Greetings, friends, and welcome to another Must Read,
Hope everyone is well and happy this first weekend in August! Here in NZ, we finally have had a day of glorious sunshine, which makes all the difference to this Angeleno transplant.
We’re working our way through your questions, and this week I thought I’d tackle one that I hear all the time: “what tools do you recommend for <social media, tracking, comms, etc>?”
In prepping for this article, I came to understand why this is so baffling. I googled the topic to see what “experts” were suggesting and what struck me was how the top-ranking results all seemed like affiliate promotions instead of genuine suggestions. So today, let me share with you five “tools” that the 5forests team swears by.
In our case, we are a remote team and simply could not do our work without Slack; but local teams will find it just as helpful for trackable, manageable communications. Replace the mess of email chains with topic-specific channels or direct messaging, and extend Slack’s outstanding basic functionality with integrations for just about anything you can think off. I really can’t say enough good things about Slack (you can add Star Wars emojis!) Free Slack accomplishes a lot, but we think it’s well worth the $8 per month per user.
The Rolling List of All Things.
We use Google docs to create “rolling” documents for projects/brainstorming. Let me explain. Good marketing requires a lot of time spent thinking about strategy and content, and if you can get your whole team brainstorming, you’ll have a better chance of creating well-rounded, actionable plans. Ideas come to us at the weirdest times: maybe you’re in a cab when you see someone else’s Instagram post that you think would be a terrific format for some of your own. Or, you are out to dinner when you learn of a new event that might be worth adding to the calendar. So what do you do with those things? You might screenshot the Insta post, or DM it to someone else. Maybe you add the event to a note on your phone or jot it down on a napkin. And then, life goes on and those bursts of knowledge or inspiration disappear. Now, multiply that by everyone on your team.
At 5forests, we use google docs (each linked to the appropriate slack channel) to create a manageable, trackable sharing space where information never gets erased. As an open “space” for brainstorming, this doc is free from judgement. It encourages everyone on the team to start to think about ways to better market a brand, complete a project, or answer a need. We can triage ideas for meetings, and cut and paste to move similar ideas into growing themes. When we’ve wrapped something up, we use strikethrough formatting to mark out that copy and we move it to the end of the doc, thus moving newer or unaddressed ideas to the top of the list.
Why is this better than a normal to-do list app? First, it takes no training. Anyone can open a doc and type. Second, there are no boundaries. You can write as much or as little as you want, add links or images or shapes or colors. Third, the commenting system is super easy to use (versus, say, pdf comments, which I notice can get lost), allowing for good “conversations” amongst users.
We have a few expensive social media apps that we use in the agency, but whenever we set up a solution for handover to a client, we use Later. It schedules for Insta and Insta auto-posting, as well as all your other social media channels; it works well on any device, has a solid team functionality, a fairly intuitive media library system, and it’s incredibly user-friendly. Could it do some things better? Sure, but for $19 per month, it does the right amount of work at a reasonable price.
Spark Post, formerly Adobe Spark.
This free iphone app is my go-to for creating social media graphics on the fly. (caveat: Michael, our Head of Tech, is an android user and doesn’t like the interface on his phone). It has a good repo of free stock images, loads of great-looking templates to get you started, and makes it easy to use your own branding colors and logos. Plus, it retains a folder of past images, simplifying consistent imagery. Spark Post is mostly easy to use, and they continue to roll out new features regularly. And, it’s FREEE.
I know this seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who don’t understand how to read, set up, or get the most out of their GA data. Here’s a super simple example that we see all the time: a client comes to us needing an audit and/or some digital work. Google Analytics show us that most of their traffic comes from users on phones of a certain size. Immediately, we know that we need to prioritize our research or development to optimize customer experiences on that device size. Without the data, we could be spending time, effort, and client budget focusing too much attention in the wrong place.
I know Google Analytics can feel a little intimidating, but once you learn how to read it, it’s a blast. So much interesting data to explore! (yeah, yeah, I’m a geek); AAAAND, it’s expensive to have google reports produced for you, so learning how to read your analytics is a worthwhile investment of time.
Speaking of time, that is my five minutes. I know I skipped over loads of services. If you have a question about a specific app or software, please shoot me an email and I’ll let you know if we’ve tried it and what we thought.
In the meantime, may your Sunday be sunny and peaceful. See you next week!