I'm a sucker for anything free. Whether it's free shipping on my online order, a free drink with a slice of pizza, or just free hugs: if somebody's giving it away, I'm grabbing it up. Fortunately for me as an Inbound Marketer, there are a plethora of free tools available to make my life and job easier. In the spirit of giving, I'd like to share a few of them with you.
Some of these tools are on a freemium model, some of them are complimentary all around, but every one of them is awesome and has proven integral to my personal Inbound efforts. Let me know how they work for you, or if you'd like to see me review any others!
Cost: Free Ninety Nine
If you're new to the Inbound Marketing world, your website is a pivotal place to start in terms of building out an Inbound approach. There are a multitude of things to consider, from the site's SEO standing to what I call your "social friendliness."
HubSpot's marketing grader tool takes a look at your website through six critical Inbound lenses: Overall, Social Media, Blogging, SEO, Lead Generation, and Mobile Optimization.
Within each category, it provides insights and checklists on what you're doing well and where you need to improve. It even offers educational resources for tackling each area:
Side note: 86 on the Savvy Panda site?! Shouldn't this Inbound powerhouse be scoring 100+? No need to fear... we're in the process of a website redesign as we speak. Stay tuned to see all the new features we'll be rolling out in the next few months!
From a big picture perspective, these reports are an incredible starting point for kicking off your Inbound methodology. Try tackling improvements on one area at a time, and make use of the awesome resources HubSpot provies to help you along the way.
Cost: Free As a Bird
Managing the online social presence for a brand of any size can become cumbersome. From Facebook posting to frequent Tweeting to Instagram sharing, keeping all the networks straight gets to be taxing.
By synching your social accounts with the software, you can post, like, comment and share all in one place. Within your account, you'll set up "Streams" that correspond to each of your social networks and are sorted into tabs. For example, you might set up one tab for your personal accounts and one tab for your business.
Within one tab, you could set up a stream for mentions of your account and one stream for direct messages. These streams filter out all the other noise and only display the content you specify. Here's how it looks:
Within each of these streams, you can engage with posts and mentions the same way you would on each social network. On top of that, you can schedule posts out for the future. This comes in handy for instances when you know what you want to say ahead of time, like to promote a blog post or content download. HootSuite will even tell you what times your followers engage the most on that specific network, to optimize your efforts:
And that's not all, folks! In addition to saving you time through scheduling, HootSuite also has some bomb.com social listening capabilities.
Let's say you're a local sandwich shop in the San Francisco area. You can set up a listening stream in HootSuite which pulls in all mentions of the term "sandwich" being posted within a set radius of your shop's location.
What you do with that stream is up to you, but if I were you I'd start looking for opportunities to join the conversation, and maybe even offer up a special discount to users who are in the area and in the market for a snack.
To learn how to set up a social listening stream, step by step, check out this article.
HootSuite has three tiers of membership: Free, Pro, and Enterprise. Naturally, you get more features the higher you go on the membership tiers. I've been a happy user of my Free account for as long as I've worked in social media, and it hasn't failed me yet.
Cost: Free McGee
Have you ever wondered what time your Twitter followers are most active? Are you curious how many of the people you're following are actually tweeting? Do you want to find more accounts that are Tweeting about the same subjects as you?
FollowerWonk, a tool offered for free by Moz, can satisfy all of those goals and plenty more.
Let's say I want to follow industry leaders in the Inbound Marketing space. When I conduct a search for the term "Inbound Marketing" under the Search Twitter bios function, FollowerWonk pulls me all of the accounts that mention "Inbound Marketing" in the bio.
On top of showing me the results, Followerwonk allows me to sort them by a handful of useful filters and even follow users right from the interface.
In addition to helping you find new accounts to follow, Followerwonk lets you compare the influence and followers of multiple accounts side by side and assess the activity of your own followers.
Just like HootSuite, you get more from Followerwonk when you subscribe to a Moz account. But even with limited access, there are TONS of different ways to check out your Twitter presence, and that of your competition, in the free version.
Cost: Free As Can Be
As an online copywriter who posts anywhere from 3 to 8 blogs each week, I'm always on the lookout for high quality images to include in my posts. But my high volume posting has no image budget, so I need those high quality images to be free and legal for business blogging use.
For a long time, flickr and even Word Clip Art were my go-to sources. And don't get me wrong, they're great. But when I discovered Photo Pin, my blogs got a major boost.
Photo Pin allows you to search by any term, and filter results based on licence types, releance, newness, and "interestingness" of the photos. The first few results will be Sponsored images, AKA monetized stock photography. But once you scroll past those, you've got access to a bank of free images.
When you use a photo from the site in your blog (or eBook, or wherever else) you just need to attribute it to the owner with a link Photo Pin provides.
That brings us to the end of today's list... but you and I both know there are plenty more resources out there to boost your Inbound efforts without denting your budget. That's why I'll be compiling a Part II on this same topic next week! Check back to learn about the tools you won't be able to live without! [Update: Read Part II here]
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84792715@N00/770416963