If there is one thing we online entrepreneurs need, are apps or tools that would make our lives much easier. So I thought I'd share with you my top 12 online tools that I use.
Take a look in no particular order…
1. Social Media
Social Media is the first online tool or application (if you are referring to the program installed on your smart phone) everyone would think when it comes to promoting your business. That is probably due to the fact that almost everyone has social media accounts.
The popular ones such as Facebook and Instagram are two of the most commonly used social media sites out there.
Facebook is a great site to do your marketing. You can go to groups, become a member and see what are their interests or go to groups which are related to your business for you to market your products. You need to set a page for your business. It is best that you have your business separated from your personal page specially now that Facebook is blocking personal accounts that is used for business. The page for your business should only contain information on your business such as your product, location and other details you wish to share.
You may run ads through the site . What is great about Facebook is that they can help you narrow down the audience that you want your message to get across. You may do that through the profile of the people who have clicked on your posts or their location or their interests. We'll go into detail about Facebook ads on a separate post.
Instagram is another popular app that I use. Unlike Facebook, Instagram is more on pictures and short videos. This is a great tool for showcasing pictures of your products or works. Link Instagram to Facebook and have each of your post in Instagram seen on Facebook.
This is great for short messages and posts that catch attention of people who have little to spend for reading. This is made for mobile use so if you're using your desktop, you can only view the pictures/videos but can't upload. Follow your favorite celebrities/chefs and be inspired by their awesome work!
As a baker, I go to Pinterest to look for inspiration. After searching in Google, I go here next because they have a great collection of stuff that interests me. If I see a post that I like, I'll just pin it for future reference and organize it the way I like. It's like bookmarking the website but it's more convenient as I can see the pictures immediately.
If you have an online business, this is also a good way of promoting your brand because a lot of creative people are on Pinterest too!
Social Media sites has its drawbacks. The control over your page is limited to the contents that you put in. The entire format of the page is controlled by Facebook.
You may have heard some of the issues Facebook placed on data security and their changing algorithms. These “concerns” which is beyond us regular users may affect the way we do business through Facebook or other social media sites. It is still better to set up your own website if you will be doing business heavily online. We will get to that part in a bit.
2. Web Hosting
If you want your business to have its own web address or domain name like the big brands such as Apple.com then you need to subscribe to a Web Hosting service like HostGator. Just make sure that the name you have in mind is not yet taken. I chose HostGator because of their reliability. I have done my research by reading through articles and user feedback of various providers and found that they have the most positive feedback.
I have been using HostGator for quite sometime now with the websites I set up and so far they have been reliable and I never encountered any downtime for my sites. Their tech support was also great. This is a big concern for me because I used to work as tech support and I can tell if what they are telling me is legit or not.
3. Content Management
When I first started my baking business I wanted to set up my own website. Like many out there we do not have the capacity to have our own servers and maintain them in our homes and even with some small to medium business.
This is where WordPress which is a Content Management System comes in. Content Management Systems simply put are systems in which users can post information such as writings like blogs, pictures, audio and video on their servers.
They will worry about the maintenance of the server and ensure that our website are up. Since almost all of these service providers are on a cloud, this means that there are several servers located around the world hosts our sites. Should any of the server fail or lose network connection the other servers will pick up the load.
Words alone is no longer enough. You need a catchy picture to both catch the attention of the reader and relay the message better.
To get those pictures look like it was done by a professional I use Canva. It has the layouts I need such as picture sizes for Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest. It even has formats for blogs and documents. Their templates for posts are great! Scroll through the hundreds of templates and edit them out based on your needs. It even has filters set or you can customize it yourself.
I am relatively new when it come to editing pictures to make them look catchy and stunning but Canva has helped me a lot in getting my ideas translated into images. Now I am able to do my social media post as well as create proposals and presentation through Canva. The best of all is you can use it for FREE but do take note that to get the most out of the tool you may want to consider purchasing their premium templates, layouts and photos.
The pictures you may upload for editing can be from your own library or you can get them free online. I usually go to Pexels to get some of the pictures I use for my posts. They have great pictures for free to download and for sale.
5. Social Media Posts Scheduler
Now with The Bailiwick Academy, I need to keep in touch with the users and because of the wide base of users I need to post more often.
Since have other things to do with my business than just post, Hootsuite was able to help me with scheduling my posts.
I would compose my post on any word editing software (Like MS Word or even notepad) and do necessary editing with the media that comes with it. Once I have enough content I post them on Hootsuite and schedule them.
I can set the date and even the time as well as which social media sites I can post them. The site allows a maximum of thirty scheduled free posts. Once the content has been posted then you should have room to post more.
Social Media sites may change policies on 3rd party applications which posts on their sites in the future. Make sure to check site policies from time to time otherwise your post may not get published.
6. WordPress - Thrive Themes
You may have read my previous blog on how I built this blog site without coding. I have been raving about this tool in WordPress because it has helped me so much. I no longer need to worry about web design and save time in making the design of my web pages and blog posts.
Once you have your content ready, go through the various options of Thrive Themes to get the design you wanted. Maybe you want pictures at certain location or words with carrying font sizes or spacing or even set out columns or tables to get that look you wanted.
Thrive Themes will help you out in that department. You only need to worry is the content you need to post.
7. Adobe Photoshop
I have been using Photoshop for a long time. I found the need to use it when I need to edit my photos. Many years back I used to do editing in Microsoft Paint! As the need for more complex editing I needed to upgrade to Photoshop.
I get requests where the pictures are to be put on cakes. Sometimes I need to edit the picture such as change the background or adjust colors. I also use Photoshop to highlight the cakes I make by “cutting” them out and putting them on a different background. This also comes in handy specially when I make my own labels for cake in a jar, thank you stickers and tag and layout for edible printing.
Color corrections is different from filters that you will get from Canva. The filters there are mostly pre set and you may need flexibility in terms of adjustments as provided by Photoshop.
Canva is a great tool to create visual content, however Photoshop is a picture editing software which is the best in the market out there. This is a great tool to have at your disposal. Some say that it is more convenient to use Adobe Illustrator for this kind of thing but for me, this one works and this is what I have on hand. 🙂
8. iMovie / Final Cut Pro
In the past months in setting up The Bailiwick Academy, I have been dealing with more on videos for the classes that we have been offering. Before that my experience on videos were mostly for remembrance. Like my children’s first birthday, awarding ceremonies, presentation or even events like most of us capture like concerts or traffic situation that we post on social media.
With the classes there was a need for me to get more involved with the editing and not just relying on my video team. I oftentimes need to do the editing myself to save time and to meet the deadlines I have set for myself.
I have owned a MacBook Air for a few years now and it has iMovie since I got it. I started editing using it and it was good enough to handle simple editing of HD videos.
I was able to remove unwanted parts of the video, add titles, add transition and even add soundtracks.
I transitioned to Final Cut Pro as I get to learn more and found limitations to iMovie. In i-Movie, the titles are pre set and you are bound to the offerings the software has for you. The audio and video are limited to two each. Final Cut Pro offers more versatility.
Adobe Premiere Pro is another popular video editing software out there however it is a bit pricey and Adobe offers them in subscription. However with the work that we are doing, Final Cut Pro meets our needs.
9. Ripl - Make Eye Catching Videos
When you need to do videos but does not need as much editing as we do then you may want to try Ripl. It is great for just making your videos tell what you need to say. Straight forward editing for your video posts.
They offer a free plan but is limited to 30 seconds, a choice of 10 designs, 10 fonts , 8 pictures you can upload and 3 tracks. The paid plan is limited to 60 seconds, over 200 designs, 250 tracks, 150 fonts and 12 photos.
10. Email Marketing - GetResponse
Now that people are following you in social media, they are accessing your website and interacting with your site, does it stop there? Of course no! Once they have started your interaction you need to take it to the next level. We need to engage with them even further.
Our social media posts and updates on our website is usually short and general in nature. These are great in getting attention for our business for us to thrive and succeed we need to build a relationship with the people who interacts.
The best way is to connect with the users personally. It would be great if we can talk to each one face to face but our location and availability limits us to do so. Emails are great way to converse in detail. Unlike posts we can customize our emails more to the type of people we would like to connect to,
GetResponse is a great tool to manage your correspondence. It will help you manage your mails as well as your contacts. You can manage your emails in such a way you have more control in sending them to ensure the recipient will see it as it appears on the inbox.
The best part is you can try it for FREE for 30 days! No credit card required. Try their 30-day trial here for GetResponse!
11. eZy Watermark
Sometimes you need to get a picture out for a post or just post through your mobile but you do not want your pictures to be copied and used elsewhere. The best way to protect your pictures is to watermark them.
The key here is speed. You may need to post and share photos as quickly as possible but at the same time protect them. This is where eZy Watermark comes in. It is a mobile app wherein you can watermark your photos with your name or even your logo! All in your mobile. You can have their FREE version which is eZy Watermark Lite but it's limited to 1 logo at a time. If you have multiple businesses, consider upgrading to their paid version. Either eZy Watermark Photo, eZy Watermark Video for $2.99 each or get the bundle.
When I was using iMovie, I had concerns in editing the sounds of the videos. When you get to start to work on video work, you have to worry about the sound especially if you need to capture the voices of the people in your videos.
My team are using a separate audio device to capture the audio in addition to the audio captured by the camera. This is done as a precaution in case one of the devices has issues with them.
Sometimes you may not notice the noise that may be captured when you check the recording in between takes. An example would be the background noise where it may be particularly loud or unexpected noises coming from vehicles or even jackhammers! (I'm not kidding!)
Noises cannot be totally eliminated unless you mute the part they are in. In most cases they may occur in parts where you need the other sounds present like voices. When it comes to audio editing, iMovie is not that great. I am using Audacity. It has several effects as well but you can isolate noises and lower down its volume in the entire track.
A work of caution though. Do not overdo the lowering of noise volume as it may affect the voices of the people speaking since some of the frequency of the noise and human voice may be close to each other. The program may not recognize which is which. You may notice that the voices may sound like a robot.
Now let's wrap things up!
There are a lot of services and tools out there that will help you in your online business. I hope that I have helped you out in narrowing down your search. I have tried a lot of them before sticking to a tool for a specific need.
These tools should aid you in achieving your goals. You want to get to as many people as efficiently and as easily as possible. Check out the tools that I have listed above. These tools are sure to help you be productive, enhance your creativity and connect better with the people you want to be your customers. So give them a try when you get your business online. You will be happy you did!