Traditional marketing just isn’t cutting it these days. Consumers are just skipping over traditional mass marketing, whether it’s in print or online, so marketers are instead turning to content marketing: creating, curating, and distributing content that engages and educates potential customers.
Many big, hip companies- like Apple and Google- are already using content marketing, but it isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies with huge marketing budgets. Content marketing is an essential part of the marketing plan for nonprofits, whether that means the performing arts, a professional association, or another type of mission based organization.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, a lack of budget is still the biggest challenge facing more than half of nonprofit marketers when it comes to content marketing. Luckily, there are still ways to give your content marketing a boost without breaking the bank.
Here are fifty of our favorite free tools to improve your content marketing without spending more:
Tools for Developing Content Ideas:
BuzzSumo lets you research how content for certain topics is performing on social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest shares. Research potential topics on BuzzSumo before you start writing to avoid blindly investing in new posts.
Feedly is a great way to stay subscribed to RSS feeds in a post-Google Reader world. RSS feeds aren’t the content distribution darling they once were, but they’re still a great way to stay up to date on the latest happenings in your industry.
Übersuggest is a keyword tool that suggests new keyword varieties based off of keywords you input.
Dribbble is a community of designers and a great place to get inspiration for your own designs. Remember, the great artists steal.
Based off three keywords, the Blog Topic Generator can produce a week’s worth of blog titles. It’s definitely not a replacement for thoughtful analysis, but it can be a helpful tool for breaking through writer’s block in a brainstorming session.
Content Forest is another great tool for generating ideas. Entering a keyword pulls a list of preexisting content titles using that keyword.
Google Alerts has been around for a while, but it’s worth mentioning. The best content is timely content, so it’s never a bad idea to set a few Google Alerts for terms related to your organization. It’s also not a bad idea to use Google Alerts for reputation management.
Another Google tool, Google Trends lets you see the popularity of keywords in Google Searches over time. It’s a good way to see if your content is going to attract a growing audience, or if interest is already waning.
Another topic generator, Portent’s tool suggests a topic based on a keyword you input. While it might not always be a perfect, grammatically-correct creation, it also provides tips (like using contractions for a more conversational tone) that can be useful to improve your content thesis statement writing.
Content Organization & Distribution Tools
Pocket is a great tool for saving all sorts of media so you can reference it later as you put together a piece of content. There are lots of content clipping tools out there, but Pocket stands out for the incredible number of apps it’s been integrated into. Along with a browser add-on, you can save media to your Pocket directly from over 400 apps.
Evernote is a great content organization system similar to Microsoft’s OneNote. Whether you use Evernote, OneNote, or something else, having a digital notebook to organize your content ideas is an absolute necessity.
Not just a content marketing tool, but a universal tool for digital marketers or anyone who uses a personal computer. Dropbox makes it easy to share files. USB flash drives are just so pasé. (note to marketers: please stop giving them to me at trade shows.)
HootSuite lets you monitor and operate all of your social media accounts from one centralized command center. You can post simultaneously to your social media accounts and monitor and respond to mentions, as well as schedule posts.
Tweetdeck, an official Twitter app, is like Hootsuite, but just for Twitter accounts. Twitter is unique social media platforms, so having a tool that’s geared just for handling multiple Twitter feeds can be useful.
Content Creation Tools
Placeit is tool for inserting a screenshot of your app or website into images of a variety of devices. You can either upload a screencap of your site or software, or Placeit can pull the screen from a URL. Placeit can even make interactive videos or gifs.
Pixabay is a library of images that are free to use. Pixabay has a pretty sizable colletion of photos, illustrations, and vector graphics that you can use without worrying about getting a letter from someone’s lawyer.
It always helps to have another set of eyes on content before it goes live. That’s preferably human eyes, but in a pinch, running it your writing through Grammarly’s advanced grammar checking provides a higher level of analysis than the standard Microsoft Word spellchecker.
Ernest Hemingway is a writer you were forced to read in high school. Hemingway is a tool that analyzes your writing to make sure everything you write is concise and engaging. The tool highlights overly dense paragraphs, unnecessary adverbs, and other awkward turns of phrase.
Everyone needs a flowchart now and then, but most people don’t need them enough to justify buying Visio. Gliffy is a more than capable web-based alternative that can handle everything from UX wireframes to org charts to TPS reports.
The internet’s most common URL shortener. You can even add a “+” to the end of any bit.ly url to see how many times it’s been clicked on.
It never hurts to find out what your visitors are thinking. You can use Polldaddy to create a variety of survey types. You can even incorporate a variety of media into your polls.
This Chrome extension allows you to capture and share screenshots of web pages. You can select a capture area, crop, and add annotations, then save to your desktop or Google Drive.
Canva is a great tool for quickly putting together professional looking graphics for social media. You can either build from a template or put together your own combination of fonts, designs, and images. Either way, you’ll end up with something that won’t look out of place on someone’s Tumblr.
ThingLink allows you to upload an image and add annotations- including notes and links- that are activated when a user hovers over them. The images can be embedded or shared.
25. Google Fonts
A little known Google feature, Google Fonts, has hundreds of free fonts that can be easily added to your website with an CSS font code or downloaded for use in InDesign or your favorite desktop publishing software. A quick search can usually find a free Google Fonts equivalent of any hip font you might be tempted to buy.
Storify is a content curation tool that lets you collect social media posts on a chosen topic and present them together. Storify is great for keeping track of social media activity for events: users can view the Storify as the event progress, then later it can be embedded into a blog post as a part of the event recap.
Prezi is a cloud based presentation software that allows for more impressive visuals than the average PowerPoint presentation and can be easily shared online. Marketers either love or hate Prezi.
Speaking of presentations, SlideShare is a great way to share presentations online that’s becoming increasing popular. You can upload Powerpoints to embed in a SlideShare viewer, or use their presentation tool to create them from scratch.
29. Creative Commons
Another database, a Creative Commons search is a great way to find free to use media for your content marketing.
Google Adwords’ ubiquitous text advertisements can be another way to get your content out to the masses- and it can be done for free using Google’s Ad Grants for Nonprofits. Nonprofits can get up to $10,000 a month in free advertising next to Google search results.
31. Meme Generator
Internet memes aren’t necessarily as pointless as they might seem. As long as you’re careful to use them properly, creating and sharing timely internet memes can be a great way to engage your audience, especially on Twitter. Even some major brands are doing it.
Issuu allows you to share your print publications online with a easy-to-use viewer. It’s a great way to give well-designed print materials another life online.
The name pretty much says it all: Resize.it is an online image utility that lets you easily resize images to the perfect size for your blog or social media post without having to open Photoshop (or your open source photo editor of choice). Plus, it can crop images too!
Can’t afford Photoshop? Still want to have pretty content? GIMP is an open source Photoshop alternative with almost as strong of an online support community. GIMP tutorials exist for almost anything you might want to do with Photoshop.
Pixlr is another alternative to Photoshop, but unlike GIMP, it’s completely web based. It’s a great option for content marketers that work remotely, without access to a powerful desktop running Creative Suite. Plus, it has a cute name.
AddThisEvent is a simple tool for making add to calendar buttons for your website and emails. You can generate a link to add an event to most major calendar systems, including Outlook and Google Calendar.
TimelineJS is an open source tool for creating interactive timelines. Timelines are a unique format for content creation that can be especially useful for nonprofits. TimelineJS timelines can pull in media from a wide variety of sources- from the usual social media suspects to Vimeo and Soundcloud.
A word cloud generator should definitely be one of the gadgets on your content marketing Swiss Army knife. Wordle lets you create and download word clouds with plenty of options for fonts and layout.
We’ve been dealing with a lot of text and images in this list, but audio can be a powerful form of content. Audacity is a free tool for recording and editing audio. While it might not be the best choice if you’re mixing audio for the next Transformers movie, Audacity has everything you need to put together an impressive podcast.
Email marketing is still an essential channel for distributing content. MailChimp is a free alternative to pricey email marketing systems like Constant Contact or Silverpop. MailChimp has an easy to use editor with templates for creating emails, along with more complex marketing automation and personalization features like send time optimization. It also connects with Google Analytics for conversion tracking.
Pinwords is a simple app for adding text overlays to images. It doesn’t have a lot of options, but it gets the job done when it comes to putting together an image quickly.
Nothing spices up a blog post or website like a good set of icons. You can use IconFinder to search for icons, including icons that are free to use.
Inforgraphics are almost synomous with content marketing and Infogr.am is a simple way to create them. The free version has more than thirty infographic and chart types and allows data to be uploaded in a variety of formats.
Content Analytics Tools
The Riffle plugin allows you to quickly look up a Twitter user’s stats, in particular, their number of retweets and favorites per tweet. The data can be useful to figure out who the leaders in your Twitter niche really are.
ViralWoot (no connection to the Groupon-esque daily deal site) is a platform for managing your Pinterest presence. For some nonprofit areas, such as the performing arts, Pinterest can be a great audience for your content. ViralWoot allows you to schedule your pins and manage your followers.
Pintrest Analytics is the official analytics interface build into Pintrest. Because Pintrest is still on the hipper side of the content marketing spectrum, many marketers neglect Pintrest analytics. The analytics suite includes impression tracking and valuable follower interest data.
47. Must Be Present
Must Be Present measures how often and quickly you respond to questions and comments on Twitter. It’s a good way to check that you (or the intern who manages your Twitter feed) are staying engaged and active.
48. Like Explorer
Use Like Explorer to find out how many likes any link has gotten on the most popular social media sites. I like it.
Tweriod is a tool that analyzes your Twitter feed to produce a report with the optimum times to post to ensure the maximum amount of impressions.
50. Google Analytics
You could say that Google Analytics allows you to track how users interact with your content and identify which content drives traffic to your site, but that wouldn’t identify half of what Google Analytics does. A strong foundation in analytics is key to successful content marketing, and Google Analytics is the most popular analytics tool around. Also, it’s free.
A good way to get started with GA is by checking out the blog of analytics guru Avinash Kaushik.
One extra important tool
51. Great User Experience
Great user experience design goes hand in hand with great content marketing. No matter what the quality of your content is, poor UX can drive away potential customers. Contact us for tips to improve your UX, drive more traffic to your content and increase engagement and conversions.