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.

Programmatic: A Growing Part of Social Media Strategy

Previously I wrote about “Paid Social Media: Why You Need It And What Is Available.” In that post I discuss declining organic reach, the importance of adding native advertising to social media strategy and provide a guide to the current paid social media options. In this post I will discuss programmatic – a growing way to buy native ads or paid social media.

You may have heard about programmatic in terms of advertising media buying. Now 72% of U.S. online and mobile display spending is programmatic and it is moving into other media such as online video, TV, radio and even digital outdoor. So it should be no surprise that programmatic is also in social media like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn. MediaPost reports that social advertising is the fastest growing programmatic channel ahead of display and mobile.

What is programmatic exactly? IAB says programmatic is automated buying and selling of media being sold by “one machine talking to another machine.” Marking Land says programmatic automates the decision process of media buying targeting specific audiences and demographics placed with artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time bidding (RTB). Programmatic media buying is in online display, mobile display, online video, social media advertising, and is expanding to digital outdoor, radio and TV.

Monica Lay of Adobe Social Advertising Solutions further clarifies that programmatic advertising has two distinct methods:

  1. Real Time Bidding (RTB): Auction-based ad transactions based on real-time impressions in open and private marketplaces.
  2. Programmatic Direct: Ads purchased via a publisher-owned application program interface (API) like Facebook and Twitter or an existing demand-side platform (DSP) like DoubleClick Ad Exchange or MediaMath.

What difference can programmatic make? More precise targeting and more efficient spending. Dean Jayson in The Huffington Post explains that Programmatic media buying can use online data (like browsing activity) and offline data (like loyalty card data) to laser target the placement of ads. Data brokers match offline data with online data and license data management platforms (DMP) to organize the data and use demand side platforms (DSP) to automate the execution of media buys.

This targeting based on data profile is different than targeting based on content. Jayson gives the example of a dog food brand buying ads on a cute puppy site. Many visitors just like looking at cute puppies, but may not have a dog to feed The marketer pays for impressions to the wrong target and the consumer sees an ad that is irrelevant. Programmatic is more precise by targeting consumers with a history of purchasing dog food (online or in-store).

Programmatic automation also saves marketers time. They set their target audience and forget it. The DSP finds the audience freeing up marketers’ time to focus on creating valuable and relevant content. Jayson says that programmatic data based targeting costs roughly half of content based targeting.

Programmatic brings these same benefits to social media channels. Ben Plomion, CMO of GumGum recommends programmatic in social because he says “to compete in today’s hyper-competitive online media world, you can’t sit back and wait for the traffic to come to you.” Social media marketers run more effective campaigns through automated buying and by reaching a precise audience with highly relevant messages. Plomion gives the example of Red Bull targeting videos to Twitter feeds of people who have viewed extreme sports sites.

Yet programmatic isn’t limited to buying ads and promoted posts on social media networks. Programmatic native advertising enables brands to place sponsored articles and videos directly through publishers like BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Additionally a recent survey indicates native programmatic budgets are going to programmatic native platforms like Outbrain, Taboola, Sharethrough, Nativo and Bidtellect that place sponsored content across the web. These platforms boost brand content serving up links to sponsored articles with messages below publisher content saying, “you may also be interested in…”

Still programmatic social goes even further. Beyond social network ads and paid content marketing, influencer marketing offers programmatic ad buying. Adweek reports that ROI Influencer Media (representing 10,0000 influencers from celebrities to social media all stars) has partnered with programmatic platforms like Rubicon Project, PubMatic, OpenX, MediaMath and Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange. When buying programmatic ad packages, bundles of influencers appear as options where marketers pay for viewable impressions on influencers’ social media sites and walls. Authenticity is preserved through influencers still having final approval and control over their feeds.

Startups like Fanbytes are offering a programmatic Snapchat influencer marketing platform. Their dashboard enables marketers to bid on influencer ads programmatically buying branded content on influencer’ social media pages, blog pages, and websites. Not all influencers have to be mega celebrities. The startup Gnack offers programmatic buying of user-generated content from Snapchat and Instagram micro-influencers with less than 10,000 followers. These micro influencers can be very effective at reaching niche audiences based on campaign objectives, target demographics and preferred hashtags.

With increased content clutter and declining organic reach attracting an audience in social media can be problematic. But programmatic is an attractive way to boost reach and relevancy. How can programmatic improve your social media efforts?