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12 Effective Tools That Help Manage Your Social Media

12 Effective Tools That Help Manage Your Social Media

Since its inception in 2005, social media has evolved from a purely social network to a professional medium that is capable of creating online brand recognition. Its versatility as a professional tool is unrivaled, as it can be utilized to achieve everything from successfully engaging customers in real-time to accurately measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns and application of big data.

The sheer scope of social media is staggering, and it can be quite difficult to use it effectively in the pursuit of multiple goals. Fortunately for business owners, there is now a wealth of social media tools that can be used to manage your marketing and get the most from its individual platforms. There are options suitable for all levels of experience and knowledge, including the following:

Basic Tools

1. Pocket

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    One of the main challenges in contemporary marketing is how to constantly cultivate high-quality and engaging content. This is central to improving your brand’s online visibility, but without a skilled content writer it can be difficult to sustain excellence over a prolonged period of time. This is where Pocket comes in, as it is a basic tool that allows you to review a huge collection of articles before sharing them across your Twitter and Facebook profiles.

    Pros:

    The main benefit of Pocket is that it has been designed to integrate easily with your existing online profile. It therefore includes a browser-based option at GetPocket, a Chrome extension with Twitter integration and a mobile app. This ensures that the product is easy to use, time effective and accessible wherever you are.

    Cons:

    The publication of articles in real-time may be crucial in some instances, so it is important that content can be synced successfully across all platforms. This has been a recurring issue with Pocket, however, with the result that many issues have been unable to share copy across all platforms on a consistent basis.

    2. ShareRoot

    Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 11.13.19 AM

      On a similar note, ShareRoot has also been designed to manage online content and copy. The difference between this and Pocket, however, is that ShareRoot is focused solely on Pinterest and optimizing the levels of engagement for this site. Its core purpose is to enable the successful management of content on users’ Pinterest boards and increase sales efficiency for business clients, while it can also allow you to create a tab that converts social media traffic into Pinterest followers.

      Pros:

      Aside from serving as an all-in-one solution for Pinterest engagement, ShareRoot is also extremely time effective and enables you to schedule individual pins according to your needs. This reduces the need for regular site visits, and ultimately improves your efficiency as a marketer or business owner.

      Cons:

      Given the evolved and versatile nature of ShareRoot, it is slightly frustrating that the tool has not been developed to incorporate other social media platforms. The platform has already been developed, so it stands to reason that users should be somewhat disappointed that they cannot access different tiers and sites.

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      3. Smqueue

      smqueue screenshot

        We have already said how high-quality and insightful content is central to developing a vibrant online presence, but you also need to ensure that you post regularly. If you have accumulated over 100 blog posts or articles and are looking to share them multiple times throughout the day, you should consider using the simple Smqueue tool to automate and schedule the publication of this content. This tool also enables you to share the content through platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, so you can effectively save time without compromising on your content output.

        Pros:

        Interestingly, Smqueue enables you to set recurring time slots for publication, so the process is simplified even further over time. This will ensure that your content becomes more easily discoverable through all social media platforms, which is crucial as you look to establish a strong online presence.

        Cons:

        While it may be effective, the concept of automation in social media is becoming increasingly unpopular among marketers. This is because it contravenes our knowledge of Google and modern content curation, which suggest that the publication of real-time and topical content is the best way of driving genuine engagement.

        4. PowToon

        Powtown screenshot

          While it is well known that video marketing is an increasingly effective and measurable technique, achieving success is easier said than done. At the moment, one of the most effective methods of video marketing is through YouTube in-streaming; although the issue with this is that it requires high-quality production that can cost hundreds of dollars. This is where PowToon comes in, as it has emerged as one of simplest and best free-to-access video production tools on the market in recent times.

          Pros:

          When used effectively, PowToon can deliver a video of incredible craftsmanship and production quality. This is a key difference between this tool and alternative free-to-access applications, as it drives a higher standard of visuals and creates a finished product that has the best possible chance of engaging viewers.

          Cons:

          In general terms, you can create the framework and imagery for a functional video within a matter of hours when using PowToon. Evolving this into a high-quality and impeccably produced video will require a considerable amount of time, however, which utilizes significant levels of labor and eats into the savings made by not hiring a professional production company.

          Intermediate Tools

          5. vCita

          Vcita-Is-Great-for-Generating-Leads

            Once you begin to deal with social plugins and similar tools, you are handling a more intermediate and complex media tool. Take vCita, for example, which has been designed to manage the procurement and booking processes of one-on-one coaching sessions and meetings. Described as a client engagement platform for small and independent businesses, it can be integrated into your website and allows both internal users and visitors to schedule meetings at the touch of a button, view calendars and manage their time effectively.

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            Pros:

            While vCita is clearly a time-saving application, it also offers considerable convenience to users. This is primarily because it can be automatically synced with your Google calendar, so that you simultaneously manage your professional and personal time and block off space to avoid a conflict of interest.

            Cons:

            Although this is a minor fault, the model behind vCita relies heavily on effective installation and the responsible use of others. Not only must the plugin be integrated effectively with your website, for example, but it is important that every user understand the application if they are to use it wisely and not create confusion among colleagues.

            6. OptinMonster

            Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 11.18.05 AM

              On the subject of plugins, OptinMonster is another intermediate option that enables you to establish a larger number of email subscribers for your blog or website. Beyond this, it also drives more effective engagement with prospective clients, which in turn should have a positive impact on your rate of sales conversions. Installing and monitoring this plugin requires a certain amount of knowledge and awareness, however, so you should take the time to get to grips with this tool before implementing it fully.

              Pros:

              OptinMonster is unique in that it directly tackles one of the biggest challenges in business, which is translating email subscribers into motivated customers. It also achieves this in a manner that is easily measurable, which in turn offers a unique insight into the effectiveness of your individual outreach and direct marketing campaigns.

              Cons:

              There are several innovative features included with the OptinMonster, although some of these have created issues among users. The Exit Intent tool has been particularly controversial, as it triggers a pop-up box to appear when a visitor’s mouse cursor heads outside of the main window and looks to exit. This has been described as intrusive by some users, who feel as though it is a gimmick to retain their interest.

              7. BuzzFork

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                The concise and real-time nature of social media can be either empowering or damning for your business depending on how you utilize it, and no site embodies this principle better than Twitter. BuzzFork has been designed to target like-minded users and Twitter followers with your company’s profile. It achieves this using an advanced algorithm, which reviews users’ Tweets according to a predetermined set of criteria and identifies the individuals who are most likely to have an interest in your product, service or philosophy.

                Pros:

                There is a keen analytical element to BuzzFork, which transforms data about your recent Twitter followers such as their interests and Klout score into actionable insight. This reveals the topical trends and subjects that are being discussed in your social community, and allows you to tailor content with a view to maximizing engagement.

                Cons:

                As mentioned above, BuzzFork uses a so-called ‘favoriting’ algorithm, as it uses predetermined programming to determine which Tweets and updates are relevant to your business. Although you can establish broad criteria that helps to refine the search process, BuzzFork forces you to sacrifice an element of control over your social media output.

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                8. Piktochart

                piktochart

                  While it is now widely accepted that content is king in the worlds of social media and online marketing, the challenge of cultivating high-quality copy remains a significant issue. There is also the issue of diversity, and the most successful brands and businesses are able to publish content across multiple mediums and incorporate features such as video, imagery and text. Piktochart can help you with this endeavor, as it is an infographic and design application with the capacity to create informative and visually engaging content across all social media platforms.

                  Pros:

                  While using Piktochart successfully demands that you have a creative eye for detail, the design process is relatively simple and there is no need for you to boast experience of creating visuals or working with graphics. Thanks to the range and quality of resources available, including in-depth video tutorials, it is possible to bring your content to life without the need for professional expertise.

                  Cons:

                  While Piktochart is an innovative and purposeful social media app, it is underpinned by a number of predetermined design themes and a tiered structure. This means that you are relatively limited in terms of the infographics that you create, while many of the best themes are only available through a paid account rather than the free-to-access alternative.

                  Advanced Tools

                  9. 22Social

                  22social

                    In terms of slightly more advanced social media management tools, 22Social stands as one of the most prominent. It has numerous advanced and innovative features, and its primary purpose is to turn your business’s Facebook page into a veritable website in its own right. Through this tool, you can create multiple content pages that are accessible through individual tabs on your Facebook page, and there is even the option to configure them so that they can be viewed by prospective customers who have yet to ‘like’ your page.

                    Pros:

                    Aside from its unique purpose, 22Social offers a number of benefits to users. To begin with, it provides a huge portfolio of layout options, each of which can incorporate multimedia content such as videos and imagery alongside text. It can also be integrated into your existing website, so that traffic can be redirected between both resources according to your demands.

                    Cons:

                    Like the vast majority of advanced social media apps, 22Social does not come cheap. While users can access it for just $2 during the first month, it incurs a recurring, four-weekly charge of $22 after this point. This is a relatively large investment for small business owners, and the lack of an extended trial period makes it difficult for them to make a commitment.

                    10. Jelly

                    22social wm_Screenshot_20120628022316

                      Successful customer engagement is the Holy Grail for small business owners in 2014, as this provides them with an opportunity to build brand loyalty and capture a larger share of their market. As a result of this, there has been a high volume of tools and applications designed to assist brands in connecting with customers across an integrated social media profile. Jelly achieves this by providing a single medium for interacting with customers through social media, whether you wish to crowd source opinions on future products and services or answer consumer issues directly.

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                      Pros:

                      With so many customers active through social media, attempting to answer and respond to individual queries is extremely difficult. Jelly simplifies this process, as it can be integrated with a host of online channels and provides an effective platform for two-way interaction with consumers. It can also be used as a research tool, with the potential to gather huge amounts of data and information.

                      Cons:

                      While the concept behind Jelly and its design provide huge advantages to business owners who want to engage their customers, the tool is reliant on human interaction if it is to be successful. It will therefore only ever be as effective as the employees you task to pose and answer questions, while the quality of data gathered through the course of research demands a keen attention to detail.

                      11. Pushover and IFTT

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                        The real-time nature of social media can be intimidating, especially for small business owners with minimal time. An inability to keep pace with breaking news and industry trends can have a devastating impact on your business, as more proactive rivals can capitalize on this and seize some of your market share. To avoid this, phone notification service Pushover and web connection outlet IFTTT have collaborated to create a mobile filtering solution that analyzes huge amounts of data and delivers real-time updates to iOS and Android devices.

                        Pros:

                        The collaboration of two technological powerhouses has created a well-designed and innovative application that can genuinely empower a more responsive business. The fact that it delivers targeted updates to both iOS and Android devices is a huge advantage, while other devices can also be synced with the app so that you need never miss out on crucial news and trending data.

                        Cons:

                        The quality of the information delivered through this tool relies on your initial input, as the real-time updates that you will receive will be based on the terms, keywords and criteria that you dictate. This again runs the risk of the tool failing due to human error, so a great deal of in-depth and time-consuming research will be required to get the most from the application.

                        12. Sprout Social

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                          If you are in the market for an advanced and comprehensive social media management tool, you should look no further than Sprout Social. It not only offers you a broad insight across multiple platforms and channels, but there is also an opportunity to target specific sites and access detailed data reports. It also combines complex data, algorithms and analytical tools with an easy-to-follow interface, so that you can delve beyond the surface of your business’s social media performance without needing to become an expert on the subject.

                          Pros:

                          The main advantage of using Sprout Social ahead of similar tools is its easy-to-understand delivery of data, while the unique Smart Inbox feature collates all of your social media notifications in a single and well-organized space. There is also an extremely useful Feedback feature, which analyzes your overall performance on a daily basis and offers specific tips for improvement.

                          Cons:

                          Although it is marketed as an all-in-one social media solution, the lack of integration with email marketing is as disappointing as it is notable. This is a central feature of contemporary online marketing, so it would be beneficial to manage this directly through the Sprout Social application. This is especially true when you consider the tiered cost of the tool, with prices ranging from a basic $39 per month to $899 per month for users with unlimited social media profiles.

                          Featured photo credit: Jason Howie via flickr.com

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                          Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                          How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

                          How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

                          Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

                          You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

                          In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

                          “Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

                          The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

                          Creativity also emphasizes values.

                          “The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

                          This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

                          In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

                          And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

                          1. Cultivate Focus

                          In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

                          You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

                          However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

                          In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

                          In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

                          How to cultivate focus?

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                          Take a 20 Minute Walk

                          Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

                          I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

                          Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

                          If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

                          Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

                          2. Build a Structure

                          When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

                          The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

                          The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

                          Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

                          The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

                          Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

                          How to build a structure?

                          Create a Morning Routine

                          Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

                          We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

                          Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

                          You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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                          3. Find Motivation

                          There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

                          Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

                          Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

                          Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

                          In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

                          For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

                          This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

                          How to find motivation?

                          Connect to Your “Why”

                          Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

                          ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

                          When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

                          The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

                          Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

                          Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

                          If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

                          4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

                          Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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                          So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

                          If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

                          The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

                          Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

                          How to become an expert?

                          Make a Mastery Training Plan

                          Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

                          1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

                          Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

                          2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

                          Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

                          3. Review your progress

                          Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

                          How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

                          5. Create a Conducive Environment

                          A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

                          “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

                          I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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                          I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

                          I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

                          It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

                          If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

                          This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

                          How to create a conducive environment?

                          Add or Subtract Stimuli

                          Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

                          If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

                          On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

                          Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

                          Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

                          In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

                          To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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                          Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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