16 Free Tools for Digital and Social Media Marketing.

Are you looking for ways to improve and practice digital and social media marketing? Below is a list of valuable free online tools you can use now to test and learn various digital and social media strategies and tactics.

1. Google Trends (trends.google.com/trends). You can use Google Trends to identify topic ideas for blogs, websites, social media posts or other online digital content. Brainstorm ideas and then use Google Trends to compare topic options and to optimize content subjects. Look for data such as interest over time, interest by region, related topics, and related queries by category and type of search (Image, Video, News, Shopping).

2. Hemingway App (hemingwayapp.com). Clear, concise, and easy to read copy is essential to effective online writing for websites, email, social media posts and content marketing. Copy and paste your writing into this tool to identify areas for improvement including sentence readability, complicated phrases and words, over use of adverbs and adjectives, and passive voice. This can be great in a draft stage, but be careful not to lose your voice by over simplifying. You don’t have to follow all the recommendations.

3. SEO Analyzer (neilpatel.com/seo-analyzer). Search Engine Optimization is important to draw search traffic to your online content. This tool analyzes an existing website and up to two competitors. It provides scores and recommendations in key areas such as keywords, key phrases (long tail), alt tags, heading tags, meta descriptions, speed, back links, and indexed pages.

4. Google Competitor Research (www.google.com). Search marketing is important to digital strategy. Get insight into keywords and ad copy with competitor research in Google search. First, try different keyword phrases to determine which are used when people are looking to buy (commercial intent) or to learn about a topic (informational intent). Next, get alternative keyword ideas by scrolling to the bottom to see “Searches related to …” Then, view the ad formats, copy and landing pages competitors are using. For more see Gary Victory’s post on the Kissmetrics Blog.

5. Answer The Public (answerthepublic.com). The challenge of Content Marketing and Public Relations is to know what to create. Answer the Public provides auto suggest results based on Google and Bing data. Enter a keyword and get questions people are asking based on the Five Ws of journalism and more (who, what, where, when, why, how, are, can, will). It also provides lists of related prepositions, comparisons and topics. There is a graphical interface and you can download results in a CSV file.

6. Zurmo (demo.zurmo.com/demos/stable/app/index.php/zurmo/default/login). Customer Relationship Management holds other digital efforts together. Have you wondered what it is like to work within an online CRM system if you don’t have one? Zurmo provides a live demo of their open source CRM application with social integration. Filled with test data, you can find an active customer email list, create a task for a follow up, create an opportunity, schedule a meeting, search a leads list, find opportunities, and add a note to colleagues.

7. Banner Sketch (bannersketch.eu). Display advertising can be an important way to increase sales, improve brand awareness and raise share of voice. Banner Sketch is a free web banner ad generator. Select your size and shape, choose colors and background, enter text and frame, add a border and color, and create the banner. The tool supports both moving (gif) and stationary banners with templates and allows you to upload your own photos.

8. Viral Video Chart (adage.com/section/the-viral-video-chart/674). Viral Advertising Videos can be a successful part of a digital and social media strategy. But how do you know what will go viral? While there are no guarantees you can see what has worked in the past and what is working right now. Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart tracks the weekly top viral videos by total social media views provided by Visible Measures.

9. Headline Analyzer (coschedule.com/headline-analyzer). Headlines drive traffic, shares, search results and opens. Use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to improve headlines for websites, blogs, social media posts and email subject lines. After a free sign up, analysis includes word balance of common, uncommon, emotional and power words. It also analyzes length, keywords and sentiment with suggested improvements and provides Google search and email subject line previews.

10. Likealyzer (likealyzer.com/). Do you want some insights into what works for brands on Facebook? Metlwater has created Likealyzer to analyze Facebook brand performance by front page, about, activity, response and engagement. Scores are provided for each category along with specific recommendations and similar pages for brand competitor comparison. Valuable summaries include posts per day, average post length, pages liked, number of events and number of native videos. Also see response rate, response time, people talking about this, total page likes and engagement rate.

11. Followerwonk (moz.com/followerwonk). Followerwonk is a Twitter tool created by Moz to find, analyze and optimize for social growth. With influencer marketing becoming the fastest growing part of digital and social media this tool can help identify top influencers by bios/profiles. You can also analyze influencer followers and analyze the users they follow. Logging in with your Twitter account provides insights into brand current followers, and provides tracking of new and lost followers.

12. Mobile-Friendly Test (search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly). Are you looking for a simple way to test if your web page is mobile-friendly? Try Google’s mobile-friendly test site. This tool provides a nice preview of what your website looks like on a mobile device. It also provides details on any issues found with suggestions for improvement.

13. SimilarWeb (similarweb.com). SimilarWeb provides a report on any website with estimates on total visits over time by mobile and desktop, average visit duration, pages per visit, bounce rate, and traffic by country. It also provides traffic by source from direct, referrals, search (organic and paid), social, email and display ad. Within each of these categories you get a look at each source by percentage such as websites for referrals and social media channels for social. SimilarWeb also provides audience interests, visited websites and competitor/similar websites.

14. Website Grader (website.grader.com). Website Grader is a tool created by HubSpot to analyze websites for inbound marketing across the categories of performance, SEO, mobile and security. Enter your website and email address and you are sent a customized report for factors such as page size, page requests, and page speed. It also looks at browser caching, page redirects, compression, and render blocking. SEO is analyzed by page titles, meta description, headlines, and site map.

15. Psycho-Demographic Profile (applymagicsauce.com). Personalization is an important strategy in digital and social media. This tool gathers information from your Facebook and Twitter accounts to give you a look at the digital footprints you are leaving and what marketers can predict about you from that data. Get ideas about how to target digital and social media content. But also consider the ethical ramifications of accessing and using this behavioral targeting information.

16. Native Ad Quiz (marketplace.org/2013/12/03/tech/quiz-story-ad). Native Ads have become an important part of digital advertising, content marketing and social media strategy. Test your knowledge in this quiz to determine the difference between journalism stories and advertising stories. Then determine best practices for creating native ads and ensure you follow FTC requirements for native advertising.

These are just some of the free online tools I have found to be helpful. For a more complete and updated list of over 300 free and paid tools and resources see postcontrolmarketing.com/links.

Visualize Your Marketing Strategy To Form A Solid Foundation For All Marketing Communication.

Social media actions and even plans can exist on their own, but without having an understanding of the marketing and business behind them, they could be acting in vain. Even communication focused disciplines such as advertising and public relations now acknowledge the need for broader marketing and business knowledge. Incite’s State of Corporate Social Media report of global corporate social media professionals found that 90% say social media is an important part of their marketing strategy and 80% say that social media is an important part of their business strategy.

To help understand how social media fits into the bigger picture of marketing and business I have created a visual template for a basic marketing strategy that emphasizes the consumer perspective. This template can help improve social media efforts by providing an understanding of the larger marketing and business perspective. It can help you speak the language of business.

To be honest most C-Suite executives probably don’t care about followers and engagement rates. To get approval and funding for social strategies you need to translate social media action into broader business goals such as sales, market share, awareness, customer retention, leads, etc. The template can also help create a new marketing plan or help plan the marketing piece for a startup. See below, but also download a free PDF here.visualmarketingstrategytemplate-blankVision/Mission: Why do you exist? To make money is not a sustainable answer for employees or customers. What does the company behind the product/service stand for and where are you headed? Think: solving a greater problem, spreading a bigger message, supporting a cause, community, the environment or being the absolute best at something specific.

Back Story: People buy for rational and emotional reasons that can come from your origin story. Show your human side of starting in a garage, using your last $5, making a childhood dream come true, an event that put the cause on your heart, something you couldn’t get as a customer, happy accident, etc. Even big companies showcase their humble roots.

Business Objectives: All marketing action must help support business needs such as sales, average spend, market share, leads, contracts, awareness, customer satisfaction, retention, referrals, volunteers, donations, etc. To do this a marketing plan must start with those specific objectives clearly defined. Make sure they are SMART: Specific (quantified such as XX% or $XX), Measurable (data you can access), Achievable (not too high), Relevant (support vision/mission), Timely (due date like X months or X years).

Products/Services: List product and service offerings, lines and versions. Describe them from the consumer’s perspective turning product/service features into consumer benefits. Look for gaps in product lines and offerings from your company, but also competitors. You may need to return to this section after industry, target market and competitor analysis.

The next section focuses on situation analysis, with important areas such as industry, competitors and target market plus elements of the marketing mix or Four Ps. The important part is converting everything to the consumer’s perspective and summarize by answering the customer centric question in each section.

Industry Overview: Is the industry/category growing or declining? What innovations and trends are important? Are there gaps in offerings? What do consumers care about most? What are their pain points? Threats? Opportunities? Sum this up by answering the question, “What is their unmet need?”

Target Market: Clearly define the group most likely to have this need with demographic (gender, age, income, education), psychographic (attitudes, values, lifestyle) and behavioral (products used, brand loyalty, usage) bases. From this answer the question, “Who needs it the most?”

Key Competitors: Identify several top competitors by market share/sales in same industry and/or by replacement products/services outside the category. What do you offer that is different? With this understanding summarize, “Why should they pick you?”

Distribution Channels: What are the convenient ways the consumer can get the product/service: A single channel or multiple channels; Your own or through partners like retailers or brokers; Online or physical store? Try to determine, “Where do they want it?”

Pricing Strategy: Will the consumer pay a premium or look for the lowest price? Do they want to pay per month for access or all at once? Do they need a free version or trial? What forms of payment do they prefer? From this answer, “What will they pay for it?”

Main Message: Try to summarize all the information above into a positioning statement written to the target market. You can follow a template like this, “For the <target consumer> who <state need>, the <product/category> provides <state benefit>, unlike <primary competitor>, the <product> <state difference>.” Boil it all down to answer, “How would you say all this to them in one sentence?”

From here the decision is what consumer touchpoints need to be used to communicate or promote this message to the target consumers. Or from the consumer perspective, “How will they experience this message?”

Advertising: Do paid messages in traditional media such as TV, print, radio, outdoor, newspaper, or local school programs, stadium signs, FSIs, etc. fit your target’s media use and your budget?

Public Relations: Can you make it newsworthy? Earn media coverage from journalist/bloggers, create events, conferences, speeches and publish brand newsletters/magazines for consumer, employee, and community relations.

Digital Marketing: How will they find it online? Start with a user centered website optimized for search (SEO), then consider search ads, content marketing, blogging, email, online ads, video, affiliate and mobile marketing.

Social Media: Where is the target audience active in social media? Look at social networks, blogs/forums, apps, ratings/reviews and podcasts. Look for ways to leverage geo-location, crowdsourcing, influencer marketing, social care, user generated content and native ads.

Direct Response: Consider direct to consumer calls to action in postcards, letters, fliers, catalogs, email, texts (SMS), TV (infomercials), radio and newspaper. Collect or purchase databases of email and/or physical addresses.

Sales Promotion: What special offers could get your target to buy, try or rebuy? Consider discounts, samples, gifts/premiums, coupons, vouchers, competitions, sweepstakes, joint promotions and special financing.

Personal Sales: High involvement products/services may require a salesperson for prospecting, customization of offerings to meet specific needs, demonstration/trial and after sale service to maintain lasting relationships.

Customer Relationship Management: CRM uses databases/software to build long-term relationships with customers for retention, extension and acquisition with special communication, services/offers and rewards often through loyalty programs.

When the forms of communication come together you want to ensure all marketing communication is integrated in message, tone and look (IMC). The final considerations have to do with time and money.

Time Table: Provide a time frame for implementation of marketing recommendations. Some functions must happen before others such as product development, pricing and distribution then promotion. Types of promotion such as Digital, PR, Social Media, Sales and Advertising must happen in a specific order.

Budget: The marketing budget can be determined by one of the following methods: All You Can Afford (what’s left over), Percentage of Sales (% of projected/past sales, consider industry standards), Match the Competition (spend what main competitors spend), Objective/Task (calculate what it will take to meet objectives).

As Philip Kotler says, “You should never go to battle before you’ve won the war on paper.” Whether you are a marketer creating a new marketing strategy for an existing company, an entrepreneur planning the marketing function for a startup or a social pro improving your business intelligence to have a greater understanding of the marketing and business behind an organization this visual marketing strategy should serve as a useful guide.