In the early days of running or working at a social media marketing agency, you can probably get by using email to communicate and post to social media manually. As you grow, you need to start to implement tools into your workflow in order to be more efficient, more productive, and able to handle more clients, work, and team members.
This is not a comprehensive or best-of list but it will serve as a great place to start if you’re starting an agency or it might give you might discover a tool you haven’t considered yet.
Project management is essential for making sure that everyone knows what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. When there’s one central location to keep track of all ongoing work, you have a better chance of staying on top of everything and getting everything done.
With Asana, you can organize tasks by project or by client, assign tasks to different members of your team, attach files & comments to them, and create subtasks for items with several steps.
Asana was created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz and ex-Google & ex-Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein. Who better to create a productivity tool for social media managers than two social media forefathers?
Anyone with a Google account is likely familiar with their suite of apps; Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. They also have a service designed for businesses to create and manage accounts for their employees. G Suite gives a business owner the ability to create accounts and give their team access to the aforementioned apps and Gmail, all using the company’s domain for each account’s email address.
Users can create files using any of Google’s apps, share them with the rest of the team, work on them collaboratively, send them outside the company using a shareable link, and download them as a variety of different file types. Not to mention, storing or sharing any file with Google Drive and using Gmail for your work email. All for as low as $6 USD/user.
Google Docs is a heavy hitter when it comes to creating documents but sometimes you want to jot something down or type something out that doesn’t need to be that formal. Google Keep is essentially digital post-it notes so it’s the perfect place to make short notes or lists that may be disposable. If you want to draft some social copy or you need to quickly jot something down, do it there. If it turns out to be a bit longer or something that needs to be preserved, one click can turn it into a Google Doc. If it’s short, Keep is a great place to keep 50 short notes instead of 50 different Google Docs.
The rise of social media has made everyone’s writing a bit (or a lot) more casual. While that is generally accepted, you don’t want the quality of your writing for a work email or social post to be the same as a text to a friend. Grammarly is a browser extension that’s autocorrect on steroids. Not only does it detect mistyped words, but it can also tell when a word is being used incorrectly or if a phrase doesn’t make sense grammatically. It’s not perfect but it is good at correcting things based on context and it will teach you a thing or two about the English language.
All social media managers need Canva because it has the best ROI of any other content creation tool. The investment being money and effort. Canva allows you to create professional-looking graphics that can be as simple or as elaborate as you need and they make it really easy; drag and drop, WYSIWYG. Better still, they provide thousands of templates that you can use to jumpstart your creativity and graphic elements that you can use in your own designs.
The best part is that you can use it for free. There is a premium subscription that unlocks some features but most people can get more than what they need out of the free version. It’s web-based, so there are no apps or programs to download and install.
Unless you’re a seasoned designer, you might not be aware of the importance of colours. It’s important to keep brand colours consistent but what else do you need to know? What looks good together? How do colours affect the people looking at them? Before you start designing something, you need to think about these things. These things may not be make-or-break but if you care about creating great content, care about using the right colours.
Paletton provides a powerful tool to create colour combinations and palettes of colors that work well together. As opposed to most digital displays that create colours based on red, green, and blue (RGB), it uses the red, yellow, and blue (RYB), which are the building blocks for all other colours. The colour combinations it produces are very different from those you can get in many computer graphic applications and it also applied colour theory which is a practical guide to colour mixing & matching. There’s a lot more to designing with colours than you might think. Paletton makes it easier.
Adobe’s suite of products are the industry standards for a lot of creative fields. Video creators, photographers, graphic designers, and digital illustrators everywhere swear by Premiere Pro, Lightroom, Photoshop, and Illustrator (among others). There’s a steep learning curve, and there are cheaper options that are easier to use, but what these programs can do and allow you to do are incredible.
Time & Money
It’s important that you and your team track the time that you’re spending on client accounts. Not so much for accountability that you’re putting in the work, but that the clients are being properly billed for the time that you’re putting in. Users can clock in & clock out or enter time manually. When you enter your time, you add the client you’re working for, the general work you’re doing, and optional notes. Later, you can collect all of this data into a comprehensive report.
Wave is a great tool to start with for accounting in your business. You can track your income & expenses, create & send professional invoices, accept credit cards & bank payments online, pay employees & independent contractors, and generate reports to make filing your taxes easier. It can integrate with your existing bank account in order to track expenses or transactions can be entered manually.
It’s healthy to have boundaries between your personal and professional lives, so you don’t want clients and colleagues contacting you via Facebook Messenger during evenings and weekends. G Suite comes with an instant messenger integrated into Gmail called Hangouts and it can be a good start for communicating with the rest of your team. However, it is limited and will soon leave a lot to be desired.
If you start off with a bigger team, or you grow into one, a great messenger to use is Slack. Once you set up a Workspace using your company’s domain, anyone with an email address with that domain can join. From there, you can message each other privately or create Channels (like chat rooms) for specific people; whole departments, everyone working with a particular client, specific work-related topics, etc. It provides a rich experience that allows personalization through the use of emojis, GIFs, comments, and files.
HubSpot doesn’t belong in just one category on this list. It provides tools for social media marketing, content management, web analytics, landing pages, and search engine optimization. It can integrate with Salesforce, SugarCRM, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and others. There are also third-party services that provide templates and extensions.
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t use simple passwords and you shouldn’t use the same password for everything. It’s hard enough to remember your own passwords and even more difficult when you add all of your clients’. LastPass is a password management system that can automatically fill website & app logins so that you don’t have to remember complicated passwords.
The service is very secure and is highly regarded, so you can trust them with your data. For added measure, you can set up two-factor authentication or have it ask for your master password every time you want to use it. Once you have all of your logins cataloged, you can sort them into folders by client and share them with other LastPass users, perhaps your other team members.
Social Media Management
We might be biased, but we’ve lived the #AgencyLife so we know what you need when it comes to content creation, scheduling, and client approval. Social media agencies and clients don’t want to spend all day poring over spreadsheets and emailing back & forth with notes on content calendars. We built what we think is the most important tool in any social media agency’s toolbox. Here’s what HeyOrca has to offer:
- Accounts Organization
All your content and clients in one place. Bring your client calendars, content ideas, and assets under one roof. HeyOrca offers unlimited storage and separates assets by client to help you stay organized.
- Content Planning
A visual drag-and-drop content calendar. Some social media tools are made to facilitate community management first, and planning second. We are a content planning and approvals tool, first and foremost. This comes through in our visual calendar.
- Internal Collaboration
From content previews to version control. HeyOrca was developed to make internal collaboration easier. Every post you create has a comments section where you can collaborate with your team and ensure you are always working on the most current version.
- Client Approvals
Share select content with clients at the click of a button. HeyOrca has built-in sharing & approvals features to help you collaborate with clients as easily as you collaborate internally, and our audit trail helps you stay on the same page with clients.
- Direct Publishing
Eliminate duplication of efforts. HeyOrca publishes your content to specified social media networks once approvals have been obtained from your clients. No need to upload a spreadsheet to another social media tool for publishing.
- Performance Analytics
Close the gap between planning and performance. HeyOrca has analytics integrations with all the major social media platforms. Our tool helps you visualize how well your campaigns are performing online, and allows you to export this data in PDF or raw data form.
We also recently released a feature called Notes that lets you collect all relevant client info in the same place as their content. Logins, branding guidelines, important reminders, and more relevant information can be stored in notes under each client to use as a quick reference when you’re creating content for them.
Facebook & Instagram Creator Studio
If your business is not in a position where it can invest in standalone social media services, consider using tools like Creator Studio for Facebook or Instagram. These tools are built by Facebook and enable people to have a better experience managing their business pages than you would traditionally. There’s a lot of bloat and distraction in the native forms of those two social networks, so what Creator Studio does is strip away the stuff you don’t need and make it really easy to access the stuff you do. Just like when we were talking about separating your personal & professional lives using instant messaging, this helps keep those lives separate on Facebook & Instagram.
Hashtags are critical to getting traction on Instagram. Depending on your experience in the given field, you may miss some relevant hashtags that could help you posts get more exposure. Obscure and tangential tags can be surprisingly popular. Display Purposes scours Instagram and suggests any hashtags related to a search term that you give them. Fortunately, they filter banned and spammy tags so that you won’t make the mistake of using one just because it might be popular. This is a practical tool but it can also just be fun to type something in and see what it spits out; maps, graphs, and obscure hashtags.
Once you have your hashtags, it would be helpful to have a place to store them instead of looking them up each time. Later provides you with the ability to schedule Instagram posts (either manually or based on their recommendation) and save collections of hashtags for you to reuse for related posts. It also provides you with a media library for you to reuse content again if you need to.
On top of that, Later provides you with a custom link that you can use in your Instagram bio to make “link in bio” posts a lot easier for your followers. You assign links to images when you post them, Later keeps a history of those images, and when a followers visit you custom link, they can tap on the post they’re looking for and access the link associated with it, even if it was made in the past and you’ve had other posts since.
Some of the biggest benefits to these tools are that they sync and are cross-platform. Any kind of digital business needs tools that do so that you can work on any computer or any device; macOS or Windows, iOS or Android. You can have confidence that what you’re working on or talking about with your team won’t be lost if you get a new computer or phone or need to work remotely from someone else’s. It’s all online.
The other benefit is that you can use most of these for free. Premium versions are available and can give you more features, but the free versions serve a lot of people’s needs. The tools listed here that do cost money are highly praised and worth the investment to save you time, effort, and frustration.