Social media can seem like it should or could require a sizeable budget, but most of the content and graphics you post can be created using free apps. Don’t get me wrong. I use a ton of paid apps and software every day, but the free ones work well, too.
I’m no graphic designer, but thanks to tools like the ones I describe below, I don’t need to be. Brilliant people have created these apps and software tools to help people like me create beautiful posts that don’t look like what I call “ghetto graphics”.
Here are some of my favorite apps:
This app has a free version and a paid version. Word Swag Pro is only $4.99 and worth every penny. Using tons of fonts and free stock photos from Unsplash and Pixabay, you can create fun and thumb-stopping posts. You also get to select which social media platform you will post them on, and your images will be sized perfectly.
If you’re into making motivational quote posts, you’re going to freaking love this app. The quotes are built-in!
This is 100% one of my favorite things about this app. It’s a no-brainer!
I have been a Canva user for over 7 years. I am horrible at Photoshop – it takes more effort to learn than I have time for – so I’ll never use it. However, Canva is pretty much idiot-proof. How do I know? As I said, I’ve been using it for more than 7 years. The app itself is free to use. You pay a fee only when you use some of the platform’s custom templates. The free stuff is amazing and enough to get you going. Here’s a link to try it out. (Please note that if you click on the link, I will get some free stuff.)
This app is another all-time favorite! You get plenty of stock photos from Pixabay and Unsplash, but fewer built-in quotes to choose from. One perk is that you can add a shadow behind the text to makes the text pop off the page. This is a text-over-image app and will work well with your own images. There is a free version, but it will leave a watermark. There are several paid versions, so pick the one that works best for you!
The above design tools can help with content creation. Given that more than 80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, this is huge. People retain around 10% of what they read – but if you add a relevant image, the retention rate shoots up to 65%!
There are many stock image sites, and most of them are paid sites. We use Storyblock.com, which offers a paid version for as little as $20 per month. But there are also free sites like the above-mentioned Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, and many more. I love using beautiful stock images of mountains or beaches for motivational quotes and browsing through all of the gorgeous images. If you’re like me, this provides great inspiration for posts.
In social media, video is insanely important. Ignoring it is not an option. Roughly 85% of all Internet users in the United States watch online video content, 54% of consumers want to see video content from brands or businesses they support, and 73% of consumers claim they’ve been influenced by a brand’s social media presence when making a purchasing decision.
Everyone thinks you MUST know how to shoot video. This is not true. The Facebook algorithm shows a preference for video, but doesn’t care what type of video it is. So, consider some of these fun tools when you’re getting started. Also, remember that Facebook and Instagram LIVES are perfect FREE tools you can use to help you get your social-media juices flowing.
I know video can seem daunting, but many of the cool tools out there can help make it less scary. Here are the ones I like the best:
This web-based video tool is a thumb-stopper. I pay $37 per month for unlimited videos, and we use the heck out of it. The tool is easy to learn and the video rendering is fast.
This is a fun text-over-image video creator that allows you to animate text with a music overlay. The price may seem high, but if you’re creating several videos per month for several different clients (as we are), it’s worth the $200 per month. We create approximately 300 videos per month with this tool, which works out to around $1.50 per video.
Whiteboard explainer videos are fun and unique. I love using Doodly because the videos you make with it stop the thumb scroll like a ninja. Pricing starts at $39 per month, and the software is super simple to use.
Keep your social media videos short, ideally 30 seconds or less. One of the best ways to do this is to create a rolling GIF. Simply make your branded images in Canva (a square format works best), upload them to gif maker, choose your speed, and create. GIFs, especially fun ones, are ideal for platforms like Twitter.
Keeping It All Organized
Some project management software can be as cumbersome as the project itself. Our team uses Trello. It’s simply the easiest platform I’ve used. There are others, such as Basecamp, Asana, and so on, but, as I said, Trello’s ease of use won me over!
This cloud-based file storage tool has been a lifesaver for our company. The ability to share files across several teams is just one of the perks of Dropbox. We nest folders other for organization and have developed a tight project flow. The free Dropbox trial will help you decide whether you like the tool. We have a standard business account ($12.50 per month) that gives us 5 TB of space and 180 days of file recovery. I can’t imagine life without Dropbox.
The hardest part of using this tool is developing a clear process and teaching others to use it. For years, our Dropbox account was a disaster. We had no real path to follow to find the items we needed. But after years of determining what worked for us, I believe we’ve locked this down.
Let’s take a tally so far:
WordSwag – $4.99 monthly
Canva – Free
Typorama – $2.99 monthly
Stock Photos – Free
Breakout Clips – $37 monthly
Trello – Free
Dropbox – $12.50 monthly
Total: $57.48 per month. Not exactly a budget-breaker!
Of course, you can spend a ton more. But why not build from this list of nearly-free tools to build your social media presence and then turn the ROI into a bigger budget?
Although paid marketing can be of value, it’s not the first thing on my list. Genuinely engaging content – as opposed to content you send to audiences you pay to reach – will always rule in social media. Knowing where your target market lives (on social media), will help you determine your content and platform.
I rarely suggest boosting a Facebook post. The ROI is generally hard to measure, so I don’t recommend post-boosting.
Having a content strategy is more important, especially when you’re starting. When you’re ready for paid advertising, don’t try doing it yourself – at least, not at first. The Facebook objectives are many and knowing where to target and what the audience will react to can be a challenge (as well as a huge money suck). Find an agency that will help you with this and learn all you can from them. You may never decide to tackle paid traffic yourself, but at least you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re accomplishing and why.
As always, I love to know what tools you love and why. Drop me a line!
Robin Wilson is the co-owner of SCP Agency.
She is a self-proclaimed social media guru and specializes in social marketing for auto dealerships. She has also been instrumental in teaching auto dealerships how to market through social media to their existing database and shows them how to make sure that they do not become victims of conquest marketing. She is a marketing coach to all and has become a leader in Facebook marketing strategies in the U.S.