As a business owner in the digital age, I use tons of digital software tools and apps to run my digital marketing program and to manage my companies. I have extensive experience with each and every one of the tools and resources listed below and feel very confident in suggesting them to you. I’m a huge believer in using best in class tools and integrating those tools together versus all-in-one solutions. I find that the all-in-one solutions are expensive and don’t provide as much value. In order to easily make my tools talk to each other, I use Zapier. It’s an amazing resource. With simple integration solutions, who needs all-in-one?
Please note that if you decide to sign-up for a free trial or purchase any of the tools on my suggestion list labeled as “partner” or “affiliate”, I can be compensated by the provider for the referral. Ultimately, you have to make the best choices for your budget and business goals when deciding which digital tools are most suitable for you! You should consider my suggestion list as a starting point for conducting your own research and testing.
Steph’s Recommended Digital Tools List
Teambox - Teambox is an amazing tool for managing tasks and projects team collaboration built in. What I really love is the Teambox for Gmail Chrome extension. I can add tasks to any project directly from Gmail. Being able to integrate task management within Gmail is super helpful for streamlining my workflow. You can also integrate Teambox with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.net.
37 Signals Basecamp – This project management software tool is very powerful as well. I’ve used Basecamp for years and still use it for certain projects.
Nimble – Nimble has won me over in this category because of the sleek integration of client relationship management, social media management, and email communications. I believe that email should be integrated with CRM, because that is where so much of the conversation exists! If you already have a CRM system set-up, consider using Nimble as more of a top layer to your CRM tool. (I’m a Nimble partner)
WP Engine - I migrated all of my own sites as well as all of my client sites to WP Engine in 2012 and have never looked back. My past hosting experiences have been nightmares. WordPress hosting is NOT a commodity! You truly get what you pay for. You don’t want to go with the low cost provider when it comes to protecting and managing your most valuable digital asset. WP Engine provides hassle and worry free WordPress specific hosting. It’s also a fast and scalable platform. Most importantly, their service and support is absolutely outstanding! (I’m a WP Engine affiliate)
WP101 – My good friend Shawn Hesketh has done an amazing job with his WordPress 101 Training Videos. You’ll have the basics down in no time, and he updates the videos each time there is a new release on WordPress software! (I’m a WP101 partner and affiliate)
Content Development, Planning, & Marketing
For a long time I’ve survived without a content calendar but finally decided it was time to put more structure around my process. The free WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin is simple to install and set-up. It works really well as a basic content planning calendar. I’m experimenting with additional resources here so hope to have more to share in this category.
Mostly, when it comes to SEO you just need to get the fundamentals down for optimizing your posts and pages. To create a simple meta title and description for my sites and all my pages and posts, I use the free version of the All-in-One SEO WordPress Plugin.
Otherwise I’m a really big believer in focusing on long-tail keywords when it comes to driving traffic to your blog. Naturally incorporating “long-tail” keyword phrases into your content that are relevant to your subject matter and speak to your specific target markets can be quite an effective strategy.
Hittail is a tool that can help you do just that. Not only do they analyze your traffic and source long-tail keyword phrase ideas for you (based on your existing traffic), they’ll send you their top suggestions each day or week via email. I find this to be a great accountability tool that helps me stay focused on producing quality content for my community. There is a WordPress plugin for Hittail that makes it simple to install. Plans start at $9.95/month.
Blog Comments Tool
Disqus - I’ve tried all the commenting tools out there and have always come back to Disqus. It’s the industry standard for blog commenting software and is incredibly robust. You can literally create a community from your blog using Disqus.
Social Media Management Tools
Social Media Monitoring and Management
Hootsuite -Hootsuite is the most comprehensive social media monitoring and management platform for business professionals and small business owners. It’s pretty much the kitchen sink. For many, it may be overkill, but all of the monitoring and posting capabilities as well as the “apps” that can be plugged into your dashboard make it a very robust tool at a great value. Paid plans start at $9.99/month. (I’m a Certified Hootsuite Partner)
Buffer App – The Buffer App is my go to tool for social media content distribution. You can attach your social media profiles to Buffer and pre-load each channel with great content that you have discovered to be automatically shared with your network at optimal times. Buffer becomes a part of your everyday life versus having to carve out time to accomplish this task otherwise. You simply strive to keep your Buffer filled up for each social media channel. Integrate bit.ly with Buffer to track your posts and use Buffer analytics to really see what’s resonating with your community. I also love that Buffer works so well on mobile devices. Install the bookmark on your smart phone and Buffer on the go. (I’m a Buffer referral partner)
PostRocket – This tool is absolutely awesome for optimizing your Facebook Business Page posts. The tool is free for up to 3 Facebook Pages. There is a Chrome browser extension (and Firefox) for posting your updates directly from the web. The best feature is that PostRocket will identify an image from whatever it is you are posting (if one exists on the page) and allow you to post a “photo” status update versus a basic text or link status update to your page (images tend to get more visibility on Facebook). You can also add whatever text you’d like to that image. Your updates will be automatically added to your que and posted at the most optimal time. PostRocket will prompt you via email to keep filling up your que (just like Buffer App).
MailChimp - Mailchimp is my choice for simple email marketing. You can deliver your blog posts via an email newsletter through Mailchimp, run one-time campaigns, and build auto-responder campaigns as well. The mobile email templates are terrific and look great on any device! Mailchimp’s recently upgraded interface is very easy to use. Best of all, Mailchimp is free for your first 2000 subscribers. (I’m a Certified MailChimp Expert)