By Paige Sjoblom published December 16, 2015

5 Must-Have Tools for the Brainy Social Media Manager


With so many social media tools available, you have to decide which are worth paying for and which ones you can use minimally, for free. I share some of the lesser-known tools I’ve grown to love for their unique and valuable offerings. Some have a free plan, while others will set you back a dime or two. But all of them will enhance your day-to-day social media strategy implementation, while simplifying the process.

1. Canva for Work – Design shareable images

Social media has forced managers to become experts in creating and resizing images for different social platforms. With each platform demanding its own size, you need an on-hand designer or you have to devote your own time to creating imagery. That’s where Canva can help you create beautiful images with templates, photos, fonts, text, and more. I use Adobe Photoshop less and less the more I discover about the capabilities of Canva.

Once you create a square image for Instagram, you need a landscape version for Twitter. How great would a magic “resize” button be? Prayer answered. Look at this image being created for a business. See how a drop-down menu lets you create duplicates of the image AND its elements in different sizes for different platforms:


Click to enlarge

Once you duplicate the image for different sizes, Canva opens each image in a separate tab so you can make any changes. For example, maybe you want to offer your Pinterest followers a promo deal. Just click and edit the Pinterest image to incorporate the offer and save the file.

Once all changes are final, you can download and share the images to each of your social channels. See below each sized image stored in the dashboard. You always can reuse the image or make edits. If you really love the image, save it as a template for future use.


Click to enlarge

As a bonus, you can create your own brand book. Outline your brand’s color palette, upload your logo, and select fonts for anyone on your team to use.


Canva is a perfect alternative for social media managers. Its extensive library has both free and paid images, icons, shapes, and stock photos. Paid options cost only $1 apiece, but I easily manage to stick to the free assets. Slide by on the free version or upgrade to Canva for Work to create your brand book and use the magic resizing tool. The annual plan costs $9.95 a month per user.

2. Sniply – Get more out of shares

Sniply is Bitly on steroids. We all know the importance of sharing content other than our own to build a community and engage with others. But you can get some added value out of that sharing. When users click on your shared links, you can direct them back to your own content AND track it.

For example, SafeWise, a home safety blog I’ve written for, promoted a home security checklist by tweeting the Sniply link to its guest post on another site titled “What Stats Say About Home Security:”


People who clicked the link were sent to the page with the article. In the bottom corner of the blog’s landing page, a pop-up suggested the reader check out the home safety checklist on


Click to enlarge

The pop-up suggestion is relevant but not too invasive. This helps capture a targeted audience through content on other sites that you share.

Sniply’s reporting platform continues to get better, making it easier to track your results. Not only will it tell you how many people clicked your Sniply link, it will tell you how many people clicked through to your site, conversion rate, originating platform, and more. Cool, right?




Sniply’s free plan includes 1,000 clicks per month. If you’re like SafeWise, you’ll burn through those pretty quickly. For higher click limits, more control over the appearance of your snips, and to use your own domain, paid plans start at $29 a month. If traffic is one of your main objectives, this price is worth it.

3. BuzzSumo – Create targeted Twitter audiences

I use BuzzSumo for link alerts, to help me write click-worthy headlines, brainstorm content ideas, find influencers, and more. You also can use it to build a Twitter-tailored audience. For example, if I were promoting a piece about solar panels, I would first search BuzzSumo to find similar content. Below are publications that wrote about Google’s Project Sunroof, a relevant and hot topic:


Click to enlarge

You can see the most-shared piece of content has over 4,000 Twitter shares. If you click “View Shares,” BuzzSumo lists exactly who tweeted the piece, floating the influencers to the top. The magic happens when you export the list into Excel and create a tailored audience from the usernames to target for Twitter ads. It’s a defined audience of active users who already expressed an interest in the topic.


Click to enlarge

Note that a Twitter promotion to tailored audiences requires a minimum of 500 usernames. To keep your costs low, I recommend layering multiple searches and exports to create a list of 1,000 or more.

BuzzSumo’s free version will allow four searches a day, so make ‘em count or upgrade to one of the paid plans.

4. SumoRank – Analyze your competitors

SumoRank is another tool from the makers of BuzzSumo that’s too great not to share. SumoRank allows you a behind-the-scenes peek at any Facebook page. You can see the previous month’s interactions, what day of the week posts received the most engagement, and even top-engaged posts.

Start by analyzing your own Facebook page, then search for a few competitors. Identify what’s working for them, areas for improvement, and opportunities for your page. For example, maybe all your competitors post between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You could test posts between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to see if your audience engagement increases.


Click to enlarge

Like BuzzSumo, SumoRank allows four free searches per day. You should get unlimited searches with a BuzzSumo Pro account, but I admit I’ve had problems with SumoRank recognizing my BuzzSumo Pro account.

5. Followerwonk – Dig deep

Follwerwonk from Moz will be your BFF if you are a heavy Twitter user. I love being able to find influencers in any given space. Let’s say you’re looking for influencers to share your new tech product on Kickstarter. You can search Twitter bios for keywords such as “writer at TechCrunch,” “editor at TechCrunch,” “writer at Mashable,” and so on. Filter by social authority, and boom, you have a list of influencers:


Click to enlarge

Hover over any name and see how likely they are to retweet, and engage:


Click to enlarge

Notice some people list their email address in their bio. That’s an even better way to get in contact with them.

Export the list, filter by any of the many metrics (social authority is my personal favorite), and use the list for social outreach or for a Twitter tailored audience. You could even layer it with the audience you find from BuzzSumo.

Additionally, Followerwonk allows you to view and compare your competitors’ followers, track every change to your Twitter following (daily follows + unfollows), and analyze any Twitter account (take a peek at your competitors) if you use its PRO version. It’s a little pricey at $99 a month, but you can start with a 30-day free trial to make sure you’ll use it. Or the basic free version may give you enough of what you need.



Even if you don’t end up adopting any or all of these five tools, I recommend checking out each one and poking around to see what it offers, as I’ve only scratched the surface. You may just find your next secret weapon that will free up some time or allow you to reach the audience you’ve been chasing.

Have you found any other cool ways to use these tools? Do you have a secret weapon?

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).

Not sure which social networks will help bring you closer to your content marketing goals? Find the answers you need in our Social Media Survival Guide.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via

Author: Paige Sjoblom

Paige Sjoblom is a social media strategist at CLEARLINK, where she continues to explore and grow their social media channel. When she's not geeking out on SMM, you’ll find her relaxing with hot yoga, trying a new recipe, or hiking in the great outdoors. You can follow Paige on Twitter @paigesjoblom.

Other posts by Paige Sjoblom

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Greg Strandberg

    Canva is a site I’ve been using more lately, just for simple things like Facebook images or Twitter infographics. When I say Twitter infographics I mean really small rectangular ones.

    Buzz Sumo is great as well. Just the other day I was writing some articles about depression for a therapist in D.C. and I used that site to get tons of useful links/sources/stats. Took just a minute to do that.

    • Paige Sjoblom

      Good idea, Greg! BuzzSumo is great for finding for sources. I also like to search what I’m writing about to see which headlines performed best. Helps get the juices flowing when writing my own headlines (like this one!). Thanks for joining the conversation! 🙂

    • Cathy McPhillips

      It’s nice to see how Canva has adapted and updated their platform based on feedback from users in blog posts and social mentions. Their offerings have become a lot more robust, in my opinion.

      And some of us at CMI are using BuzzSumo a lot now; tons of great data and very easy to use!

  • Ben Brausen

    I’d be interested to know if there’s any negative impact from tools like Sniply.

    I know for me it’s often a pain to close out those popups they create. Annoyances like this can often detract from the content. The user experience is important to consider and while popups are proven to work, that doesn’t mean they don’t detract from providing a high quality user experience.

    In a way they’re also a bit of stealing the attention and recognition away from those you’re linking to. Piggybacking on their hard work without their permission.

    How would Content Marketing Institute feel if I used their great content to drive people to my website using their content, through the same tactic? What if I plaster links to spammy or inappropriate content in those popups? Many viewers won’t know the difference between the true website content and those offered by the popup service. It could certainly be used to hurt a site, just as much as help.

    The ethics of such services will be interesting to debate if they catch on. While we may be able to measure our own positive traffic from these services, we don’t see their possible negative impacts on the sites we link to.

    • Brian

      Totally agree, Ben. When I first found the tool Sniply, I wondered how it was even legal. I mean it’s great for marketers, but it’s unbelievable that you can make pop-ups appear on websites that you don’t own.

      And you make a great point, would CMI really want popups on their website pointing to someone else’s page that they don’t approve of or endorse?

      An interesting debate, indeed. Anyways, it’s a great article none-the-less and these truly are some of the best tools out there.

    • Paige Sjoblom

      Ben- I totally agree with you. There are definitely marketers out there irresponsibly using the tool. Just like there are spammy links in blog comments, spammy posts on social and spammy e-mails. But that’s the difference between a good marketer and a poor one, right? Personally, I use Sniply the most on my own sites to get social visitors to explore more content. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Sniply add a “is this relevant?” question or “report spam” feature on the tool to monitor irresponsible users?

  • i and i

    Tools Tools Tools! So much cool stuff. The problem is not getting overwhelmed by them. Sniply was new for us. We’ll check that out. Thanks!

  • Alice Fuller

    Great list! I like Canva too but Pixlr is my go-to for a more Photoshop experience with editing the photo or image.

  • Epictions Transmedia, Inc.

    Useful list for sure. Sniply is new to us. Thanks, Paige.

    For the community here looking for Buzzsumo alternatives, take Epicbeat ( for a spin. Beyond the usual suspects (top content, top influencers, top domains), we help you get to community behavior around a topic, top influencer personas and tips to engage them, and top trends over a month.

    Like others of our ilk, we always have our ears to the ground. Send us your bouquets and brickbats at contact at epictions dot com and we will get back to you within 24 hours. Or lesser. 🙂


    There are free options for these apps – but they are so limited that it really doesn’t give you enough information to make an informed decision. Sniply is a great tool, but it’s not comparatively easy to use. The free option certainly doesn’t show it to it’s best advantage – same with BussSumo. The pop ups and insistance on their hard links makes them a little possessive after you have opted in. We are considering other options that are less well know (or maybe, just less marketed!)

  • Lillian De Jesus

    Canva for Work is my definite go-to resource for creating images. Using the Magic Resize button is such a time-saver! Love that they have the Brand Kit available to keep brand colors and fonts in check. I also love that you can organize all the images uploaded. It’s truly an amazing tool.

    I’ll have to check out again as I tried it when it first came out and I felt it was a bit too intrusive.

    Buzzsumo is a wonderful tool also however like you said, the free version is very limited.