Monday, August 29, 2016

40 free digital marketing tools to help grow your business

If you’re just starting out with a business, or looking for tools to help you grow, there is a huge array of digital marketing tools, platforms and services available online.

But if you have a small budget to work with or you aren’t sure which are the right tools for you to be investing your money into – or maybe you just want to bolster your digital marketing without spending too much – then how can you narrow your options down?

To help out, we’ve put together a hefty list of 40 free digital marketing tools that can help you grow your business, in every area of marketing: from email to events, content to social media.

This is partly a refreshed and updated version of the excellent list of 50 digital marketing tools to grow your start-up put together by Bryan Eisenberg last year, and incorporates many of his picks as well as suggestions from the comments section. If you know any great free tools that have been helpful in your own digital marketing efforts, please suggest them in the comments!

General sales & marketing

Hubspot

Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform, much of which is free to use. Its free sales software allows you to build email templates, a shared library of sales content and documents, integrate with Gmail and Outlook, schedule emails and more.

Hubspot also offers a free Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software which integrates with it. If you’re minded to upgrade, the Pro version starts at $50 per person per month. (Suggested by Luke Hamon)

Sniply

Sniply is a very interesting tool which lets you build custom calls to action (CTAs) and add them to content that you share. As long as the page you’re sharing supports iframes, you can create your custom CTA button and message and add it in over the page, which only the people who access your link will be able to see.

SumoMe

SumoMe boasts a powerful suite of marketing tools, including content analytics, an email scroll box, contact form, image sharer and more. The free version gives access to all of SumoMe’s apps, plus more features like A/B testing are available to Pro subscribers, starting at $20 a month.

Ampervize

If you aren’t sure where to start with digital marketing tools, a free report from Ampervize could give you a springboard. Based on your responses to a couple of simple questions about your business, it will produce a tailored report recommending marketing providers and the areas of marketing which are most likely to deliver results.

Ampervize recommended providers

Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for managing your business tools online. Add widgets for everything from advertising tools to blog platforms, email tools, SEO and social media to manage them all in one place. The free version supports up to 5 widgets, or you can upgrade to premium for $19/month.

Email marketing

Boomerang

Boomerang is a free app for Gmail, Outlook and Android with a range of email management tools. It integrates easily with your inbox interface to add features like email scheduling, snoozing, read receipts and follow-up reminders.

I use this all the time simply for email scheduling and read receipts, and Boomerang has developed some more advanced features aimed at businesses, including – most recently – an AI assistant which helps you to craft the perfect email, launched just this week.

Boomerang respondable

MailChimp

You’ve probably come across MailChimp in your travels (especially if you’ve ever listened to the podcast Serial), and there’s a good reason why it’s so popular.

Completely free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, it’s an easy option for small businesses and groups to get to grips with newsletters, with built-in signup forms, templates and free data insights to track how your email marketing stacks up against your industry.

Klaviyo

Klaviyo is an email marketing software which helps you send out personalised and targeted emails, and is free to use for up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. The free accounts also include A/B testing tools, integrations, segmentation and a drag-and-drop responsive email creator.

Structured Data Markup Helper

Schema.org is a type of structured data markup that you can add to emails in Gmail to enable some great interactive marketing features, like auto-adding to Google Calendar, one-click reviews and RSVPs and integration with search.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper does all the hard work of coding for you, and all you have to do is highlight the relevant part of an email and select from the drop-down menu to mark it up. For more information on Schema.org for emails and getting started, check out how to add Schema.org markup to your email marketing.

A screenshot showing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper for emails.

Hiver

Hiver is an email collaboration tool designed to help you work more efficiently using shared accounts. Track tasks, access shared mailboxes, write notes, assign emails to team members and mark them completed when done. The free version supports up to 3 users, or you can upgrade from $6/month to work with larger teams.

Content creation & curation

Apester

Apester is a handy free tool for creating interactive content like quizzes, which can liven up your content marketing with some fun and engaging pieces. We’ve been using it here at ClickZ and Search Engine Watch to power challenges such as ‘How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?‘ and ‘Can you decipher these marketing and business buzzwords?

Piktochart

Piktochart is a popular and easy-to-use tool for creating infographics, along with other types of visual content like presentations and posters. Its drag-and-drop interface is really simple and the results look slick and professional.

Canva

Canva is another versatile, free visual content creation tool – and in the age of the visual web, you might as well have all the tools you can at your disposal! Canva helps you create attractive visuals for everything from social media graphics to presentations, banners, blog graphics and business cards.

canva

Listly

Listly is a fun and free platform for curating and sharing all sorts of lists, on any topic from film to technology, education to marketing. Other users can follow your lists and upvote their favourite items to make them rank higher. I’ve curated the tools in this article into their own Listly, so feel free to comment and upvote your favourites!

Triberr

Triberr is one part content sharing platform, one part influencer marketing platform. If you’re a blogger or content creator, you can use it as a platform to share content with a network of fellow content creators, and join groups for specific interests and topic areas – think of it like LinkedIn groups.

If you’re an agency, however, you can also use Triberr to conduct influencer marketing campaigns. You can prepare a campaign for influencers to apply to, set a budget, digital assets, goals and more. While you do have to pay the influencer(s), everything else is free to use with no other fees.

Social media

Socioboard

Socioboard is a social media management platform for businesses and brands, aimed at helping them with lead generation, customer support, marketing and engagement. You can connect up a range of accounts including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to manage them from a central dashboard. The free version offers scheduling features, CRM and reporting tools for up to 5 profiles. (Suggested by Rupak Som)

Socioboard

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a widely-used social media management tool which allows you to manage and co-ordinate multiple social networks, schedule posts, track analytics and keep tabs on certain keywords and hashtags via its ‘streams’ feature.

The free version allows you to connect up to three accounts, or you can upgrade to one of its paid accounts for more features.

TweetReach

TweetReach is a great tool for analysing the reach of any username, hashtag or keyword, estimating how many impressions it has made and how many individual accounts have been reached.

The free version only gives a snapshot of the past 100 tweets, so to get a more detailed analysis, you would need to upgrade to one of the paid options – or you can take multiple snapshots to build up a picture over time.

socialmention

socialmention allows you to search for any word, phrase or hashtag to see where people are using it across the internet. It’s useful for keeping tabs on a hashtag campaign or brand name beyond social media, as it also covers blogs, bookmarks, images and videos. You can also see whether people are using your term in a positive or negative context, its level of reach, and whether users are mentioning it repeatedly.

socialmention

Simply Measured

Simply Measured provides a selection of free reports you can use to analyse various social media accounts, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Even more in-depth is its Social Traffic Analysis, which works in conjunction with Google Analytics to give an overview of your site’s social traffic, presenting it in a visual and easy-to-read format.

If you want to go further with social media tracking and analytics, don’t miss our list of nine free tools for measuring social ROI!

Video

Instagram Video

Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have their video offerings, but Instagram is still, as Christopher Ratcliff wrote in his piece on the best branded Instagram videos of 2016, “one of the best places for brands to experiment with short form video”.

Instagram video has all the filters you’ll be familiar with from uploading photographs, plus a choice of ratio and now a full 60 seconds to play with. You can shoot directly within the app or upload and trim an existing video.

Wistia

Wistia is a video hosting service for businesses, which came highly recommended by local SEO expert Greg Gifford in his Brighton SEO presentation on going beyond local SEO. It provides detailed analytics, engagement graphs and heat maps to show exactly how users have interacted with a video. The free option only supports three videos, but you can upgrade from $10/month to one of its paid options.

Powtoon

Powtoon is a free tool for creating animated marketing videos, explainers, animated infographics, or even videos and presentations that you can share internally within your business. The free account allows for videos of up to five minutes, with a watermark and outro. (Recommended by Deepak Gawas)

powtoon

WeVideo

WeVideo is an online video editing and collaboration tool, with cloud storage, a music library and editing on-the-go with a mobile app. The free version allows for five minutes of video publishing in 720p, with watermark.

Events

Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a widely-used and effective event hosting platform which allows you to create an event, invite attendees, manage tickets and registrations and promote your event to a wider audience. While it’s only free if your event is free to attend, there are fairly low fees for paid tickets, which you can often pass on to buyers as part of the event registration.

Lanyrd

An extensive social discovery platform for professional events, Lanyrd is great both for publicising your own event and finding other events at which to network, learn and make contacts. It allows attendees to share videos, slides and podcasts after the event, with remote tracking features so that anyone who couldn’t make it can follow along remotely.

lanyrd

Slideshare

Slideshare is an important complement to any event – the most convenient way to share and save presentation slides after an event has taken place, and a great platform for reaching a business audience.

AppsGeyser

AppsGeyser is a free tool designed to let you easily create an Android app. You can use it for any purpose, but it would be particularly useful for an event where you’d like to create a one-use app that will keep attendees connected and up to date, without a lot of expenditure.

HelloSign

HelloSign is a tool for helping you to get event contracts (and other types of contract) signed by requesting electronic signatures from up to 20 different people. It uses SSL encryption to keep documents safe, and will send out an email copy to everyone who signed a document, for their records. The free version is limited to 3 documents per month from a single sender; paid versions start from $13/month and have a 30-day free trial.

Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a must-have for any suite of analytics tools, and the best part is that it’s completely free. Google’s all-in-one analytics dashboard gives insights into different traffic sources, pageviews, demographics, SEO, social media and a wealth of other information.

To find out how to set up Google Analytics for your website for the first time, check out YuYu Chen’s comprehensive beginner’s guide. Our guide to confusing terms is also on hand to help you decipher the lingo!

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a content analysis tool which gives you a breakdown of the social shares for content published to any domain, allowing you to discover the most popular and shareable content for your own website – or a competitor’s – and find out which networks your content resonates with. Upgrading to a Pro account also gives you insight into backlinks and influencers, allowing you to see exactly who is sharing your content.

Bitly

Bitly is a free link shortening and tracking tool, which monitors traffic and referrals via custom links and displays detailed analytics about clicks, location, referring websites, activity over time and more. It’s widely used by publishers and businesses alike, and has a handy tagging system you can use to keep track of links from different marketing campaigns or portals.

bitly graphs

Quill Engage

Quill Engage provides reports which explain your Google Analytics data in plain English. So if you’re feeling baffled by all of the numbers and technical terms, give a free report a go – the free version offers reports for one Google Analytics account, which you can have delivered weekly and monthly.

SimilarWeb & GetHoneybadger

SimilarWeb is a useful tool for keeping tabs on your competitors. Using its free search tool, you can dig up stats on any website, including its rank globally, within its leading country, and within its respective category; traffic by country and sources; search and referral traffic; and more.

You can also audit yourself for some insightful stats, and put your performance side-by-side with competitors to see how you can compare.

For an even more seamless process, you can also use the Chrome extension Gethoneybadger to dig up stats about any website with one click. Gethoneybadger uses SimilarWeb to pull in analytics about that specific website, displaying them in a little window in the corner of your screen.

SEO

Google Search Console

Much like Google Analytics, Google Search Console is a must-have resource for webmasters, and is free to set up for your website. With it, you can monitor your site’s performance, identify any issues, submit content to be crawled, check on your mobile friendliness, view the searches that brought users to your site, and much more besides.

Christopher Ratcliff has written a complete overview of Google Search Console over at Search Engine Watch which breaks down each individual area and how to use it.

SEO SiteCheckup

SEO SiteCheckup will give you a quick and detailed health check of your website’s SEO for free, with an overall SEO score out of 100, along with a downloadable PDF report and information on keyword usage, images, backlink authority and other handy insights.

seo site checkup

Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

Yoast is a free plugin for WordPress to help you easily manage SEO and optimise your webpages. You can use it to set templates for, and optimise, titles and meta descriptions, enter focus keywords, and fine-tune just about everything you could want about your Google listing.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is a desktop app that you can install on PC, Mac or Linux, which will crawl websites and analyse them for common SEO issues, such as broken links, duplicate content and response time. The free version works for up to 500 URLs, or you can buy an annual license for £99/year, which will also unlock a set of advanced configuration options.

Google’s Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool

For your business to be able to compete online, it’s become imperative to have a properly-optimised mobile site. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop web traffic for the first time in 2016, and Google’s various ‘mobilegeddon‘ algorithm updates have increasingly penalised sites that aren’t optimised for mobile. So to give your site the best chance in search, it pays to track down and fix up those issues that keep it from working well on mobile.

Luckily, Google has made this free and quick to do with its Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool, which will analyse and test your site for mobile functionality and also speed issues, and advise you on how to fix them. Of course, you can always beat Google to the punch with our mobile-friendliness checklist.

mobile friendly

If you want to dive into free search optimisation tools in more depth, including site health checkers, sitemap generators, keyword research tools and more, don’t miss our roundup of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools.

This article was previously published on our sister website ClickZ.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the worlds of search, search marketing, and beyond.

In this week’s round-up, we have two big changes for mobile on Google, plus some more insight into a change that Google made to its AdSense policy recently.

And if you’ve ever thought about switching off from technology altogether, it turns out you’re not alone: more than 30% of internet users have taken a ‘digital detox’ in the past year.

Google to penalize annoying mobile interstitials

Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch this week on how Google is taking aim at sites with annoying mobile interstitials (an item which displays before or after the expected content, like a pop-up ad) by penalising them with lower rankings.

Starting on 10th January 2017, Google will adjust its algorithm so that sites “where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

A post on the Google Webmaster Central blog provided some examples of techniques that Google thinks are harmful to the user experience on mobile:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Examples of mobile interstitials that Google considers to be annoying, including an example of an intrusive popup and two examples of intrusive standalone interstitials.

Say goodbye to the ‘Mobile-Friendly’ label in Google Search

In the same blog post in which Google laid out its plans to penalise unfriendly interstitials, Google announced that it would be getting rid of the ‘mobile-friendly’ label which has been a mainstay of the mobile search page for the past two years.

Designed to help users find content “where the text and content was readable without zooming and the tap targets were appropriately spaced”, Google has decided that the ‘mobile-friendly’ label has outlived its purpose now that 85% of pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria.

Score one for the mobile web!

Google removes its AdSense ad limit policy

Google was recently spotted changing its ad placement policies for AdSense to remove the ‘ad limit per page’ section. Search Engine Journal reported on the change this week, and contacted Google to confirm that it had indeed removed the limit on advertising.

From Search Engine Journal:

Using the WayBack Machine, you can see that the policy once read as follows:

“Currently, on each page AdSense publishers may place:
– Up to three AdSense for content units
– Up to three link units
– Up to two search boxes

Publishers may not place more than one “large” ad unit per page. We define a “large” ad unit as any unit similar in size to our 300×600 format. For example, this would include our 300×1050 and 970×250 formats, our 750×200 and 580×400 regional formats, and any other custom sized ad with comparable dimensions.”

Now, you can see in Google’s current ad placement policies that the ‘ad limit per page’ section has been removed. It has been replaced with a section titled ‘valuable inventory’, which cautions site owners not to let the amount of ads on a page exceed the amount of actual content. Doing so may result in Google limiting or disabling ads served on the page until appropriate changes are made.

Search Engine Journal’s article delves into Google’s reasons for the change, which includes reducing the amount of slideshow-based content designed to get around the ad limit, and encouraging advertisers to use new mobile-friendly ad units.

SEJ writer Matt Southern considers whether publishers might begin to abuse their advertising privileges now that the limit has been lifted. But I can’t help noticing that the new guidelines also make the terms under which Google can penalise content a lot more subjective.

Will this cause problems for publishers when they run afoul of rules they didn’t even realise have changed?

AMP now supports A/B testing

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative continues to evolve. At the beginning of this month, Google announced that AMP support is being rolled out across the entire organic search results page on mobile. Kenny Chung has taken a detailed look at who benefits from implementing AMP in the wake of the update.

Now, The SEM Post’s Jennifer Slegg has reported on a change that might make implementing AMP more appealing to businesses and marketers: AMP now supports A/B testing.

“If you have been wanting to do some A/B testing on your AMPlified page performances, AMP is now supporting a new <amp-experiment> which gives publishers flexibility to test variations of pages.  This is especially good news for those publishers wanting to monetize better as well as for advertisers that are currently testing out using AMP for landing pages.”

You can read the full announcement on AMP’s blog here.

A screenshot of a mobile search results page for 'Finding Dory review', featuring an AMP result from The Guardian in the middle.AMP results featured in organic mobile search

One third of UK internet users have taken a ‘digital detox’

Finally, we have some interesting revelations from Ofcom’s 2016 Communications Market Report about the popularity of ‘digital detoxing’ in the UK. According to the report, 15 million UK internet users, or 34%, have spent a period of time offline in order to strike a healthier balance between technology and offline life.

The report also found that digital detoxes were most popular with the most wired-in age group: 16-24-year olds, 52% of whom have taken a digital detox in the past year. On the flip side, 34% of internet users say they “would definitely not like to do a digital detox”.

Luke Richards gives more details about the report’s findings on digital detoxing and what they mean in his article for Search Engine Watch.

What is corporate storytelling and why is it important?

Persistence is the quality that often gets attributed to any type of success in marketing and sales. Most professionals will tell you that you have to repeat the same message over and over again until you get satisfactory results.

But is this really true? What if your message is wrong?

This is where corporate storytelling comes into play.

Stories have existed since the dawn of time and were used to entertain and educate. They are one of the strongest driving forces in the universe being able to start revolutions, unite people and bring joy. Good stories persist throughout the ages.

When it comes to corporate storytelling, the principles are the same as with traditional stories. The main difference is that you are using them to promote a product or a service or to position a brand.

Stories usually come in a form of text. However, it is also possible to tell a good story about your company through a video. In fact, as videos become more and more important in terms of SEO, corporations slowly turn to this type of promotion.

Here are some of the main elements of a good corporative story and reasons why we introduce them.

Woman writing in notepad at wooden table

Good corporate storytelling should include:

1) A hero

Similarly to classic fairy tales, every story requires a main protagonist. They will overcome all the obstacles. At the same time, this person has to be relatable. In the end, if we are unable to connect to them, we will soon lose interest.

Some companies use subtle messages indicating that the main protagonist is in fact the consumer. You are the one that needs to overcome obstacles by using a certain product or service.

2) A main plot

One of the biggest challenges of modern marketing comes in a form of short attention spans. Given that we are living in a world littered with advertisement where everything is easily attainable, there are only a handful of things that can truly shock us or attract our attention.

That being said, good plot is the necessity which will leave a reader (or a viewer) intrigued waiting to see what will happen at the end.

3) Drama and obstacles to overcome

Dynamic storytelling is imposed by the modern society. In order to intrigue the reader, there has to be some kind of a twist. Drama is necessary as a method that will involve reader emotionally attaching him to a product.

4) A trustworthy message that’s simple and consistent

If you are promising more than you can deliver, consumers will see your story as a ploy and will not get hooked. The message has to be believable.

Besides that, it also has to be simple. Otherwise, the consumer might not understand the meaning behind it. Lastly, it has to be consistent. This is not as important for an individual message; however, it is crucial if you wish to build a brand.

As you can see, the elements of a corporate story coincide with those of a classic one. However, the reason for its existence is completely different and one may even call it selfish. Nevertheless, you cannot deny its power.

Creating a sense of achievement

Each time there is a new and revolutionary product being launched, a mass of people will gather in front of the stores. All of this is a result of good storytelling.

People are not that attracted to the product itself. Instead, they are intrigued by all its benefits. In a sense, by purchasing said item, they will have a sense of achievement.

As we previously mentioned, they will be emotionally engaged in a story that the company presents. They will feel as the main protagonist managing to overcome all the obstacles and finish their quest.

However, do not think that consumers are foolish or gullible. They will only acquire a product or a service that will help them improve their life.

Regardless of a story, you have to have a “hook” that will persuade them why something that are you are offering will have such an incredible impact on their lives. Like with all marketing campaigns, the consumer is at the forefront.

Storytelling in the internet era

Creating a great video or article is only the beginning. Your product represents the basis upon which the story is being told. But, if there is nobody to receive the message, all your efforts will be in vain.

Always remember that corporate storytelling is directed towards revenues. That being said, the more people read your story, the higher the chances to make additional profit.

When creating content, you have to consider SEO. With that in mind, your content has to look impressive, to be well written, to consist relevant information and most importantly, to be sharable. To sum it up, it has to be link-worthy.

Your story has to inspire people. You have to create an impression that by sharing your content, individual is able to help others. This is crucial because everybody wants to feel like a hero. And with your story, they are able to be just that.

Liking and sharing needs to be a part of a story. Furthermore, you have to find a way to reward the reader for passing on the message. That way, you are providing all the experience which the real story provides: creation of a hero, plot twist, anticipation and reward for protagonist’s sacrifices.

If you wish to create a brand consciousness, you have to create a story that can continue on. It can come in several parts or it can be created in a way so that a viewer anticipates additional messages.

This way, you are able to keep individual engaged for a longer time and instead of connecting to a particular product, he will become emotionally attached to a brand.

Keep in mind that promotion of a brand requires some additional considerations. If one of your stories is bad or if it doesn’t provide the necessary stimuli to a reader, the entire campaign may flop.

Similarly, the message needs to be clear and consistent so that the person can connect the dots between the individual stories. Risks are much higher but so are the rewards.

Conclusion

Storytelling is and will remain one of most impactful ways of promoting your content. All of us are emotional beings and we like to let our imagination run free. Stories are an amazing catalyst that ignites that passion and imagination letting us visits those magnificent worlds.

By exploiting those emotions, you are able to position your product in their minds creating an emotional need for your product which is usually much stronger than the rational one.

Nikolay Stoyanov is one of Bulgaria’s top SEO experts with more than eight years of practicing SEO and a contributor to ClickZ.

This article was previously published on our sister website ClickZ.

Seven innovative social media marketing tools you should be using

Is your social media marketing campaign a little lackluster? Are you getting results, but not nearly to the scale you would prefer?

Many marketers face this problem, especially given the constantly evolving nature of social media.

What makes social platforms so unique is that they are impacted almost entirely not by the features they provide, but how people use them.

Twitter was developed to be a micro blogging platform, but users constantly find ways around the character restriction.

Facebook was meant for only communicating with people the user knows in real life, but the average user now has dozens of people they have never met on their feed.

Since social media is ultimately defined by how it is used at any given moment, it can be hard to customize a marketing campaign to properly meet its complexities. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible; with the right tools, it become infinitely easier to achieve.

Here are seven innovative social media marketing tools that you have to check out.

1. Yotpo Instagram Curation

Yotpo Instagram Curation

Yotpo has just launched a cool Instagram tool to play with. I don’t really think there’s an alternative. The tool lets you search Instagram using as many search terms as you want within one search results page.

You can interact with search results in two ways:

  • You can public any content to your pages (thus curating Instagram content into your brand and product reviews)
  • You can ask for permission to re-publish any Instagram update (Thus engaging with your (future) customers and niche influencers on Instagram)

Finally, you can display curated Instagram photos on your product pages using Yotpo widget that helps you convert more visitors into customers and building loyalty.

2. UpContent

UpContent

Content curation is a pretty steady part of social engagement at this point. But it is also one of the more time consuming, and that means your ability to take part in it, while still focusing on proper branding, is a little bit limited.

I like UpContent because it makes the process a million times easier and faster. They have some really great filters that customize your searches beyond the usual ‘most related’ and ‘most recently uploaded’. Plus it integrates with both Hootsuite and Buffer, both tools most of us have at this point.

3. Introduce

Introduce

When are you most active on Twitter? What have your favorite influencers been up to? What are the stats of the competition on the social network? Introduce answers all of that and more, with nothing but a Twitter handle and approximately ten seconds of analysis time.

Find out anything you need to know about someone’s Twitter habits, including your own. It makes customizing your strategy much easier, if you know what others are doing. This tool will make relationship building and lead generation on Twitter much easier!

4. Wiserbots

Wiserbots

Facebook has been opening their chatbot service up to brands on a mass scale, and a lot of people are taking advantage of it. Unfortunately, making automated chatbots can be a difficult process. We are talking about artificial intelligence, after all. If you don’t have the expertise to make an AI, or the money to hire someone to do it for you, what you need is a tool that makes it easier.

Wiserbots is that tool. It guides you through the process, automates much of it, and lets you make a smarter bot to boot.

5. Linkedin career app

Linkedin career app

There are actually several LinkedIn apps that you can choose from, and any one of them might be useful to you. But my personal favorite is LinkedIn Job Search.

Did you know that almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 CEOs prefer LinkedIn as their choice social network. This makes Linkedin a goldmine for finding a dream job in an interesting startup!

You can search out jobs in your professional network, get notified of new career opportunities and use your existing connections to be approved. If you want to find a better way to network on a B2B level, this is definitely how to do it.

You will get access to various tricks on how to improve your employability by completing your profile, adding achievements and requesting recommendations. Writing a solid Linkedin resume is actually huge. I’ve always envied people who can describe their career path with lots inspiration and creativity. I am not like this. I hate talking about myself.

Here are some tips on improving your Linkedin profile if you are on a job hunt and planning to use the app.

6. BundlePost

BundlePost

What if you could create tailor made posts, properly researched and hashtagged, for 3 – 5 days ahead of schedule, and do it all in 20 minutes max? Well, you would probably lose your mind, because scheduling posts is one of the most annoying and time consuming parts of social media marketing, right?

BundlePost allows you to do this, automating much of the process so you can do more, in less time, with better results. Leaving your time open to engaging in a meaningful way with your audience.

7. PhotoSync

PhotoSync

It may sound kind of funny, but out of everything that drives me crazy about social media marketing, it is moving images and videos from one place to another. Because Instagram only works on mobile, it throws off my entire process. I hate using the Hootsuite mobile app, which is how I was doing things before.

Now I just sync up all of my media through all of my accounts and devices using PhotoSync. It has made my days much less frustrating.

Do you have an innovative social media marketing tool you think belongs on this list? Have you used one of the tools above? Let us know in the comments.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why mobile commerce sites should be designed for context

If you want your m-commerce project to deliver the results you’re expecting, context should be front and centre of your design.

Across all industries, mobile traffic is eating into PC web traffic in a big way, even in economies which have a large installed base of consumer PCs.

But ecommerce sites aren’t seeing mobile web visitors, particularly those who use smartphones, converting to mobile shoppers with the same success as PC shoppers.

As Andy Favell writes in ClickZ Intelligence’s new report, ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design’:

“It is fair to conclude that conversions would be higher if the m-commerce experience on the web was better designed with smartphone users in mind. M-commerce sites that crack this will sell more.”

One of the most consistent mistakes made with mobile site design is a failure to take into account the differing circumstances, needs and intentions of smartphone users; in other words, their unique context.

The difference between smartphone and PC users isn’t just a smaller screen size – it’s a whole new set of variables.

An image of a stick person holding a mobile phone with the words "I want to..." underneath. To the right is a list of 16 options for things the mobile user might do, such as "Send a text message", "Watch a video", "Check the weather", "Call Mom" and "Listen to a song." At the bottom is a credit to Google Search Quality Guidelines.

Google’s guidelines for its search quality evaluators emphasise the importance of taking context into account for mobile users.

So how does context impact the way you cater for m-commerce customers, and what can you do to tailor your design to their needs?

Why design for context?

A customer using a PC to access your website is likely to be doing so in a limited number of settings. Most often they’ll be at home or at work, possibly in an internet cafĂ©, or using a laptop somewhere like an airport or coffee shop.

Even if you imagine that they might be out and about, there are still relatively few plausible scenarios in which they could be logging in, and they don’t differ from one another that wildly.

But with mobile, and particularly smartphones, the number of possible scenarios suddenly increases exponentially. Your customer could be travelling, working, moving around the house and multi-tasking, walking to your location, walking to a rival’s location…

In each case, the context drastically alters the way in which this customer might be approaching and interacting with your site.

Andy Favell explained in a recent article for ClickZ, ‘When will responsive websites respond to user context?’ why cross-platform homogeneity – taking the same approach to design across differing platforms – doesn’t make sense.

“Cross platform homogeneity forgets two massive things:

  • The requirements of the desktop and mobile user are often different
  • The requirements of the same mobile user (more importantly) vary depending on whether they are at home, at work, commuting, on route to the location, on site, in a rival’s location and so on.

And that’s just the start of it. Now consider:

  • How context varies by time of day, day of week, time of year.
  • What about the trigger that causes the visit to the site e.g. something on TV, snapping QR code in a print ad, tapping through from an email, social media etc.?”

Taking a user’s context into account is considered to be a no-brainer for targeted advertising, and the conversions it delivers prove that targeting works.

Facebook has achieved great success from advertising thanks to its ability to fine-tune its adverts according to who a user is and what they might be doing.

Three smartphone screens displaying Facebook mobile advertisements in a user's news feed.Image by Bablu bit, available via CC BY-SA 4.0

Google is increasingly using the data it collects on users and their search histories to contextualise the results it provides them and make them more relevant. And programmatic advertising is currently making waves with the promise of being able to determine at high speed who to target based on digital cues received about the user.

The online world is increasingly trending towards high levels of personalisation as our ability to gather and interpret data about users improves. And for m-commerce, this also seems like the logical next step.

As Favell writes in ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2’:

“If adtech has the ability to target ads on mobile websites at visitors, surely m-commerce sites should use the same types of technology and listen to the same digital signals in order to prioritise the most appropriate content, offers and services, and make the user journey as easy and frictionless as possible?”

How to design for context in m-commerce

In part two of the ‘DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site’ report, Andy Favell gives a series of tips on how to personalise your mobile offering to users whilst not over-targeting to the point that users find it irritating. He advises:

  • Prioritising content, rather than selecting which content to show to the exclusion of others
  • Suggesting entries in search or form fields, such as postcode or ZIP code in a search box
  • If your website defaults to departments based on previous behaviour – for example, ASOS will open the men’s or women’s store homepage based on what the user has browsed previously – make sure it is clear how to return to the general homepage
  • Facilitating the buying process with options to save for later, save a favourite address, save a favourite meal
  • Encouraging a trust relationship by explaining how personalisation works and how it benefits the user
  • Making it easy to opt in or out of personalisation

The epitome of a personalised m-commerce experience is a site that adapts fully to user context, based on signals such as who a person is, where they are, what device they are using, what they like and what they are doing.

While there are very few examples of websites who are doing this well at the moment, the concept isn’t too far-fetched.

A handful of retailers in the US have already invested in developing native apps which deliver a different experience to the user when they are away from a store versus when they are in-store.

The most innovative of these will switch to “Store mode” as the shopper enters a store location, activated by geotechnologies like bluetooth beacons.

A person uses their smartphone to scan a number of barcodes on the side of a green file folder.

A number of US retailers have personalised their m-commerce offerings with a dedicated “store mode”, which includes features such as scanning products to check pricing and availability | Image by Intel Free Press, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

DMI’s 2015 ‘In-store Mobile Experiences’ report sets out why a properly personalised in-store mobile experience can be so beneficial to retailers.

According to the report, 82% of high-income shoppers said that an improved mobile in-store experience would make the shopping experience better. And 74% of young people aged 18-35 said that they would spend more money at a store that provided an improved in-store mobile experience.

Standout performers in the US – which included Walgreens, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Walmart, Target and American Eagle among other brands – offered in-store features such as scanning products to unlock information on pricing and product availability; integrating loyalty programs into the in-store experience; in-store mapping; product recommendations; and reserving a dressing room.

These are all location-dependent personalisation features, but there are other mobile signals you can use to divine information about your user’s context and tailor your m-commerce site to them in subtle ways.

In ‘The DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2’, Ronan Cremin, CTO of DeviceAtlas, writes:

“Apart from the really obvious one (location) there are other possibilities like detecting if a user is literally on the move or not (accelerometer), is the battery low etc. etc.

One important point about all of these contextual cues is to use them as hints rather than hard deciding factors because the cost of getting things wrong based on an incorrect assumption is high.

It’s really dangerous to make assumptions about what a user wants, so I think that the best thing to do is make prioritization decisions over ordering of features rather than adding/removing features entirely.”

A picture of a smartphone tucked into someone's jeans pocket with its screen showing a low battery symbol.Subtle cues about a user’s state like battery level can be used to personalise your m-commerce site | Image by Martin Abegglen, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

As both Favell and Cremin point out, it’s important not to go overboard with personalisation, as too much can risk alienating the user, especially if wrong assumptions are made.

But don’t let this put you off trying altogether. Context is everything in mobile design, and even small adjustments can go a long way towards creating a frictionless user experience and improving your m-commerce sales and conversions.

You can read the full ClickZ Intelligence reports here:

This article has been adapted from a post originally published on our sister website ClickZ: Why context is king in m-commerce.