Archive for the ‘Cool Web Tools’ Category
Innovation is alive and well in the development of cool free and low-cost web-based tools and apps. It’s great to find a tool that automates some little process or provides a new capability you’ve been looking for, and fun to find a tool you didn’t even know you needed.
How can you quickly find out how far a link has spread on Twitter? Surf the web securely and anonymously when using pubic WiFi? Manage all of your social media accounts from a single login on your iPhone? Back up your Gmail account? Make more productive use of your time on social networking sites?
There’s an app for that—or cool web tool. Find tools to do all of the above and much more in this collection of helpful business, online and social media tools, apps and reviews.
Update 4/15/2013: I unlinked several tools that are no longer offered. This economy sucks.
Cool Social Media Tools
A slick service that enables you to easily add a QR code to your business card which links to your LinkedIn profile and contact information. Anyone scanning the code can conveniently contact you without entering any additional information. And when you log in to PingTags, you can view analytics like how many people scanned your card and which links they clicked.
Buffer is a tool for automatically posting content to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. As the site puts it, “Fill up your Buffer at one time in the day and Buffer automagically posts them for you through the day.” It’s available at three price/service levels: free, Pro ($10 per month), and then a big jump to Premium ($99 per month). Nothing replaces real social media engagement of course, but used carefully and in conjunction with real-time monitoring, automation tools like this do have their place.
One of the easiest ways to import an online store into Facebook, even incorporating translation and foreign currency support for buyers in other countries. Plans have a monthly fee (with the most popular priced at $30-$50 per month) but you can try it out for a week free.
Four51 offers two sets of tools for local business and consumer brands. FanTools uses “knowledge gained from across the FanTools network of small businesses to deliver plans” that enable local retailers, restaurants and other types of businesses to use exclusive coupon offers mixed with other content across their social networks to drive engagement and purchases. It’s priced for small business at $50 per month with a 90-day free trial offer to try it out. CommerceTools uses cloud-based technology to help companies streamline the distribution of products, supplies, services and content to individuals or groups by simplifying and automating order and fulfillment processes.
***** 5 STARS
ALOT is a catalog of free “apps for your PC” in a range of categories including entertainment (comic books, TMZ, The Onion, IMDB search), food, games, travel, music, news (The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, Stock Market Watch), reference, social networking (e.g., apps for Facebook, Twitter and Evite) and more.
ShortStack is a tool that helps businesses customize their Facebook Pages with “contests, sweepstakes, videos, custom forms and more.” Yes, it is “Timeline ready.” The tool is free for pages with up to 2,000 likes, with pricing starting at $30 per month above that level.
Mywebees lets you display your website on your Facebook page. It’s not a copy of your site, but your actual site—displayed in a Facebook iFrame. It’s a very cool, easy way for small businesses to increase the interest and value of their Facebook presence. No word yet though on how this may be affected by Timeline.
Cool Twitter Tools
How many people saw that link you tweeted? Tweeted or retweeting it themselves? Which Twitterers exposed it to the largest audience? Find out in a snap with TweetReach. In just a few seconds, I discovered that a recent post I wrote on social media storytelling for PR reached 56,689 people via 25 tweets—over 10,000 people just through Jim Dougherty.
This free tool graphically shows peak Twitter activity for any Twitter handle. It takes a few minutes to load completely, but once fully loaded shows activity on your network by day of the week and time. I wasn’t surprised to learn that most of the activity on my network happens early in the morning, but it was interesting to note unexpected spikes in activity at midmorning on Monday and Tuesday and around lunch time on Wednesday and Thursday.
An automated free tool to help “flush” Twitterers you are following who aren’t following back, follow those who are following you, clean up inactive users (requires paid “premium” subscription), force spammers to unfollow you, and find interesting new tweeps to follow.
Other Cool Web Tools
A free tool for clipping, saving and sharing just selected parts of web pages such an image or a selection of text. Clipped content can be kept private, shared only with friends or shared publicly.
Concerned about your web browsing security and privacy when you’re away from home and using public WiFi? AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield is a free (or optionally ad-free low-cost) VPN encryption service that provides secure, private web browsing anywhere. It works on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. On mobile devices Hotspot Shield enables data compression, increasing the amount of data a user has under their mobile data plan and thus saving users money on mobile data. Hotspot Shield also protects users from over 3 million malware threats, phishing sites, and spam.
A simple app that syncs contact information, emails and appointments between Google and Salesforce, eliminating time-consuming copying and pasting. After a 14-day free trial, the service is priced at $10 per month (or less per user for larger teams) with a 50% discount for non-profits and schools.
A free online project management and collaboration tool, similar to Basecamp, that lets users switch between projects with one click, delegate tasks, track task changes, subscribe to tasks and receive notifications, and manage people on projects with groups.
The new way to present—way beyond PowerPoint. Prezi is an online presentation tool that lets you pan and zoom around your presentation “canvas,” present online or offline, easily collaborate with teammates anywhere to develop a presentation, and add a timeline using “frames and a path to create a cinematic journey.” Pricing ranges from free (though your “Prezis” will be public and include Prezi branding) to $159 per year for the Pro version (your own logo, lots of storage space and more).
Cool iPhone Apps
A free app for Apple iOS devices that enables users to manage multiple social media accounts at once. A users can post to his/her Facebook wall, send a Tweet, share photos to Flickr and TwitPic, upload a video to YouTube, post a blog entry and manage other social accounts all from a single login and tool.
A free iPhone app for discovering what events are happening in your area, who you know that’s going to each, browse ideas from nightclubs to museums to movies (along with ratings), connect with others who are attending the same events and share thoughts and photos.
5 Awesome Spreadsheet Apps for the iPhone by Search Engine Journal
Frequent best-of honoree Ann Smarty reviews five spreadsheet apps for the iPhone that “allow you to look at anything from profits and annual earnings, to employee checks and monthly expenses” anytime from anywhere. She notes that there are many others available, but calls these “arguably the best around.” All are priced at $10 or less.
250 best iPad apps: social media apps by The Telegraph
Brief reviews of top social apps for the iPhone including Flipboard—which “takes the activity from your social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and plenty of others are supported —and presents it in an attractive magazine-style layout…This app is must-have on all iPads”—Gowalla and Spout.
Social Search and Social Media Monitoring Tools
Billing itself as a real-time social search engine, Topsy is reasonably good at finding topical and brand references across the social web. While it’s no threat to professional monitoring tools like Radian6, it’s a decent, free, quick-check tool for smaller companies and one-off searches.
Synthesio is a powerful, professional social media monitoring system that combines technology with human assistance for global brand reputation monitoring, topic monitoring, influencer rating and social community mapping. It is multi-lingual, customizable and filters out much of the “junk” picked up by other monitoring tools. This power and flexibility comes at a cost, however, as pricing is based on the number of search returns and starts at $1,500 per month.
A social media analytics and engagement tool that incorporates search, analytics and engagement capabilities. Within “engagement,” for example, you can evaluate the “degrees of separation” between a company and its audience, schedule tweets, and assign tweets to different team members for response / follow up. Pricing starts at $150 per month, but you can try it out first with a 14-day free trial.
Chatmeter bills itself as “the first and only Local Brand Management service—the only platform that informs with daily alerts to monitor and respond to customer feedback from across the web combined with a dashboard to see the real impact on how customer experience is affecting online visibility for each location.” Priced at $40 per location per month (volume discounts for chains), Chatmeter purports to save chains thousands of dollars in lost revenue by improving marketing effectiveness and providing the tools to easily respond to customers immediately for each of location.
Inefegy’s Social Radar is known as a social media monitoring platform that is powerful, fast, has an outstanding user interface, and “now tracks some 40 million Web sites, including blogs, forums, image sites, news sites like CNN and the BBC, Twitter and more.” You can “request” a free trial, and the pricing is flat rate (you can run unlimited searches for one monthly fee), but specific pricing information is difficult to come by.
Cool Tools for Creating Infographics
10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics by MakeUseOf
***** 5 STARS
An outstanding article by Angela Alcorn which provides guidance on how to create an infographic, followed by helpful, illustrated reviews of 10 free tools to assist in infographic creation, such as Stat Planet, Hohli, Creately (which also supports collaboration and easy flow chart creation) and Inkscape.
The 5 Best Free Tools For Making Slick Infographics by Fast Company
Noting that “It’s not enough to simply write about data any longer; the world wants visuals. While there are many professional information designers making a name for themselves, such as Nicholas Felton of Feltron.com, the majority of these digital artists are up to their eyeballs in high-paying work. Where does this leave you?,” Amber Mac reviews five free tools for creating infographics—four of which were covered in Angela’s article above, plus a new tool, Visual.ly.
Reviews of Cool Social Media Tools
Introducing PeerIndex: A New Companion to Klout for Social Media Influence Measurement by WindMill Networking
Neal Schaffer reviews PeerIndex, a competitor to Klout for social media influence measurement. Klout had an opportunity to become the standard before it stumbled badly in October 2011 when it radically changed its algorithm, calling its validity into serious question, then arrogantly refused to apologize and reverse course. A newer and (possibly) more accurate influence metric site is Kred, which is also worth checking out.
Is HootSuite Pro a Smart Investment? by Social Media Examiner
Nichole Kelly answers the question many of us HootSuite fans have been asking: is it worth it to upgrade to the Pro version? And after detailing the differences between the free and paid versions, her conclusion is…probably not, for most users. But it’s worthwhile (and HootSuite could make it more worthwhile, with a little work) for agencies and larger companies.
How to Back Up Gmail by Time Techland
Worried that Gmail could crash and lose all of your email history? Doug Aamoth details five different methods to protect yourself from just such a possibility, ranging from easy and free (e.g., Gmail Backup) to harder but free (forward to an email client such as Microsoft Outlook) to other slightly more involved but still free alternatives.
Search Social Media More Efficiently with Greplin
Josh Peters reports that Greplin is a powerful tool for topic-searching across your “personal social graph,” to find instances of people you’re connected to talking about topics you’re interested in. “Greplin social media search can access more than just your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. With a basic account (free) you can also include your DropBox, Gmail and Google docs accounts to the search to include content you’ve created. With a premium account ($5 / mo) you can include Evernote, Yammer, Basecamp, Highrise, Google Apps, and Salesforce accounts with more to come.”
4 Great (free) Tools to Measure Social Sentiment and 4 Important Stats by Social Media Today
After highlighting four important statistics (among them: “53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product”), Nick Bennett reviews four free tools for measuring social sentiment, including Twendz and Twittersheep.
Content Tools: This Week in Social Media by Social Media Examiner
Cindy King reviews a handful of fairly new tools, including Storify, a content curation tool that “gathers content from various social media platforms to create your own story. You can then create a widget of this story to embed it in your website” and 23press, a low-cost tool that simplifies the process of moving a blog from one host to another.
Free analytics tools you should be using by iMedia Connection
Josh Dreller advises marketers to “Check out some of the following free tools that can help you collect, analyze, and take action on data. In fact, a combination of all these systems would certainly push your data-driven organization to another level. With these free analytics platforms, any company could truly compete with the advanced data tools and tactics of even its largest competitors”) the reviews eight free tools including Quantcast for demographics, 4Q for free survey analytics and TubeMogul for video analytics.
5 Productivity Tools for the Busy Social Media Manager by Social Media Today
***** 5 STARS
Leo Widrich shares five of his favorite tools to optimize his time on social media, including Refynr, which lets you “Create a social savvy filter of keywords you want to have included…(then) creates a ‘refyned’ news stream for you with only the most relevant tweets”), Triberr (an invite-only community of bloggers), and Tungle for setting up meetings.
48 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools by DreamGrow
Priit Kallas reviews four dozen free social media tools in two groups: one including the tools he uses most often (e.g., HootSuite and Social Mention and one arranged alphabetically from Addictomatic for searching “the best live sites on the web for the latest news, blog posts, videos and images. It’s a tool to keep up with the hottest topics” to WhoUnfollowedMe which enables the true Twitter paranoid to “check your unfollowers on your schedule, every 15 minutes.”
17 Alternatives to Klout by ReadWriteWeb
Acknowledging the Klout trainwreck and noting that no influencer rating measure will ever be perfect, David Strom nevertheless runs through 17 alternatives for Twitter influence measurement, Facebook metrics, Google metrics, tools with a multi-site focus (e.g., PeerIndex, which is “probably the closest competitor to Klout” according to David), and sentiment analysis tools such as Kred (which has since emerged as one of the top alternatives to Klout).
7 Apps That Rocked My Work by iMedia Connection
Jason Harty reviews his favorite seven work-related apps, including Editor by Pixlr for easy online photo editing (“If MS Paint ain’t cutting it and Photoshop is over your head, give Editor by Pixlr a look”), Evernote for online and on-the-go note-taking, and Jing for quickly capturing any portion of your computer screen.
Nine companies B2B marketers should know about by Velocity Partners
Doug Kessler provides brief reviews of nine marketing products/tools for B2B professionals, such as EPiServer (web content management for the .Net platform), Reevoo (a social commerce platform for brands and retailers) and Marketo (marketing automation software).
SEO is a blend of art and science. The “art” side relies on knowledge, intuition and creativity. The “science” side can be made more effective and more efficient by using tools like the ones highlighted here—enabling SEO practitioners to focus more on the art part.
Need to analyze the optimization status of an existing website? Identify promising keywords? Analyze competitors’ backlinking strategies? Evaluate the impact of social media activities on search results? Create XML sitemaps for multiple search engines?
You’ll find tools to aid with all of those tasks and more in this collection of useful and cool SEO tools.
SEO Analysis and Reporting Tools
2 Free Tools to Find and Analyze SERP Dominators (for Competitor Research) by Search Engine Journal
Frequent best-of honoree Ann Smarty reviews WhoICompete and Andrew Griffiths’ search marketing tool, two tools that, in her words, “let you generate the list of domains that get ranked high for several related search queries (we call them ‘SERP dominators’)”–in other words, the companies that are successfully utilizing web presence optimization (WPO) around these search phrases.
8 Cool Free SEO Website Tools by Abnormal Marketing
Fiona McEachran looks at eight helpful free SEO toos, ranging from the widely used (e.g., HubSpot, Alexa, and Backlink Watch, which is one of my favorites) to the lesser-known but interesting like iWebTool—a suite of tools including a Backlink Checker, Google PageRank Prediction and Keyword Density Checker—and Best SEO Tools, another intriguing suite.
5 Free Web SEO Analysis Tools by Blogging News Technology
What’s In Your SEO Toolbox? by SEO Book
***** 5 STARS
Writing that “From a cost and time standpoint I’ve found it really helpful to pick a core set of tools and stick with them rather than bouncing around to get an extra feature or two,” Eric Covino reviews his favorites in this outstanding post. He helpfully divides his list of tools, most of which are market leaders, into five categories: keyword research, on-page criteria, rank checkers, competitive link research tools, and link monitoring tools.
Tools every SEO specialist and marketer should use by iMedia Connection
Jason Hennessey offers mini-reviews of half-a-dozen useful SEO tools, including Majestic SEO, Raven Tools and SEMRush. This is a solid list for newbies, but experienced SEO professionals and digital marketers will likely already be using these (or their own favorite alternatives).
Challenges in Automated Traffic Reporting by The Daily SEO Blog
Benjamin Estes examines five tools for monitoring and reporting on organic traffic data, from the most basic (Google Analytics) through some more exotic options like Geckoboard and GinzaMetrics. He summarizes the capabilities, pros and cons of each tool, but doesn’t declare a “winner” as each client’s requirements are, after all, somewhat different.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Chrome SEO Extensions by Search Engine Journal
In this concise and easy to digest post, Benjamin Beck serves up quick, bullet-point reviews of “good” SEO extensions for Chrome (among them: the SEO MOZ Bar, Buffer App and Check My Links) as well as “bad” and “ugly” extensions that either aren’t particularly useful or well-designed.
Review: Bruce Clay’s Latest SEOToolSet by Coconut Headphones
Ted Ives extols the virtues of Bruce Clay’s SEOToolSet, which includes tools for working through the SEO process in six main areas: keyword strategy, linking strategy, architecture best practices, content optimization, traffic analysis and monetization (determining click value). Ted’s conclusion: “Bruce’s product is very broad and comprehensive and covers more bases…(than) other tools…and is well worth trying out.”
A Complete Review of Wordtracker’s Link Builder by SEO Book
Eric Covino (again) provides a thoughtful comprehensive review, this time of Wordtracker’s Link Builder tool. He steps through the process of setting up a campaign, researching competitor link profiles, link analysis, finding contacts, reporting, and using the Firefox extension. Eric closes the post with a helpful summary of the features he likes as well as areas he feels could be improved upon.
Why Optify Got Down To SEO Basics by MediaPost SearchBlog
Laurie Sullivan reports on the Basic edition of Optify, a tool designed to help marketers and business owners not only “understand SEO, but also how social media influences search engine query results.” The tool offers some nice features, such as keyword suggestions and a one-click tracking plugin for WordPress, but it’s not clear if it covers all of the bases of WPO as well as an something like gShift Labs.
This free Windows-based tool generates XML sitemaps for Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Keyword Research Tools
12 Popular Keyword Organization Tips & Tools by SEO Book
6 Free Steps to Practical SEM Keyword Development by Target Marketing Magazine
Michel Leconte explains how to develop target keyword lists for SEO and SEM using common, popular tools like Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Instant and Alexa, and concludes, “How do you know when you have not spent enough time doing keyword identification? Chances are that if you don’t need to develop any new content and/or re-organize your website to fuel and align with the strategy at the end of this process, you’re missing something.”
What’s the best web content management system (CMS) for your small business? Should you look at something beyond a CMS—a web marketing system (WMS), that provides additional functions like customer relationship management (CRM) and email? There’s no shortage of options, and the decision is an important one: you’ll be “married” to the platform you choose for as long as your current site is up.
Content management systems are valuable tools for small businesses that 1) don’t want to make a big investment in IT infrastructure, 2) don’t have web development (HTML, CSS etc.) expertise on staff, and 3) want to be able to maintain their own web content (adding new pages, text and images) over time, without needing to learn web coding skills.
“Free” CMS options such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have an obvious appeal (price) to small businesses, but none are cost-free. All require some level of technical expertise, and Joomla and Drupal particularly have steep learning curves. Low-cost, fee-based tools are generally more user-friendly, provide more features, and most importantly come bundled with support. For businesses looking beyond “free” tools, here are six CMS and WMS options that can help you get more sales and marketing productivity out of your website, while being easy on your web content contributors.
Keep in mind that all of these tools impose some design limitations; if you need a truly custom look and feel like these sites, your only option is to hire a professional web design and development firm. But if you can live within a template (and most of these tools do offer a respectable array of options), you can save thousands of dollars on design and coding costs.
These platforms offer website building and content management tools with hosting, but no “extras.” If you are just looking to get a site up on the web and already have systems in place for CRM and marketing automation, these tools are worthy of consideration.
Pricing: $150-$600 per year ($12-$50 per month)
Squarespace is a generally well-regarded tool with reasonable design functionality for building natively search-optimized websites and blogs. It offers a solid set of features including site search, multiple permission levels for different types of contributors, a form-builder, and built-in analytics. The learning curve is far less daunting than most free CMS alternatives, and a strength of the tool is its mobile support. For anyone looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use, basic website building and management tool,
Squarespace is definitely worth consideration.
UPDATE: After closer examination, SquareSpace is not worthy of consideration, due to weaknesses in search engine optimization, specifically:
- • Custom meta title tags for high-level pages are limited to 50 characters (even the most conservative SEOs recommend 65 characters for the title tag).
- • Meta title tags inside a section (e.g., “blog”) will always begin with the section name. You can customize the section name, but you can’t override the fact the all-important first few characters of every page title in that section will contain it.
- • You can’t create custom meta description tags (!) which are essential in “selling the click.”
- • The people behind SquareSpace seem to lack understanding of how SEO works. True, manipulative tactics don’t work, but solid, white hat SEO is essential to getting a website ranked highly. Their information is both inaccurate and offensive to legitimate SEO professionals.
$240-$1200/year ($20-$100 per month)
Like the other tools listed here, LightCMS is low-cost, easy to use, search-optimized and provides tools like a forms builder. What sets it apart is better design flexibility than most of the alternatives, calendar tools and built-in ecommerce functionality. For developers and agencies, LightCMS also offers one of the most attractive partner programs. Considering all of its features, LightCMS is another shortlist-worthy tool for basic website creation, particularly for smaller B2C companies who want an easy-to-manage online store.
$300 per year ($25 per month)
Another website building option that includes extras like ecommerce functionality with credit card processing, and nightly backups. The site is a bit cheesy, but the functionality of the tool is solid. Solution Toolbox provides their own comparison of their system to Squarespace and LightCMS, but take it with a grain of salt; it’s biased in their favor of course and some of the specifics are out of date (for example, Squarespace now includes a forms-builder). Still, for smaller consumer marketers who want to run an online store in addition to their basic website, this is worth a look.
Web Marketing Platforms
These suites combine CMS functionality with additional web marketing applications to provide more than just a website, but a complete online marketing software system.
$480 per year ($40 per month)
Business Catalyst combines the features of the products above—a CMS, forms builder, and ecommerce tools—with email marketing functionality and a basic CRM system. It provides respectable design flexibility and support for mobile devices. Though the product had issues in its original incarnation, Adobe has fixed many of these issues since acquiring it in late 2009 and continues to invest in product development. The catch? Business Catalyst isn’t sold directly to users, only through web developers and agencies (though there are ways around this).
$2,400/year ($200 per month)
Genoo is a solid, easy to use tool, very strong on email marketing / marketing automation. It offers some of the best built-in SEO tools of any of these packages. Genoo doesn’t provide native CRM functionality, but does have a pre-built integration to Salesforce.com. This is ideal for midsized companies with at least moderately sophisticated internal marketing resources who are already using a separate CRM system and are ready to graduate from hosted email marketing services. Genoo’s offering includes training on how to use its lead-nurturing capabilities.
$1,800/year ($150 per month)
This is a complete web marketing package for smaller, non-ecommerce businesses. It provides a robust CMS for a website and blog along with native CRM, email marketing, and forms-building tools, as well as comprehensive strategy guidance for making all of the pieces work together. The ePROneur package uniquely combines hosting, software, services and strategy to help companies with limited resources effectively generate leads and revenue online. The web marketing resources section of the company’s website also offers a wealth of free strategic and tactical web marketing information.
Any of the alternatives above can help small to midsize companies cost-effectively build and manage their web presence with no IT infrastructure and limited technical expertise. The key from there is to choose a platform whose strengths match up with your business type and needs. And also to investigate multiple options to determine which tool, and company, you are most comfortable working with.
FTC Disclosure: Webbiquity has no affiliate relationships with any of the vendors in this review.
The SeoQuake team, the group behind the SEMRush tools for SEO and keyword research, recently released a new tool to help SEM consultants and agencies find local clients. SEMRush Geo displays Google AdWords advertisers on a Google Maps background, enabling users to identify the businesses within any geographic area who are running AdWords campaigns.
Clicking on any businesses opens a small pop-out with additional information (which is also displayed in the left sidebar). Clicking the SEMRush icon within the pop-out or sidebar opens a new window displaying the keywords bid on by that company, and for each keyword the average cost per click, destination URL, percentage of AdWords traffic driven, percentage of AdWords costs and more. The free link displays only partial data; a Pro subscription to SEMRush (at $50 per month) is required to view all of the AdWords data, plus organic keywords, history and export capabilities.
For companies using AdWords, it may seem almost a bit creepy that there is this level of detail about their SEM activities available publicly. But it’s a good reminder for all of us that what we online is, usually, there for the world to see if one knows where to look. For SEM agencies and consultants, the SEMRush Geo tool is a prospecting goldmine. Used properly, the tool can help agencies generate new business and advertisers improve the effectiveness of their AdWords campaigns. For consultants and agencies that provide SEM services, this is definitely worth checking out.
FTC Disclosure: SEMRush provided access to their tools to assist in conducting this evaluation but did not provide any direct compensation for writing this post.
Looking for an easy way to create a cool graphical email signature with trackable interactive buttons? Supplement your email list with your contacts’ social network info? Find out if the username or vanity URL you want is still available across dozens of social sites? Display a feed of brand-related comments from a variety of social networks on your website? Create video emails? Convert PowerPoint presentations to Flash, or into YouTube videos? Search for a brand name or keyword across all of the most popular social networks at once? Monitor social media discussions of your company or product in real time? Create animations? Promote events through social media? Gather competitive intelligence?
Economic conditions may have been tough in 2010, but there was no shortage of online innovation. Discover how to accomplish all of the tasks above and more using some of the coolest free and modestly priced social media and web tools released in the past year or so.
Cool Social Media Tools
A slick tool with free and fee-based options for creating graphical email signatures, adding interactive buttons and even tracking click-throughs from the different elements of your email signature.
A handy way to supplement your email contact list with information about those prospects from the most popular social networks.
Check dozens of popular social networking and social bookmarking websites to see if the username or vanity url you want to use is still available.
Don’t want to follow Twitterers who aren’t following you? This tool makes unfollowing non-followers easy.
A free tool for finding the relative influence of any Twitter user. For those accustomed to getting stratospheric scores on standardized tests, Klout can seem a bit harsh. If you need more of an ego boost, try TwitterGrader.
Create your own online newspaper from Twitter and Facebook updates based on any topic or group of contributors. Your custom paper is updated daily and easy to share.
***** 5 Stars
Display a feed of brand-related comments from a variety of social networks on your website. Highlight the best comments, selectively hide comments (e.g. that are irrelevant or profane), and enable site visitors to share comments back to their social networks without leaving your website.
A free service for setting up, promoting and hosting Twitter chats.
Social and Alternative Search Engines
A realtime social search engine that pulls current and recent results for any term from Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, Digg and Delicious. Searches can also be filtered by platform.
A different kind of search engine, Qwiki (currently in alpha) delivers a combination of audio, images and text in response to searches on an expanding variety of topics. In the site’s words, “Think of asking your favorite teacher about Leonardo Da Vinci, or your most well-traveled friend about Buenos Aires: this is the experience Qwiki will eventually deliver, on demand, wherever you are in the world… on whatever device you’re using.”
A powerful people search tool. Find long-lost acquaintances, extended family members, or a future love interest. Discover what information is available about a potential future boss or employee. Interesting, though the “Who’s searching for you” feature appears to be more a spammy sales tool than a functional offer.
Blekko’s Tools Give Search Marketers Google Alternative by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Granted, the web is littered with “Google killer” alternative search engines, but Blekko, created by Rich Skrenta and Mike Markson, is really cool. It enables users to perform slashtag searches, so for example, rather than just searching for “social media marketing” and getting a zillion results of all types, you can search for “social media marketing /blogs” to see only results from blogs. Or use /forums too see only results from discussion forums, /date to sort results by recency, or even create your own slashtags.
Social Media Monitoring Tools
A feature-rich, realtime social media monitoring and engagement tool. In addition to customizable search and sentiment monitoring, the Buzz Tracking feature provides realtime “metrics around how much buzz is out there, how much of it is yours, how much of it is your competitors’, and what’s buzzing industry-wide.” Lithium also includes response assignment and reporting tools. A free trial is available.
A slick, easy to use social media monitoring and alerts tool. Create an account or try it out by setting up a free alert in just seconds.
A social media monitoring tool that tracks your brand and keyword searches across Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Google Buzz, Blogs, and News, and reports results hourly. Actionly also includes Twitter account management and analytics tools.
A realtime social media monitoring tool featuring sentiment analysis, key influencer tracking, and the ability to sort/view results by geography and demographics. Sysomos has an impressive blue chip customer list and the company’s recent acquisition by Marketwire gives it solid brand and investment backing.
Measure your social media marketing performance with tracking tools for the major social media networks, keep tabs on competitors and compare your results to theirs, and get alerts about trends and social media activity. Wildfire is designed to enable organizations to easily create branded interactive campaigns (e.g. sweepstakes, contests and surveys) and publish them to multiple social networks and their own website. Pricing ranges from $30 to $150 per month.
Other Cool Web Tools
Proclaim Messenger enables you to easily combine pre-recorded or live video with PowerPoint presentations to produce video email campaigns (with full analytics), one-off video sales emails, or hold live one-to-one or small group video chats. Pricing ranges from $30 to $100 per month depending on features.
Runaware’s TestDrive® suite of services provides software developers with marketing tools and a hosted interactive online demo environment that allows customers to evaluate real software in their web browser, complete with tutorials and detailed usage reporting. Runaware’s Cloud Platform offerings enable clients to experiment and evaluate SaaS and PaaS using their own application without requiring any modifications.
An inexpensive tool for converting PowerPoint to Flash web files, ideal for creating online presentations, Flash banners, photo albums, e-cards and more. You can import other Flash files and audio as well as record narration. The output can be saved as a Flash file for the web, converted to a self-running executable, used to create an auto-run CD or sent as an email attachment.
Billing itself as a “keyword analysis and comparison engine,” Qirina is a simple but useful SEO evaluation tool that helps users understand a site’s position in the keyspace, assess the quality of the site’s on-site SEO, and identify competitors in search.
Reviews of More Cool Web Tools
Another Cool Tool To Optimize Your Site Loading Speed by Daily Blog Tips
Now that Google is taking site loading time into consideration as a ranking factor, webmasters are feeling the need for speed as never before. Here’s a quick review of WebPageTest, a handy tool for checking any site’s pre- and post-cache load times.
6 slick news aggregators you should try by iMedia Connection
Josh Rose reviews six “news aggregators (including Popurls, Netvibes and Alltop) that…are moving beyond the simple RSS reader. These are customizable tools that can be shaped into exactly the right resource for the most important information you need to know.”
PowerPoints That Turn Into YouTube Videos Create Instant Marketing Tool by MediaPost Search Blog
Laurie Sullivan provides an update on Brainshark, “a tool that turns PowerPoint decks into YouTube videos. The platform turns a presentation into a video slideshow (with voiceover/audio) formatted to upload onto YouTube with one click.”
6 Free Sites for Creating Your Own Animations by Mashable
6 Newfangled Social Media Tools Worth Discovering by Convince & Convert
Jay Baer shares his thoughts on a small collection of tools worth checking out, including Curate.Us, which is sort of a social media-friendly version of ClipMarks; Formulists, a slick tool for automatically creating lists of your Twitter followers based on criteria you select such as having a similar follower count or having retweeted you in the past month; and Wibiya, which lets you create a custom footer bar for your blog or website that enable users to easily translate a page, share it via their social networks, link to your YouTube channel or perform other actions.
12 Social Media Tools for B2B Pre-Event Marketing by Social Media B2B
***** 5 Stars
Adam Holden-Bache presents a dozen tools that can “help event organizers extend an event’s visibility, attendance and pre-event conversations,” from LinkedIn Events and Facebook Events to build attendance, to location-based services for event check-in, to Slideshare for leveraging presentation content after the event.
***** 5 Stars
The brilliant Adam Vincenzini reviews a collection of highly useful social media tools including Twoolr for Twitter statistics, MentionMap for analyzing “what a particular person is talking about on Twitter and who they are talking to,” TouchGraph for visualizing where your site is being mentioned, and Citrify, a simple yet effective web-based photo editing tool.
The Best Things In Life Are Free: 10 Tools For Digital Professionals That Don’t Cost A Dime by MediaPost Online Media Daily
A quick review of 10 free tools for online marketers, for tasks like keyword research, competitive intelligence gathering, social media monitoring, test marketing and presentations.
Most Popular Free Windows Downloads of 2010 by Lifehacker
***** 5 Stars
The most popular free Windows tools of 2010, including Soluto for speeding up slow PCs, Snow Transformation for those who want their Windows screen to look like a Mac, Freemake video converter and editor, and MultiBootOS– a true geek tool that lets you load multiple operating systems onto a USB drive and select between them at boot-up.
4 Social Media Predictions for 2011 by oneforty blog
Social media monitoring tools are predicted to get both more sophisticated and less expensive in 2011, and several interesting vendors are cited here including Argyle Social, viralheat, Beevolve and eCairn.