Composing posts, coming up with creative content strategies and finding that perfect image is all well and good, but veteran Social Strategists have a secret tool kit that truly is the real workhorse of the operation. In this digital age, there’s luckily a number of super helpful online tools available to anyone with an internet connection – and the best part, they’re all free.
Here’s a list of eight of our favourite online Social Media Management tools.
1. Facebook Scheduler
Ever wondered why you see posts from brands populating your News Feed right at the perfect times? That’s all thanks to the native scheduler built into Facebook Pages. The feature lets you prepare your business’s posts ahead of time, including tags, links, photos and videos, and schedule them exactly when you want them to publish. This is a super beneficial tool for community managers as it allows you to, for example, construct your posts for the entire month at once so you can channel your creative energy into your content, leaving the remainder of the month for monitoring and adding minor adjustments.
You may be familiar with their unique ow.ly links or the uber prolific ‘via Hootsuite’ time stamp on your Facebook News Feed. HootSuite is a Social Media Management (SMM) tool that services Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to create and schedule posts from both networks via their web-based app. It’s pretty simple to use, and there’s a free tier that gives you two accounts (from either network) – any more jumps you into the paid version. Pros include being able to post and schedule from a personal Facebook page (which the native Facebook scheduler doesn’t allow); cons include not being able to upload video from either Facebook or Twitter, and you can’t tag other pages on Facebook, which can very much limit what sort of posts you can schedule. There’s also a simple plugin for most browsers that allows you to schedule a post in one click from any web page.
We discovered Buffer maybe six months ago, and our social lives have never been simpler. It’s essentially an extended version of HootSuite focusing on sharing web pages, adding in auto-posting and scheduling from LinkedIn and Google+ on top of the usual Facebook and Twitter capabilities. As with HootSuite, there’s a handy browser plugin that lets you post from any or all of the four networks at one time using a shared caption, with the exception of Facebook allowing you to create a custom message. The only cons we can find is that it doesn’t allow you to tag Pages on Facebook (as with HootSuite), so hopefully that’s something both services can overcome in the near future, and you can only have 10 posts scheduled per network at a time.
Link shorteners have become quite popular in line with the uptake of the social platforms, and bit.ly is one of the originators. Both a web and mobile app, bit.ly allows you to take any link and shorten it with the bit.ly prefix, giving you the option for a customizable suffix (always a good idea). On top of giving you more characters for your caption (rather than waste it on lengthy links), the backend monitors every click, giving you real time statistics on how your audience interacts with your posts. We use bit.ly for our posts across all networks, so even though your followers won’t see the link itself on Facebook, your clicks are still being recorded so the stats keep coming.
Need custom social graphics but Photoshop is too much to deal with? Fret never, Canva is your solution. A favourite of Buffer, Canva gives you the capability to produce quality infographics, presentations, flyers and more, with a wide variety of filters, designs, layouts and fonts. There’s a free tier that gives you limited options but it’s still quite doable for basic social content. If you’re serious about it, you can expand to the paid tier to give you full access to their suite.
Are you one of those web users that has a ton of tabs open with articles that you plan to read later, but you end up closing most of them when your computer starts to struggle from the sheer volume of open web content? We sympathise, and that’s where Pocket comes in. A handy browser extension that stores all your ‘for later’ links, it helps keep your tabs tidy and your CPU running smooth. Even better, it’s compatible with Buffer so if you want to share what you’ve read, you’re just a click of a button away.
7. Facebook See First
For SMMs who are always on the hunt for the freshest content, Facebook makes your life easy with the See First option. Customize your News Feed by hovering over the Like button on any given Page and select ‘See First’ under ‘In Your News Feed’. This ensures all content from that Page will appear at the top of your feed with a little blue star in the corner, so you’ll never miss a post. If you’re more intense and want a notification after every post, hit the little pencil under ‘Notifications’ and choose which posts you’d like to be notified about.
8. Facebook Object Debugger
This is the most underrated of all the free tools. There’s nothing worse than seeing link posts on your News Feed with an ugly, empty white box full of text. No image, nothing. Who wants to live in that world? The good news is there’s a simple way around it. Head over to the Facebook Debugger, paste your link, hit ‘Debug’ and watch the magic happen. Scroll down the page and look under ‘When shared, this is what will be included’ to see what happened. If there’s still no image, you can go back to the top and hit ‘Fetch new scrape information’ – voila, your image is back! More often than not this does the trick, however there are times when it’s an issue with the link itself and there’s nothing us mere mortals can do.
Does all this social stuff sound overwhelming? Talk to us.