SLIDESHOW

12 Free Social Media Tools

These free tools will help you better protect your privacy, attract more followers, and increase your reach and influence.

Social Media Tools

Social media is taking up more and more of our time, both at home and work. Many enterprises have even started to treat social media tools as mission-critical, meaning that if you don't start mastering them, your lack of knowledge could impede your career.

However, since social media is so new, there really aren't established best practices built around it. It's hard to determine what works and what doesn't, and it's easy to be blind to social media risks. Here are 12 free tools that will help you better protect your privacy, attract more followers, and increase your reach and influence.

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PrivacyScore

PrivacyScore is a browser plug-in that ranks how well apps, websites and trackers respect your privacy. Just type in the name of the site and PrivacyScore will spit out a number based on how the site handles your personal and tracking data. There are also dashboards and lists of the sites with the highest and lowest scores.

Scrambls

Scrambls encrypts social media posts and lets users specify exactly who can see them, across all social media sites. The user can form groups from friends and family, going as broad as everyone with a Gmail account down to a specific colleague or even those who know a certain password. Everyone else (including the social media site itself) will only see a series of random numbers and symbols, keeping content private and secure.

A cool feature is the ability to put an expiration date on posts, after which time only the author can see them. No more worrying about HR seeing some stupid post from a party five years ago.

Hashtracking.com

Not too long ago, marketing analytics were something that only large companies and agencies could afford. As social media advances, though, analytic tools are available not only to SMBs, but also to individuals.

Tracking your social media output can point to simple tweaks to make you more effective. For instance, if you're tweeting from a trade show, be sure you know the exact official hashtag for the show.

Analytics can be just as important if you want to promote a story or a tweet. For example, should you tag it BYOD or mobile or mobile security or something else? Hashtracking.com will give you a free report with a transcript and data on 1,500 tweets (or 24 hours of tweets, whichever limit is hit first).

Hashtag.org

Hashtag.org offers a free hashtag search engine. Just type in the hashtag and the results appear.

PageLever

Analytics shouldn't be limited to Twitter. Tools like PageLever provide insights into Facebook fan pages.

SiteTrail

Use SiteTrail to keep track of your competitors' social media activities. SiteTrail scours the Web in an attempt to find as much information as it possibly can about any given website or domain name. Then it compiles easy-to-understand reports that are accurate down to the number. This allows webmasters and enthusiasts to see quick snapshots of their favorite (or competitor) websites.

Social Mention

Social Mention allows you to analyze key terms across platforms. You can receive free daily email alerts of your brand, company, CEO, or marketing campaign, or on a developing news story, a competitor, or the latest on a celebrity.

Crowdbooster

Crowdboster promises "a plan of action instead of just a stream of information." The site allows you to analyze the performance of individual tweets and posts with an interactive graph and table to quickly understand what's working.

Muuter

When a conference, trade show or other special event comes along, many people start tweeting like crazy. For followers, this can get to be a nuisance. If the tweets seem repetitive or irrelevant, some users may un-follow you. With Muuter, you can temporarily un-follow someone when they become too "noisy."

IFTTT

Do you repeat social media tasks often? Do you consistently thank people who follow you? Do you always load mobile photos to Facebook?

If you do any of these frequent, consistent, repetitive tasks, do yourself a favor and start using IFTTT (If This, Then That). In IFTTT, you can create your own tasks or copy other people's "recipes."

The first recipe I adopted was one that automatically thanks people when they mention me on Twitter or retweet one of my posts. Other recipes include ones that will send you the weather report via SMS each morning; that will email you when the Amazon free Android app of the day is posted; and which will send your blog RSS to your Twitter account.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite and Nimble both give you the ability to unify major social media channels into one console. When I first tried these out a few months ago, I found Nimble to have a few too many glitches, so I adopted Hootsuite, which I think is great. However, Hootsuite doesn't currently support Google+, but Nimble does.

Both suites give you instant visibility into multiple social media channels, the ability to simultaneously post to multiple social media sites, the flexibility to create specific groups of followers (or people you follow) and the ability to track analytics. It's worth test driving both to see which works best for you.

Nimble

Nimble is also taking steps to integrate with third-party tools, such as MailChimp (an email marketing platform). Nimble looks to be evolving more as a social CRM and sales tool (it offers the ability to track sales leads and deals).

Jeff Vance is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, Calif. Connect with him on Twitter @JWVance, on LinkedIn (Jeff Vance), or by old-fashioned email at jeff@sandstormmedia.net.

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