Four Free Online Tools I Can’t Live Without
January 18, 2016
These days, time can often be in short supply, especially for those of us in the Internet Marketing field. Countless start-ups have risen to the occasion to combat the ever-mounting challenges of time management, as evidenced by the wide variety of tools and apps on the market. But where does one start? In this post, I have identified four tools that have proven to be especially helpful in managing and streamlining my workflow.
Boomerang is a great plug-in for Gmail that allows you to schedule emails in advance to be sent at a later date or time. Boomerang can be installed on any of the three major browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Safari) and works with Gmail accounts specifically. Additionally, Boomerang lets you postpone incoming emails to a specified time to help organize your inbox.
The feature I particularly like with Boomerang and the one I use the most is the reminder function. In the fast-paced and busy world of SEO, some correspondence can fall through the cracks when you’re inundated with emails. The time between email follow-ups goes by quickly and a week can elapse in the blink of an eye, if you’re not careful. These alerts ensure that I respond to my contacts in a timely manner. I also set up alerts anytime I do not get a reply to an email to remind myself to follow-up.
Canva is a super cool, easy-to-use, online design program. I find this tool particularly helpful if I need to turnaround an infographic, presentation, social media asset or Facebook ad in a pinch. The preset templates give you access to a bevy of attractive layouts and designs. Gone are the days of fiddling around with filters and tools in Photoshop for hours on end to accomplish the same tasks. Also, although I’ve touted the appeal of Canva for novice designers, the platform is very flexible no matter your level of design experience. I highly suggest signing up and playing around with Canva; it’s a lot of fun!
IFTTT, or “if this, then that” is an ingenious little website that allows you to create “recipes” that automate simple tasks without code or script. Recipes are comprised of a “trigger channel” and an “action channel.” Channels can be Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Twitter, etc. An example might be “if it rains tomorrow, then send me an email”. In this case, the trigger channel would be The Weather Channel app and the action channel would be The Email Channel. The recipes you can create on IFTTT all follow this basic premise:
That’s it! It really is that easy. You would think that some programming knowledge may be necessary but really it’s just accomplished by a few clicks.
What I really like about IFTTT is how flexible and customizable the platform is—there are seemingly no limits on tasks you can automate. Admittedly, I’ve spend more time playing around with different recipes than actually using them but I’ve found the “Add Starred Gmail to iOS Reminders” recipe especially helpful. This recipe creates a reminder in iOS every time an email is starred in Gmail. I find this especially handy to generate a running to-do list.
In a previous blog, I compared and contrasted Buffer vs. HootSuite, two extremely popular social media management platforms. I gave the advantage to HootSuite because of the wider network of social media profiles they are compatible with. Fast forward a year later and I’m still singing the praises of HootSuite. That’s not to slight Buffer, which at this stage in the game is a perfectly viable solution for social media management. I have colleagues who swear by Buffer and there are key advantages to using each platform. At this point, it’s just familiarity; I’m most familiar with Hootsuite’s easy-to-use dashboard that lets you view and manage all your social media profiles. The auto-scheduling feature is particularly awesome, in that it provides the best times to post based on your followers. This takes a lot of the guess work out of determining peak times and there’s still the manual scheduling option, should one want more control. HootSuite has made the old school way of manually updating each social profile by logging in separately to each platform seem outdated and antiquated.
I’m excited to see what 2015 holds for each of these four free online tools, as they are constantly being updated to accommodate the ever-changing needs of our online world. I hope to revisit this topic at the end of 2015 to see which tools I’ll still be using, in addition to any new tools I discover in the coming year to manage my time better.