According to New Social Media Examiner, consumers expect brands 'to be active on at least three to four [social media] channels.' However, establishing, managing and monitoring your social marketing is a time consuming process, and one that requires constant attention.

Tracking and analyzing your social media efforts is a vital process in determining strengths and weaknesses in your campaigns. But with so many tools available (free and paid for), and so many blogs (biased and unbiased), it is hard to know where to start.

Fear no more! In a bid to minimize time, effort and confusion we have compiled the ultimate guide to the best free social media tools. From content research to graphics creation; social media management to analyzing and tracking, we are covering all categories and platforms.

So sit back, and read on.

Tools for Reach

All of the following tools have been designed specifically to monitor the reach of your activity and brand across social media.

Social Mention

SocialMention is a social media search tool that pulls together user generated content from across the web, allowing you to analyze results from a single stream of information. Not only can you track and measure what people are saying about you, your company or product but, you can also search by topics in real time.

Socialmention platform displaying results for a search on Woorank

Meltwater IceRocket

Similar to SocialMention, IceRocket enables you to view a complete list of where you or your brand has been mentioned. You can split the list into mentions found in Blogs or Twitter and it's simplicity is a bonus. There aren’t as many features as Social Mention but it’s great for seeing which bloggers are mentioning you so you can build on those relationships.

Addictomatic

Addictomatic is another tool allowing you to measure reach and influence by displaying all of the places that you have been mentioned. It trawls through Google, Bing, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, and Flickr to find the most recent posts, blogs, images and videos based on the keywords entered. It even organizes results into headed sections making it easy to navigate.

Addictomatic dashboard for monitoring reach

Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts to track mentions, shares, blogs and other internet activity is a great way of getting real-time updates about your influence and impact across the web. Alerts for brand names and keywords can be set up and you can also set the frequency of email alerts. They’ve thought of everything!

Free Review Monitoring

As the name suggests, Free Review Monitoring provides the ability to track and monitor online reviews of your brand. This tools is especially useful if your company receives reviews from different platforms, giving you the ability to monitor your reputation and, if necessary, respond quickly to negative reviews. You can even decide how regularly you receive reviews into your email account.

Free Review Monitoring tool for instant updates on reviews for your brand

Graphics Tool

If you’re online then you’ve got to look the part, but paying an agency for artwork can be costly.

Canva

Canva is a free graphics creator tool enabling you to create stylish, attention grabbing graphics for all of your social media activity. On Canva you can create professional looking blog post graphics, headers, profile pictures, logos, business cards and more. You can also create mini infographics or club multiple graphics from the tool and attach it to your infographics template.

Canva graphics creation tool

Infographics

We have previously discussed the importance of visual storytelling for maximizing engagement. Visual updates and posts are always more likely to get shared, so be smart with your art.

Piktochart

Piktochart This is a fun free social media tool for creating colorful infographics. The free version of the tool comes with limited features and the end result will also contain a Piktochart watermark, but despite its limitations you'll be amazed at the infographics that can be created. And it's easy to use.

Piktochart for the creation of eye-catching infographics

Easel.ly

Like the name suggests you can easily create amazing infographics with this platform by Easel.ly. There are many customizable themes to choose from, which can be personalized with color, images and reformatting. You can benefit from more features with a small subscription of $3 per month, but the free package is adequate.

Infogr.am

Create attention grabbing infographics from a range of pre-made themes by Infogr.am. You can add images, videos, charts and graphs to your infographic and data can be added by uploading it from an excel sheet. However, some features aren’t available until you sign up to one of their packages, starting at $19 per month.

Video Tools

Videos are another great way of communicating your message in an engaging way. Whether you are producing a vlog, presentation or training program, videos are far more likely to retain customer focus.

Powtoon

Powtoon is a great tool for all of your content marketing needs. More specifically, Powtoon gives you the ability to create killer presentations with awesome design and animation. Whether it’s brand ads, product videos or simple company updates - create them with ease using this free social media tool and share it on your social media pages. You’ll be sure to attract attention.

Powtoon landing page

Content Discovery Tools

As a company it's important to share up-to-date and relevant topics, discussions and blogs from across your industry to demonstrate that you are experts within your field. This is also helpful to you because it's ready made content that you can share with your audience instantly. However, trawling the web for content can be laborious.

GoogleTrends

With Google Trends you can monitor the popularity of subjects, keywords and brands and compare them against competing products and services. You can determine which regions have shown more interest and find out how interest has increased overtime. It’s perfect for gaining of overview of your online performance or finding out what’s hot and what’s not.

Use Google Trends to find hot topics

Hootsuite

Although primarily a scheduling platform for your social media updates, Hootsuite has a cool feature that creates a stream of hot topics and posts based on your specified topics and keywords. However, its findings are limited to Twitter, but it is still helpful in assessing what’s hot and fresh for FREE.

Scoopit

As well as a content automation service, Scoopit is a content curator that you can’t do without. It searches the latest blogs, news releases, posts, social media sites and more for your keywords and presents content in a comprehensive list. You can then post the content to your ScoopIt profile which will also publish the ‘scoop’ across other social networking sites.

Klout

Klout is an amazing platform for gleaning interesting content from the web. Simply select the main topics that you are interested in and let Klout do all of the hard work for you. You can then select content to share and schedule content. Klout also recommends experts to follow and has an analytics area to measure your reach.

Klouts simple platform for retrieving content from the web

Social Branding Tools

Social branding is an important factor in maintaining your overall brand identity on line. You will need to be consistent with your image and conversational style for maximum impact.

Knowem

Knowem is a handy tool for checking your username. (helpful before signing up to loads of social networking sites). You simply enter a user name that you would like to use and it will check availability across 500 sites. This will ensure that you come up with a username that will not only be unique but consistent too, making it easier for your fans to find you.

CheckUsernames

Powered by Knowem, this tool provides the same function, scanning over 160 social media sites to check the availability of your chosen username. You can use both of these tools to make sure that all social media platforms are covered in your research.

Competitor Site Search tools

Being proactive about following and monitoring your competitors’ online activity will allow you to respond quickly to competing promotions and stay ahead of the game. There are a few tools that can check who your competitors are by searching the web to find similar sites.

SimilarSite Search

Using SimilarSite Search you simply pop in your URL to get a list of pages that are similar to yours based on keywords found on your website.

SitesLike

As well as displaying pages that are similar to yours you can also use Sitelike to search for websites based on specific keywords to determine which sites you are competing against on search engines.

URL Shortening and Tracking

Although Twitter no longer includes URLs in its character limit, shortening URLs not only looks better in a post, but they can also be tracked. This is handy for determining the success or reach of a campaign.

Bitly

Bitly is a link management platform. If you are including links into posts, messages or blogs, with Bitly you can shorten them and, most importantly, track them. Using the reporting dashboards you can glean important performance information such as number of clicks achieved, location and time.

Metrics summary on Bitly Bitly analytics, clicks by day

Hootsuite

As well as being a scheduling platform for your social media activity (which we will cover shortly), Hootsuite has an integral URL shortening tool which allows you to keep everything in one place. If you use Hootsuite for your social media management then you must take advantage of this feature.

Social Media Management Tools

In our previous blog, Tips for Promoting Your Brand on Twitter we highlighted the importance of posting regularly to your social media sites to maintain interest and maximize your chances of reaching your audience. Social Media Management tools are great for scheduling posts at optimum times to your entire network in just one click.

Hootsuite

Although we’ve already spoken about Hootsuite as a URL shortener and content gleaning tool, it is primarily a Social Media Management tool; allowing you to schedule and send updates across a multitude of Social Media platforms. It also includes a great analytics tool - with the added bonus being that it compiles data from all of your social media platforms into one, easy to use tool.

Hootsuite integrates with the main social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, WordPress, YouTube, as well as Google Analytics. But you will have to pay to manage several at once.

Hootsuite social media management dashboard

Buffer

Also known as BufferApp, Buffer is pitched as being the tool for scheduling, publishing and analyzing your posts from one central place. Buffer integrates with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts. Furthermore, you can shorten your links using Bitly, or other URL shortening tools from within the app, helping to track your link’s reach.

Buffer, like Hootsuite, has an integral Analytics feature where you can track posts that receive maximum interactions. You can also add UTM parameters and track your social media campaign URLs via Google Analytics, from within the tool. It’s worth noting that this is only really free for individual use. If you want to manage more than one social profile across more than 5 social platforms you’re going to have to cough up.

Buffer’s platform and analytical centre

Yoono

The Yoono Chrome extension is a simple, yet powerful tool for managing updates across Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, GoogleBuzz, Yammer, Friendfeed and MySpace, simultaneously. The 'Share' feature makes it really easy to share content across platforms and with the Group feature you can create groups by adding contacts from any channel. Very handy.

Yoono sample dashboard

Mobile Apps

Social Media, by its very nature, requires users to be reactive. We have therefore included mobile app for social media management on-the-go.

Tweetcaster

Specifically designed for Twitter, the mobile app Tweetcaster is great for monitoring activity. Tweets, favorites, retweets, lists and mentions are all categorized into separate tabs while filters allow you to filter through photos or video content. Tweets can be saved as drafts and then sent at a later date.

Everypost

Unlike Tweetcaster, Everypost allows you to post to multiple social media platforms from your mobile device. It comes with a built-in URL shortener with the option of posting photos and videos directly from your device. Search and post videos from YouTube, photos from Flickr and music from Grooveshark. Everypost also has a comprehensive desktop social media management tool which is free for individuals with limited features. It comprises of a visual content curator tool, a social media workflow, post customization, collaboration, scheduling and publishing and social analytics.

Forum Tools

If your social media marketing strategy also includes forum marketing, then this tool is a must.

BoardReader

Boardreader is a dedicated search engine for content found in forums. You can search for topics or for your own brand to find out which forums you are being mentioned, which you can share with your own forum community.

Analytics Tool

Arguably one of the most important areas for most… Analyzing your efforts.

Google Analytics

Here you can get a quick overview of the social media sites that send across maximum traffic to your site. By understanding the degree of your social media marketing reach in each of these channels, you can prioritize and improve your social media marketing efforts. And if you have set up a campaign and shared the links to your landing page on various social media channels, you can take advantage of the integrated URL builder.

URL builder is a tool that aids you in adding utm parameters to your campaign URLs and distributing them across social media and other channels. It is like setting a tracker on your campaign URL that is directly reported on your Google Analytics account.

To access this report you need to set up goals on Google Analytics and then track your social media traffic via Acquisition > Campaign.

Google Analytics social media referrals

Twitter Tools

Tweriod

Tweroid is a free Twitter tool that helps you to get the most out of the platform by letting you know the best time to Tweet. Simply sign up with your business Twitter account and enter the email address to where you want the reports sent to. It gives you hourly graphs of when your followers are online and also provides separate stats for the weekends.

Twazzup

Whether you want to monitor your brand, a competitor’s keywords or hashtags, this is the tool for you. With Twazzup you can monitor top retweeted links, top influencers, top retweeted photos and a list of all recent tweets that mention the brand, keyword or hashtag searched for.

TagDef

TagDef is like an initiation ceremony for first time users of Twitter. In particular, TagDef defines hashtags. So, if you’re confused by abbreviations or you want to look at related hastags or even suggest new ones, then this tool can help to make sense of it all. TagDef translates hastags

Commun.it

Commun.it has been dubbed as the customer relationship management tool for Twitter. As well as being an analytics tool and Tweet scheduler, Commun.it uniquely identifies industry influencers, supporters and prospects for you. It then helps you stay in touch and engage with those people by notifying you about important contact points and prompting you to re-engage if you neglect a relationship. The tool gives you filtered and prioritized feeds that help you save time and manage your Twitter profiles efficiently – much like having your own social media PA. This tool is also good for brand and reputation management as it helps you monitor your campaign by tracking keywords and hashtags.

Sample Screenshot Of Commun.it Dashboard

Facebook Tools

Facebook Insights

Facebook is constantly changing the way it selects and displays content to its audience - meaning that page owners not only need to ensure content is relevant, but also that posts are published at a time when audiences are most active.

The Facebook Insights tool provides detailed information on Likes, reach, visits, video and people. One of its really cool features is the Posts tab; allowing you to understand when your audience is most active, displaying info by day and time.

On your business page’s admin panel, click on Insights. Now click on Posts and select the tab When Your Fans Are Online.

Facebook Insights tool showing when fans are online

Fanpagekarma

Fanpagekarma offers a free version that allows you monitor one fan/business page. It gives you information about best times for posting, best type of posts, best topics, best posting frequency, influencers and fan posts to name a few. It gives you extensive and easily interpreted analytics allowing you to optimize your campaigns.

FanpageKarma Report Sample,image credit - fanpagekarma.com

Agorapulse Barometer

Get to know your Facebook post's monthly organic reach, monthly viral reach and your level of engagement with Agorapulse Barometer. It’s completely free!

Post Planner

Post Planner is an app on Facebook that helps you post consistently on Facebook. It shows you trending content in your niche so that you can post it, and your fans can share it. It also helps you target fans in a specific location or demographic. It also provides analytics data on your posts.

Post Planner for Facebook

These free tools provide an effective way to manage your social media, from establishing an online profile to scheduling posts. It is worth spending time with each of these tools to get accustomed with the features that they offer. Many come with full, paid versions so use the free versions to understand what you need from a management tool before you get tied into an annual contract.

Have you discovered a free tool that we haven’t covered here? What is your favorite tool for managing all aspects of social media?