There’s a common misconception that effective social media marketing is pricey, but that’s exactly what it is. A misconception.

Your small business doesn’t need expensive software, a digital consultant or an immense ad budget to make an impact online.

With a little bit of know-how and a handful of free (yes, free) tools, you can plan and execute targeted social media campaigns, engage with all the right people, and finally put your business on the (virtual) map.

Disclaimer – there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of amazing tools out there, and most of them offer free versions. These are simply the ones I’ve tried, tested and seen a benefit from.

Trello

Trello is marketed as a project management tool, but it’s so much more than that.

I like to create boards to plan out my content for all the different platforms I’m active on. My favourite part is that with one simple click, Trello pulls my plans into a calendar format, so I can look at any launch or campaign as a whole.

IFTTT

IFTTT, or If This Then That, is simply the handiest tool ever. It allows users to “trigger” actions online every time they do a specific thing.

For example, every time I publish a blog post, IFTTT can trigger a tweet with the hashtag “newpost”. Then every time a tweet with that hashtag goes out, IFTTT can send an update to my Facebook page, Linkedin feed, or a Pinterest board of my choice.

Take a look at the IFTTT library for inspiration, or start creating your own recipes.

BuzzSumo, Feedly and Buffer

As a general rule of thumb, about 20% of the content you share online should be your own. That other 80% should be sourced from elsewhere – this stops your followers from feeling so marketed to.

This little workflow is one I’ve used for years, and will help you find relevant, high-quality content, and share it with your audience. Now it’s not completely free (although it did used to be). There is a monthly charge of around $8, but it’s a great system and is well worth the investment.

Start by heading to BuzzSumo. Type in your niche topic and click “Influencers”. This search will generate a list of the key people in your industry.

Take this list to Feedly, and follow your influencers there. Each time they publish a post, it will appear in your feed.

Now create a Buffer account, connect your social channels, and install the free Buffer browser extension.

Every few days, dip into Feedly, and take a look at the latest posts from your influencers. If you think any of these are worth a read, share them by hitting the Buffer icon on your toolbar, and clicking “add to queue”.

Once you’re done for the day, head over to Buffer and click “shuffle queue”.

Canva, Pablo and Adobe Spark

Online, visual content is huge.

Not only does it help you stand out, and attract new visitors to your content, but it also helps you develop more of a recognisable brand.

These are three of my favourite free tools for creating striking visuals:

Pablo is a super speedy way to create quote graphics. These can be shared directly through the app too, which is a big time-saver. The only downside is that your design choices are limited.

Adobe Spark (and its 3 accompanying iOS apps) is a fab tool for creating both images and dynamic video content with ease.

Canva is the king of free graphic design resources. With its library of free image templates, customisable icons, and drag and drop functionality, it’s a stress-free way to create yourself some wonderful, on-brand social media graphics.

Analytics

Shooting content into the social media abyss is not the way to make an impact.

Periodically reviewing the success of your social activities is vital. Taking a look at those analytics will help you figure out if you’re sharing the right kind of content, on the right platforms, at the right times.

Google Analytics is all about understanding the results of your website’s content, but it’s also a handy way to figure out where you traffic is coming from. If you notice spikes from a particular platform, that’s where you should be putting your focus.

On Facebook, look at the native Facebook Insights, but look at LikeAlyzer too, a tool which allows you to review the impact of competitor pages, as well as your own.

The in-built Pinterest Analytics are really handy. To see exactly who is pinning your content, type the following into your browser: http://www.pinterest.com/source/YOURURL

Iconosquare  is my favourite tool for monitoring my Instagram metrics – both with regards to my actual posts, and my in-app engagement.

TweetReach  is brilliant for gauging the impact of your efforts on Twitter. I’d also recommend checking out BackTweets  if you want to know exactly who’s tweeting your content.

 

By Gemma Went, online business consultant

For more ideas on how to rock social media on a budget, check out my series of free smart social hacks for small businesses.