In my travels, I read a lot of books and use a lot of tools. Here are some I find particularly helpful.
Disclosure: I believe in these products so much that I’m an affiliate for some of them. If you click through on the following links, I may make a small commission: StudioPress, Gravity Forms and all books.
Creative Commons Image Search
The Creative Commons Image Search tool helps you find photos that are copyright-clear and free to use. From one page, you can search Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Google Images (all the public ones), and more.
Up Close & Persona
Developing buyer personas is a critical step in building your content marketing strategy. Up Close & Persona is a simple tool that prompts you to answer a series of questions about your prospective customer, then outputs the results as a buyer profile. And it’s free!
This excellent book from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith isn’t about content marketing—at least, that’s not the focus. But the book’s sub-title of Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust is a pretty good description of content marketing if I’ve ever heard one. You’ll find tons of applicable insights and principles in its pages.
Key quote: “People will become more comfortable with you if you are openly sharing your thoughts and ideas.”
Now that Google has retired its RSS reader, the Digg Reader is my go-to resource. Some say RSS feeds are dead. Maybe they are disappearing but I still find them to be an excellent way to monitor news and find things to blog about.
Google Alerts are still around but who knows for how much longer. I’ve switched to Talkwalker alerts, which Digg is able to pull nicely into my feed reader. Combined, alerts and the RSS feed are the best way I’ve found to keep up with who’s publishing what on keywords in my industry.
Enter a hashtag, select from the list of social networks, such as Flickr, Instagram and Twitter, then click Picsho. Boom! You have an instant gallery of pictures from across the web, all themed around a keyword you’ve chosen. You can embed your gallery anywhere you like.
Experts predict we’ll soon reach a point where the amount of web content doubles every 72 hours. The filtering we’ve got–even Google search–won’t be powerful enough to handle it all. We’ll rely on our friends, our colleagues and a handful of companies we trust to cherry pick the news for us. Full of eye-opening information on both the history and future of curation, Curation Nation outlines the opportunities that exist for a new breed of content worker, and the companies and brands they represent.
You know that a solid email list is the core of a good content marketing program, right? (Right?) Though there are many tools available for managing an email list, MailChimp has my vote for a bunch of reasons. First, the super-clean layout and attractive templates make it easy to use. A full library of video tutorials and how-to articles keep you going. And if you do need to contact their support team, you’ll get a prompt, friendly and helpful reply. Second, MailChimp is absolutely free to use for email lists of up to 2,000 subscribers. That’s a huge plus when you’re just starting out and campaign money is tight. Third, MailChimp integrates seamlessly with all kinds of other tools like Salesforce, WordPress, BatchBook and Twitter.
I can’t tell you how much Evernote has changed my life – I think of it as a second brain that’s much better at remembering things than I am. I use Evernote as a giant swipe file, capturing articles, emails and webpages for future reference. I also use the tool as my notebook to take meeting minutes, jot down observations or write outlines and drafts of things I’m working on. Even when you’ve got a ton of notes, Evernote’s powerful search function combined with the organizing features of notebooks and tags makes it easy to find whatever you’re looking for. And not least among its many benefits is that Evernote syncs in the cloud, so no matter what computer or device you’re on, you can access your files. If you aren’t using this productivity tool already, I highly recommend you start.
I’m a list maker — it’s just what I do – so I’ve been using to-do lists to manage my life for years. Todoist is my current favored tool. You can organize lists by project, set priority status and due date, and even nest items to break a bigger to-do into several smaller steps. Like most tools these days, Todoist syncs in the cloud, so you can access your lists wherever you are. I keep the app on my iPhone and also use the desktop version.
What the Plus?
Google Plus is still a mystery to many marketers. If you count yourself in that group, Guy Kawasaki’s book will open your eyes to the social platform’s tremendous possibilities. In straightforward language and screenshots, he shows you how to get started building a profile and a following, then offers some best practice tips.
If you need a great looking WordPress theme that’s totally customizable and works superbly on both desktop and mobile devices, look no further than StudioPress. With more than 50 premium themes to choose from, you’re bound to find one that works for you. (This website is built on the Balance theme.) And behind the beauty is a wicked framework optimized for speed, security and flexibility.
Fast, secure web hosting that’s made exclusively for WordPress sites – what’s not to love? Though it likely costs a bit more than what you’re paying now, Synthesis is well worth it for the performance and peace of mind it delivers. Before I moved my site to Synthesis, my page load times were positively glacial: 15 or 16 seconds to load a page! I was often hit by brute force attack, and every time I upgraded WordPress, my site would go down. Boo. After moving to Synthesis, my page load times dropped to 1 second. Now, the WordPress updates are automatic and bug-free, and I don’t ever worry about security anymore.
Gravity Forms is a WordPress tool that will amaze you with its capabilities. Yes, it does forms of all kinds superbly (the contact forms on this site are powered by Gravity Forms). It also lets you create polls and surveys. The piece I like the most, though, is how it helps you collect and manage guest post submissions for your blog. Using the tool, you build a form where guest bloggers enter their work – and it automatically creates the content as a draft post in WordPress. You go in, edit and approve. Done! And you never have to provide access to your WordPress dashboard to outside writers.