When you’re a small business, you often have two problems:
- Not a lot of money to go around
- Not much time to manage your online/content marketing
Over the last few years, I’ve tried loads of different tools (both paid and free) and have settled on a few favourites that are cost-free and could save you HEAPS of time. Spending less time and less money sounds great, right? So let’s get into it…
This is one of my all-time favourite content marketing automation tools. Hootsuite integrates with nearly all the major social media marketing channels, enabling you to post and schedule posts to as many as you want, all at once. Basically, instead of logging into Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and LinkedIn to post the same status to your audience, you can just log into Hootsuite and post it to all these channels at the same time (or different times – up to you).
But the most powerful aspect of Hootsuite is probably its scheduling capabilities. You can plan out your posts weeks in advance, then load them into Hootsuite for scheduling. You will literally save hours. There are paid versions of Hootsuite with more features, but for some small businesses, the free version will be just fine.
When you’re planning out your online marketing, your to-do list can seem never-ending and impossible to keep track of. Trello is a simple and easy to use task management system which helps keep me organised. It’s great for collaborating, scheduling, planning out content, and more. I even use it for personal organisation, like shopping lists, and keeping track of Christmas/Birthday gift ideas for the family throughout the year.
Plus, you can use Trello to plan each social media or blog post (create a card) and move the card along lists depending on whether your post is planned/drafted/approved/scheduled. So you’d set up the following lists to organise and plan your content:
- Post ideas
- Drafted posts
- Approved posts
- Scheduled posts
Either way, I’m fairly sure that Trello saves me hours each week, and a lot of loose paper.
I remember years ago when Canva was first released. It was a bit glitchy and not as intuitive as it is today, but it was already shaping up to be a real game changer.
Canva is a free online graphic design program that is extremely intuitive and easy to use. It comes with free templates (social media images, header images, posters, etc.) and plenty of free graphics. It also has premium stock photos that you can incorporate into your graphics for just $1 each (super cheap!). You can write your own text, import your own images, and do just about anything with Canva. Once you’re done, you can download your creation as a pdf or png.
I would say that this tool is a MUST for any business owner who is creating their own graphics, but who doesn’t have a background in graphic design. Oh, and I’m super excited about this, but they also have apps now, so I can whip up a graphic on-the-go and share it right away from my phone.
If you have a blog and some social media pages, you should probably think about having a content calendar, where you plan out your blog posts and social media posts in advance. Sometimes a good way to do this is through a digital calendar, like Google calendar. Rather than writing it out on paper, you can use Google Calendars sharing capabilities, email reminders, and other features to make your content calendar much easier to manage.
I couldn’t make a list of free content marketing tools without touching on this one. Every website owner MUST integrate Google Analytics into their site. It is extremely important that you know:
- How many people are landing on your site
- Where they’re coming from
- How much time they spend there
- What pages they visit
If you don’t know this data, you won’t know where to focus your efforts on your content marketing. If you’ve been putting this one off, I encourage you put this as your top priority task for TODAY. The sooner your site starts collecting data, the more accurate your picture will be when you go to improve your site.
I recently came across Milanote and while it has a lot of potential applications, I’ve recently used it to plan out the scope and ideas for an upcoming content marketing project for a client. What I like about it is the flexible visual layout (like a moodboard), which makes it super easy to get my ideas out without feeling too constrained like you might in a simple text document (like Word or Google docs) or a project management/workflow tool like Trellor or Asana. You can use it for mind mapping, storyboarding, designing a marketing plan, creating personas, taking notes, and visually planning your social media calendar. They have a free starter version (with enough features included to plan at least a few projects) which you can check out here.
If you sometimes need to make flow charts and diagrams for your business processes or strategies (content marketing included), Gliffy is perfect for you. It’s a web-based flowchart maker, which has a free version with some good capabilities. You can’t export your images without paying, but if you switch off the gridlines, you can take a screenshot… which is kind of the same thing.
Since writing this blog (and scheduling it like a good little girl), I’ve also come across a tool that’s very similar to Gliffy, but open source (aka 100% free!!!). It’s called Draw.io. So, go check them both out and see which one you like best. 🙂
You’ve probably already noticed this – online marketing tends to breed new logins. Before you know it, you have 50 different usernames and passwords to keep track of, each with different password security levels/rules, some of which will need updating regularly. When you start to grow your team, you’ll also need to securely share access to these logins with other people. If you’re not managing your logins effectively, it can create quite a headache.
LastPass solved all of these issues for me. The free version stores all your passwords and usernames for you so that when you arrive at a site, it automatically puts the details in for you. And when you need to start sharing logins with your team members, you can upgrade to the paid version (it’s worth it).
That’s it for my favourite free content marketing tools. I hope you find this list useful and that you pick up at least one new tool that you can start using for your business today. They’re free, so why not?
I’m always keen to try new tools too, so if you have a handy free business/marketing tool that I haven’t mentioned here, please drop a link in the comments so I can check it out!