As a business owner in the digital age, I use tons of digital software tools and apps to run my digital marketing programs, position and sell my products and services, and manage my businesses. I have extensive experience with each and every one of the tools and resources listed below and feel very confident in recommending them to you. I’m a huge believer in using best in class tools that are reputable and reliable.
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 list as a starting point for conducting your own research and testing.
Steph’s Recommended Digital Tools List
Redbooth (formerly Teambox) - Redbooth is an amazing tool for managing tasks and projects with team collaboration built in. This is the tool we use with my company, Wired Advisor, internally for managing our projects and tasks. What I really love is the Redbooth for Google Apps 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 Redbooth with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.net.
Zapier – This tool has become invaluable to me. As you are probably aware, there are so many online tools that you can utilize for building and growing your digital brand. Zapier is a lifesaver in that it allows you to connect almost ANY of the tools that you use and automate tasks. For example, I can have Zapier automatically take any new MailChimp email subscriber and send them to Nimble, my CRM, with a label/tag. I can also save favorited tweets to Evernote, Zapier is inexpensive and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface with what can be done with this service!
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)
Rapportive – Rapportive is a people intelligence tool that I absolutely could not live without, and best of all it’s free. Install Rapportive in Gmail (or Google apps) to get social data on your email contacts. See their latest tweets and connect with them on social networks right from within your Gmail inbox.
WP Engine - WordPress hosting is not a commodity. I’ve used very low cost hosting in the past, and it was a disaster. With WordPress hosting, you get what you pay for. You don’t want to go with the low cost provider when it comes to protecting and managing your website or blog…your most valuable digital assets.
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. 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.
With regard to SEO, outside of the foundational tactics it really comes down to creating great content, marketing your content effectively, and building an intelligent network of fans, friends, connections and followers. There just aren’t any short-term tricks that are worth implementing unless you want to risk being penalized by Google. Just create helpful, informative, relevant content for your audience on a consistent basis and you will do well. I’ve never had to focus too much on SEO to build the right kind of traffic to my sites.
Blog Commenting Tool
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.
Social Media Management Tools
Social Media Monitoring and Management
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)
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 can become a part of your everyday workflow on the go 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)
Simple Email Marketing
MailChimp - MailChimp is my choice for simple email marketing. You can automatically deliver your an email digest of your latest blog posts to your subscribers 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 which is important. Best of all, MailChimp is free for your first 2000 subscribers. One caveat with MailChimp is that they don’t allow you to promote affiliate/referral links in your emails. If this is something that is important to your online business, you might consider alternatives here.