboard to see a table of multiple URLs for a week's worth of content.
Google URL Builder
If you're dabbling in advanced campaign tracking, you've likely read about UTM tracking codes in links. A UTM code is basically extra characters at the end of a link that help flesh out your analytics reports, showing you where your traffic came from and what campaigns they are associated with. URL Builder is a free tool that creates UTMs for you.
Put it to use: Add a UTM tracking to all links that are associated with a single marketing push so you can better measure the impact and ROI from a particular event.
Visual Content Tools
Infogr.am helps you build sparkling infographics by entering information directly into the Infogram spreadsheets built into the editor. Standard features are there, too, like design templates and a full design editor.
Put it to use: Visualize a monthly report for your business and share this on social media. You'll get the boost of visual content plus transparency.
Piktochart is a free-to-try infographic creator with a full editor and themes to turn your data into a work of art.
Put it to use: The next time you have overly complicated (or lengthy) numbers to share, try putting them into a visual design.
If you'd like an extra hand creating visual content such as infographics and charts, you can hit the Visually marketplace and find professionals to do the work for you. Visually specializes in infographics, videos, interactives, and presentations.
Put it to use: While prices are relatively low, it's still an investment (infographics start at $1,000, for example.) Save your Visually needs for a rainy day and then make a big splash with a feature announcement video or a presentation for investors.
There's a lot to love about Canva. This graphic-design app has an incredibly intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and the tooltips and templates make it ideal for beginner designers. Everything is free unless you choose to use an image from Canva's library of stock photos.
Put it to use: One of Canva's default templates is a Pinterest graphic that comes premade with optimal size for a pin (735 pixels wide by 1102 pixels tall.)
A tool we use regularly on the Buffer blog, Compfight is our source for creative commons images to accompany our content. For social-media posts, images like these can be great additions to a visual-content strategy (just be sure to give credit where credit is due--each Compfight picture comes with attribution.)
Put it to use: Build a small library of free-to-use photos for upcoming social sharing. Sometimes you may come across a good image that just doesn't quite fit your needs. Save it for later in your Dropbox or on a private WordPress page.
A good graphics program can be a boon to your social-media marketing. BeFunky is one of the best--and easiest--around, with a complete suite of image editing tools for cropping, scaling, filters, text, and more.
Put it to use: I'm sure you've seen inspirational quotes placed beautifully onto photos. Visual content like this is ideal for social networks, and you can pull it off easily with BeFunky.
Who doesn't love GIFs? If your social-media presence is strong on a site like Tumblr or Google Plus then having GIF-making capabilities can come in handy. LICEcap is a downloadable program that creates GIFs from what you see on your screen.
Put it to use: Create a GIF of your product or service in action so you can share with fans and potential customers.
Social-Media Monitoring Tools
A good problem to have is when it's difficult to keep track of all the different places you get mentioned on social media.Mention prides itself on "going beyond Google Alerts" to track absolutely anywhere your name or your company might be mentioned online.
Put it to use: You might be surprised to find out how often people tweet and share your name online without an @-mention (I know I was). When you subscribe to Mention's daily email you get all these wayward hits right in your inbox, and the Web dashboard even flags certain mentions as high priority.
Digests can be a neat way to track your social media metrics, and NutshellMail collects your activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and even places like Yelp and Foursquare) to provide an email overview of your accounts. You set how often and when you want to receive the recap emails.
Put it to use: If you have a weekly metrics plan you can have NutshellMail send a message once a week with an overview of your accounts. You can then extract the data and insights straight into your weekly report.
As a tracking tool, SocialMention has some neat bonus insights beyond their in-depth keyword tracking. SocialMention tracks areas such as sentiment, passion, reach, and strength to not just tell you what's being said about your search but how those reactions feel.
Put it to use: While you track your brand or yourself, you can also see how your sentiment changes over time. Are your mentions positive or negative? And how will this change from month to month and week to week?
This tracking tool keeps track of your hashtag campaign or keyword on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with a full dashboard of analytics, demographics, and influencers.
Put it to use: Start a hashtag around an upcoming event and keep track of the popularity of the tag before, during, and after.
Social-Media Content Tools
The daily email from News.me contains the top five stories shared by your networks on Twitter and Facebook. (The email is co-branded with Digg.)
Put it to use: The News.me email arrives every morning, so you can add the email to your social-media workflow. Check what your networks are most interested in and then respond right away.
Feedly is one of the best RSS services because it does all the basics of RSS well (feed organization, display, etc.) and innovates with some really helpful new features. Plus it works and looks great on any device.
Put it to use: You can follow any number of relevant blogs and sites in your industry and if you're pressed for time, simply scan Feedly's share counts next to each story or turn on the Featured posts section to quickly pick out the content that is most valuable and shared.
With Pocket you can grab the content on your social networks and read it later in a stripped down, easy-on-the-eye view.
Put it to use: Combined with IFTTT or Zapier (see below), you can send favorite stories straight from Pocket to Twitter.
Paper.li lets you create a daily newspaper of your favorite tweets and stories to share with your followers.
Put it to use: Create an industry-specific daily or weekly newspaper, and take advantage of the extra opportunity to connect with and recognize some of your influencers.
Looking for new content to share? (Aren't we all?) Swayy can be a helpful tool for finding stories based on your interests as determined by what you've shared before. Connect your Twitter or Facebook account for free and Swayy will check your audience for the type of content they might like best and make suggestions.
Put it to use: Sharing interesting content on social media is a great way to build your authority and expertise on a topic. Customize Swayy's suggested topic matches so that you get only the most accurate suggestions.
Team collaboration on social media can be a very helpful asset when it comes to keeping a queue filled. Pie is designed to make this process as simple as possible since you can collect the great stories you find online and chat about them with your team. There's even a Pie extension that makes it possible to add stories straight from a browser.
Put it to use: Collect the cool stories you find online, and use feedback from your co-workers to decide what gets shared to your social accounts. You can make it as simple as a two-like minimum for getting the go-ahead to post.
The free version of Bottlenose's enterprise tool helps you search and discover new content from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The tool highlights trending content based on your interests.
Put it to use: If your brand is big into LinkedIn, this may be a helpful tool for discovering popular content from the network.
Built by the team at Buffer, the Digg Digg plugin adds a floating share bar to all of your posts so your readers can easily share to Twitter, Facebook, Buffer, and almost 20 more sites.
Put it to use: If a floating bar isn't your style or doesn't fit with your blog layout, customize the Digg Digg bar to appear fixed at the top or bottom of every post.
Built by the team at Digital Telepathy, Flare is a social share plugin for WordPress sites and part of an overall website-boosting suite of products delivered through the Filament plugin. Filament allows you to drag and drop your social share buttons wherever you'd like on your site.
Put it to use: Find the place that makes the most sense for your share buttons--sidebar, header, footer, etc.--and fix it up easily.
Another part of Digital Telepathy's Filament plugin is Ivy, a simple tool that allows your website visitors to highlight any passage of text and share directly to Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Put it to use: Ideally your visitors will be the ones putting this tool to use, but you can help them along with a little prodding to "highlight to share."
"Pin It" Button for Images
Add a "Pin It" button to all the images on your blog with this free WordPress plugin. Each time a visitor hovers over an image, they'll see a stylized "Pin It" button appear on the image and can share directly to Pinterest.
Put it to use: If you are hoping to attract more Pinterest shares to your blog, the Pinterest button for images could be a real boon. It's great for blogs with lots of highly visual content.
This tool for LinkedIn connections works as a digital tickle file. Place your contacts into different columns for weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual reminders to get in touch with your contacts.
Put it to use: Place your key influencers into a monthly column to make staying regular contact automatic.
With Rapportive you can get a heap of information on each of your email contacts, including the social accounts they're connected with and where they are employed. (Currently Rapportive works only with Gmail.)
Put it to use: When you make a new connection over email, Rapportive can show you how to follow up for connections on their various social networks.
Shortening a URL on Twitter can be a must as you try to squeeze inside the 140-character limit. Bitly is one of the original link shorteners (and integrated with Buffer, too). If you use Bitly on its own you'll get a full history of the link's performance as well as an overview of all the links you've ever shared.
Put it to use: You can use Bitly outside of Twitter. Consider cleaning up some long or ugly URLs when you're posting to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google Plus or even when you're writing an email or e-book.
Rev is a complete transcription and translation service that can help convert audio or English into the format and language you need.
Put it to use: If you conduct interviews of your customers, use Rev to convert audio to text for easier assimilation intomarketing personas or social-media profiles.
ShareRoot Board Cover Creator
ShareRoot has a handful of tools for boosting Pinterest engagement, promotion, and measuring. Some tools are inactive or under development, but one that is live now is a Pinterest Board Cover Creator that lets you create images to use as the cover for your different pin boards.
Put it to use: Build some really awesome Pinterest covers to make your overall page stand out to new visitors.
An app for iOS and Android, Jelly is billed as a social search engine--you ask questions with photos, maps, and friends and then receive answers from people who know best. For instance, show your location and get recommendations from locals on where to eat.
Put it to use: Brands can connect on Jelly and then view which of their followers on other social networks are active on the service. This gives brands an extra opportunity to connect and add value where their customers spend their time.
SteadyDemand's Google Plus Page Audit
For an overview of the health of your Google Plus page, use SteadyDemand's tool to investigate what's working and what's not. The tool couldn't be simpler: just input the URL of your company's Google Plus page (ours was https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bufferapp/posts) and then see the report on all your page activity.
Put it to use: Google Plus insights are much harder to come by than those on Facebook and Twitter, so tools like this can help show you if all your G+ marketing has been worth it.
Are videos a part of your social-media marketing plan? If you're anxious to jump into video content, Powtoon can be a free way to test and see if it might work for you. With Powtoon you can create and edit video clips and upload them straight to YouTube.
Put it to use: Put together a product demo for what you sell and share on social media to give people a visual demonstration of your business.
Put it to use: Scan the business cards of new contacts and quickly see on LinkedIn any connections you have in common.
Social is just a small part of what IFTTT can do. The Internet automation app can do everything from texting tomorrow's weather to automatically updating Twitter with your Instagram photos. IFTTT connects with more than 90 channels, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Put it to use: You can sync IFTTT with your Buffer account to schedule things like Buffering each Twitter post you favorite.
Zapier is a bigger version of IFTTT--more channels to connect but not quite free. You do get to create five free recipes before upgrading, so you can try out Zapier with tools like MailChimp and Disqus and 250 more.
Put it to use: You can sync your email campaigns with your social accounts, sending links to your campaigns as tweets, posts, or Buffers to all your favorite social places.
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About the Author
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden