There are so many digital tools out there, each with its expertise: analytics, content marketing, publishing, visualization, etc. Although I use several of them, I keep my essential tools to a minimum. Why? Because it’s easy to suffer from “tools overload”: tools are supposed to make your work easier, but when misused you can easily find yourself wasting time using tools and hardly working.
With that said, you should have a few tools in your arsenal. A lot of us are familiar with tools for the enterprise, and a lot of articles nowadays focus mainly on these – from Adobe to Salesforce, from Oracle to Lithium and beyond. These tools are great; they’re excellent, but what about tools for the digital professional in 2015 – the digital professional who wants to be all-aware, all-knowing, with knowledge just a tap away?
I could recommend a few tools, but ultimately it depends on what you’re looking for, and what works for you might not work for another marketer. So, for a change, I thought I’d list the primary tools I use as a digital marketer and community manager. Now, I’m not saying you should go and get all of these tools (although I’m sure you’ll be familiar with a lot of them already). However, I do hope this serves as good steering, a guideline of what sort of tools to consider.
Tools for Content Discovery
- Tweetdeck: Tweetdeck is most probably every marketer’s best friend, and it’s one of the main places where I discover new topics and new people. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of Twitter apps for desktop (mainly because of the issues with Twitter tokens). Tweetdeck is a no-brainer for me: Twitter owns it, so I benefit from exclusive features that Twitter only makes available in its apps (such as being able to view Twitter Cards). I use Tweetdeck strategically: I follow over 600 people on Twitter, and I’m not immune to information overload. That’s why I have Twitter lists to help me consume all of that information in “digestible spoonfuls of data”. I have lists sorted by topics (e.g., technology, social media, news) and by language (I do switch from English to Italian from time to time). I also have a private list that I use to keep up with 25 people: these are 25 people whose content I love, admire, and find interesting; I update this list every month so that I don’t keep talking to the same people over and over again. Lists aside, I have quite a few streams:
- streams looking at the favorites of a few people: as stalkerish as that may sound, I find it interesting to dig through the list of content other people may find interesting enough to favorite, especially since not everything that’s favorited gets retweeted (think of a favorite as an intimate retweet);
- the activity stream: this shows me what the people I follow are doing – from favoriting content to adding people to lists and more;
- search streams for specific topics and events (very useful if you want to keep track of marketing hashtags like #smm);
- URL search streams, so I don’t miss out on people sharing any posts from my site or any of my guest posts.
- Nuzzel: I’m not always on Twitter, so I can easily miss what’s going on if I don’t check in regularly. Nuzzel helps me catch up on interesting, viral and breaking news. Nuzzel is a free app that alerts you when multiple people in your timeline tweet the same link or the same topic. (You can read more about it here.) If you follow people who regularly post useful content in your timeline, you’ll love Nuzzel.
- Buzzsumo: whenever I want to write an opinion piece on a topic, I check out Buzzsumo to see what other people have written about it recently, and how many times people have shared any related articles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. You can also find topic influencers, run content alerts, and reports (although you’ll have to pay for them). The reports are pretty interesting, as they give you the average number of shares by networks, so you can see where a topic is more popular, average shares by content type (“does this topic work better in form of an infographic, video or text post?”), content length (“how many words should an article on this specific topic have?”), and what other related topics are people more likely to share.
- Feed Wrangler: Google Reader is dead, but RSS isn’t. I use a service called Feed Wrangler to subscribe to various blogs and websites I find interesting so that I can catch up on them every morning and every evening. (This is often where I find the inspiration of what topic to write about next.).
— BuzzSumo (@BuzzSumo) February 15, 2016
Tools for Analytics
- GoSquared: “isn’t this just another Google Analytics?” It isn’t. GoSquared gives me an all-in-one dashboard with a view of visitors, traffic on site, referrers, devices being used to access my site, demographics (location and language) and a Twitter search to see who’s driving traffic to my site in real-time. However, I can go a lot deeper than that if I need to. One of the most significant points in favor of GoSquared is its real-time analytics. I’ve tried using both Google Analytics and GoSquared side by side, and I noticed that GoSquared has always been faster at identifying real-time traffic.
- Mention: I use various social listening platforms to monitor topics I’m interested in, but most of these platforms don’t have a mobile app, so I can’t see those mentions on-the-go. That’s why I use Mention. If you’re already familiar with Google Alerts, then you’ll be glad to know that Mention does alerts too, except they’re much better and much more accurate. I use it to find mentions of my name (so I can reach out to whoever’s mentioned me and thank them/start a conversation), and other topics (in my case, sentiment analysis). That way, I can easily see what’s the latest on a topic I’m interested in.
- SumAll: SumAll is free, in-depth and invaluable when it comes to social analytics. Its strongest point is its ability to join data points together, even if they’re not on the same platform. So, you can see if you’ve had a spike of mentions on Twitter and if that drove traffic to your website. Usually, you’d have to log in two separate platforms, download two different reports and do the analysis yourself. SumAll does save you that time by doing it for you – all you then need to do is build the story around it. Another reason why I recommend SumAll is its long list of analytics data points that you can attach to it: from social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to social writing platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger); from web analytics (Google Analytics) to payments analytics (e.g. PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Payments); from eCommerce analytics (e.g. Amazon, eBay, Shopify) to ads analytics (e.g. Bing Ads, Google AdWords/Adsense) and beyond. There’s virtually nothing you can’t measure in digital marketing with SumAll.
- Visually: Visually is a wonderful resource of videos, presentations, and infographics, perhaps a resource I don’t use quite enough. The main reason why I use it is its weekly Google Analytics report, highlighting the highs and lows of the week for my blog. That’s one of the few emails I look forward to opening on a Monday morning.
— Mention (@Mention) February 15, 2016
- Buffer: Tweetdeck and Buffer should be in every marketer’s arsenal. I manage my “content calendar” through Buffer, and I get analytics from it (which are much better now that they’ve updated their reporting). I also use it to cross-promote posts, but you can read all about it in my previous post.
- Omnifocus: this is the go-to productivity app that helps me stay on top of my daily tasks. All of my work tasks, work campaigns, projects, notes and plans are in this app. It’s not just a task manager – it’s pretty much a personal assistant.
- Ember: here’s where I store all my digital assets – mainly pictures, videos, and my extensive library of GIFs. Thanks to the excellent tagging system, I can put my various assets in folders and dig them back out when I need them very quickly.
- ManageFlitter: although it can be used for lead generation and market research, I only use ManageFlitter for one thing: my monthly Twitter cleanup. Every month I do a checkup on my social accounts to see whether I need to make any updates (e.g., on my LinkedIn profile), or even if I still need an account on a social network. As for Twitter, ManageFlitter helps me run checkups on the list of people who follow me and who I follow..
— Buffer (@buffer) February 16, 2016
Do I Need Tools After All?
Good question. There are mainly two main arguments to this:
- “you don’t need to pay for tools, you can do everything for free,” or
- “you don’t need a tool for that – at all.”
Here’s my take on the subject.
Tools are just a medium to success, a medium to results: if you’re not getting those results, the tool is obsolete, and you should bin it.
When the time you spend maintaining the tool exceeds the time you spend getting results out if it, bin it.
When trying to fix issues with the tool becomes overwhelming, and you don’t get any support from it, bin it.
That’s exactly when tools stop working: stop them now before they prevent you from working.
I see tools like trains: you need to get from A (where you currently are) to B (results/success). Using an unfit tool in the hope that it’ll start working is just like boarding on the wrong train in the hope that someday, somehow, it’ll get to your destination (even when you and I both know that it won’t go there). Now, granted, you don’t always need a tool, but back to the train analogy, it’s a lot easier to get through miles of the road via train than on foot – even though you’ll still get to your destination after all.
As for paying for tools, there are great tools out there that are entirely free. A lot of the tools I use are free, but the truth is that some free tools aren’t as useful as paid tools. Quality doesn’t always come with a price, but don’t let a cost deter you from using a tool. (If you’re in doubt, always go for a trial, and if you get value – real value – out of your trial, then consider paying for it.)
Lastly, I always recommend tools that can integrate with other tools. This applies to social media-specific tools, like Buffer and Tweetdeck, or on an enterprise level, like Hootsuite (which has more than 100 integrations). Join tools up to make things easier; you’re not creating more data, you’re just using the same data, except smarter.