Having a small business is sort of a package deal - like almost anything else, there's good, and there's bad, but more importantly, there is a VERY high level of stress.
Many people like it - I'd assume the majority of the entrepreneurs indeed. Understandably, if this is not your cup of tea, you would get very frustrated quite quickly and just give up on the entire thing.
But even for those who absolutely love the #EntrepreneurLife sometimes the stress gets too much; managing a company, even a small one, requires an incredible amount of stamina and psychological strength, not to mention a pretty wide range of professional skills. The image of someone who's just telling people what to do is long gone from your head, along with the hope that you might eventually quit working after dinner.
Why are we discussing this? Because, like most things in life, your everyday work can be optimized, thus reducing at least partially the stress we all endure.
Moreover, the tools I've prepared for you today are going to help you raise your productivity as well, allowing you to do more work in the same amount of time and making fewer efforts.
We'll be talking about a specific part of your jobs, and that is the marketing side. Marketing is, of course, the foundation of everything - without proper promotion, even the most genius of products will just get lost into the thousands of other products.
Most people know that, and they dedicate a lot of time and money to develop their marketing and make the best of it, regardless of whether they do it themselves or they hire an agency. Our goal today will be to amplify the results of your efforts if you have decided to do things on your own!
So, without further ado, let's dive into this article and see what useful tools you will bring home today.
Hootsuite - a social media management software
If you've never heard of Social Media Management tool, you're not alone.
SMM tools are designed to help you with managing the content you publish in your social channels. This seems like an easy task, but the more you do it, the harder it gets because you discover how much work you need to actually put it - from planning and creating content to publishing it and analyzing the results.
Let's take Facebook - you need to plan what you will publish (at least somewhat) then you need to make creatives for it. You then need to do some copywriting and develop the perfect text that will go along with those creatives. You need to consider when your audience is online and whether you share the same timezone, then schedule your post if you don't want to submit it right away.
After a while, you need to take a look at your insights and analyze which post indeed performs well (and possibly why).
Things get even worse when you expand and start using other platforms as well - Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. The time zone your audience is online will vary; you will have to login to several accounts in order to publish and analyze the results etc. If you are a marketing agency and manage several accounts, this can become quite an overwhelming task.
This is where this kind of tool enters the scene. The main point here is to have it all in one place - whatever social media channels you're using, you can control them from the same spot, synthesizing the information and reading the analytics.
My favorite tool in the past was Buffer - which is still a very cool platform. The interface is very intuitive and simplified and they keep upgrading the software, adding new features very often.
The problem I have there is that they defined their price based on post number, and the small plan allows you to have up to 100 posts per month, which can go by pretty fast if you keep an active Twitter account or other social media where you post 5-10 posts a day. If that's the case, you need to switch to the next available price plan, which is at $65/month and that can be rather pricey for a lot of people.
So, instead, let's take a look at Hootsuite, where the plan starts at $29/month (actually, it can go down to $19/month if you pay it annually)
These guys are pretty amazing, honestly. They offer an extremely detailed product, which includes not only 20 social media channels, but also a very elaborated dashboard.
The bad thing about Hootsuite is that it looks a bit complicated, so you will have to dedicate some time to go through its option (although you might not use them all).
So, the basic function is clear - you can schedule posts, therefore automate your workflow. It might seem like something unnecessary, but think how some days you have a lot of free time and others you're just absolutely jammed with work. You can use this time to plan and schedule your posts, then just sit back and do your other tasks without worrying about it.
You can also look at the Analytics, which I think are pretty well selected, even though they aren't as detailed as the ones you'll find in the respective social media. By the way, the dashboard looks way better than Facebook or Twitter analytics from a purely aesthetic point of view.
They've recently released a new feature called Assignments, which act like sort of task management (but related to your social media, of course).
One of the more awesome features I think they have is the Apps section, where you're allowed to install additional applications and use them directly from there - for example, Google My Business.
Finally, it has even the option to promote your posts directly from the software, so you really don't need to leave the site, unless of course, you want to do some serious digging in the Analytics.
Canva - a designer tool
As someone who isn't a very good designer - if at all - I have to say that this tool was a game-changer for me. If you have been around doing social media posts, chances are you already know it, but in case you don't, let me introduce you to a tool that will absolutely level up your marketing game.
Everybody knows that today is very difficult to capture your potential customer's attention without visual material. It's very unlikely that you will see any kind of brand material that doesn't have a picture, video, infographic etc.
But what if you don't have a designer and don't know how to use Photoshop except to resize your pictures?
Well, then you get something like Canva. I've been using this tool for years now and I can sincerely tell you it's one of the best instruments in my marketing toolbox.
The major point here is that you have hundreds, if not thousands of templates for all kind of graphic and web design - from social media, to blog banners, calendars, business cards, infographics, stories, invitations and basically anything else you can think of.
Once you've chosen your design format - say you want to make a Twitter or a Facebook post, you will be taken to choose between a wide variety of templates for the specific format you've chosen.
Usually, all the elements in there can be modified and you can also upload custom fonts, images (like your logo), pictures, choose colors - absolutely anything you may need to create your personalized design.
Canva also just released a very cool video option that allows you to insert a video in a specific part of the design, therefore, creating an animated post.
So far, all they have in terms of animated design were separate elements and the one type of animated post which is just square for now (800x800px)
Last but not least, there are two very important options that may save you a lot of time - the resizing option and the integrated platforms.
The resizing option is pretty self-explanatory - say you've created a design for Facebook, and now you want to adapt it to Twitter - you just need to click once, and it's done (although you will still have to adjust it manually).
By the way, if you create a logo, once you download it, it will automatically offer to resize it in a business card, which is really a nice touch.
The integrated options are extremely awesome, let me tell you that right away. So, in order to access them, you just need to click on More at the top left corner, and you will see them pop up on the left side of your screen.
There you will find two great free image banks - Pexel and Pixabay, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Emoji section etc. This means you will have the option to get images directly and videos from these places (obviously, for Facebook and Instagram only from the account you can actually log in to) and you can even integrate Youtube videos and Google maps in your images!
Keep in mind that Canva (like Hootsuite) does offer a free plan, but it's pretty limited, so I would recommend the paid version - it's an absolute steal for $13/month.
Buzzsumo - a content management tool
If you haven't heard of a content management tool, don't skip away this paragraph and let me introduce you to something that can be extremely useful for you. As the name would suggest, Buzzsumo will help you manage many things related to your content (mainly written materials).
I use it for three main purposes - discover what content has been popular/trending, get ideas on what to write about, and check what my competitors are doing.
So, discovering trending topics obviously will allow you to stay on top with the freshest content. This can be particularly important for specific industries, which rely on news-like materials, such as IT, technologies, events, business, entertainment etc.
If you go to Discover topics, you will find that you can filter them by creating feeds and inputting specific keywords in them, or you can use the already created categories. At the bottom of each "card" you will see the engagement for the major social media (and therefore determine if this is indeed something the public would have an interest in or not)
The next option allows you to get topic ideas by providing a keyword - that can come in really handy if you're always wondering what can you write about.
The other thing I often use is their search option (in the top menu Content> Web) which shows you the most popular articles for a specific keyword (or a set of keyword) based on social media shares and backlinks.
There is a good chance you'll find a lot of good information there. You can do the same thing for Facebook specifically (the same menu, one item below) and see more detailed information on topics - likes, shares, comments etc. I think that feature is pretty amazing since most small businesses primarily choose Facebook for their main social media. The only thing I find lacking there is the option to choose based on language, but hopefully, this will be upgraded someday.
Let's go for the last two options.
You have the influencer option, which allows you to find the most popular Twitter accounts, Facebook Pages and authors relevant to a specific topic. I don't use this very much, but not because I don't like it; the reason is that I primarily choose who to follow (or contact) based on my own online activity.
This, however, might not be the case for everybody, as most people do not spend 1-3 hours a day just consuming business-related content, so perhaps they would appreciate a little help in this area.
I'd like to point out, though, that in this case, the" influence" is determined purely, but the number of followers, which I don't think necessarily is the best way to decide who is influential.
The next thing is the Monitoring menu, which I believe is a pretty crucial part of every business. If you decide to go for this tool, do not skip the Monitoring. You can monitor all the important things - your own brand, your competitors, a specific topic, backlinks to specific content and even particular authors.
I know many people still don't believe in monitoring competitors, but I have to say that it is not a smart move. In the business world, nobody should be careless about what the competitors do, as almost any business can go down.
In the era of "a better deal is just a click away" you need to keep a close eye on the other players. If you think I'm dramatic, remember the downfall of MySpace. If you think that's only reserved for big businesses, I would advise you to make a quick visit to this site, or simply think of your own experience with the local businesses around you.
Was this article interesting for you? Stay tuned for part two, where we'll continue to explore the essential marketing tools that will change entirely your game