Five free comms tools for small businesses
Small but perfectly-formed
So, you’ve taken the plunge and started your own small business. The business cards are printed, and you’ve bought your chosen domain name. Now it’s time to let the world know about you, and put together a comms strategy that enables you to do just that.
Regardless of whether you’ll be using an agency, or tackling your marketing in-house, there are tonnes of free comms tools and resources available to make it simpler than ever. Here at Luminous PR, we love anything that saves a bit of time and hassle (especially if it’s free). Here are our top five comms tools for small businesses. You’re welcome.
Note: We’ve (quite reasonably) assumed that you already have a functioning website, blog, and social media channels. If you don’t – go away and sort that out, pronto. That really is the most important place to start, and these free comms tools aren’t going anywhere.
An absolute godsend for managing said social media channels: Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard. While it’s undeniably important for your business to share regular social media updates throughout the day, this is easier said than done. Plus, it’s all too easy to check Twitter and end up reading the news for three hours.
Hootsuite solves this problem by allowing you to schedule posts in advance for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ (though you can only add three social networks on Hootsuite Free). It’s so much easier to manage your social media accounts when you can do it all from one platform.
It also allows you to set a variety of ‘streams’ to monitor whatever you fancy. You could monitor specific keywords, to see who’s tweeting about your industry, or even your product. You can even set a stream to quickly show who’s engaged with you. Think of it as your all-seeing eye for social media.
While we’re talking about social media, here’s one thing you should definitely be sharing: images.
It’s well known by social media gurus that posts with images get much more engagement that posts without. Check out these great examples of visual social media marketing campaigns if you need inspiration.
Don’t worry: you don’t need an in-house team of graphic designers to create social media images. Pablo allows anybody to do it in just under thirty seconds.
Simply search their library of gorgeous, royalty-fee, stock images for one you like. Then add text, logos, filters, and anything else you like. Select which social network you’re creating the image for, and it will automatically download at just the right size. That means no awkward cropping or missing text.
Answer the Public
While the SEO benefits of regular blogging are undeniable, it can still seem like a daunting task. Sometimes, coming up with something to write about can be half the problem.
Answer the Public is one of our favourite comms tools as it helps provide a clever solution to this. Simply enter your keyword into the search engine, and it will load hundreds of queries that people have searched for using that term. For example, a quick search for ‘public relations’ throws up the following:
- Who needs public relations?
- Why public relations is better than advertising
- What public relations is not
- When public relations goes wrong
…You get the gist. All of these could provide a starting point for interesting blog posts. And since the results are generated from real search engine queries, you know someone out there will want to read your article. Search for your keyword, and see what you come up with.
Call us biased, but we think PR is a key part of any comprehensive comms strategy. Running a full-on PR campaign can be a bit much for a small business, but there are simpler ways to get your name out there in the media.
When a journalist is writing a feature, they’ll often seek comments from industry experts in order to add authority to their piece. Many journalists will do this by tweeting with the hashtag #journorequests. If you’re able to help with what they’re asking for, you just have to reply. It’s as simple as that. There’s no guarantee you’ll gain coverage, but it is free and easy.
One way to keep an eye out for these comment opportunities is by creating a stream in Hootsuite that displays all tweets including the hashtag #journorequest (you can also try #bloggerrequest and #PRrequest). Another way to do this is to sign up for the free email alerts from Journorequests.com. This will send you a daily digest of all the tweets using the hashtag, and you simply reply on Twitter or by email if you want to comment. How simple is that?
For all its faults, email is still one of the best ways to get in touch with your customers and prospects. If you’re a coding whizz, creating a beautiful, fully-responsive email campaign is a no-brainer. For the rest of us, however, it’s a daylight nightmare.
Enter MailChimp. If your mailing list contains fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send out up to 12,000 emails a month. Perfect for sending out newsletters and important updates. It comes with loads of professional-looking templates, that you simply drag and drop to rearrange. You can even customise them with your brand colours and logo.
Even with the free service, MailChimp provides you with clever stats and reports, so you can see how your email marketing campaign is doing. Really, you have no excuse not to try it.
Ready to go
These free and easy-to-use comms tools make it simpler than ever to communicate your business goals to stakeholders. Just make sure you have a clear idea of your brand values, and remember to keep it consistent across all marketing channels. Be clear about what you do, be as helpful as possible, and be friendly. Never underestimate the importance of personality!