LIFE-CHANGING ONLINE TOOLS TO SAVE TIME & BE BETTER AT YOUR JOB
As small business owners who work with many small and medium-sized businesses, startups, and non-profits, we love us a good online tool. When you don't have a big IT department, spending time installing tools or dealing with glitches is a killer. That's why we like to keep it in the cloud with these easy-to-use online tools for productivity, scheduling and basic functionalities that have been pretty life-changing for us. They not only save us time, they make us better at our job.
Working with a variety of clients every month, it would be nearly impossible to keep our heads on straight about what needed to be done when without structure, and that's what many of these tools are about. They also help us meet our goals for clients, which typically involves spreading their message and story as wide as possible to help brand awareness, sales or any number of other macro and micro goals.
So without further ado, here's a list of the tools we just can't live without!
Canva for Making Things Pretty, Oh-So-Pretty
We've discussed our love for this online design tool on the blog before. We are NOT designers, but we love that Canva has made it easy for us to create professional, beautiful graphics for our clients when it comes to social posts, the occasional infographic and the like. While we leave the big stuff (websites, branding, etc.) to the professional designers, Canva has really amped up our game in terms of the look and feel of our clients' social presences and allowed us - just for a moment! - to feel like we are designer extraordinaires.
Google Alerts for Keeping an Eye on the Marketplace
You have a Google Alert set up for your business name, right? How about your competitors or other essential keywords or terms? If you don't have the budget for a fancy media monitoring service - and in most cases, that's totally not necessary! - Google Alerts are THE way to go. You can't beat listening to the media through alerts automatically delivered to your inbox every day or in real time. Google Alerts are a great way to develop a list of reporters covering your beat, check up on your industry, listen to what others are saying about you and make sure you know the moves of your competitors.
Asana for Ensuring We Never Miss a Beat
As busy Type-A kinda people, we worship at the altar of Asana. If it's not in Asana, it doesn't exist. The FREE version of this system is plenty robust, allowing you to set up projects, tasks, due dates, recurring tasks, assign things, get a holistic view of every project and even add notes and files to a to-do. But what we love most is that it's simple to use, which means you don't spend a lot of time managing your to-do list (a false sense of productivity if there ever was one!).
Buffer for Keeping Social On Track
There are lots of great social scheduling tools out there, and each of them have their own set of pros and cons -- many are great for one industry, terrible for another. (We strongly suggest you try a few out before committing.) But we've got to give a shout-out to a new fave, Buffer. Buffer makes it super easy to see what's happening across your networks and saves tons of time by optimizing your posts for the best time of day, showing you what's performing well, who's engaging and allowing you to re-post in a single click, and having a kick-ass plug-in that allows you to grab content across the web. Their customer service is also to-die-for, with some of the fastest response time, most manageable explanations and positive attitudes we've witnessed.
Dropbox for Keeping Us Sane, Organized & Spill-Proof
If you live in a world where you fear spilling coffee on your computer, you've got to just move your files to Dropbox. While we (like any responsible business owners) have file backup on our computers, we also do most of our work out of Dropbox so that we can collaborate and be working off the same info. The added benefit is being able to access work files from anywhere and not stressing about that inevitable soak-down our computer is going to get - as long as we can get to an Internet connection, we'll still have our files while we figure it out.
PressRush, Anewstip, Twitter Lists & HootSuite for Monitoring Conversations
There are a million ways to monitor the conversations happening on social, which are often very different from those happening in the media. We like to do a combination of different techniques. The first and easiest thing to do is to set up some private lists in Twitter to pare down the people you're following into specific categories (ex., mom blogs, Boston media, TV reporters, influencers, power users). That way, when you have something to say, you can quickly look at the conversations going on in the relevant user groups.
HootSuite allows you to do a similar thing, but provides the opportunity to also create monitoring of keywords and hashtags, so you can scroll through conversations with ease. (Pro tip, you can also monitor your Twitter lists in HootSuite.) You can do a lot with HootSuite's free plan.
And we utilize PressRush and Anewstip often to search journalist conversations on social media, particularly Twitter, or check out who's been writing on a particular topic lately. Both have great free versions and are super simple to use - we encourage you to check them out.