Can you believe that it’s 2016 already? In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and entering 2016 with a fresh start, I’ve put together my go-to list of free online tools and online productivity apps to give you the jumpstart you need to make this year your most impressive yet!
Read the Good Stuff, and More Of It
Reading is the cornerstone of staying on top of industry trends, discovering new tools to leverage, and sounding amazing at the water cooler. The easiest way? Subscribe to these email newsletters to let the best reading material to come to you.
Sign up for The Skimm, and every morning, you’ll get an easy-to-digest brief of what’s going on in the world. Everything is broken down into practical bits of information with topics including pop culture, politics, and everything in between. Read an example here.
The wisest of wise women, Lena Dunham, helms this online publication. Sign up for Lenny’s email subscription to get the scoop on women’s issues, cool people, cooler products, and meaningful interviews.
In his own words, seasoned creative freelancer Paul Jarvis writes one article per week about, “using your creativity to make a living.” The Sunday Dispatches are always a great way to start your week, with each email basically delivering a raw and inspiring blog post directly to your inbox. Jarvis specializes in thought provoking posts that tell it EXACTLY as it is as a creative professional.
This email subscription delivers interviews with interesting people across a variety of industries in many different roles. Every inspiring interview is different with beautiful photography to boot.
Interested in curating your very own email subscription for yourself that pulls the information you REALLY want from all over the web? Feedly allows you to read your favorite websites on your own time, while never missing a single post. You can use it to build collections (or folders) or organize your content via topic, making it super easy to skim. As an added bonus, Feedly integrates with Buffer (discussed later) so you can easily share content across your social channels. If you need some inspiration, check out my personal feeds: Alex’s Public Feedly Collection.
Have Better Meetings
Let’s face it: meetings are often horrible unproductive. Make a resolution to get more out of your meetings in 2016 by setting agendas and sticking with it!
This free online tool is a web and mobile app that has absolutely changed the way I do meetings, and all for the better! WorkLife is an online productivity app that integrates with Google Calendar so that you can set and attach any agenda for any meeting. You can add private notes, public notes, or even assign action items and deadlines. Meeting attendees can also collaborate on the agenda, making your meetings goal driven and so much more organized.
Rock Social Media
Social media, the beast of modern marketing and business management. Fortunately, these free online tools are some of the absolute BEST organization apps for social media, from publishing to analytics.
How to say this without sounding like a marketing fangirl… ah, forget it. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT BUFFER. The tool is amazing, and it just keeps getting better. Buffer really does make social media dead simple. After signing up for an account, (FYI: even the free account is extremely powerful) you simply install the browser extension, and then click on the Buffer icon within your browser to share any article you like to any of your connected social media accounts. Even better, you can add content to your “Queue” to release content based on your schedule.
Setting up your Buffer schedule is easy: you merely select the times and days of the week on the scheduler, and Buffer will automatically release your queued content based on the schedule. Whether you’re managing social media for a brand, or just trying to ensure that you keep your personal accounts populated with great content, Buffer is for you!
You might be thinking, “Well, that’s great Alex, but where do I find good content to share? Surely you’re not suggesting I scour the internet myself?!”
Of course, not! In addition to the content you can find on Feedly and the email subscription list, you can also use BuzzSumo to find social media goldmines: viral content. Nothing engages with your social media audience quite like viral content, and all you have to do is type a topic into BuzzSumo and it will filter out content that is currently trending, or showing signs of trending in the near future, across all social networks. BuzzSumo integrates with Buffer, and it can also let you run an audit on your own site to help you discover your own most popular content from any specified time period.
Make Website Improvements Now, and Reap the Benefits All Year
Your website is your brand’s literal online face and digital first impression. Get these online tools and productivity apps live on your website today for benefits that will last for the rest of 2016.
SumoMe integrates easily with WordPress, allowing you to do things like add a bar across the top of your site with a call to action, or to install a trigger-based popup to collect email addresses. It’s ridiculously simple and affordable to boot. You can leverage the free version, or snag an al la carte upgrade to the Pro version for only $20 per tool, per month. Pro offers all the advanced page targeting and analytics goodies you want, including A/B testing.
Our industry thrives on powerful headlines. Seriously, headlines are so important, that they can make or break your content marketing endeavors: if you’re writing great content, but no one is clicking on it, your content is basically useless. KingSumo Headlines is an online tool that figures out the best headline for your content. All you do is add three to five headline options, and KingSumo will show different headlines at random for your content. Once the program figures out which headline getting the most clicks, it will auto-default to that one. The process works a lot like A/B testing, but it’s even easier as it sticks to the most successful one.
If you haven’t installed the Google Analytics code on your site, do it now. Seriously. What are you doing without it? Google Analytics is the first-line free online tool to track pageviews, unique Users, referral traffic, and more.
BEST REPORT EVER! If Google Analytics is the messenger that collects information from the digital battlefield, then Quill Engage is the war strategist that turns that information into plan that helps you win the war. Delivered to you once a week, a Quill report basically analyzes your Google Analytics account and then gives you the stats that matter. It forces you to pay attention to these stats, even when you are “too busy” to check your Google Analytics dashboard.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best at saving money. Fortunately, in the spirit of relying on online tools, there are some really good organization apps for that! With these two tools, 2016 can be the year YOU successfully keep saving money too!
As mentioned, I suck at saving money. If I see it in my savings account, I still might move that money over to my checking for “that one thing,” so it’s always at risk. Digit has changed that. Digit basically sneaks money out of my bank account and holds it in my “digit account”. This online tool learns your buying habits, so it knows how much it can sneak out (based on factors like when you pay bills and such). In the first month, I saved $100… and I didn’t even notice.
Of course, you can withdraw the money at any time, but since you’re not seeing your saved up dollars in your Chase (or whatever bank) account when you login, you kind of forget about it. Digit is NOT an app: everything is done securely via SMS text. Digit also sends me my checking account balance daily (which I love), so I’m more aware of my $$ habits.
Have you bought something cool on Amazon for one price, and then checked back in a month and discovered the price had dropped? Super annoying, but what could you do about it?
Paribus is almost like a Robin Hood of online retail. When you connect your Amazon account, it automatically will let you know when an item you previously purchased is currently available for less. Then, it files for a refund for the difference directly from Amazon, and it does this without you lifting a single finger. I’ve gotten $20 back in the last three months with zero effort.
Let’s Do It To It This Year!
I’m positive there’s a great free online tool or organization app out there for everything we need to make life easier in 2016. Keep your eyes on my blog for more tips on efficient marketing management, and sign up for my email newsletter to get the best tips delivered directly to your inbox!
What’s your favorite online tool to get stuff done?