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.
Update 1/5/2016: Topsy was acquired by Apple and shut down. Removed and replaced that link with Keyhole—see details below.
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
Topsy (acquired by Apple in December 2013; shut down in December 2015; use Keyhole [below] instead)
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.
Keyhole assists brands in tracking campaigns (posts, retweets, likes and impression by hashtags, keywords or URLs), identifies influencers using your keywords, and provides time-phased analytics. Pricing starts at $129 month, and the tool offers a brief (3 day) free trial.
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).