16 Vital (and Free!) Small Business Resources

Every small business needs to be economical.

We appreciate this. So the below list of small business resources, will help you save time and money, whilst enhancing your digital presence.

At Ri Web we’re no different. We utilise all the free software that is available to us and it helps streamline our social media activity and keep us productive.

Given the digital faux-pas we see littering the internet every day, we thought we would share these resources with you, so you can ensure your digital channels look professional at all times.

We’ll aim to update this list every time new resources spring to mind. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments. The best ones will be added and you  will receive full attribution.    

1) CanvaEdit images and create cool graphics

It looks unprofessional when you post images that aren’t optimised for each social media platform and, as with anything in tech, each platform has different requirements.

So instead of letting Twitter crop your head off the office photo, make sure each image is optimised before you publish it.

With Canva the whole process only takes a minute and you can add graphics and text over the top.

All you have to do is create an account and choose the type of image you want to create e.g. Facebook Post and Canva will give you a blank canvas with the correct specifications.

Et Voila, professional looking graphics and imagery that makes your platforms look like they’re run by a pro.  

2) Gratisography– Stock Images that don’t look like stock images…

Finding images for a blog can be complicated. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes by using an image that is copyright restricted.

Luckily, there’s plenty of talented photographers out there who share their images, free of charge, for commercial use. Many of the images on this blog come from one such site- Gratisography.

The brainchild of designer Ryan McGuire, we love the alternative nature of many of the images and as they’re high-resolution they add a professional edge to each blog post.

Gratisography doesn’t boast the largest gallery, so here are a few other sites we would recommend too:

Pixabay

Startup Stock Photos

Stock Up

Splashbase

StockSnap.ioWith thanks to Craig Severisen of Practical Business Growth for this suggestion, another great stock image site.     

3) TweetDeck– Schedule tweets/ manage multiple accounts

There’s no need to log into Twitter every time you wish to tweet. That’s an incredibly time-consuming way to operate.

Instead, get a TweetDeck account. TweetDeck allows you to schedule tweets and manage multiple accounts.

Ideally, set aside half an hour at the start of each week for scheduling tweets to publish at certain times.

At the end of each week analyse which tweets and times worked best and edit your schedule to suit your findings.   

4) Latergram.me– Schedule Instagram Posts

I love latergram.me.

It allows you to schedule Instagram posts.

Instagram doesn’t actually recognise any scheduling software as of yet, so you then have to go through the motions on your phone to OK the post, but Latergram.me allows you to construct the whole thing on your desktop first.

It’s great for businesses who have a load of content waiting to be used. On Latergram.me’s free service you can schedule up to one post a day for a month.

This ensures you can leave it alone for a month if you’re too busy. Better yet, add posts as and when you get inspiration/attend an event or see something your audience might be interested in. You will quickly build an impressive profile by doing so.  

5) Hemmingway– Make your writing bold and clear

So you fancy blogging?

When I first started I wrote pieces that would have been more at home in the pages of a dusty novel than a blog.

Writing for the web is very, very different from print, no matter what the subject matter.

Research shows that blogs need to be easy to read. That means cutting down on the Chaucer-esque sentences and focusing on producing digestible shorter sentences. That last sentence got pulled up for being too difficult to read.

Hemmingway will tell you if your writing is too complicated.

I struggle to tone it down at times, but Hemmingway will put you on the straight and narrow by making your writing “bold and clear”.

I don’t always agree with it. I believe you should write for your audience, so don’t sweat toning it down if your website prides itself on producing pulchritudinous prose.

For the majority of us, however, it’s a useful piece of software to help streamline our writing.   

6) Grammarly– Check yo’ grammar

Ahh, Grammarly. I don’t use it, honestly.

My ego couldn’t take all the errors that would pop-up so I’m better off without.

If you like your writing free of errors, however, then Grammarly is an excellent way to edit your work.

The Chrome extension will highlight mistakes in your emails and you can even enable Grammarly in Microsoft Word (apparently), to give your work a truly thorough check.  

7) Mail Chimp– Newsletters

I don’t want to delve too deeply into why you should have a newsletter, but this is the only form of communication that you can guarantee your fans have seen, for free.

Twitter moves too quickly, your tweet is lost in the ether mere seconds after it’s left the nest. Facebook’s algorithm ensures only 16% of your fans, who are online at the time you post, see your content. Whilst LinkedIn is the most stringent of them all.

Mail Chimp is easy to use. It allows you to create basic newsletters and track who has opened that newsletter and where they have clicked. Unlike social media, you know it has landed in everyone’s inbox.

The free account is limited to 2,000 subscribers. This should be fine for most small businesses. If not, then we suggest using Campaign Monitor when you go to a paid plan.    

8)  BuzzSumo– Blog inspiration, tells you what’s trending

Last week’s blog referenced BuzzSumo’s research time and again. They’re a company that truly keeps their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not on the internet.

If you’re struggling to find inspiration for your blog, consider venturing over to BuzzSumo to analyse what content is going viral.

Simply search the term you’re after and then find your unique angle on it. This is a technique exceptional content marketer, Nick Chowdrey, championed in his Ri Web interview.

If it’s good enough for him…   

9) Hubspot Blog Topic Generator– Creates Blog Topics For You

The Hubspot blog is a fantastic resource for anyone who is interested in digital marketing and their Blog Topic Generator works surprisingly well.

Simply input two or three nouns, that you want the content to relate to, and the generator will come up with some suggestions.

Not only is it a brilliant way to come up with a subject when you’re out of ideas, the titles are also exemplary examples of how to write catchy headlines.  

10) Headline Analyser– Check the emotional validity of your titles

Last week we mentioned the importance of great headlines for your blog. The most shared content elicits an emotion in the reader, that needs to start with your title.

For this article, I stumbled across the Headline Analyser. A tool which measures the Emotional Marketing Value of your headline.

From this score, you can deduce whether you will capture people’s attention or not. According to the Headline Analyser:

“Most professional copywriters’ headlines will have30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines.”

So I ran two of our titles through the machine. One title which is recent (and I like), the other is not one of my best.  Of course, titles can't be needlessly hyperbolic on every occasion and it may not be suitable for some blogs. If you're focusing on intellectual topics, producing 'news-like' headlines may prove more appealing to your audience.  

11) Editorial Calendar (WordPress Plugin)- Manage your content

We recently published the article: Four Experts On Streamlining Your Social Media. Interestingly, two of the four experts interviewed- Cody McLain & Greg Strandberg– suggested creating a plan was essential to social media success.

I think this is brilliant advice and would extend this to your blog too. By coming up with three-month content plans, the Ri Web Blog has been much easier to handle. Our content can move smoothly between connected themes rather than appearing haphazard.

We use Editorial Calendar to achieve this. This allows us to easily plan content so far in advance, we’ve almost forgotten about it when we get there. Taking the pressure off magically devising a title each week.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Abraham Lincoln

Not sure how to update your WordPress website? Read this.  

12) Facebook Debugger– Always get an image

Have you ever put a link into Facebook and it hasn’t pulled an image?

I’d be surprised if this hasn’t happened to you. It’s a rather frequent occurrence and it’s incredibly simple to fix.

All you need to do is visit Facebook’s Debugger, input the link and select “Fetch New Scrape Information.”

The image should now show when you input the link.    

13) Social Locker– Make people share your blog

In 8 Reasons Nobody Shares or Cares About Your Blog we highlighted the main reasons your blog isn’t getting any traction.

In internet culture there’s a rule known as the 1% rule:

“90% of the participants of a community only view content, 9% of the participants edit (engage with) content, and 1% of the participants actively create new content.”

That 90% are known as ‘dark social.’ This refers to those who will read your content but won’t engage with it.

If they really value your blog you can push them into doing so with Social Locker.

People either love or hate Social Locker. That’s why, while we don’t use it, we’ve included it.

Social Locker asks readers to ‘pay’ to see your content by tweeting it before they can read it.

Obviously, there are a few problems here.

Firstly, a share is a recommendation. It’s you saying to your followers this is a great piece, read it. If you start sharing rubbish nobody will trust you and plenty will unfollow. People will rarely tweet an article before reading it.

So you need to be careful with Social Locker, one of the features I like is locking the end of content.

As an example, I would stop you seeing maybe the last five points here. If you’ve read to point 10, it stands to reason that you believe this is a quality piece of content and worth a share.

Still, many might only have a business account that only produces tweets relating to the company. They wouldn’t want to share a digital marketing blog on their restaurants Twitter, just as we wouldn’t share their Carbonara recipe on the Ri Web Twitter- it’s not relevant.

The possibility you might alienate readers is too high for my taste.

We don’t use it and I’m not sure I would, but I can appreciate that it works for plenty of people.  

14) All The Free Stock & Mitch Martinez– Free videos

All The Free Stock is a comprehensive list of places to find free images and videos.

After a short search, I came across Mitch Martinez’ website, which has plenty of stunning videos that are free to use.

If you do use his work, a donation would probably be appreciated, even if it’s only small.

After all, if you purchase videos or create bespoke ones, it is an incredibly expensive process. So a small donation can’t hurt!

Remember that anyone can use these videos, so it could end up looking a bit generic. Still, a fantastic resource in my opinion.   

15) Capture, Explain and Send Screenshots– Does what it says on the tin

Most of the images here are screenshots of the resources. The way I took them was using a free and incredibly useful resource called: Capture, Explain and Send Screenshots.

Not only can you print screen web pages, you can annotate the image, add arrows and take a print of the whole page or entire screen. This is incredibly useful when you’re trying to explain something in a blog or an email.   

16) Site Inspire– Inspire your web designers

If you’re looking for a new website but can’t quite translate those pictures in your head into words (happens to us all), then Site Inspire could help.

Search by styles, types (industry), subjects and platforms, to see what’s on point for your industry. Our Director, Ryan, would suggest taking inspiration from a range of sources, after all, you don’t want a website on par with your competitors, you need to better them.

 

 

Want to add to this list of small business resources? Let us know in the comments! If it’s good, we’ll add it. (With a link to your site.)

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