6 Indispensable Social Tools for 2016
For the business owner, entrepreneur, author and other enterprising souls out there, social media and the sheer scope of managing it can be somewhat daunting.
But there's no instant solution to the problem of maintaining and engaging an eager audience and neither is there any avoiding working with social if you want to get noticed - no matter what business you're in.
It's accepted in marketing circles that social media affords people a lot of exposure and the perfect opportunity to raise profiles, interact with clients and followers and reach an audience in a truly human manner.
In fact, when it comes to social media there are now more than 2.206 billion active social users representing a global penetration of 30%!
Further to this, 1.925 billion people use their mobile device to access their favorite social platform.
What does this mean to you?
If you're not using social, then you're missing out and are pretty unlikely to get noticed in a highly competitive digital arena - even if your product is the next light bulb.
But social takes time, patience, tenacity and if you're the forward thinking type - making the most out of the best tools available to you in order to up productivity whilst connecting firmly with your audience.
Social is Time Consuming
And with social, there's plenty to do.
Updating Facebook, Google+ and/or Pinterest; posting a steady stream of Tweets, carefully selecting pictures for Instagram, or even crafting that perfect Snapchat - all of these can eat away at your day until there is little time for anything else.
And not everybody can afford to hire a dedicated social media manager.
Thank the lucky stars, therefore, that there are a bunch of great tools out there that are all specifically designed to address these issues. Utilizing tools to help you manage your social media accounts will make the whole process significantly more streamlined and free up your day for other important tasks like growing your business and coming up with great ideas.
So, let's do a little future gazing and see what tools are going to help you stay ahead of the game in the coming year - some innovative bits of software that will help you to boost your social skills, connect with your audience and get your business flying!
Facebook - Timeline Contest Tool
Firstly, it's worth mentioning that if you want to learn how to use Facebook to the best of your advantage then you really should give Mari Smith a follow. She's the 'Queen of Facebook Marketing' for a reason and that is that she provides a rich source of actionable and highly useful information on all things Facebook.
Like-gating was banned last year by Facebook, leaving many a social manager scratching their heads as to how they could push out special offers to new followers.
This was something of a pain, as it left many a page owner going back to the old-fashioned way of doing things - you know the thing - 'like and share to win'. These can prove useful, but when your entries climb into the 100s they can be time-consuming and difficult to manage without an app.
AgoraPulse has created a handy tool that allows you create three types of contest:
Sweepstakes - allows you to pick winners at random from followers of your page or those who have previously commented.
Quiz - pop up a question, ensure that it's topical, relevant and a little exciting and select a winner from those that provide the correct answer.
Photo contest - ask fans to comment with their best photos and pick a winner from the images with the most likes.
It's a free app and AgoraPulse helpfully provide the information that it always will be and that you can run as many contests as you like at any given time. Then it's just a case of directing followers to your page.
You can of course also pay for the option to gain insight into shares and mentions - ideal if you have a large following.
There's also the ability to:
Monitor places on Instagram
Create customizable tags
Collaborate with other team members
Generate and access reports
There's free tutorials available to get you started on how to set it up so that it really adds value to your Facebook Page. I would use this sparingly in the first instance (in fact, all the time) as people get fed up with seeing lots of share me posts. But do consider coming up with a special offer once a month (or week, depending on your niche) so that fans begin to anticipate it.
Twitter/Periscope - Dextro
If you're looking to jump onto one of the newer social platforms on the block, which was recently acquired by Twitter itself for $100m, then you should check out Dextro. It uses technology that's based on AI research known as deep learning.
All of the tech giants use it to help recognize images and speech.
What does this have to do with Periscope?
Well, since it's such a new app, Periscope still has its bugs and issues that frustrate users. Namely that it's hard to find feeds that you actually want to watch, rather than a live stream of someone eating dinner in front of the TV.
Dextro promises to use AI to help you to find interesting content that will give you ideas on how you can utilize the platform.
"The principles of searching and analyzing are already well understood. There dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tools already available to companies that want to sift through status updates posted to sites like Facebook and Twitter and surface conversation trends or mentions of particular brands."
"But as social media becomes more visual thanks to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, new "deep learning" companies like Curalate and Clarifai have emerged to help companies analyze the massive number of pictures and videos uploaded to the web every day." Says David Luan, co-founder, who came up with the idea for Dextro back in 2012.
His co-founder, Sanchit Arora And Luan also,
"Quickly realized that their platform could be used to help brands navigate the visual web."
So what does this have to do with you, the entrepreneur or innovator?
It helps you to find content that brands are using and engage, to begin with.
It allows you to see what your fellow innovators (read competitors) are doing and react accordingly to craft your own ideas.
And anything that uses AI is just plain cool.
Some brands already rocking it on Periscope include:
Spotify with their use of guest musicians
Red Bull - that advertising giant to highlight the adventures of thrill seekers around the globe.
And, as pointed out by HubSpot,
"Rather, they're using it as yet another channel through which to bring together the kind of thrill-seeking, sports-loving, adrenaline junkies who form their core customer base in a fun and entertaining community large and varied enough to keep them fully engaged for a long time."
So when coming up with your own strategies, think about connecting with people rather than just pushing out dull, uninteresting advertisements that promote your products.
Instagram - Instafollow
As many of you will know, Instagram has exploded in recent years and has now cemented its place as one of the social media bigwigs. It remains especially popular with young people and within the travel and fashion niches.
The app allows you to track followers on the platform at all times, discovering who's following and who, as well as those that don't follow back. This gives insight into your audience that you will find highly useful going forward. Any data that can be retrieved about fans is always (very!) useful and it's worth keeping a spreadsheet to record how followers have interacted with your accounts, what kind of fans you're attracting and if they are behaving as you would want them to.
Instafollow allows you to:
Find out who unfollowed you
Discover who isn't following you back
Track lost and gained followers
Find mutual connections
Social for business can be something of a numbers game and if you want to get ahead, then you do have to play it - that said, always bear in mind that on any platform getting social is the real name of the game - there's no replacement for personal interaction.
Instagram is a visual platform and one that if you're targeting the youth market, you should not be without.
Words, after all, are so passé.
It's not the most user-friendly platform though, so you do need tools to help you to manage it and connect with the right audience and start to build a community with people that are interested in your products or what you have to say.
Tweet Jukebox is a fairly new kid on the block but it's certainly making a splash amongst early adopters and now more established users. It was created by Tim Fargo in order to help him to take the drudgery out of marketing his book Alphabet Success.
Tim describes Tweet Jukebox as a:
"Twitter scheduling tool on steroids."
The basics of it are that you can create a "jukebox" that can be loaded with the content that you want to be published, schedule the publishing times and then let the software take over and do all of the hard - well, maybe not "hard", but time-consuming - work for you.
Each jukebox can be loaded with thousands of tweets and can post up to 100 per day. You even get a couple of pre-loaded jukeboxes with your account - one with photos and one with quotes - to help you get off on the right foot.
There are several options available for the scheduling of your content. You can set it so that each jukebox only tweets one time. Alternatively, you can have them tweet on regular intervals or up until a predetermined date/time.
You can set schedules that will post on different times on different days of the week as well. This allows you to optimize your postings for those times of day when your intended audience is more likely to be online and engaged.
You can schedule certain tweets for one off dates such as Christmas or other annual events.
Also, Tweet Jukebox gives you graphs that show you who has mentioned you and lets you track the conversation - a highly useful feature in a scheduling tool.
There is also a store where other users can make their own jukeboxes available for download.
Great for when you are short on inspiration.
And finally, Tweet Jukebox also allows you to send out automatic "thank you" Tweets to up to 50 users every Friday.
In the (paraphrased) words of Tweet Jukebox's creator Tim Fargo - Tweet Jukebox lets you automate the drudgery and focus on engaging with people.
Tweet Jukebox allows you to open a free account, but there are also paid options available too now in order to help you to get the most from the tool.
The paid options represent great value for money and are suitable for businesses of all sizes. There's something for everyone in that you can sign up for a free account whilst you test it out and see if it's going to be useful - or you can opt for a much more powerful business account which gives you all of the tools at your disposal to really become a Twitter power user.
From small business, inspirational quotes, to uploading a collection of your best posts and podcasts, Tweet Jukebox has something for everyone.
Sadly, as with any tool, TJB has come in for some abuse when it comes to the use of free accounts, so it's now only possible to institute a five tweet per day limit for free accounts.
This doesn't affect the paid accounts - it's just the usual spammers attempting to jump onto a good thing and spoil it for the rest of us.
TJB is still under constant development and is swiftly becoming my favorite tool for scheduling and forgetting - I hope soon to be able to add my own collection to the Jukebox Library too.
The latter is perfect for authors and those that want to promote their work without huge amounts of time and hassle spent on one platform.
The content library offers a tremendous amount of potential for those looking to promote their work and themselves. According to Tim, many of the early adopters have already seen "exceptional results" when promoting books and even charity events.
It's perfect for repurposing that evergreen content that can get somewhat lost in the ether when it's just placed on your own blog too.
How does it work?
You load your own content into the system which has a substantial amount of control. So you remain in charge of what you're tweeting and how your users are interacting with it.
Let's have a look in a little more detail:
Jukeboxes - these are reservoirs of content that are tweeted out randomly at a user defined frequency.
Set it and forget it.
Scheduled Tweets - specific tweets that are tweeted out at specific user defined frequency.
Library - Curated content for jump starting your tweet stream.
Thank you tweets - giving back to your followers and getting social - thank you tweets allow you to more effectively engage with the audience.
LinkedIn - IFTTT
Firstly, there's a nice little post written by Kristina Jaramillo here - How to Transform Your LinkedIn Profile Into a Marketing Tool - that you should check out for some great tips on using the 'professional's network'.
It's a good overview on how to present yourself so that you're positioned to make the most of marketing on that platform.
There's lots of useful apps built into LinkedIn that you can make use of and not a great deal of third-party ones out there to really boost productivity. With LinkedIn, it's all in the setting up and making your profile stand out to showcase both your own skills and that of your business, whilst positioning you and your business as professional and influential.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) lets you automate time-consuming functions between various third-party apps such as Evernote and Hootsuite. This allows you to cut down the time it might take and gain further engagement - which is not always easy to do on LinkedIn.
The automations that can be used are known as recipes.
There are many tasks IFTTT will automate for LinkedIn.
Send an automatic mail when a connection accepts your invite
Congratulate contacts on milestones such as new positions, birthdays, etc.
Share Facebook Page updates directly to LinkedIn
Publish a Blogger post straight to LinkedIn
IFTTT allows you to connect to more than 200 apps, so if you spend a little time getting to know it and creating 'recipes' it's potentially a wonderful time saving little resource.
I've only touched upon what it can do here so do take the time to check it out properly if you're planning on using LinkedIn as one of your main channels.
You can find a comprehensive list on IFTTT recipes in this great Buffer blog by Kevan Lee.
You can also connect to all of the major social networks using this great app so it's definitely worth checking out and giving a shot.
Twazzup is a tool for beginners to gain real-time insights into the most active influencers in their communities. You can also search for top RT's images and links and top keywords/hashtags relating to your niche and search.
According to Search Engine Land's Matt McGee,
"Twazzup takes everything Twitter has to offer - noise and all - and lets users find what interests them most."
Real-time searches and monitoring are incredibly useful when it comes to the fast-paced world of today's social media and Twazzup makes it possible to discover tweets much faster than the standard Twitter search allows.
Top trending tweets and those who are "driving conversation"
Most popular links
And so on.
A simple tool, but one that you can make use of whilst enjoying your morning coffee and coming up with your daily strategy.
Your Favorite Tools?
It's always hard to come up with great lists that you will find indispensable but I hope here to have given you a great set of resources that will get your social off to a flying start in the New Year. There's plenty of tools, tutorials, courses - all kinds of things to help you to get to grips with social out there. But cutting through the 'noise' of the resources themselves can be utterly bewildering and then you also have to choose how to allocate your budget and find the ones that work best for you.
If you have favorite tools that I haven't covered (which is very likely!) then please do feel free to share in the comments with a brief description of just why you like the tool and any costs. Tools can vary wildly in price and for some smaller businesses can be very off-putting, so I try to give a good mix when coming up with lists like this.
Finally, I hope you have a wonderfully prosperous and incredibly social new year and to sign us off, I've created a nice little infographic that shows you at a glance what each of these power tools can do and how they can help you to save time in your everyday scheduling and social activity.
Follow Kerry Butters on Twitter