Editor’s note: You may have missed this article when CMI published it in 2016. It’s been updated because we know our readers always love to discover or be reminded of a great social media tool.
Let’s be honest, social media is a jungle. Forget about the flood of apps, integrations, and add-ons, just figuring which network you should invest in is overwhelming.
What if you could ask today’s influential online marketers one question: “What social media tool is your all-time, desert-island, can’t-live-without favorite?”
That’s what I did.
What follows are – by any list or metric – 51 big names in online marketing, content marketing, and e-commerce along with their top social-media tool and reason for loving it.
Ann Handley, chief content officer, MarketingProfs
“Instagram is my favorite social network because of its social storytelling simplicity. From fun personal accounts – like Small Chalk and Adam Padilla – to corporate brands, it connects more immediately and deeply with people than any other platform. I still haven’t forgiven them for introducing an algorithm. (Chronological was so much more in line with the ethos of the platform.) But I can’t quit you, Insta.”.@Instagram is my favorite social network because of its social #storytelling simplicity, says @annhandley. Click To Tweet
Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute
“I use social media as almost a pure response vehicle. And I won’t start any new social media app, platform, or tool until I’m 100% committed to it. My goal with Twitter is to keep in touch and communicate my appreciation to those people that support me. Once I built an audience on those platforms, my goals and execution changed.”
Joanna Wiebe, creator, Copy Hackers
“Buffer. Three reasons. (1) You can install a browser widget that lets you Buffer any page or image you come across to be sent immediately or later. (2) Its Content Inbox: I can enter the URL of a favorite blog and Buffer instantly creates a huge list of tweets from that blog. (3) The company is transparent. I don’t expect every company to publish what they earn vs. what they pay people the way Buffer does, but it’s a warm-and-fuzzy approach to helping disconnected folks like moi see the humans behind a software company.”
Neil Patel, entrepreneur and influencer, NeilPatel.com
“With BuzzSumo you can see what is hot in your space on social media and what isn’t. From there you can craft ideas on the type of blog posts you should write to generate traffic and leads. The best part about BuzzSumo is it shows who has shared the content so you can reach out to those influencers and ask them to share your content as well.”Use @BuzzSumo so you can see what’s hot in your space on #socialmedia & what isn’t, says @neilpatel. Click To Tweet
Mari Smith, Facebook marketing expert
“Native video is the top-reaching post type on Facebook and gets three times the engagement of link posts and two times that of photo posts. I love using Animoto’s gorgeous templates, themes, and stock music. Its marketing builder tool also makes it super-duper easy to add text overlays – vital for sound-off autoplay videos in the Facebook newsfeed because 80% of video ads on Facebook are watched with sound off.”80% of video ads on #Facebook are watched with sound off. Use text overlays, says @MariSmith. Click To Tweet
6. Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer
Rand Fishkin, founder, SparkToro
“Next to BuzzSumo – and without sounding biased – my favorite tool is Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer. It’s great for setting up mention alerts as well as finding content to share socially through keyword notifications. The mention authority feature works directly with Moz’s page and domain authority metrics and helps sort through all the noise you normally get with catch-all monitoring tools.”
7. Tweeps Map
Brian D. Evans, founder, Influencive
“The problem with a lot of marketing these days is that it’s not laser targeted and is far too broad. I use Tweeps Map because it gives me a visual representation of where my followers are geographically. I can then run targeting to followers from specific areas, and make sure that the content is relevant and valuable for those followers.”
Jeff Bullas, CEO, JeffBullas.com
“Sumo is a hybrid tool that’s a bit like a Swiss Army knife. It’s helped me thrive and survive in the wilds of the digital world by creating social-sharing buttons – onsite, SMS, Flipboard, and WhatsApp – and tracking my social counts on blog posts. The feature I really love is its Welcome Mat: a pop-up that captures emails. In less than 12 months, it’s collected over 40,000 email subscribers.”I love @SumoMe’s Welcome Mat pop-up feature that captures emails, says @jeffbullas. Click To Tweet
Candice Galek, founder, Bikini Luxe; columnist, Inc.
“While native social media posts get the most engagement, there’s nothing easier than scheduling posts that will be auto-shared while you sleep. Think about it, you’ve got Instagram followers from all over the world, and you can’t possibly be awake at all hours of the day and night.
“Planoly helps us to not only schedule and auto-post content, but also quickly discover (content) by searching for hashtags or usernames. There’s even a simple bulk upload function where you can add your own content and plan it in a way that makes your social media feed look cohesive and appealing. Since using Planoly, we’ve been able to source content more easily and our feed looks better than ever.”
Jason Miller, global content marketing leader, LinkedIn
“I like to keep things simple and streamlined: Less is more. The tool I use religiously is Elevate: LinkedIn’s employee advocacy tool. I use it to share, organize, and measure all the content I post across my main three social accounts: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I share daily from Elevate and track engagements.”
11. Twitter Promote Mode
Brian Clark, founder, Copyblogger
“Now that the days of organic social media distribution for content marketing are long in the rear view, the most valuable social media tools are the advertising features of the platforms themselves. Facebook (and Instagram) of course, but also Twitter given its high-profile resurgence. We’re testing Twitter Promote Mode, which for a recurring monthly fee promises to give constant broader reach – just like the good old days.”
12. Facebook Audience Insights
Larry Kim, founder, MobileMonkey
“I’m big into audiences: figuring out what are the interests, behaviors, and demographics of your target customers. For this I use Facebook Audience Insights because it tells you just about everything you’d want to know: job titles, education level, lifestyle, location, household information, purchasing behavior, and much more.
“By better understanding who your target audience is, you can more accurately create content that they’re likely to engage with.”Use #Facebook Audience Insights to better understand who your target audience is, says @larrykim. Click To Tweet
Sam Hurley, founder, Optim-Eyez
“Backly is one of my all-time favorite social media tools because it provides shared credit to both content publishers and the curators who spread their material. It’s simple, quick to use and integrates with other social-sharing tools like Buffer.
“Your face will appear in a pop-up on the articles you share, along with custom text and a link where you can direct visitors back to your own best content.”
14. Kicksta (formerly Kickstagram)
Cammi Pham, partner, ThinkRenegade
“With the new Instagram algorithm change, consistently posting at the right time has become even more important. Kicksta makes it easier to upload, process photos, schedule, and add hashtags to the first comment from desktop. For hashtags, I use 80% fixed and 20% tailored. This gives my team more time to focus on real-time engagement, which is life or death on social.”Real-time engagement is life or death on #social, says @cammipham. Click To Tweet
Steve Rayson, director, BuzzSumo
“Keeping track and managing social mentions and messages is hard work. I love AgoraPulse’s approach of helping you achieve inbox zero and that great feeling when you have cleared your messages. AgoraPulse does more than bring together all your mentions and messages, it allows you to work effectively as a team to respond to everything.”Use @agorapulse to help you achieve inbox zero, says @steverayson. Click To Tweet
Ross Simmonds, digital strategist, RossSimmonds.com
“My favorite tool is Venngage. As someone who really likes experimenting with the potential of visual content and visual communication, having access to an infographics tool that is so easy to use speeds up my visual output. Whether you are creating graphics for social, SlideShare, or a presentation, Venngage is super versatile and intuitive.”
Pam Moore, CEO and founder, Marketing Nutz
“I love using If This Then That (IFTTT) to enable native posting of images on Twitter that are originally posted to Instagram. You can set specific criteria by using hashtags or set it to post to Twitter automatically by default. IFTTT also offers a nearly limitless supply of social and cross-platform ‘recipes.’”
18. Rival IQ
Jay Baer, founder, Convince & Convert
“Rival IQ is a terrific tool to compare your own social media engagement rate and top-performing content versus your competitors’. Insightful and easy to use, it includes automated, custom reporting. One click and BAM – you have a PDF or PowerPoint deck with all the information you need to make better social media decisions. We use it daily.”
Griffin Thall, co-founder, Pura Vida Bracelets
“Pura Vida was a brand built on social media, especially Instagram. We’ve experimented a lot and use a pretty advanced e-commerce tool stack, but for social commerce, Foursixty is by far the best.
“Foursixty lets us create shoppable Instagram feeds onsite and add them to places like our homepage, product pages, and even the checkout. Conversions from the app make up roughly 17% of our online revenue. I would highly recommend it for any brand.”
Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group
“Twitter remains my primary social media platform. But alone, Twitter’s unmanageable. That’s why I use Followerwonk to understand who my audience is, when they are most likely to engage, and to find followers who overlap with similar social profiles and influencers. Its analyze feature – which integrates with Buffer – tells you exactly when to post your most important updates for exposure.”.@Followerwonk tells you exactly when to post your most important updates on Twitter, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet
Andy Crestodina, co-founder and director, Orbit Media
“This one is going to drive more traffic in less time than all your other tools combined. It’s like Buffer, but it never runs dry. Posts scheduled in Edgar stay in rotation forever. Once you’ve vetted your best stuff based on historical data, set up Edgar to share on your network(s) of choice at least a few times per day. You just saved yourself six to eight hours per month at least.”.@MeetEdgar is going to drive more traffic in less time than all your other tools combined, says @crestodina. Click To Tweet
Rachel Pedersen, social media strategist
“Ever wish you had a 24/7 graphic designer to turn your social media ideas into gorgeous graphics? Then you will love WordSwag. It is a mobile application that turns your ideas, quotes, and content into attractive graphics that can be shared on Facebook, Instagram, and anywhere. In less than five minutes you have a high quality and visually appealing graphic that will make your followers think you have a graphic designer on call.”
Shane Barker, digital strategist, ShaneBarker.com
“Quuu is a hand-curated and content-promotion platform. I use the promotion side to distribute everything. Each article is reviewed by a real person before it is approved because the goal is to promote only the highest quality content. Once the article gets the green light, Quuu adds it to its huge distribution network, which is cool, as I can then see the amount of shares and clicks for each article.”
Murray Newlands, co-founder, Due.com
“Most B2B companies on social media are missing a huge opportunity. Staff, customers, and clients won’t post positive comments unless they love you. Beyond that you have to get proactive and make sharing easy. Oktopost’s amplify and collaborate features are built to do exactly that: internally and externally. But love has to be the foundation.”
25. Native LinkedIn videos
Josh Steimle, speaker, writer, and entrepreneur
“Native video on LinkedIn is blowing up right now, with individual videos often getting hundreds of thousands of views even when made by amateurs like me. One problem with posting video to LinkedIn is something in the neighborhood of 85% of users watch internet video without the audio. Captions are the solution, but it can cost $10 and take 24 to 48 hours to have someone on Fiverr do it.
“Now, LinkedIn has made it one step easier (and about $9 cheaper) by adding functionality so you can add your own captions. You’ll still need to have a caption file (SRT file), but you can get this made in minutes at places like Rev.com for as little as $1 per minute of video or create your own. I know video is scary but trust me, grab your phone, make a quick video introducing yourself and talking about why you do what you do, and tag me in your post so I can see it. I’d love to see what kind of reaction you get.”
26. Facebook Messenger
Sujan Patel, founder and CEO, Web Profits
“Social media is becoming more personal and customers are actually talking to companies. I’m not talking about comments or high-level conversations. I’m talking about customers ready to make a transaction. That’s why I love Facebook Messenger. Facebook has done a great job empowering business owners to communicate directly with their customers and, with the introduction of bots, Messenger is going to have a big impact in the coming years.”
Automating Your Customer Interactions: Get Ready for Chatbots
27. LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Johnathan Dane, founder, KlientBoost
“We’ve started using the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to reach out to decision-makers at companies that could be ideal clients. Once we’re able to pique their interest, then we ask them for a quick meeting … For lead generation, it’s phenomenal.”
John Rampton, CEO and co-founder, Due
“I really like Brand24’s dashboard to see every person who mentioned my brand on social media. I can then go and respond individually. This enables my brand to be on top of the good, the bad, and the amazing customers that are sharing feedback. You can even monitor your competition and take advantage of the potential customers out there that need your help.”
Neal Schaffer, social media consultant
“AgoraPulse is a comprehensive social media dashboard along the lines of a Hootsuite, but it offers some unique functionality. The feature that I most love is auto post with queues. Basically, it’s a killer feature for companies who have lots of evergreen content and want to share it on a periodic basis across a wide variety of social networks. You can choose to post from your queue as often or as little as you’d like and stop sharing on a certain date, which is perfect if you are promoting an event.”
Ed Leake, managing director, Midas Media
“Marketers often overlook one big aspect of social – native advertising. As a paid click and data guy, I love Qwaya because it allows me to treat and optimize Facebook as I would AdWords: robust campaign structuring, split-testing, and automation tool set. If CTRs drop or CPC jumps … pause it. Might sound simple, but when you’re managing big accounts and budgets, it’s a godsend.”Optimize #Facebook campaigns with @QwayaSocial as you would with search and AdWords, says @EdLeake. Click To Tweet
Gerry Moran, global head of social media, Cognizant
“The key to every successful social media strategy is content that tells a story. However, the story doesn’t always get crafted in one sitting. It evolves from a collection of photos, animated GIFs, infographics, a line from a song, a saying from my grandmother, everyday pain points, scribbled design thinking on a white board, industry facts, etc. Evernote gives me a way to organize my storytelling making my social media strategy more successful.”
Brian Dean, founder, Backlinko
“ClickToTweet gives your readers an immediate and easy way to share your content by creating one-click boxes of preloaded Tweets, hashtags, and mentions. Blog integration is super non-technical and they even have a ClickToTweet generator you can use to add links to emails and PDFs. More opportunities to share equals more shares. It’s that simple. I used it on this post and got 20% more tweets than my average.”
Glen Gilmore, founder, Gilmore Business Network
“At the risk of following Joe Puluzzi, Twitter is also my favorite tool. However, I use it a bit differently than most by creating niche accounts to share and hone my evolving passions while creating community and influence – @TravelEsquire, @FinancialSM, @HealthcareSMM, @SocialMediaLaw1, @ChinaDigitalBiz, etc. Then I build Twitter lists to track key opinion leaders and the competition.”
Matthew Toren, co-founder, Kidpreneurs
Canva is a very handy browser-based design tool that makes it super straightforward for non-designers like me to create impressive images. Visual content has become so important for social media posts to help tell the story of your post and content. I’ve noticed that my visual content gets about 23% more clicks vs. non-visual. I love the fact that I can optimize the size for whatever social platform I need to use the design for.”#Visualcontent is important for #socialmedia posts to help tell the story of your content says @matthewtoren. Click To Tweet
35. Instagram Story DMs
Amy Porterfield, online marketing expert
“I love how I am able to connect directly with my audience through Instagram Story DMs. It’s a game changer. Because of the ‘Ask Me A Question’ feature, I have been able to not only see where my audience is struggling in their online businesses, but also offer real-time, personal solutions to help them. In the past, I’ve felt a bit disconnected from my community across the various social media channels, but this has brought a new level of engagement that feels real to me and ultimately helps my business grow.”
Kristi Hines, freelance writer
“Sendible has most of the features you will find in other social media management tools: scheduling, automated sharing via RSS feed, analytics, team management, and keyword monitoring. What sets it apart is the number of networks it connects to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram (via email reminder), GooglePlus, Tumblr, Medium, Instapaper, Pocket, Flickr, Delicious, Slack, and more.”
Shayla Price, B2B content marketer
“Bit.ly is a must-have tool for your social media stack. The platform does more than just shorten links. You can use it to track links, measure performance from your campaigns, and learn which channels bring in the most traffic. I use Bit.ly to monitor the daily activity of all my marketing and growth efforts along with most of my clients so I can attribute and track my efforts.”Use link shorteners like @Bitly to track links & learn which channels bring in most traffic. @shaylaprice Click To Tweet
Everette Taylor, serial entrepreneur
“With Instagram now surpassing one billion users, it’s become the premier platform for many brands and individuals to grow their audience and attract customers. The biggest challenge now is growing that audience and engaging with those users with all of the changes to algorithm.
“PopSocial provides not only an efficient way to grow and engage your audience on Instagram, but an affordable one. For companies with tight budgets that need real results, there’s no better tool.”PopSocial provides an efficient (& affordable) way to grow & engage your #Instagram audience. @Everette Click To Tweet
Daniel Knowlton, founder, KPS Digital Marketing
“Since social media algorithms have evolved in 2018 and the platforms consistently penalize users for automation, we’ve cut back a lot with social media automation tools.
However, one tool we continue to use to create social video content on the go is InShot. It’s super quick and easy to edit creative video in various size formats.”
Scott Stratten, president, UnMarketing
“At the risk of being a curmudgeon, I don’t really have any favorite tools because I don’t use many. But I’m enjoying trying out Ripl right now. Visual content evokes emotion. And Ripl is the easiest tool that goes beyond static images and lets you create animated visuals to post in your channel of choice.”
Kevan Lee, director of marketing, Buffer
“Pocket helps me batch all my social media reading. I can find interesting stuff, save it to Pocket, get back to work, then read it all later. Plus, it has some smooth integrations with sharing directly to Twitter and Facebook or sending straight to Buffer. And it has its own recommendations area that might be one of the few remaining unknown areas to build a following and authority, not to mention collect content for curation.”Use a tool like @Pocket to batch all your #socialmedia reading for later, says @kevanlee. Click To Tweet
42. Post Planner
Diana Adams, owner, Adams Consulting Group, Inc.
“Sophisticated marketers know that engagement is the most important (and hardest) metric to nail, and that’s where Post Planner comes in. It was built for engagement and gives you access to the most viral posts on Facebook and Twitter (regardless of your niche). Plus, it provides a huge list of status ideas. My favorite feature is the recycle button to load up evergreen content so it posts once a week or once a month … or whatever.”
William Harris, founder, Elumynt
“The thing I love about Narrow is that it lets me scale my Twitter account intelligently. Rather than sitting at my computer, manually following everyone that tweets with a hashtag that I find relevant, Narrow is programmed to interact with hashtags, audiences of influencers, keywords and more, which allows me to stay focused on providing relevant content for my audience.”
Benji Hyam, co-founder, Grow and Convert
“LinkedIn is great for prospecting. Before I do cold outreach, I look at the person’s profile and do as much research about them as possible. Simple touches like including common contacts, their job title, and past projects they’ve shared dramatically increase your chances of getting a response. Customize your messages and relate to them based on the information gathered. Above all, be personal not robotic.”When doing outreach on @LinkedIn, be personal not robotic says @benjihyam. Click To Tweet
Jon Morrow, founder, SmartBlogger
“Being completely honest, our teams don’t do a lot on social media … However, given that my goal with social is simply to stay active – and to get the most out of the investment – Buffer is my go-to tool for scheduling updates. It’s easy to use, time efficient, and covers all my social-media bases.”
Monina Wagner, social media community manager, Content Marketing Institute
“In social media, relationships matter. Repost is a simple yet effective tool that takes the challenge out of engaging with others by sharing content while giving credit. The app gives brands an opportunity to tell their story with user-generated content – creating a positive emotional experience, building consumer loyalty, and securing customer retention.”In #socialmedia, relationships matter says @moninaw. Click To Tweet
Chirag Kulkarni, partner and CMO, Medly Pharmacy
Ubersuggest is a tool I love using for anything content, analytics, or SEO. One of my favorite features is the keyword ideas tab. After typing in a particular keyword, you immediately get access to data like the total search volume, pages that rank for that keyword, the estimated number of visits that the page gets, along with PPC numbers, all for free. It’s been extremely valuable for doing an analysis before pulling the trigger on optimization.
Nadya Khoja, CMO, Venngage
“Although Snapchat may not seem like the most trackable social media platform, it’s phenomenal for engaging with your audience and giving your followers a look behind the scenes at your company or personal life. The one measurable metric is views, so in order to keep them climbing, you need to be creative. Trust and advocacy are built on being an entertaining and useful marketer.”
Heidi Cohen, chief content officer, Actionable Marketing Guide
“My favorite social media tool isn’t a tool. It’s a form of social media: a blog. Your blog is owned media you support with quality content. Done well you can optimize your blog for social media, search, influencers, and your business. On that front, two tools stand out. My favorite blog plugin is Yoast for SEO. And I love Feedburner because it distributes posts via email when they’re published. Like I’ve said before: ‘Hands down, email is the king of social media.’”#Email is the king of #socialmedia says @heidicohen. Click To Tweet
Tommy Walker, global editor in chief, The QuickBooks Resource Center
“You are your own best tool. Focus on the craft of writing and work constantly. Short form, long form, and everything in between. Twitter, and all the other social media sites, on their own, give you access, but it’s the writing that sparks interest and keeps them hooked.
“Excellent writing carries itself and makes the rest of the work infinitely easier. Identify your patterns and break them. Seriously, this is a big one that holds everyone back.
“Be unique. Earn your byline. Make it something to be proud of. If they can’t tell it’s YOU without the byline, go back, focus on your craft.”
Check out the latest tools to help your content marketing programs at Content Marketing World. Register today for Sept. 4-7 event in Cleveland, Ohio, and use code BLOG100 to save $100.
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute