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.

A Guide To Social Media and UGC Policies for Employees, Influencers and Fans.

Are you leveraging the influence of your employees and fans in social media? Brand evangelists whether employees, influencers or fans have enormous potential to greatly impact perception and demand of products and services through user generated content (UGC). Research reports consumers trust other people more than advertising and this gap may be growing with younger generations.

A Salesforce survey found the most trusted sources of product information was online reviewers (31 percent) and friends, family and colleagues (23 percent) ahead of the band itself (20 percent). With Millennials trust in online reviewers was 40 percent, followed by friends, family and colleagues at 25 percent and trust in the brand itself only 19 percent. Yet, before launching into a widespread brand evangelism or UGC campaign there are important considerations to follow.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) publishes Social Media Discloser Guidelines that explain brands have responsibilities to ensure influencers, partners and employees properly disclose relationships and ensure statements about their and competitor products and services are truthful and accurate. They suggest explicit social media policies and ensure partners have their own policy aligned with brand standards.

Yet WOMMA indicates it is not enough to have a policy and publish it. You should train and educate influencers, and employees on those policies and actively monitor brand campaigns to ensure standards are followed. Also consult government websites (like the FTC) for current views on social media disclosures and claims.

Social Media Policies

Social media policies set standards for employees and partners for the way they post content in social media as part of their job or as a private person. The Forbes Human Resources Council suggests social media policies should be comprehensive including guidelines across many categories, best practices and training tips. Yet, Jylian Russell of Hootsuite says actual social media policies can vary greatly from a comprehensive legal document to condensed straightforward guidelines.

Examples include the two page Adidas guidelines to 14 page New York City Schools guidelines. Intel’s social media guidelines take a balanced approach with a short summary of 3 rules of engagement expressed in a simple graphic as (1) Disclose your relationship to Intel, (2) Protect Intel, and (3) Use common sense when posting. The policy then expands to explain the three rules with details, examples and links to additional, resources.

A good policy will consider standards for official brand accounts and standards for employees on their own accounts. Jylian Russell suggests a social media policy include rules and regulations for behavior and conduct including brand guidelines, etiquette, engagement and confidentiality. Roles and responsibilities should be specified and legal risks should be addressed such as crediting sources, confidentiality and disclosure. Security risks can also include information about secure passwords, attacks, or scams and accountability.

The Forbes Human Resources Council says a social media policy should include several categories. First educate about social media including specific platforms terms of use, conditions and limitations. Then explain blurred personal and professional lives and how personal social media actions have professional implications. Remind them to think carefully before posting about controversial issues and follow conventions as a brand representative. Set standards for respecting professional boundaries of co-workers including guidelines for internal workplace issues and conflicts. Identify how to clarify their opinions as their own and ensure they don’t disclose confidential or proprietary information.

User Generated Content Policies

Another important consideration is user generated content (UGC). Many fans often share content to the brand hashtag or handle and you may run contests, events and promotions to ask for this content. Practice good policies when it comes to sharing, repurposing, and eliciting UGC. One important practice is attribution or giving original authors credit for their content. The fan-based marketing company Tradable Bits says the way to attribute user generated content varies per platform, but a general standard is to include the original network’s official log, author’s username, profile picture and a live link to the original content. Alex York on the Sprout Social blog suggests in social media adding the words “credit,” “photo,” “cc” or “by.”

In addition, Tradable Bits suggests that brands should explicitly and transparently request permission for the rights to use fan photos and post content. This can be as simple as replying to posts asking that they grant rights with a response. To go with this ensure you have a publicly published rights granted, or user generated content policy that spells out the details of how the brand will use UGC so fans know exactly what rights they are granting. The website TermsFeed suggests included clauses addressing the categories of intellectual property, liability, privacy and acceptable use. Macy’s User Generated Content Policy is published on their website and covers brand social media channels and hashtags.

Are you leveraging employees, vendors, partners, influencers and fans to their full potential in social media? Before diving in consider legal requirements and having strong social media and user generated content policies in place.

Please note that what is presented here is simply general guidelines and does not imply legal advice. You should consult your lawyer or company’s general counsel before any action or policy.