Browsing Social Media is like stepping into a world of wonder. Everything is so pretty, and it all looks so well thought out, cohesive and, well planned. But how do they do that? Turns out, it's all planned...
The hero image chosen for this article represent how business owners often feel when it comes to creating imagery and graphics for social media. It can feel like a huge, laborious task that is never ending, similar perhaps to creating good old-fashion needlework. And don't get me wrong, we have nothing against needlework if that floats your boat, it is just that most of the time...it doesn't float. It is more like the boat has capsized and you are frantically swimming upstream while being chased by a bullshark, and you've got piranhas nibbling away at your toes... You get the picture.
So if you are anything like most of our clients, you don't have time for needlework. But you need (pun intended) your social media to look pretty and consistent and cohesive. Turns out, there are several tools, many of them free or low cost, that can help you formalise how you plan and execute your own social media, helping you deliver your message on point, and on brand, every time.
In the name of transparency, we want to state that we do not get a kickback from any of these tools or websites - and this is merely a collection of tools we have come across during our work with clients. There might be others we should add to this list, if so, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
FOR THE CREATION PROCESS
There are quite a few creative tools out there, and I am sure we have all heard of Photoshop, Illustrator and the likes. But if you are anything like us, it seems like it would take a lifetime to learn, and let's face it, we're busy. Luckily there are some really nifty tools here to help that require less training and that actually look like fun to use. Introducing:
Canva - This tool is both for creation and resizing. While Photoshop can seem intimidating for beginners, Canva is easy to learn and even easier to use, making it a great choice regardless of your skill level. They have over 250,000 free templates and stock images to choose from, 100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, and more), and hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics. It also has easy-to-use editing features. There is a free version, and a free 30 day trial for the PRO version. Check it out now and thank us later.
Creative Market - Does graphic design scare you? Do not fret. Creative market is an online market place for anything creative which lets you accelerate your projects with millions of ready-to-use products. You can buy Instagram templates for example for a small sum, and then just modify them with your own brand colours and fonts. You can also buy fonts, graphics and themes, or why not 5,800 quotes for USD29? That'll keep you going for a while... All templates are editable in Photoshop or Illustrator or Canva (see above) to ensure they look and feel like 'you'. You can also buy photo presets that ensure all your images have the same aesthetic and colours.
For both of the tools above, you will want to make sure to use the same fonts and colours (3 colours and 2 fonts are optimal) to ensure a cohesive aesthetic for your graphics, photos and posts. There are two great, free tools online for this:
On the website https://imagecolorpicker.com you can upload any image, and then pick whatever colour you want from that image. Write down the HEX colour, and with this as a base, go to https://coolors.co and use their super fast colour palette generator! Type in your HEX colour and lock it in, then press your space bar until you find the other colours you like that match this one. Want a slightly lighter or darker colour than the one they show you? Easy, just click on 'shades' in that colour and pick the one you like. Voila! Now go to Canva or Creative Market and start creating your fabulous content!
SCHEDULING YOUR BEAUTIFUL CONTENT
Once you have created all your great-looking content, you need to post it on Social Media. The easiest way to do this is to use scheduling tools, to ensure that you post your content on the day and time that gives maximum impact. There are tons of different tools for scheduling, and below are some of them. Which one you use will depend heavily on which platforms that are important to you.
Preview App - Officially approved by Instagram and safe to use. Great tool to plan ahead and ensure a cohesive aesthetic of your Instagram. Easily plan your posts, Reels, IGTVs, and Instagram Stories. Find the best hashtags, caption ideas, presets, and analytics. You can upload as many photos, videos and carousels as you want and rearrange the order of the posts until it looks fantastic. Preview your Instagram feed before you post on Instagram and get caption ideas. Organize and schedule your Insta Stories for your campaigns, launches, templates, backgrounds, products, and more. Prepare your Swipe Up links, and preview the flow of your Stories as if you had already posted them on Instagram. Need help posting? Set a day and time and Preview will automatically post for you. You can manage several accounts at the same time, and use it to repost content. There is a free version for one user on one device with unlimited posts, 2 filter packs and basic analytics. Paid plans from USD 6.67 / month, billed annually.
Facebook's own Business Suite can be used to schedule posts to both Facebook and Instagram platforms. It is free to use.
LinkedIn scheduling can be done through a tool called Publer. LinkedIn is not that common for scheduling tools to cater to, but this is one that does. This tool takes care of your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Google My Business too so if those are your platforms, it could be the tool for you. You can handle up to 5 social accounts and 10 pending scheduled posts per account for free, after that there are paid versions at USD10 and 20 / month, billed annually.
Buffer - A tool to help you schedule out your Facebook (and Insta), Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn posts in advance and focus on managing your time more effectively. This tool help save time by letting you take care of posts ahead of time, but it also comes with a handy browser extension that lets you easily share content in a single click. An official marketing partner of Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, this tool is safe and effective to use. It measures your social media performance, so you can see what’s working and what’s not, to create better content and messaging. It then lets you schedule your content, and filters out important comments to respond to with the help of labels and hotkeys. The free plan includes three channels + basic features, paid plans start from USD 5 / month / channel. They also offer a free 14-day trial for paid plans.
Later - Visually plan your social posts, publish automatically, and get tailored insights to help you reach more people.This app schedules to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (which is unusual), Twitter, and even TikTok. It lets you post several images. A LinkedIn integration is coming too apparently. It's got a visual planner that allows you to drag-and-drop, and plan a month's worth of social media posts in minutes.bLater will tell you your unique Best Time to Post, so you can schedule in batches and publish without a hitch. Their Linkin.bio turns your Instagram profile into a mini website, complete with analytics. You’ll know exactly which posts are driving traffic, and where your followers are converting. The free plan includes 30 posts per social profile for 1 user for one set of social media accounts including Insta, FB, Twitter and Pinterest.
Hootsuite - Another tool, but one that comes at a much higher price than the others, although a free 30-day trial is offered. It was one of the first planning tools out there, and so rides on that first to market advantage still. Fewer and fewer people seem to choose it for their planning though, but always worth checking out if it might be the tool for you.
PLANN - This tool lets you plan your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn (which is unusual). It is an all-in-one auto-scheduler, social strategist, designer and content calendar. Only free for one user, and only for one Instagram account. Paid plans from USD 7 / month, billed annually.
Planoly - An official Instagram and Pinterest Partner, this tool lets you easily plan & schedule your content for Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. Sell anything to anyone with a single click - without the need for a website. sellit transforms your social content with a single link into a social storefront. Free plan for one user, two social profiles (Instagram and Twitter), and 30 uploads per month per profile. Paid plans from USD 7 / month, billed annually.
Dlvr.it - A Social Media Automation Tool that allows you to auto share photos, news and videos across your social networks. You can auto post to Facebook, Twitter, Google My Business, LinkedIn and more. Auto post items from RSS feeds, ecommerce sites, photo sharing apps, social networks etc. Integrates with Google Analytics, Bit.ly. Wordpress and Chrome. The basic plan is free with paid plans starting from USD 8.29 / month, with free trials available.
Seems like a jungle? Well, it sort of is. Our advise is to first identify the social media channels you need to post to, single out the platforms that service those channels, and then take advantage of the free trials most of them offer and try it the ones you are deciding between for yourself. Only by trial (and error?) will you figure out what works for you.
EMAIL (EDM) MARKETING
Finally, it would be a shame to let it all end there. Why not share all your new gorgeous social media graphics, photos and quotes with your newsletter subscribers too? We look at a few different options for EDMs below:
Mailchimp - We have all heard of it, and it used to be the king of email marketing for a long time. But some say it is too expensive, and some newer tools have entered the market that might be more suitable for you. Some still swear by it though so it is really up to you if you want to continue using it, or try something new. Free for up to 2,000 contacts a month.
Mailerlite - This tool lets you create campaigns, popups and embedded forms. Advanced targeting features include email automation, and it is easy to use with its drag & drop editor. A/B split testing, deliver by time zones, and track your results. Good for small businesses, with a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. You can also get a free 14-day trial of the premium features.
Shopify - Now with its own, inbuilt EDMs in the Marketing section of your websites Shopify backend. It used to be very limited in what you could add, and how you could make it look, but they are bringing out more and more functionality all the time, so if you have Shopify, keep an eye on this one. If you are sending out very basic emails as it is, it might be worth trying it as this service is free with your Shopify subscription for sending up to 2,500 emails a month, in up to 5 campaigns over a rolling 7-day period. Need more? You can send additional emails beyond the 2,500 free emails at a cost of $0.001 USD per additional email. Pretty cheap if you ask us. And not only that, your logo and theme colours are loaded automatically, and adding products is a breeze. Check it out.
Klaviyo - more than just any old email marketing tool, this is an app available in Shopify which helps you build your brand and grow your online business with powerful email and SMS marketing. Not only that, it helps you drive more revenue by creating your ideal customer experience, and with powerful targeting and predictive analytics, it sets you up for growth and bigger results. You can build customer notification flows that sends out specific emails to subscribers when specific actions or events are triggered. Short and sweet, what it does is allow you to listen, analyse and act on your customer data. Quite a few of our clients use this tool, and it is really quite good in our opinion. It is free for up to 250 contacts and up to 500 email sends, and after that there are paid subscriptions based on how many contacts you have.
And if you want to understand the “why” behind the “what”, or just need a bit more ooomph than the above tools can give you, there are platforms like Sprout Social and monday.com that can help with all of that. But for now, create some gorgeous content, and plan and share it on your social media! Analysis can wait for now (not too long though!).
We strive to stay up to date with any and all tools that can make life easier for our clients, so we would love to hear from you if you have found something new and exciting.