From newbie to expert, here are the best social media tools for your business

social media

By Kiki Schirr, {grow} Contributing Columinst

When people ask, “what are the best social media tools I should be using to be a better social media marketer?” I have difficulty answering. The truth is, it depends greatly on how savvy you are — some tools would be too complex and give you too much information to sift through, for example, if you are a new user.

So I’ve made a list of 16 different tools in four major social media marketing categories and organized them by level. Some people might not be the same level across the chart, though. In building a website, they might not have any problem putting together a brand new self-hosted WordPress site, but be at a loss to create an image. But the chart will give you an overall sense of where you should be, and how to improve using these new tools.

best social media tools

Website Tools

Tumblr Tumblr can be an ultra easy way to set up your own domain. When creating a Tumblr, it will ask if you have a unique domain you’d like to point to your Tumblr account, and while you’ll have to mess a little with a domain registrar (I would strongly recommend for new users), it is well worth learning to do. Also, the added benefit of having a Tumblr blog is that it comes with a highly active audience that you can tap into easily.

Blab– Blab is the newest of these services, but it should not be overlooked. With its new ability to be inserted into a webpage (with live feed!), Blab could be a game changer for your brand. If you’re an engaging, likable person with a talent for talking on the fly, you should start using this video-chat service. Works best in Chrome or on iOS. Be sure to follow both Mark Schaefer and I when you join!

Basic WordPress Some people prefer to host WordPress on itself, using the upgraded option to add a unique domain (instead of It is much simpler, and a good way to get started. Since saving your blog and porting it over to a new self-hosted WordPress is always an option, a basic WordPress does leave you room to grow. One caveat: since porting your blog over is a service that WordPress would prefer you pay them to do, their instructions for doing it yourself are rather abysmal. If you attempt this yourself, be sure to find an outside source for instructions, such as a good blog.

Custom WordPressGhost, or Bootstrap These three options are best for more advanced denizens of the web. Self-hosting a blog is a vital skill, though, so this is a level to which we should all aspire. I myself am just beginning to get started, hosting my own Ghost site through DigitalOcean (who I’d also strongly recommend). WordPress would be the easiest of the three options, although you could argue that once installed, Ghost is simpler to use. I think Ghost’s biggest value is that it isn’t WordPress–so you’ll stand out from the crowd. Bootstrap is the more difficult, customizable option. It’s simply a framework made from HTML, CSS, and JavaScript so that you can copy-paste your way to a beautiful website.


Just don’t- When I say to avoid automation when you’re a beginner, I really mean it. It’s an easy trap to get sucked into and is the quickest route to a disingenuous voice online. So until you’ve truly found your brand voice and are getting tired of the routine maintenance aspects of building a brand, skip this step.

IFTTT If This, Then That is a wonderful service for building “recipes” out of several apps. My favorite recipe is to have all of my Swarm check-ins sent to a private Google calendar, so that I can better write in my journal later in the day, for example. You will likely find this service extremely useful, but just be aware: the option to post to multiple social media channels at once might sound like a good idea, but it is not. Your brand voice will manifest differently on each channel, so don’t cross-post the same exact content.

Zapier Zapier is IFTTT’s smarter cousin. It has more options, advanced capability, and is in general less friendly. You’ll know when you need to advance to this stage by minor frustrations cropping up in your use of IFTTT: “I can’t believe there are no recipes for ______!” or, “Why won’t it just ______?” After that, it’s time to graduate.

Custom Scripts – I will admit, this stage is beyond me, but a lot of marketers find it very useful to pick up some coding skills in order to write custom automation scripts. When you find Zapier isn’t meeting your needs (or when you want to scale in a rather grey-hat manner) it might be worthwhile to purchase a few O’Reilly tomes and hit the books.


Pablo (by Buffer)– Pablo is a new service by Buffer that allows you to drape text over an image in less than 30 seconds. It is dead simple to use and incredibly useful. Not getting much traction with your tweets? Use the same text over an image of adorable kittens and see how widely it gets shared!

Canva Canva is a wonderful image-creating service that is almost as simple as Pablo, but with a million different options. The way Canva makes money is that it provides stock images and graphics for $1 a piece to use in the images you create. However, Canva also provides many free options, so even in free mode, the possibilities abound.

Pencil Kings– Pencil Kings is a great tool for learning to use Photoshop. It’s a subscription service: $19.99/month for access to incredibly detailed videos on creating art, including the use of Photoshop. If you’re working full time, you might end up subscribing for 2-3 months in order to thoroughly learn your Photoshop skills, but it will be worth it.

Photoshop The ultimate tool in image creation, the ability to use Photoshop is always in high demand. While it’s definitely overkill for a lot of social media marketing tasks, that one time in ten that you need it will save you the time and money of hiring a graphic designer. Still, for most things, Canva will do the job.


Klout Some people get emotional about Klout and the idea of measuring “influence.” But as Mark Schaefer has written about on this blog and in his book, Klout is really a “relative measure of a person’s ability to move content.” And, in this world of crazy content competition, that is important. Klout (now part of Lithium) is also free and easy to access. To increase an organization’s Klout score, you need to create or curate great content, build a network, and engage consistently — all good behaviors for a team new to social media.

Bitly Bitly is a link-tracking service. Like links posted through Buffer, they are unique to you and can be tracked across borders, for total number of clicks, for how often your Bitly was clicked in comparison to other people sharing through Bitly, and more. It is a great way to get started with analytics, and to become the number-junky every good social media marketer should be.

Google Analytics and Typeform– Google Analytics is an obvious tool. You should know how to use GA (using its acronym also give you cred) if you are looking to be a professional social media marketer. It’s just worthwhile to be able to track your efficacy in driving traffic to a site. Typeform, however, is a lesser known tool. It is a survey-creator with an excellent, almost completely sufficient, free level. The benefit of Typeform above other survey creators like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, is that it is beautiful. The questions are mesmerizing and users naturally want to complete the forms, if only to see what happens next. Try it, if you haven’t already, I’m guessing that you’ll see a much higher level of response than you normally get!

Segment– Segment is really cool, but it’s also a very advanced tool. It allows you to install some code on your site or in your app and to send all the data recorded to multiple services (like Mixpanel, Hubspot, or more) at once. It’s for true number addicts, yes, but it’s a good way to get started. Installation might be too difficult for you now, so consider hiring someone to help you get started, but once you do you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

What tools are you enjoying in your organization?


Kiki Schirr is a cofounder of the fitness app Fittr, and also does the company’s marketing. She is the author of the The Product Hunt Manual and Tech Doodles. You can find her on Twitter, or at her brand-new (please don’t judge) website.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Threesisters


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