5 Often Overlooked Online Business Tools

by: | October 20, 2011

One of the hardest parts in establishing your online marketing game plan is coming to grips with the plethora of tools at your disposal. There are so many paid and free services that can be used to augment your Internet marketing strategy.

Once you have a website and/or blog, coupled with your social channels to build and maintain an audience, there are many applications to enrich the user experience, make tasks easier for your marketing manager or webmaster, provide tangible user data, maintain rapport, and promote user retention. Sometimes, stepping into the digital marketing world is like entering an echo chamber of self-anointed gurus hurling jargon into the ether. It can be hard to differentiate what’s buzzworthy from what’s just buzz.

Here is a simple list of 5 powerful tools that you may have overlooked in the din.

Cost: free-$499

Visibli is a neat little tool that boasts that gives your links more value. It costs anywhere from free to $499 annually based on which package suits you. The coolest attribute, which is part of the free package, is the ability to brand your outside links.

A big part of fostering an online community with Facebook and Twitter is sharing information your followers may find interesting— whether it is your content or relevant content on another website. If you bookmark a page or article that you would like to share with Visibli and use their URL shortener to create a link, the page will have a thin bar with your brand across the top of the page. This tracks your user, showing their activity on these shared pages, as well as keeping your brand at the forefront of their minds.

The large back button is an easy way to be social and share while giving users an easy route back to you. Visibli says this “Engagement Bar” is proven to deliver a 12% higher rate of customer retention.

Cost: free-$5.99/mo

Hootsuite and TweetDeck seem to be the most popular social media dashboards, with Seesmic and Sprout Social close behind. Social media dashboards allow marketers and business owners to manage multiple social channels from one place.

Hootsuite allows you to broadcast and monitor multiple channels, monitor mentions of your brand online, assign multiple administrators, track real-time stats on your posts, and develop simple custom reports.

Hootsuite is my favorite, with a decent free version or a slight upgrade for a mere $5.99 a month. You can choose from a slew of social media dashboards that also have strong analytics and sentiment metrics (scanning and measuring mentions of your brand and the associated positive, neutral, or negative sentiment associated with it) like Meltwater Buzz and Radian 6, which gained prominence alongside Hootsuite, as social media and metrics became an important aspect of digital marketing.

Responding to increased competition, Hootsuite additionally developed enterprise-level tools with VIP customer service. Generally, though, one can accomplish most things with the free version or $5.99 solution, which is tough to beat.

Cost: free

This is a nifty little tool if you want to jazz up your Facebook page without the help of a web developer. Tabsite uses simple drag-and-drop technology with a wide array of “widgets” to create custom pages and functionality. Their Content Widget can be placed anywhere on one of your custom pages and gives you a simple editor to play with fonts and add links and tables as easily as you would to a Word document.

There are over a dozen widgets, like the Video Widget that allows you to embed video directly into the page, the Facebook Social Widget that makes it easy to add Facebook Comment boxes and Like functionality to your homegrown page, and the Photoshow Widget that allows you to embed photo slideshows on your page. There is also a Google Analytics widget that allows you to place tracking code within your Facebook pages to monitor user trends. One of the best perks is that you can basically build a truncated version of your website within your Facebook page.

Bring your business to the people! If you’re worried about being constrained to Facebook’s limitations on tabs, well, don’t stand for it. Tabsite allows you to add tabbed sub-navigation to your business’s custom Facebook page. A good use of this, for instance, would be for a business with multiple locations. Your “About Us” tab on Facebook could have a tab for each location. This way, all the info is still held within one neat, usable page on Facebook.

Campaign Monitor
Cost: free/pay-per-campaign

An e-newsletter is a great way to reach your audience and drive traffic to your social pages, website, or blog. It is also good for maintaining rapport and informing patrons and clients of sales and news. A well-designed newsletter is a sharp way to extend your brand.

Mail Chimp and Constant Contact are big names in the e-newsletter realm with good products. My choice is Campaign Monitor. It is easy to use and manage multiple email blasts. They have a rather solid library of free templates and a really simple and recently updated custom editor for creating the newsletter. You could also get a day’s worth of work from a web agency and have them design a striking custom template.

Campaign Monitor makes it easy to manage subscribers, and their analytics suite monitors who is opening your email, who is not, and which ones are getting bounced because of bogus addresses. You can even monitor what links they are clicking in your newsletter. Monitoring all this audience behavior can help you tailor the best newsletters—from subject line to content— by understanding what the readers like and dislike.

The service is free, but uses a “Pay-per-Campaign” system. This is very affordable – around a penny a recipient— and that is also good because it keeps your subscriber list true and makes you pay attention to the analytics. Don’t waste pennies on false or closed addresses. In order to stay in good standing with mail services, Campaign Monitor does not take kindly to spam. Stay honest because it is easy to get booted from the service.

Cost: free-$199.95/mo

Online forms are important for your site. They offer a convenient way to get a lead or build a subscriber list for your new e-newsletter. Forms can be technically difficult, which means they can be costly to build or change. At least, that’s how it used to be.

If you manage your website, and especially if you use a content management system to create and update web pages, Wufoo can make developing even the most elaborate form a breeze. Signing up for this inexpensive service will get you a dashboard where you can create forms. You can drag and drop for fields to build a customized form with fill-in fields, drop-down menus, radio buttons and everything else needed to create a contact form, newsletter form, online survey, etc.

Save the project and paste the embed code on your site (or one of your new custom Facebook pages made with Tabsite). Monitor user analytics to ensure the forms are working to their potential and even make changes from your dashboard that don’t need to be physically updated again on your website.

These five products are exceptional weapons to add your digital marketing arsenal. They are affordable, simple to use, and all have an elegant and well-designed end product. Give them a try, and they will strengthen and simplify your digital marketing.Marketing Zeus

Check out even more online tools to streamline your business here.

Posted in: Analytics, B2B, B2C, Branding, Campaign Development, Content, E-Commerce, Facebook, Lead Generation, Local, Professional Services, Social Networks, Twitter, Usability

About the Writer:

John Prinzo is a Rollins College graduate and has an MS degree from Full Sail University in Internet Marketing. He began his digital career as a Project Manager for Lightmaker in Orlando, FL – a renowned digital agency. He is currently the Digital Marketing & PR Specialist for Orlando Health. John is an avid music fan and writes and photographs as a freelance music journalist. He collects his music coverage on his Orlando music blog, Kisses & Noise. His focus is on project management, digital strategy, copywriting, SEO, social media, blogging, and rocking out.

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