10 Free Social Media Tools for 2017 – Small Business

Utilize these 10 Free Social Media tools to manage and analyze your social media, engage your customers and prospects, and better market your small business in 2017.

Running a small business comes with a never ending to-do list of things that need to be accomplished yesterday. Sales, hiring, inventory, marketing, customer service, and oh yeah – you were supposed to conquer the world of social media promotion years ago. Start 2017 on the right foot by trying out these free social media tools that other small businesses swear by.

Social media allows you to engage with customers and leads just like the industry leaders in your line of business. You can neither put off managing an effective social media presence, nor risk doing it wrong and waste time being ineffective.

10 Free Social Media Tools for 2017 – Small Business List

Buffer

Buffer is a scheduling tool that lets you easily and quickly share and schedule posts to your various social media profiles.  You can schedule posts in advance or share what you are reading immediately to multiple networks letting you manage all of your profiles in one dashboard.  What makes Buffer stand out is the analytics they provide to track engagement and interactions of your posts.

Pablo

With access to over 600K+ images and two dozen fonts, Pablo lets you easily create graphics for your social media posts.  Created by Buffer, you can share the graphics you create directly from Pablo or download to use anywhere and anyway you like.  One of the best features of Pablo is it makes it easy to resize your graphic to use on multiple popular social networks.

pablo free social media toolsHootsuite

Hootsuite promises to help you do more with social media, in less time.  A popular social media manager, Hootsuite lets you manage your social media on multiple networks in one place. The free plan includes three profiles with basic analytics, post scheduling, and integration of two RSS feeds.  You also get 10 customized content suggestions to make it easier to fill up your social media posting schedule.

Unsplash

If you need free high-resolution photos with no restrictions, then Unsplash is a fantastic resource.  Chooses from thousands of photos and use them to create social media posts and graphics for all of your marketing channels.

ALSO READ: CHECKLIST – Picking the Best Social Media Network for Your Business

SocialRank

SocialRank helps you understand your Twitter and Instagram followers.  By understanding your audience, you can create the engaging content that increases conversions.  This tool lets you sort your followers by who is most influential and most engaged, filter by bio keyword and hashtag use, and pinpoint the right people by number of followers and activities. The free plan includes filtering and sorting followers, connecting multiple profiles and viewing full follower profiles.

free-social-media-tools-socialrank

Ad Parlor Mockup Generator

Ad Parlor is a platform for optimizing and executing social and video advertising.  They are awesome because they have a free Ad Mockup Generator you can use for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Use it to get a preview of exactly how your ad will look across different publishers, placements, desktop, and mobile platforms.  Ad Parlor provides the recommended and hard character text limits for all ad types as you build your mockup.  Images for any ad type adjust to fit your design and it’s absolutely free.

Uprank

A digital marketing tool to analyze your website, Uprank builds a tasks-based digital marketing strategy for your website.  You enter your website URL, and Uprank analyzes half a dozen aspects of your site but our focus here is on the social media marketing strategy included in the digital marketing to-do lists you’ll receive.

HubSpot Marketing Grader

Get a detailed analysis of your marketing efforts, including social media, with HubSpot’s website grader.  You simply put in your website URL and email to receive a report. In under 30 seconds, it analyzes all of your marketing (not just your website) to review over 30 different factors and then provides an overall Marketing Grade on a 1-100 scale. Results will give you a starting point of where you need to make improvements for your social media management and marketing in 2017.

free-social-media-tools-hubspot

Canva

Canva is a super simple graphics tool for creating social media images.  Loaded with pre-sized social media templates, and endless graphics and fonts, Canva lets you create professional looking graphics with its easy drag-and-drop function and a huge library of examples you can use for inspiration.  New to creating graphics for your website, blog, or social media posts and profiles?  Canva also has free tutorials to help you become a master designer quickly.

free-social-media-tools-canva

Audiense Twitter Analytics

Audiense is a paid consumer insight and engagement platform that identifies and helps you connect with people and audience segments.  However, if you have less than 5K followers, you can sign up to use their free Twitter Analytics tool. Get demographics and influencer rankings on your followers.  Find out the best time for you to tweet. Find interesting people to follow and easily locate Twitter users you want to add or remove from a list.

ALSO READ: Increase Social Media ROI

More Social Media Tools for 2017?

Are you already using some of these tools?  Are there other free social media tools you’re using?  Share what is working for you in the comments so others can get a jump on managing their social media in 2017.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post 10 Free Social Media Tools for 2017 – Small Business appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Small Business Saturday – How to Do More This SBS

Thanksgiving weekend is coming up fast and with all the talk of Black Friday and Cyber Monday local businesses are at a loss to compete with larger brands and chains that promise midnight hours, doorbusters, and drastic price cuts.  There is one bright spot in all the big business madness: Small Business Saturday!

With a big push over the last five years from companies like American Express, Small Business Saturday has grown to become a driving force in local communities.  Sandwiched in the middle of BFCM (Black Friday & Cyber Monday) Small Business Saturday leans on the community spirit created by the holidays and falls on a day when consumers are still in a frenzied buying mode to get ready for the holidays.

small business saturday-customers

A Better Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year’s Small Business Saturday is November 26, 2016. Sponsored and promoted each year heavily by American Express, the “Shop Small” movement focuses on the brighter side of holiday shopping by promoting local merchants.  Small business owners across the country are joining together on Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to shop locally and benefit their own communities and neighborhoods.

Sign Up at ShopSmall.com

Every small business still has a chance to sign up at www.ShopSmall.com to get free marketing materials and a free listing on ShopSmall.com where shoppers can go to search for businesses in their local area to shop with.  Get logos for your website, printable signage, event guides and even email templates to promote your business.

Free Marketing Resources for Small Business Saturday

At ShopSmall.com, the American Express website dedicated to Small Business Saturday, you’ll find free marketing materials such as free downloadable signage for your store and website banners when you explore the Promote Your Business section of the site.  These are provided to help you promote your business, but you are responsible for the cost of printing marketing materials.

small business saturday free materials-material

If you are a qualifying American Express® Card accepting small merchant, you should highlight the double the rewards offer from American Express.  The deal is that card members who use their card at participating small businesses now through December 31 can earn 2X rewards if they enroll their card in the Shop Small program.  American Express also provides a free downloadable marketing kit that contains printable signage, as well as graphics and scripts for email, websites, and social media posts.  You can download the 2X Rewards marketing kit here.

small business saturday-2x-rewards

Be Easy to Find and Contact

When customers are doing an online search for local business, search engines are looking for the most relevant and accurate information.  Both searchers and search engines rely on business listings to find the correct name, address and phone number (NAP), and both quickly disregard incomplete or inconsistent listings.

You want customers to easily find you on Small Business Saturday (and the other 364 days of the year), so it’s essential that your business name, physical address, and phone number are consistent and present on the dozens of directories and websites that feed search engines local information.

It can be a time-consuming task to take on – creating, checking and correcting your business listings – but not impossible and very necessary.  A more efficient way to ensure you are being found with correct information that puts you higher in search results is to use a low-cost Business Listing Management service that does it all for you.

Join the Small Business Saturday Conversations on Social Media

When you check out ShopSmall.com you can get a social media starter package to jump right into the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  The #SmallBizSaturday and #ShopSmall hashtags trends high over the next 10 days. Use this short window to promote your local business on social media.  Repost popular Small Business Saturday posts and use the downloadable logos and images to customize visuals that entice your customers and prospects to come spend some time and money with you on November 26.

Hashtags to use and follow include #SmallBizSat, #SmallBizSaturday, #ShopSmall, and #ShopLocal. Watch these hashtags to get inspired by what other small businesses are posting:

small business saturday-hashtags

Support and Partner Up with Other Small Businesses

This is one of those great opportunities to lead by example and buy from small businesses in your community, but get some of your shopping in before Small Business Saturday.  Shopping local is a great opportunity for you to meet your future partners in Small Business Saturday promotion. Just like you, most small businesses are lacking a huge marketing budget to accommodate extra expenses, but if you work together, you can create local marketing push that really gets you noticed.

It’s a little late in the game to start a committee, but still plenty of time for some cross-promotion, shared marketing, and good old fashioned community spirit.  It can be as simple as walking your neighborhood and taking photos of items or deals you can’t wait to buy at other shops and posting them on your social media accounts the week leading up to Small Business Saturday and encouraging those establishments to do the same.

Here are some additional suggestions from www.ShopSmall.com:

  • Provide entertainment and activities to draw people to attend: get a local band or DJ to play music, organize activities like face painting or a costume contest, or set up a photo booth on-site to make for family fun!
  • Invite local officials and other local celebrities to participate in your event: reach out to the mayor, councilperson, or other local officials to attend your event. Think about people who are celebrities around town and invite them to participate.
  • Involve local businesses: invite local businesses to set up pop-up shops or tables to promote their goods and services. Design the event to drive consumers into their stores by encouraging business owners to offer special promotions on the day.
  • Promote your event: spread the word to your local media and encourage the press to attend and cover the event. And don’t forget to spread the word around your town!

small business saturday-customers

Do More This Small Business Saturday

Customers want to see great deals and community-minded discounts from their local business. Get on their radar and give them a reason to visit both their old favorites and the businesses they have been thinking of trying out. Entice your community to shop in their neighborhood and once you’ve got them in the door make sure you make it fun and reward their support with top-notch customer service and something they can take away that makes them want to come back.

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Small Business Saturday – How to Do More This SBS appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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New Facebook Features, Recommendations & Review Post Automation

When talking about engagement on social media, Facebook is the clear winner.  Pew research has shown that 70% of its users log on daily, and 43% do so several times a day.  While some businesses still see Facebook as the network grandmas use to see pics of distant grandbabies, Facebook continues to evolve.  Some new Facebook features include a platform for users to review and rate local businesses and now they have a recommendations tool that is a real game changer.

new-facebook-features-72-percent

Knowing the importance of social proof and consumers’ reliance on the recommendations of real life customers, Facebook has invested in new platforms and tools to rival dedicated review sites as a top spot to get information and feedback on places and products.

By introducing new features that utilize and highlight customer reviews, Facebook continues to grow worldwide as a place to compare new products and services, discover new ideas, and even shop by finding relevant businesses.

 

With the ever increasing importance consumers place on customer reviews to make their buying decisions, it comes as no surprise that one of the most popular social networks in the world has made changes to support their users’ thirst for social proof.

Customers are having conversations about the places they go and business are looking for recommendations on the things they buy. Facebook wants to facilitate those conversations with new features focused on customer reviews.

New Facebook Features Use Recommendations and Reviews

Recommendations – New Facebook Feature Maps Recommendations from Friends

Last month, Facebook announced they were rolling out a new recommendations tool.  Anyone who has ever written a post asking for recommendations on where to go to do or buy something is going to love this!

  • You write a post on your Facebook profile asking your connections for recommendations on whatever.
  • Turn on the “Recommendations” feature.
  • Your friends send you suggestions on where they would go for whatever.
  • You get an enhanced recommendations post showing all those suggestions mapped out and saved.

new-facebook-features-recommendationsSource: Facebook Newsroom

This tool will only strengthen Facebook’s place in the hierarchy of customer research destinations.  While 100 reviews on Yelp can tell you a lot about a business, just one recommendation from a friend is likely to be trusted more.  Having a positive online reputation built on customer reviews will go far in getting the “I’ve heard good things” recommendations from friends using this new tool.

Professional Services – New Facebook Feature Ranking Local Businesses Based on Facebook Reviews

Introduced about a year ago, Facebook Professional Services is a local business directory inside Facebook where users can find business ranked by their Facebook reviews and ratings.  Logged into Facebook, a customer can use the search box to find businesses near their area based on product or service keywords or browse local businesses by business category from the Facebook Professional Services page.

Search and business listing category results show basic business information including description, location, contact information, and ratings.

new-facebook-features-professional-services1

–Source Facebook Professional Services

Results, both desktop and mobile, appear to be based on proximity, keyword matching, star rating, number of reviews, previous interactions with a local business, and (because it’s Facebook) connections between people you know and a business.

How Review Post Automation Increases Social Media ROI

The social media world is fast-paced and has a very short memory. A surefire way to raise your social media ROI is to automate many of the tasks associated with maintaining and growing your social media presence.

To keep your audience engaged, consistent posting and interaction are key. Consumers want fresh and relevant content, which you can deliver in the form of posts showcasing only your best customer reviews. Automating the process of posting your business’ customer reviews on your Facebook page will save you time and increase your social media ROI.

Look for tools like Reputation Loop’s automated customer feedback feature to automatically and consistently gather five-star reviews and post your best reviews to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus pages.

With Reputation Loop, you can determine which feedback and reviews to share, how often, and the maximum number of posts a day.  You can even manually push through a review for immediate posting from your Reputation Loop dashboard. Now those reviews are not only part of your profile feed seen by your connections, friends, and followers, but they are also part of your timeline.

new-facebook-features-80-percent-purchase

The benefits extend beyond your social network connections with the way people now search for new businesses and products.  When customers do online research on your business name, your social media profiles are usually part of the top results. Future customers who discover your social media profiles can also travel back as far as they want in your posts stream and see real reviews, by real people on your Facebook profile and in your feed from other sources.

With automated review posting you can create and publish your five-star review posts without you lifting a finger. Continuous posting maintains a consistent voice of approval on your social media profiles that buyers listen to. Now you are getting more done, with less effort and building a more impressive online reputation.

Let Reputation Loop help increase your Social Media ROI with automated customer review and feedback posting. Find out more here and contact us at support@reputationloop.com or (866) 700-9330.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post New Facebook Features, Recommendations & Review Post Automation appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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Holiday Local Marketing on a Small Budget

Use these marketing ideas to connect with customers and see a bigger ROI from holiday local marketing without busting your budget.

The holidays are approaching FAST. Local businesses enjoy an advantage when it comes to building relationships with their customers, gaining trust in the community, and connecting with their consumer base in a way the big boys just can’t. Even with fewer resources, you can ace holiday local marketing on a small budget by engaging customers where they live.

holiday-local-marketing-starts-earlyResearch has shown that a large section (36%) of consumers start their holiday shopping in September.  If you don’t have holiday marketing mapped out for your small business, you’ll need to catch up to get your slice of the billions spent every November and December. There is still time for your business to enjoy the spending frenzy that takes over the end of every year.

Take advantage of the festive and giving atmosphere by positioning your business to be top of mind for your customers.  According to the National Retail Federation, 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year.

BONUS TIP: Take a minute to review your data from the local marketing for last year’s holiday season and make a note of what gave you the best ROI and figure out how to reproduce and increase those results before you start planning.

holiday-local-marketing-sales-forecast

Big Holiday Local Marketing on a Small Budget

Ready to bring back old customers and entice new ones to come through the door?  Try these holiday local marketing ideas to put new life in your end of the year sales race.

Personalized Customer Appreciation

Encourage repeat business and spread the holiday spirit with personalized messaging that shows how much you appreciate your customers. Faithful customers should get special attention during customer appreciation, and new customers or prospects should get your top-notch, above and beyond, holiday customer service.

Customer Appreciation Holiday Local Marketing Ideas:

  • Holiday cards offering special appreciation pricing, sneak previews, or special offers.
  • Customer appreciation event or day where you show off what is available for the holidays, give out special coupons, hand out samples, offer free cider, candy or treats, and really lay on the charm.
  • Encourage repeat business by offering a 10 to 20% discount off the next total purchase price if the customer presents a receipt of a previous purchase from November or December at check out by Christmas Eve.

BONUS TIP: You’ll make a bigger impact and stand out from the crowd if you deliver fresh messaging to engage overwhelmed consumers bombarded with the same message from your and every other business.

Calendar and Advertise Weekly Specials

Designate each week between the week of Halloween and the week of New Years as having a special theme with discounts for, and focus on, one product or service.

Weekly Specials Holiday Local Marketing Tips:

  • Do inexpensive in store and storefront signage, website/blog/email promotion, and formatted in a readable calendar style that showcases your specials.
  • Put your money-makers, or introduce something new you are excited about, Thanksgiving week (to include Black Friday and Small Business Saturday) and the week leading up to Christmas.
  • Make a show of X-ing out the “cyber” in Cyber Monday and relabeling it “Come-In Monday” highlighting your deepest discounts to encourage customers to shop locally for the same savings they find online.

holiday-local-marketing-sample-ad

Attend, Volunteer, and/or Sponsor Local Community Events and Charities

While non-profits could certainly use your money, they are equally in need of volunteer time and services.  Sometimes donations of supplies and surplus are the biggest help of all.

Without touching your marketing budget, you can contribute to the community or assist a non-profit.  There are dozens of ways your expertise can benefit a good cause and even more things your two hands can do to pitch in.

Not only are you doing a huge good deed, but it is also a tremendous opportunity to network with other contributors and possibly have your business mentioned as a sponsor, contributor, donator or volunteer.

Focus on a specific event or program for this holiday.  Regardless of what the organization can provide for you in return, make sure your customers and community know what you do for the community and how they can contribute to a group or cause your business is passionate about.  Spread the word through your blog, press release, community paper/magazine, or simply placing photos in your place of business.

Promote and Combine Marketing with Neighboring Businesses

Holiday local marketing efforts are multiplied when you partner with other businesses. By pooling resources, you can share in a bigger scope of marketing activities.

Think of what businesses in your area compliment your business. Look to your physical neighbors for cooperative opportunities that build awareness of your business and bring more foot traffic to your area.

Combined Marketing Ideas for Local Holiday Marketing:

  • Split a larger local advertising space
  • Exchange in store or online advertising space
  • Give a coupon for the other business with a purchase from your business
  • Set up a small display of free samples with your store information at another business

Push Gift Certificates HARD with Local Holiday Marketing

This is more a product than a marketing tactic, but Gift Certificates are big money makers during the holidays because they are so easy to market and sell.  Gift certificate are also inexpensive to create, can be managed easily in-house, and don’t require any fancy point of sale programming or extensive training to implement at a small business level.

One huge plus for using gift certificates is they are sometimes not redeemed because they are lost or forgotten, but you already have the money. Just ensure you have a gift certificate tracking system in place that outlasts the expiration dates of your gift certificates.

Tips for Local Holiday Marketing with Gift Certificates

  • Take special care to create extremely professional looking gift certificates and packaging.  Someone is receiving this as a GIFT.
  • Have a system in place for your point-of-sale system, dispersing, redeeming, and tracking gift certificates.  They should be clearly numbered and tracked at all stages from creation and packaging to sale and redemption.
  • Once you have created your gift certificates, treat them like cash money.  Properly secure them from theft and mismanagement.  You don’t want to have to honor a gift certificate that was not properly purchased.
  • Create gift certificates for a certain dollar amount to treat it as a cash discount for point of sale purposes. Or you can create a gift certificate for a specific product, service or package, but remember you will need to create a point of sale procedure for redemption.
  • Consider including some fine print such as a two-year expiration date, noting that gratuity is not included but appreciated, contact information for inquiries or appointments, etc.

Do you have a great idea for Holiday Local Marketing? We’d love to hear it. And other readers would appreciate your tips and expertise.  Share in the comments!

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

The post Holiday Local Marketing on a Small Budget appeared first on Reputation Loop.

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