7 free and low-cost social media tool hacks I couldn’t have lived without in 2013

I might argue that the two biggest challenges for social media professionals are building fresh and engaging content on a daily basis, and tracking your results in a consistent, ROI-driven format. Any good social media marketer will have a number of free and low-cost tools in their back pockets ready for action at any given moment.

The following are 6 free (and 1 low-cost tool) I’ve come to depend on this past year, and the (sometimes unusual) ways I’ve used them to create and track social content for CARE.

1. Picmonkey

Here’s a little known fact – Picmonkey offers free premium memberships to nonprofits. Just send them a request here.

Picmonkey is the most user-friendly photo editing tool I’ve come across. It doesn’t allow for real advanced edits (you’d want to go to Pixlr for more heavy editing), but you can overlay text fairly easily and quickly – which is crucial in the age of Pinterest and the resurgence of inspirational quotes – as well as create photo filters, frames, image overlays and collages. They also do a great job keeping their themes in line with the seasons, so it’s easy to create fun, relevant photos like this one that I tweeted on Halloween:


2. Hootsuite analytics

While I use a variety of analytics tools, both free and paid, to track my progress, I’ve found that Hootsuite’s analytics is the most accurate way to track the number of times a hashtag or keyword is used over time. Unfortunately you have to upgrade to a pro account to access these reports, but it’s only $9.99 a month.

The key to getting an accurate reading is to start scheduling reports before the campaign time-frame. Tracking while the campaign is ongoing will give you a much more accurate reading than tracking retroactively.

To access the report module, click on analytics on the left-hand navigation. Then, opt to build a custom report and add the “Compare Keywords” module – where you can track up to 5 keywords or hashtags. Your keywords can also be a phrase and include “AND” and “OR.” You can track your share of the conversation by comparing your campaign keyword with your org name AND the keyword. This way you can say X hashtag was used 180 times over 5 days, and 90 of them were by or about our organization.


3. Causes

Causes is a nonprofit activism platform where charities can solicit donations and actions in the form of signing a petition or pledge. Not only is Causes a great way to engage supporters, but it’s a clean, image-driven platform that you can use as a new and exciting way to display photos, videos, short snippets of content and to share links. It can serve as a surrogate blog so you can keep your content fresh when your social audience is moving faster than your web content can keep up with.


4. Twitter analytics

Twitter analytics aren’t nearly as advanced or as in-your-face as Facebook insights, but they’re there. You just have to know where to find them (and they don’t make it easy). Click on your settings icon in the top right corner and select Twitter ads – even if you’ve never ran one in your life.

You may be prompted to log in again, but then you’ll be taken to a dashboard where you can select “analytics” at the top. Here you can view and export retweets, mentions, favorites and clicks per tweet, as well as glean important insights about the demographics and interests of your followers.

5. Facebook Insights

If you have a Facebook brand page, Insights needs no introduction. It is staring at you from the top of your page every time you visit. The constantly-changing platform can be overwhelming – it provides a wealth of data and can take some time to navigate. I won’t get into details here, but the piece I find most useful is the post engagement rate.

Not all Facebook posts are created equal. Organic reach fluctuates and when you throw promoted posts into the mix – it’s hard to tell what’s doing well because a lot of people saw it or because it actually resonated.

The engagement rate is simple – it’s engagements divided by impressions. But let’s face it, we’re busy and don’t have time for all of that mental math. Seeing all of your posts laid out next to their engagement rates can provide a lot of insights into what’s working and what isn’t – and it makes it much easier to recognize patterns.

The engagement rate isn’t super easy to find either. Select posts in the top navigation, then scroll down to where your posts are displayed, and click the drop down arrow on the far right to view your engagement rates.


6. Tailwind

Pinterest has been a little behind the game in providing analytics for users. Tailwind seems to be the best 3rd party application out there for accuracy and insight. While they have several premium options, you can create a dashboard for free to get the gist of your Pinterest activity. Your dashboard will show your total number of pins, repins and likes. Surprisingly, this is the only free tool I’ve come across that offers these totals. Since we  at CARE track total social media actions across platforms on a monthly basis, these numbers are crucial for our analytics.

A free account will also show you these same numbers by board or by pin- which with a little manipulation, you can copy and paste into an Excel document to track over time.

Storify is an awesome platform that let’s you aggregate content across the web and various social media channels to tell a story. We’ve used it to round up various photos, videos, tweets, Facebook posts etc. on particular topics, as well as used it as a place to showcase comments we’ve solicited from our community.
For example, we participated in a #Solutions2Hunger campaign, where we asked people to send us their solutions to hunger and promised to deliver them to the Obama administration. We aggregated them for all to see by creating this Storify page.
We’ve also used it as a way to let our friends and followers show off a bit. On Valentine’s Day, we simply asked them to tell us or send us a picture of who they love. Even though this initiative didn’t have much to do with our core mission of fighting poverty, people were excited for the opportunity to be recognized by CARE.


2 thoughts on “7 free and low-cost social media tool hacks I couldn’t have lived without in 2013

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