The Free Social Media Tools You Should Already Be Using

If you want to learn more about a situation or get to the bottom of something important, you’ve probably been told to “follow the money.” You can apply this advice to business and leadership, too.

If you want to keep a pulse on industry trends and stay ahead of the curve, one of the first things you can do is look at how money in your space is being budgeted. Take influencer marketing, for example. Last year, influencer marketing took off, and so did the budget that companies allotted for it.

Now, look at social media through the same lens. Social media spending in the U.S. alone is expected to increase to more than $17 billion in 2019. A dizzily impressive figure, no doubt, but that kind of budget makes sense when you look at just how important social is to the way companies engage with their audiences, amplify their content marketing, and measure their successes. In fact, “The State of Digital Media” found that 66 percent of publication editors determine content success based on the number of social shares each piece yields.

Because social is so critical to building strong brands, it’s important for your team to maximize how they use it (and what tools they use) to make that job easier. There are plenty of free social media tools out there to help your team save time and money. To stay current on those options, check out the updated list below of eight free tools that can simplify your team’s social media marketing:

1. Facebook Insights

According to the same “The State of Digital Media” report, Facebook is still the most popular platform for sharing and engaging with content, so tools designed for that platform are especially valuable — and Facebook Insights is a good one.

Further, not only is Facebook Insights free; it’s easy to use, too. Your team can access it through an existing page, and the Insights feature can help your business track metrics on page performance, times your audience is on Facebook, and posts that receive the most engagement. Your team can even export these insights for more analysis.

2. SocialRank

I love Twitter; it’s probably my favorite social platform. I’m not as active on Instagram, but I know a ton of people swear by it. This is why SocialRank is so great. It helps manage your followers on both platforms — Twitter and Instagram — so you’re not just accruing followers, but you’re also getting to know who they are and what they like. Honestly, it’s great to have a ton of followers, but what good is it if you don’t try and get to know most of them? After all, they’re your audience — if you care about appealing to them, SocialRank is a solid social tool to add to your toolbox.

3. Likeable Local

Likeable Local is a unique social tool thatany company can find useful. Driven by a passion for small business success, Likeable Local helps generate leads and referrals through its platform, as well as share content to social platforms. It also offers tools to boost your reach and manage your online reputation through built-in keywords so you can engage in the right conversations.

Social media is evolving and only becoming more important to the way companies communicate with their audiences. Do your team a favor: Look into these free tools to make it easier to increase the reach, engagement, and impact of your social media marketing.

4. Social Mention

This tool can help your team track brand mentions and social interactions. Through a single search of your company’s name, your team can discern how often others are mentioning the name, whether it’s on the receiving end of positive or negative feedback, the reach of its posts, and more. Plus, it shows the top keywords and hashtags involving your company.

5. TweetDeck

If your team maximizes content by sharing it via multiple accounts, you’re probably familiar with the struggle of logging in and out of each account to launch posts. It takes time to sign in and out of different accounts to ensure as many possible audience members get the chance to engage with your content. Major headaches can surface when you’re bouncing around from sharing original posts, researching hashtags, tagging the right people, and replying to messages. With TweetDeck, your team can effectively manage multiple Twitter accounts with ease, all on one screen.

6. TweetReach

Free TweetReach snapshot reports provide fast, easy tracking of analytics for up to 100 tweets. Find out who’s been interacting with your company on Twitter, as well as what keywords, hashtags, URLs, or account names are receiving the most engagement.

The snapshot also includes insights into things such as: reach, exposure, tweet activity, tweet types, top contributors, top tweets, list of contributors, and tweet timelines. If your company uses Twitter daily or your company leaders are trying to identify potential influencers to work with, this is a great tool to ensure you’re getting the most out of your efforts. TweetReach also offers paid plans in addition to its free snapshot reports.

7. Buffer

Yes, I’ve mentioned Buffer in the past, and that’s because it really is a great, easy-to-use tool. Keeping up with sharing your content each day can be hard, and Buffer allows you to schedule multiple posts on different channels at once. This way, you can knock out a good amount of social distribution in one sitting, which is helpful for busy social media teams (and the thought leaders whose content is being shared).

8. LinkedIn

You’re probably already using this one, but hear me out. LinkedIn just released a new extension of its platform called LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms. This helps businesses accumulate and track leads. Because most people view the app on their phones, it can be a hassle to fill out a contact form. So instead of relying on users to fill out the forms, LinkedIn’s new application uses an in-app form that populates already stored information about an individual LinkedIn user, making lead generation for your business easier than before.

What are some social tools you’re currently using? Share them in the comments.

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Article written by John Hall.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.

I am currently the Cofounder and CEO of Influence & Co. – We help companies position key individuals as industry influencers and thought leaders. We focus on creating high-quality content, coming from our clients, that reaches their target audience online. Our clients range from startups to fast-growing companies on the Inc. 5000, as well as Fortune 500 brands.

How to 10X Yourself Through Automation

We’re in a race against it, pressed for it, short on it, running out of it. If we could, we’d save it in a bottle.

Whatever your idiom of choice, we never have enough time. That’s especially true if you’re a small business owner. In “Defining and Achieving Small Business Success,” a report from Infusionsoft and Emergent Research, small business owners identified “time to get everything done” as one of their top three challenges.

Time may never be on our side, but at least technology can be. Automation software like Infusionsoft can save you from hours of manual tasks, like responding to repetitive emails, keeping track of leads and customers, and sending and collecting routine information. It does what you’d do if there were 10 of you.

Here’s how to 10X yourself by automating tasks and processes in your business.

1. Respond to contact requests

In a world of instant gratification, prospective customers who complete the “contact us” directions on your website want a response after a matter of minutes, not days or even hours. But you can’t afford to drop everything else you’re doing every time a new email hits your inbox. Automation can step in until you’re ready to respond in detail, triggering an email when a form is completed.

The message doesn’t have to be an impersonal “autoresponder;” it can look like you wrote it yourself, especially if you use a timer to delay it by 15 minutes or so: “Hi [Prospect Name], thanks for contacting us! I’m heading into some meetings, but I’ll be sure to get back to you later today.”

For more tips on how to make automation feel less automated, check out our e-book, This Time, It’s Personal: 20 Tips for Sending Automated Emails Without Sounding Like a Robot.

2. Send content and information

How many times each day do you send customers routine information like your price list, policies or schedule? Even if you’re only spending a couple minutes emailing links or attachments, those minutes turn into hours that you could save through automation.

Emails can be triggered via the completion of webform, as in the example above, or as a real-time response to an email in your inbox. With Infusionsoft, if you apply a note to the customer’s contact record, a prewritten email will be deployed (while the action is recorded in your database).

3. Follow up with leads

It doesn’t take long for a list of leads to become confusing. If you often dig through your inbox searching for email chains, trying to remember when you last checked in with a lead, you’re wasting time. Automation can do that for you.

With software, you can create an automated sequence in which emails are sent over the days, weeks, and potentially months you’re working to nurture a lead into a sale. Whether you’re sending content or the occasional “just checking in” note, automation ensures you don’t give up on a lead too soon.

If the automation software integrates with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, as is the case with Infusionsoft, that email history is posted to the prospect’s contact record so you can see which emails you sent—as well as which ones the prospect opened or clicked.

4. Continue the phone tag

Robocalls aside, you still have to pick up the phone, dial, and talk. But automation can handle the annoying part that often comes next: having to remember to call back again (and again and again) because you reached voicemail. You can create an automated sequence in which software picks up the phone tag. Leaving a note in the system triggers an automated “Sorry I missed you” email, while the software reminds you when it’s time to get on the phone again.

5. Identify the best leads

Your list of leads is long enough (hopefully) that you don’t have time to contact each one in the same day. And you also don’t have time to call prospects at random, only to reach the ones who aren’t interested—while the leads that are ready to buy may be slipping away.

Enter lead scoring, a feature in which software automatically identifies the most sales-ready leads based on criteria they meet. You set the rules for the scoring, which can be based on actions like content downloads and link clicks. The software then gives you a hot-or-not view of your leads, allowing you to prioritize the ones who are ready to hear from you.

To learn more about lead scoring, download the e-book, Score Like a Rock Star: Take Your Business to the Big Time with a Kick-Butt Lead Scoring Strategy.

6. Send quotes

If you’re in a business that involves quotes, you can use automation to reduce the back-and-forth process of sending a quote, waiting for the client to look at it (and perhaps reminding her to do so), and then repeating the process after the quote turns into an order. In Infusionsoft, you can trigger automation—like reminders or other follow up—when a quote is sent, viewed, accepted, declined, or paid.

7. Collect customer information

Offices used to dedicate entire teams to collecting and transcribing customer information. That manual data entry becomes a relic of the past if your automation software syncs with your CRM. When you collect customer information via a web form, a new contact record is created in your CRM, with each field automatically transferred to the record.

Bonus: Automating data collection also allows you to immediately send relevant information to your new contact. If the contact checks a box on a form indicating that she’s interested in boxing classes, for example, the software will tag her so she gets emails only about boxing, not about yoga.

8. Send appointment and event reminders

Automation removes the need for someone to manually remind customers about each upcoming appointment or event—and reduces the possibility of no-shows, too. With software, you can trigger automated reminder emails to be sent at a predetermined time, whether it’s five days before a consultation or 15 minutes before a webinar. The same is true for following up with a thank you, next steps, or a satisfaction survey after an event.

9. Collect paperwork

If you send a customer an important form to complete, the chances are fair that he won’t remember to do it—at least not the first time you ask. And you have more important things to do than chase paperwork. Automation can handle the reminders for you. Software can track whether the customer clicks a link to download or visit the form. Based on that behavior, the software can send automated email reminders until the form is finally back in your inbox.

10. Ask for referrals

Referred customers are more loyal and offer a higher lifetime value than customers acquired through other marketing efforts, according to a study in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything to acquire them.

But there’s a catch: Many customers won’t give referrals unless you ask for them, and many business owners don’t have the time—or the comfort level—to do the asking.

Automating the referral request process ensures that you ask for referrals regularly and consistently. A purchase can trigger a later email to the customer in which you ask for a referral (and, potentially, offer a discount or gift as a thank you).

The customer may not realize the email is automated if you use tricks like merge fields, with which “Hi [First Name], I hope you’ve been happy with our [Product or Service Purchased]” becomes “Hi Mark, I hope you’ve been happy with our web design services”—personalized for each customer. With automated referral requests, you’ll be helping to grow your business, without even thinking about it.

Written by Amy Saunders

Amy Saunders is a content creator at Infusionsoft, where she helps small business owners learn about automation. Writing about business brings Amy’s work full circle: She began her career as a business reporter at The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio before becoming a features writer. After more than six years there, she moved to Phoenix, where she was an editor at a content marketing agency before joining Infusionsoft. As a lifelong Midwesterner, Amy promises to never take Arizona weather for granted and spends her free time riding horses, playing tennis and hiking in the sun. Follow her on Twitter @amyksaunders.

Facebook’s New Algorithm Change Is Actually Two Updates In One

You already know that Facebook uses algorithms to determine who sees your updates and when – and they adjust those algorithms all the time.

(Which means that occasionally, you need to adjust your strategy, too.)

Facebook’s latest update is actually TWO updates – a couple of changes to totally different parts of the overall algorithm!

Updates like these can impact your visibility in the News Feed not just for individual updates, but for your Page as a whole – and that means you should definitely pay attention to them.

So, double the algorithm changes, double the fun!

Wanna make sure you’re playing by the rules?

Here’s what’s new and different:

Facebook is judging your authenticity

When Facebook is determining who should see your updates and when, it looks at two different types of signals.

Personal signals are specific to the user seeing an update. For example, if there are certain people on Facebook with whom you frequently interact, you’re more likely to see their updates.

Universal signals are specific to user or Page posting an update. For example, if a Page’s updates frequently score high engagement rates, its updates may be shown to more users.

(Think of Facebook like a very trendy personal shopper – it shows you items based on what it knows you like, as well as the overall quality of what’s available.)

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One of Facebook’s most recent algorithm changes relates to universal signals. That means it has to do with your Page and what it posts – specifically, your authenticity.

Facebook has new ways of determining how authentic you and your updates are – and if you aren’t authentic, you could be in trouble.

But what does that mean, exactly?

How do they know whether or not you’re authentic?

It’s not like they can turn you inside out and check your label! (That would be weird and gross.)

On Facebook, authenticity takes different forms.

First, it can mean trying to game the system.

Facebook is usually forthcoming about what you can do to increase your visibility in the News Feed – but that also makes their algorithms vulnerable to exploitation.

Last year, for example, they explained that live video broadcasts would get higher reach than some other types of content.

Sounds like a good way to get people to share live video, right? (Which makes sense, because this is a feature they were promoting pretty heavily at the time.)

The good news is, it worked! What also happened, though, is that people found ways to exploit the system. By posting graphics-only “live videos” like countdown clocks, for example, they could enjoy better exposure in the News Feed without producing an actual live broadcast.

The result? Facebook had to find a way to crack down on people taking advantage of the algorithm – in this case, by limiting visibility for graphics-only live broadcasts.

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Remember what we said about how high engagement rates can increase your visibility?

Some Pages explicitly ask people for likes, comments, and shares as a way of increasing their reach – a tactic that Facebook believes is dishonest and inauthentic.

Another sign of inauthenticity is posting the types of content to which users have certain unfavorable reactions – Facebook gives the example of Pages whose audiences frequently hide their updates.

Another example may be Pages whose updates are frequently reported – especially as Facebook is under scrutiny for issues related to the spread of “fake news.”

Facebook has used the habits of Pages that regularly share inauthentic updates to build a model that can automatically identify and predict whether or not other Pages’ updates are authentic.

The way they see it, Pages that frequently do things such as asking for likes or sharing updates that people hide aren’t exactly great examples of the authenticity users care about. The more you have in common with those Pages’ tactics, the less likely that you’re authentic, either.

So while Facebook isn’t sharing all the different ways that they measure authenticity – after all, they’re trying to prevent people from gaming the system – they’re making it plenty clear that taking shortcuts when it comes to quality isn’t the answer.

That’s one big algorithm update out of the way, but remember – there’s still another new update to talk about!

Here’s the other big change to keep in mind moving forward:

Facebook is tracking real-time changes more closely

Facebook’s algorithms are always working in the background, so that when you visit your News Feed, you’re seeing the information they think is most relevant to you at that moment.

The second update they’ve just made is to how information is processed in real time – specifically, information related to an update’s subject and its engagement.

Basically, Facebook may place a status update higher in the News Feed if:

  • It is related to a topic that is popular on Facebook at that moment (for example, if you share an update about the Academy Awards while the Academy Awards are being broadcast, and people on Facebook are talking about them)
  • It is getting a lot of engagement at that moment (for example, if several of your followers get into a real-time debate in the comments on one of your updates)

Does that mean that all of your updates should be relevant to what’s trending at that exact moment?

Of course not!

What you do isn’t always going to be that timely. (You’re better off not forcing it.)

What it does mean, though, is you should be prepared for the times when it is relevant for you to post timely, live updates.

The best way to do that? Plan your updates ahead as much as possible – even by using a scheduling tool that allows you to share evergreen updates more than once.

An overwhelming majority of marketers prefers planning their Facebook updates in advance over trying to do everything live, and with good reason: it’s too much work!

The more you can plan, write, and schedule in advance, though, the more time you’ll have later when there are appropriate opportunities to post live – and being prepared for those moments is especially important now.

What do YOU think of these updates?

So, Facebook is fine-tuning their ability to measure real-time signals, and they’re paying closer attention than ever to whether or not your updates are authentic.

What do YOU think of these changes, though?

Do they make sense?

Will they influence what you share?

Do they address concerns you might have, or that you’ve had in the past?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Source:  MeetEdgar Blog