I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I’m a penny-pinching madwoman. Not because I have to be, but because I view spending as little as possible to create a quality product as a personal challenge. You and I work hard for our money, so why give it away?
Some might answer that question with, “Well, you get what you pay for,” or, “Nothing in life is free.” I hear you. And, to an extent you’re right. An exception, however, is launching a content marketing strategy. As we’ll discover today, there are plenty of free tools available to help create, promote and distribute quality content for next to nothing.
First, allow me to answer the question, “Why should I care?”
Content Marketing’s Value
A recent study conducted by Curata found that over 70% of businesses are planning to increase their content marketing budget in 2014. Why, you ask? The value of content marketing is well worth the expense. In fact, content marketing is one of the only known marketing tactics to produce positive results at all stages of the sales funnel.
In Curata’s recently published 2014 Content Marketing Tactics Planner, the overall impact of content marketing is clear:
- 75-80% of study participants reported an increase in brand awareness and customer engagement.
- Nearly 75% of respondents report an increase in web traffic from content marketing efforts.
- Over 60% report a measurable increase in lead quality and quantity.
- 70% of companies position their brand as a thought leader with content marketing.
Do you want to achieve positive results for free? Read on.
22 Free Tools to Launch Your Content Strategy
It’s unfortunate, but despite the intended boost in content marketing budgets, a significant portion of the over 500 participants are confused about where to allocate funds. These free tools will help you reduce overall expenses and devote the majority of your budget to the most important place – the creation of quality content.
- Mind 42
Mind 42 is a web-based tool that allows users to create mind maps, complete with images and links. Perfect for teams, Mind 42 makes it simple to collaborate with others on content ideas, promotion strategies and much more. Uniquely, mind maps can be tagged and searched, adding another dimension to topic brainstorming. Oh, and it’s free.
Another free program, FreeMind is not as pretty to look at as Mind 42, but includes robust brainstorming tools. This powerful, open-source program goes beyond brainstorming to include project management, essay writing and customizable bookmarking functions.
Perfect for visual presentation of ideas, bubbl.us is a free, web-based brainstorming tool that is user-friendly and attractive. The program includes basic features, such as the ability to create, print and export mind maps.
Popplet is a dynamic brainstorming tool that allows users to write, draw and add video or images to mind maps. Unlike other free tools, Popplet’s features are available via iPhone app for a small fee, allowing your team to mobilize collaboration.
Producteev’s dynamic task and project management platform is a free, full-featured program. From assigning tasks and monitoring project completion to improving company-wide communication, Producteev can do it all. It’s not simply web-based, either. Producteev is free to use from your Mac, iPhone, Android or email account.
With its user-friendly interface and robust features, Trello is a scalable project management solution perfect for launching your content marketing strategy. The program’s free version has everything needed for a successful launch including real-time collaboration tools. If your needs get more complex, Trello has paid options starting at $5 a month.
Developed to combine project management with a dynamic CRM, Insightly is one of the most popular free business tools. This platform integrates with Google Apps, Office 365 and more than 10 other tools, including Evernote. Insightly can be accessed from nearly any device and is free for up to 3 users.
- Viral Content Buzz
This free service is one of the most popular ways to promote your content across social media platforms and get customers to start buzzing about your brand. Viral Content Buzz can be used on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
If social sharing is a large part of your content promotion strategy, JustRetweet is an easy way to maximize the reach of your best content on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Based on how well your content is received on social media, JustRetweet helps build traffic and brand awareness. Be careful, though. JustRetweet will reject content that is too promotional.
Though getting your content approved by Alltop can be a challenge, once you’ve “made it” you’re pretty much set. This site is best for niche businesses, but can be used for a large variety of topics to bring targeted traffic to your site.
- Google Analytics
No surprise here, but Google Analytics remains the best free tool for content performance measurement. From cross-platform measurement and audience behavior metrics to conversion calculations and site performance, Google Analytics is a powerful and scalable analytics tool.
- Social Bakers
I had to add Social Bakers to the list because they offer an array of free statistics tools and appear to be in the best position to compete with Google Analytics. Though the majority of Social Bakers’ analytics tools are offered via paid subscription, the free tools available on their website enable visitors to review the progress of social media’s most successful brands.
One of the best (and free) ways to distribute your content is with List.ly. This tool allows users to create and distribute lists that an audience may have interest in. It’s a simple way to get your brand noticed online. Not convinced? Check out this post from Social Media Today.
HootSuite takes the guesswork out of social media management and is free to use for up to five social media profiles. With HootSuite, you can easily track social media analytics for multiple platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
In addition to quickly distributing content, Buffer is a free tool that can be used to easily curate content. Through Buffer, your team can schedule posts, save interesting content and track social media analytics from a desktop or mobile device. If your content strategy needs a more powerful tool, Buffer’s paid plans start at only $10 a month.
Tired of doing all the legwork yourself? ClickToTweet allows users to easily add a “Tweet this” button to content, encouraging your audience to share content with friends quickly. This free tool provides a limited number of links per month, with unlimited links available for a fee.
Video & Images
WeVideo is a free, web-based video creation and editing tool. If you’re planning to incorporate visual content into your strategy (and you absolutely should), WeVideo’s features are priceless. With no additional IT resources required, WeVideo is one tool that’s hard to pass up.
Pixlr is a web-based photo editing application that can be accessed from your desktop or mobile device. Including eye-catching images has never been easier, since Pixlr does not require a sign up process to use their free tools. Did I mention it’s free? I did, okay.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to create a presentation is by using SlideShare. Does your business need to create and share documents, images and video as well? SlideShare is your solution. SlideShare is free to get started with a basic account and, as your content marketing needs expand, can scale with your business.
Filled with ideas but lacking in technical know-how? Infogram is an easy way to transform your content into visually pleasing infographics. Infogram is free to join and allows users to create stunning infographics for use on a company website, blog or social networks.
- Twisted Wave
If you’re planning to start a branded podcast or radio show, Twisted Wave is one tool you don’t want to pass up. This robust audio editor is accessible online, from Mac desktops and from Apple mobile devices. Currently, Twisted Wave is in beta, making it free to create an account and create audio files up to 20 minutes long.
PodcastGenerator, an open source podcast publishing tool, is free to download and use. The program’s interface requires minimal technical knowledge and is customizable to meet your brand’s unique needs. If you’re bootstrapping everything from blogs to video, why not add podcasts to the list?
Ultimately, You Do Get What You Pay For
Though I get giddy about saving money, there are two components of a content marketing strategy that deserve your budget’s attention: content creation and strategic oversight. Too often, businesses do not follow the recommended content mix. According to Curata, the ideal mix of content should be approximately 65% original, 25% curated and 10% syndicated.
In order to cut expenses, some companies attempt to balance out these numbers a bit more. Hence, quality is sacrificed for quantity and the bottom line. Unfortunately, without a significant amount of original content and strategic oversight, your content marketing efforts are unlikely to produce desired results.
Tired of wrestling with your budget and want to kill two birds with one stone? Head over to CEM to learn how we can provide your business with top notch content and help you develop an effective content marketing strategy.
Have you used any of these tools in your business? Why or why not?