Best & Worst Tools For Running Your Online Business

Best & Worst Tools For Running Your Online Business

Each year I am approached by companies wanting me to try their products & services and ultimately share them with all of you. Some have been great additions to my business others have left me disappointed and flummoxed. I thought I would share with you the best & the worst from the past year!

To begin with, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories.

  1. Blogging tools
  2. Social Media
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Running your business

Blogging Tools

As you know (if you have a blog) there is always so much that needs to be done in a short amount of time so anything that I can find that will:

  • Save Time
  • Save Money
  • Improve My Skills

is a Godsend to me. Now, I want to share them with you!

Web Hosting  

I have my own hosting that I provide through Flywheel (owned by WPEngine) which runs $20 a month. We provide fast, secure hosting, free SSL’s, and amazing support. I only have three spots available.

For someone just starting out or on a tight budget I use **Bluehost. I have to say that I have set up hundreds of sites on Bluehost and not once have I ever had a problem. Once upon a time, Bluehost was considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of hosting, but a few years ago they turned it around and I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with how hard they have worked to improve every aspect of their service.

Themes

I have always been a Genesis girl and **Studio Press is the place to get the best themes. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with **Divi by Elegant themes and I have to say that I absolutely love it! It’s so versatile and easy to use and saves me tons of time. There are so many things included that you hardly need any plugins at all!

Plugins

Listen I know that those sneaky plugins get you where it hurts. I’m sure you have seen the notices in your dashboard ‘get this pro version’, ‘buy this’, ‘do that’.  Nine times out of 10 you don’t need it. There are free plugins for just about anything. My go-to plugins are:

  • Updraft Plus for backing up.
  • Wordfence for security.
  • Jetpack lots of things.
  • Akismet for spam.

If you’re using Genesis then I add:

  • Genesis Enews (optins)
  • Simple Social Icons
  • Simple Social Share

If you’re using Divi

  • Bloom (optins)

All of those are free & if there’s something you want just search the plugin repository.

Free Courses

From WordPress

WP Beginners
Neliossoftware

Hubspot created a blog post with 60 free online courses that you can take to improve your skills. If you don’t follow Hubspot’s blog you really should. There is always so much valuable information.

Would you like to learn more about Facebook ads? Here’s a great post by Insane Growth that explains it all.

Social Media

Social media is the bane of my existence, but it’s also a necessary evil. I build websites and create content with business tips for bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses. I get asked to try a lot of different social media scheduling tool and here is my honest opinion.

**#1 For me is Sendible.com. I run three different websites and manage several clients’ social media accounts. Scheduling blog posts and monitoring keywords that I set up, even monitoring my competitor’s social media accounts. If you run multiple blogs or social media accounts

Sendible is the best.

Most places make you pay per account so for three sites I would have to have three different accounts. I would only be able to pick up one RSS feed unless I had three different accounts.

I could not run my business without Sendible!

Sendible is different. I have a set number of services I can set up and it doesn’t matter how many RSS feeds you pick up and auto-posts new pieces. You can schedule them to repeat however many times it’s all completely up to you. I post to five different FB pages for various people and with Sendible I can do it automatically saving myself lots of time.

Then there is **Tailwind

I love using it for Pinterest.

I know I’m not taking full advantage of the features but what I am using I love. BUT  I don’t like them for Instagram. I tried it I really did, but it was just too confusing and I wasting to much time trying to figure it out.

A few years ago I bought a lifetime membership for Grum.co for only $39 and I love it for scheduling Instagram posts. That’s all it does Instagram, but it’s so easy to use. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking on new customers. If I didn’t have this I would make the time for Tailwind, but this one is just to easy and it’s a lifetime purchase.

CoSchedule

I love Co-schedule I really do, but because of the limitations of only having one site on one account, I just can’t justify that expense when I have other options. It offers a boatload of features and it’s easy to use.

There is really no “free” service for scheduling your content. You can use “Publicize” inside your WordPress site and it will automatically post to FB, Twitter, & LinkedIn.

I know that Buffer offers a free version but I’m not sure of its limitations. I’ve always found it too confusing to use.

If you’re going to spend money this is one of the places where I say if you can pay for it then get it. A good social media scheduler can save you loads of time while helping you build your tribe.

Email Marketing

In today’s 24/7, 100mph world if you’re not marketing through email then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. You should absolutely be sending a welcome email sequence & sending out an RSS to your subscribers.

A few months ago, I was singing the praises of **Engagebay and I learned a very valuable lesson. Sometimes quick decisions can be the wrong decisions. It can send beautiful emails, there are tools for marketing, sales or service. I feel as if it is an excellent platform, but it just didn’t fit my needs. The main problem was the RSS emails. There just wasn’t enough flexibility and I actually sent out a few crazy emails before I gave up.

If you’re running a small business then I cannot recommend Engagebay enough. It’s beautiful, easy to use and handles so many tasks. It’s also affordable. Here is a link to their Youtube channel which has a lot of info about its features. It’s a great platform I just tend to have a problem with change I guess.

So, I’m back at MailChimp and that’s where I’m staying! I know my way around, it’s easy to use (most of the time) and it’s cheap. They have changed things and unless you have a paid account you are limited in what you can do. Such as only having one audience(list), limitations on automation, etc. I pay for The Blogging 911 account and use the free version for Wanding Web Designer & The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver my other two sites. The paid version runs me $9.63 a month.

Have you seen my the MAILCHIMP EXPLAINED ebook in the 911 Resource Library? It’s just one of the many free resources inside.

 

 

I’ve worked with ConvertKit before and it is easy to use. I didn’t like the design limitations and figure if I’m going to spend $30 a month it needs to have a lot more.

Running your Business

There are several tools that I use every single day to run my business. Some are free (well most are free) but they are still necessary. Tools such as:

  • 17Hats – is an all-around scheduling tool, lead capture forms, templates such as contracts or estimates. It runs $39 a month for all of its features and there are many. I personally only use the free version because I use the templates & lead capture forms (those project inquiry forms you see around here).
  • Acuity Scheduling – If you need an easy way for people to schedule appointments I highly recommend Acuity. Their free version has always been more than enough for me.
  • Asana – This is my project management tool and it keeps me on track when I’m building out a new site, managing other projects or even just things I need to do. There is both a free and paid version and I’ve always found the free version more than enough for my needs.
  • Canva – There is a free version of Canva that works very well. I use Canva almost every single day and I love it for it’s easy to use dashboard, to the free and paid elements like stock photos, icons, frames, colors, and fonts. For this, I splurge and get the paid version so that I can store my own logos, my fonts (up to 25) and my brand colors for $12.95.
  • Google Drive – Also free. I use it to store all of my clients’ assets. I like how easy it is and it works great with Gmail which is another great free tool. I do use the paid version of this and it runs $6 a month and I have tons of storage and it’s easy to use.
  • One Drive – This is part of my Microsoft subscription which is about $7 a month. This is where I keep all of my assets. (Such as stock images, templates, or other graphics).
  • Dropbox – This is where I store all of the backups for my clients & my own personal websites. This costs around $10 but they’ve added a bunch of new features.
  • Screencast-o-matic – This another thing I purchased from Sumo. It was a lifetime subscription for only $39 and I use it whenever I need to make tutorials or other videos where I share my screen. It’s something I purchased on APPSUMO.
  • APPSUMO – is a great place to find great deals on products or services to run your business! They always have freebies or lifetime deals that will save you tons of time and money.

Know some great tools that I might not know about? Let me know in the comments below.

** Means that it is an affiliate link if you purchase a service, with the (**) beside it, means that I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your cost.

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The Top Social Media Scheduling Tools That Will Save You Loads Of Time & Help You Rock Your Social Media Marketing Plan

The Top Social Media Scheduling Tools That Will Save You Loads Of Time & Help You Rock Your Social Media Marketing Plan

 

Social media scheduling the bain of existence for any blogger or small business owner! We need it, but we grow to hate the time suck that it becomes. Hour after hour of creating the perfect graphic, adding the correct links, knowing the correct sizes, and knowing when the best time to schedule them can quickly become a nightmare that never seems to end.

Until you find the perfect social media scheduling tool and then it flies by without much of a second thought. The only question is: which is the perfect social media scheduling tool. The answer would depend on what your particular needs are. Here is a list of the tops 13 social media scheduling tools, how much they cost, and a basic list of what they do or not do:

SENDIBLE

sendible

Top of the list is Sendible. Everything about this service screams quality. Sendible offers you a wide range of features that come with excellent usability and most importantly, allows you to manage your social media campaigns and daily tasks with ease, speed, and accuracy. The platform has a slick and intuitive user interface which is insanely easy to use and navigate around.
Pegged as a social media productivity tool, Sendible has over 20 integrations with key social media networks, blogs, social sharing sites and even the communication tool, Slack.
As a social media marketer, it’s tough to continuously source and create fresh content and this tool helps you keep your editorial calendar busy.
The Content section of the dashboard is a gold mine as it houses your content suggestions, RSS feeds, and the content library where you can store evergreen content you can use again and again, or the content you simply want to keep for later. The tool will search the web for articles on relevant topics for your business and can be sorted by influencers as well. You can also subscribe to the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs and news sites, then share posts automatically as soon as they’re published or approve them before they go out.
All posts are edited in the intuitive Compose Box where you can select the social network you’re posting to (you can select multiple if you wish), and schedule them as far ahead as you like. Sendible’s sophisticated algorithms can also predict the most optimal times to post on your social media networks to maximize engagement. What’s more, you can group social media posts by theme and queue them to go out at random times – this is ideal for shares from other websites and content that’s not time-sensitive.

sendible1
Visual content is as important as ever and so it should be simple to add to your strategy. With Sendible, you can upload images, source them via URL, add them from your team’s DropBox or Google Drive as well as source royalty free images on Google and Flickr – all without any tab-switching. Sendible also supports adding video to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Sendible has developed a few handy automation tools. On Twitter, users can set up automatic replies (tweets or DM’s), retweets and welcome messages – all super useful if you’re running a campaign with a unique hashtag, promotion or participating at an event. But the recently developed Instagram automation tool is miles above what Hootsuite and other tools offer as it automatically searches for posts with a hashtag and likes them. It’s also possible to automatically follow the profile of the post and unfollow them if they don’t follow you back in 24 hours!

sendible2
Visual content is as important as ever and so it should be simple to add to your strategy. With Sendible, you can upload images, source them via URL, add them from your team’s DropBox or Google Drive as well as source royalty free images on Google and Flickr – all without any tab-switching. Sendible also supports adding video to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Sendible has developed a few handy automation tools. On Twitter, users can set up automatic replies (tweets or DM’s), retweets and welcome messages – all super useful if you’re running a campaign with a unique hashtag, promotion or participating at an event. But the recently developed Instagram automation tool is miles above what Hootsuite and other tools offer as it automatically searches for posts with a hashtag and likes them. It’s also possible to automatically follow the profile of the post and unfollow them if they don’t follow you back in 24 hours!

sendible3

The tool also has CRM functionality that lets you create contact lists within the app. Think Twitter Lists, but for all social media networks in one place.
All in all, Sendible focuses on being the most efficient social media marketing tool that takes away the pain from repetitive tasks, giving us more time to plan and analyze findings.

Plans & Pricing

  • Lite – $49 per month, 1 user, and 20 services
  • Advanced – $199 permonth, 4 users and 100 services
  • Pro – $499 per month, 10 users and 300 services
  • White Label – fully customized dashboard with API access, contact for pricing.

Sendible offers a 30-day free trial for all plans.

Pros

  • Integration with all key social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest) and blogs (Medium, WordPress, Blogger.com).
  • Makes it easy to keep your social media calendar busy with an RSS Feed poster, content suggestions, in-built content library and easy access to the design tool, Canva.
  • Bulk-scheduling content with images via uploading a CSV file.
  • Has handy automation tools that drive engagement and increase your following on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Visually stunning and accurate reports that can be created in 15 minutes or less, plus the ability to create custom reports with your logo and the modules you need.
  • User permissions and team workflows are easy to set up.
  • Mobile app available for iOS and Android.

Cons

  • No free plan, but a 30-day trial is available
  • Geographic keyword monitoring isn’t always accurate

CoSchedule

CoSchedule is another of my favorites and the one I have been using on a daily basis. The fact that it is a WordPress plugin is what sold me on its features in the beginning, but I quickly found out that there is so much more to it. They have added so many great bonuses like saved templates, headline analyzer tools, and so much more. Pricing for CoSchedule starts at $30 (if paid annually, $39 for monthly), but they also offer ways to cut that price down. For every referral, you get 10% off and if you write a review they will knock off 50% of your monthly subscription price for a whole year!

You can schedule everything from your WordPress post page and never have to leave your own website. You can schedule social media for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, and now Instagram! With every post, I schedule for all of these platforms for the day the post goes live, the day after, a week after, a month after and then every other month for a year. I also take advantage of the templates so that all I have to do after applying the template is to change out the images! Fifteen minutes and each post is scheduled for a whole year!

Grum

The next one on my list is called Grum.co.  Grum is a third-party tool that allows you to publish photos on multiple accounts at the same time and schedule all your posts for the week ahead. You can go on a holiday trip for a few weeks or take a day off – all of them will be published automatically by schedule. You don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket.

They provide 3-days free trial with unlimited photo sharing and no credit card required for everybody.
Then it’s only $9.95 USD for 2 accounts (combo); $3.95 USD for 3-5 accounts (each); $2.95 USD for 6+ accounts (each) per month. http://grum.co/pricing. I snagged mine by purchasing through SumoApp for $49 for lifetime access. I have four accounts (I use it for my clients as well as myself) and I schedule mine a month at a time. It’s very simple to use, but it’s only for Instagram nothing else.

grumimage1

 

Hootsuite

Next is Hootsuite.com. I use them for some of my clients and while at first, it was extremely overwhelming it did become easier the more familiar I became with it. I like that I can schedule posts for more than one account at a time. That saves me lots of time. They do offer lots of free resources to help learn more about social media marketing and how to use Hootesuite. The next step up is a paid subscription where you can hook up 10 social media accounts for $9.99 a month.

HootSuite offers a free plan and with that allows you to hook up three social profiles, basic analytics, content scheduling, limited content suggestions, lead-capture campaigns, you can hook up two RSS feeds, access to 150 free and paid APPS, online help center, and FREE social media courses!

hootesuite

Buffer

Buffer is a bit confusing to me, but it is one of those necessities that all bloggers and small business have to have. They do offer a free plan as well as paid subscriptions. Below is a list of their features for each plan.

buffer1

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck this is another program that I hadn’t experienced before. So after signing up I have to say it’s rather addicting. I like that it reads in “real time”. It’s easy to use and looks a lot like Hootesuite without the benefit of connecting other platforms. It’s strictly a Twitter tool.

I found this on their website explaining what they do: The most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing, and engagement. Reach your audiences and discover the best of Twitter. Again, I couldn’t find any pricing so once again I’m assuming that it is free!

tweetdeck1

Mass Planner

Mass Planner Scheduling and Complete Automation for Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Instagram. Here are some of their features:

Features and Benefits

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Instagram at your fingertips

Schedule posts on all social platforms

Use Mass Planner to schedule all your social media updates on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Instagram from one single dashboard. You can schedule your posts on your Social Profiles, Groups you belong to or Pages you manage.

They have a standard plan which runs $9.99 a month and a premium plan for $19.95 a month.

Social Oomph

Social Oomph says that it can boost your social media productivity — it doesn’t have to be a manual time-consuming process! Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, RSS feeds, blogs, and Plurk! Easily schedule updates, find quality people to follow, and monitor social media activity!

social-oomph1

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is another media management, but these may be for bigger companies than the blogger or small business owner. Their Premium plan starts out at a steep $99 and goes all the way up to $1500 a month.

sprout-social1

CrowdBooster

With Crowd Booster unlimited Tweets & Facebook
Social is 24/7, but you get to sleep. Load your Tweets and posts in Crowdbooster, and use our optimal time insights to give your audience consistently engaged with your great content.

Engage with your audience at the best time based on what they’ve learned from your data, they will inform you of the best time to tweet, post, who to follow, and when to engage with your audience. When I went to their website to check the pricing they were was a note that they weren’t taking on new clients. Well okay…moving on!

 

crowdbooster1

IFTTT

Last but not least is IFTTT. It stands for “If This Then That” meaning if this happens then I need you to do that. I’ve recently become a convert to IFTTT. I’m still learning about it, but it works by creating “Applets” much like Zapier’s Zaps. You can hook up your Instagram, Facebook, Google Docs, Evernote and much, much more and while this won’t deal with all of your social media I like it for the organization that it provides. It makes my OCD mind very happy. I can have emails automatically put into a spreadsheet, a doc, or even on Evernote. It is a free service. The image below is a screenshot of my own personal Applets. Check it out there’s something there for everyone!
manage-services-ifttt

BOARD BOOSTER

I like this software because it works in the background and you actually forget that you’re using it. It’s that good. They offer a free version that will get you 1,000 pins, but once you hit that mark you have to, as they say, “shit or get off of the pot!”

It’s easy to set up. You just set up some secret boards and you pin to those boards and it will post them at the best times. I haven’t tried any of the other features yet. I just renewed my subscription with them after reaching 1,000 which took me about 6 months, if not longer.

Here is a list of its features and the cost.

Pin Mover helps you split or clean up large boards. It finds all pins that match your criteria and moves them to a board that you specify. The first order is FREE. The following orders charge a penny a pin based on the number of pins moved.

This tool will test pins on your boards, identify 9 common problems like broken links and content duplication, and help you fix them. Pin Doctor charges a penny a pin. You can order a test for just a few boards, and limit the test to the most recent pins.

I loved the free version and at only $5 a month I’m willing to give it a try!

Take your Pinterest® boards to new heights with BoardBooster!

Schedule pins

directly from native Pinterest® app or website. read more

Streamline group board contribution

Effortlessly contribute to group boards with campaigns

Improve pin quality

Test your pins for broken links, duplicates, and more

Clean up your boards

Split a board or remove all unwanted pins in one click

Host top quality group boards

Rank your contributors on performance, volume, and more

Optimize your strategy

See your best performing boards, best time to pin, and more

boardbooster

IN CONCLUSION –

No one tool will do it all, but with the amount of free and affordable choices, social media automation can take a lot less time with a lot fewer headaches. I use a combination of CoSchedule, Grum, Hootesuite, IFTT, Buffer, and Board Booster.

There is no way that I could include all of the social media scheduling tools on the market. These are at the top of that food chain. If you know of others or you want to tell us about the program you prefer to us put it in the comments below.

*This post contains some affiliate links. If you sign up for services I will earn a small commission or a percentage off of my monthly subscription rate. It will not affect your cost in any way.

 

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