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.

For the latest changes in social media strategy consider Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Social Media Strategy and its a good idea to Perform A Social Media Audit at least once a year.

Fence Me In: How To Use Geofencing To Improve Your Social Strategy.

77% of people in the US own a smartphone and now over half of all people in the world use a smartphone. One of valuable features of a smartphone to marketers is the location or GPS capabilities. Yet according to a Search Engine Watch survey only 22% of marketers are using hyperlocal strategies (like geofencing) to its full potential.

A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter set up for a real-world geographic area. Geo-fences can be created as a radius around a store and event or set to predefined boundaries such as a neighborhood or city district. Geofencing must be used via a mobile app with location services turned on or triggered by an event like a geotagged post on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Geofences can also be used to trigger mobile adds on popular apps that sell them.

The Salesforce.com blog tells us that the benefits of geofencing include increasing local sales by pushing notifications to customers in the area, improving analytics by measuring location based sales, time and frequency metrics, and adding personalization to highlight offers and messages to local preferences.

Best practices for geofencing.

Best practices for geofencing include not making the fence too large. Keep it to within a 4 or 5 minute travel time. Have a call to action that is concise, locally relevant and requires prompt response. Also, be transparent about privacy by letting customers know what and how their location information is being used. And target messaging by context (relief from downtown crowds), day-part (lunch time specials), and retargeting (customers who haven’t visited in a while).

Yet sometimes the best strategies come from thinking outside of the box. Mobile Marketing expert Rip Gerber suggest fishing where the fish are, which may not be around your store. Thus, other strategies may include building geofences around competitor locations to attract new customers with a special offer or using a geofence around an airport to attract tourists. Also think about using geofences near arenas and events to attract attendees.

More advanced geofilter strategies include adding additional data to make geo messages more relevant. A retailer could use browsing data from an app or website. For example, when a woman who was looking at formal dresses on her phone enters a store she could receive formal dress messages instead of general sales or promotion messages. In addition, consider more helpful messages, such as a hotel, shuttle or rental car app reminding a person before leaving an airport to check in online, book their shuttle or rent a car via the app. Helpful location based reminders could increase brand loyalty.

When offers or promotions are used be sure they are significant and important. Getting interrupted by a mobile notification to save 25 cents may be more annoying than motivating. Also keep track of frequency so that you don’t bug people. Both of these actions could lead to the customer turning off location services on an app, which prevents further location based notifications in the future.

Geofencing in social media apps.

A version of geofencing is Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters. This adds a branded illustration to user’s selfies based on location, which are then shared with friends or followers. These are paid, but small businesses can purchase custom branded geofilters for as little as $5. One strategy could be a promotion where customers must post an image with the brand geofilter to win – ensuring they have visited the location.

Sponsored geofilter ads can now be bought through Snapchat’s advertising API, which enables marketers to pair a sponsored geofilter with a Snap Ad. This enables strategies such as buying a geofilter and then retargeting Snap Ads to people who used it. There is also integration with Snap Ad analytics dashboards to measure performance and geofilter brand templates can be created that then are easily customized for specific locations.

Other location based social strategies include leveraging geotagging in social media platforms to improve social strategies. For example create of geotag location names for local businesses, events or attractions. This can be done for Facebook and Instagram though Facebook Places. Instagram expert Jenn Hermman explains that customers who click on a geotag location see all other posts to the geotag, which can showcase brand products and services and help reach new customers through location search.

Geotagged posts also allow brands to source user generated content (UGC). Reposting these publicly shared brand experiences shows customers the brand is listening, appreciations their contributions, and presents an often more believable perspective of the brand. Just ensure you get permission first before sharing.

Geofencing brand examples.

What brands have used this strategy and practices well? American Eagle used location-relevant messages sent at the ideal time of the day to improve purchase behavior by 65%. Domino’s used geofencing around hotel locations to trigger local mobile ads offering ordering for the nearest locations. And a national fast food pizza chain used geofences around store locations to trigger a two-for-one take out deals. Notifications were delivered during rush hour, limited to users who had previously made online orders, and frequency was capped at a max of one message every three days. The result was an increase of 21% in the daily takeout orders.

How can you use geofencing and geotagging to improve your social media strategies?

For the latest changes in social media strategy consider Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Social Media Strategy and its a good idea to Perform A Social Media Audit at least once a year.

A Text For That? App Hype Shouldn’t Discount Text Marketing

What I have noticed recently in the marketing press is we hardly ever mention texting anymore. A lot of people are jumping on the marketing App bandwagon the way QR Tags were all the rage a couple of years ago, but many have seemed to skip over texting. The latest 2012 Pew Internet Research indicates that 79% of cell phone owners say they use text messaging while smartphone usage is still only around 45%, and of those smartphone users only 27% report having scanned a QR Code.  In fact, B.L. Ochman of Ad Age recently said “QR codes are dead.” It seems texting has been really underused or at least “under-talked” about by marketers.

The latest Neilson U.S. Digital Consumer Report shows that behind Apps, the second most used function of mobile phones is text messaging. Another good point about text messaging is that you can use them in mediums where QR codes are not possible, such as radio. With a QR tag you need something visual. I actually saw a 30 second TV commercial flash a QR tag for two seconds on the end. What are the chances of that being used?

Instead they could have used an easy to remember text code that someone could punch in without pausing the TV or getting up from the couch! Ads can request users text a code to a number, such as “text JOIN to 99999” to opt-in to a campaign or get an offer. Text codes can be included in just about any marketing medium, from direct mail to email to landing pages. Once someone responds you have their number and can sending messages back. At a concert I texted to win a seat on the stage. I didn’t win the seat, but the band still texts me updates on album releases and concert dates based on my opt-in.

After reporting that 98% of SMS messages sent are opened, and 83% of them are opened within 3 minutes, Corey Eridon from Hubspot gives us some advice on how to conduct a SMS text message campaign:

1. Fundraising and Raising Awareness:

‘The Cove’ case study from Msgme talks about how the documentary film had a “digital social action” campaign to reach other socially conscious people, get them to join a mobile subscriber list by texting a short code, sign a petition, and continue to receive updates about the cause. It engaged viewers at their highest moment of inspiration – the closing credits of the movie.

2. Communicating With Your Most Active Customers:

Zpizza used SMS to identify and reward loyal customers for repeat business by using SMS to make registration quick and easy. Customers texted a keyword that entered them into a contest, and received a follow-up email prompting to join the customer loyalty program.

3. Sending Service Alerts and Reminders:

Mobil1 Lube Express’ SMS campaign to remind customers about regular service and communicate promotions was more effective than email and direct mail. “The read-rate for direct mail is poor. Open rates for email are hindered by spam-combat software and other bounce problems. SMS is virtually a spam-free channel that goes wherever the customer goes.” – Bob Jump, president, Digital Rocket.

4. Driving New Sales:

Through an SMS initiative, regional Ace Hardware users were encouraged to opt-in to receive weather-related mobile notifications based on their ZIP code. Ace integrated the campaign with the National Weather Service to provide timely, location-based weather notifications that included promotions that drove in-store traffic and sales.

But I will close on this caution: EVERY consumer must provide an EXPLICIT opt-in using a cell phone or another approved way of giving permission! Jiffy Lube was Sued for $47 Million, for reckless texting. I suggest you read this article in Chief Marketer about how you should handle SMS Opt-Ins – a lot of this is based on selecting the right experienced vendor. But I don’t want to end on a sour note. SMS Text Messaging can be a very effective marketing tool that doesn’t cost a lot. Big ideas and big results don’t need big budgets or big marketing hype. Have you considered text marketing?