I am a sucker for productivity hacks. Show me some technology that will shave a few minutes off something that I have to do, and I will be downloading and logging in almost as fast as my sprint to my coffee machine for my first coffee of the day.

Here are 20 of the Apps I currently couldn’t live without. Some are web apps, some are programs, some are extensions and some have smartphone apps to go with them. All are budget friendly (most have free options), and are perfect for small businesses.

Content Marketing Apps

1. Buffer – Free/Paid | Web/App

One of the top reasons people unfollow/unlike a business on social media is that they share updates in intense bursts. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Twenty things all once. Nothing.

Buffer solves the problem by spacing out your updates throughout the day. By scheduling the updates you avoid the whole feast vs famine problem. And the best bit? By paying for the Feedly integration you can Buffer your posts directly from within Feedly. What that means is you put things into Buffer as you read without having to do a two-step shuffle with your browser.

In most cases, the free Buffer plan works for the casual user. If you manage a number of social media accounts or want to Buffer to Pinterest, then the paid plan is worth its weight in coffee beans. The paid plan also allows you unlimited updates which means you can schedule your blog reading/social media updates once a week/fortnight and create a solid social media presence over the whole week.

3. Feedly – Free/Paid | Web/App

If you read more than one blog, rather than trying to remember to go back to see if they have published something new, you can gather the RSS feeds from each blog into Feedly.

Sort blogs feeds into your own folders as you add them into Feedly, and never be stuck for something to read ever again. It is like your own personal newspaper.

Tip: Sort blog feeds into your own categories as you add them into Feedly.Click To TweetFor the sticky beaks – my folders are Electronics, Friends Blogs, Google, HR, My Stuff, Marketing, Neuropsychology, SEO, Stuff I Want to Read & Trends.

This app saves me hours each week. I can read the headline and the first few sentences of each blog and then work out if I want to read the article in depth. Feedly is how I can stay across 300+ blogs and keep up with the latest trends and useful tips. It also plays nicely with  Buffer.

3. Keyword tools – Free/Paid | Web/Program

Keywords are not dead in the world of content marketing. You still need to use the words that work in your content. Finding the right keywords is still a bit of an art form, and is getting trickier by the day as Google throttles access to keyword data. Some of the tools I use are Ubersuggest, sg.Serpstat.com and my trusty Market Samurai.

4. BuzzSumo – Free/Paid | Web

If you want to know what content is working around the web, then this is a first-rate place to start. Type in a term and you will be shown the top performing content on that topic over different time periods. You can see how also many shares a particular piece of content had on different platforms. Why do it? If you find a topic has loads of shares, then it is a hot topic and likely something that your clients may also be interested in. Sort of like a digital version of a crystal ball.

5. Google Trends – Free | Web

Are terms increasing or decreasing in popularity over time? What are the top trending stories from around the world? Tap into the power of Google and track how many searches are happening for your industry over time.

For example, type in the term “small business” and you will notice this interesting trend. I am sure a clever journalist could turn this image into a story about how small business is dying.

Google trend data smallbiz

6. Free PDF Convertor – Free/Paid | Web

Have a Word document and want to convert it to a PDF? Or PDF to Word? Powerpoint to PDF?

If your budget doesn’t stretch to the Adobe diamond encrusted suite of products, there are loads of convertors out there. The only problem is that not all of them convert nicely with clickable hyperlinks in them.

This becomes an issue when you create a fabulous ebook in Word, with lovely hyperlinks in the document to take people to your site or other locations. You pop it into most PDF convertors and you will find the hyperlink doesn’t show up or doesn’t work from within the pdf. I tested about 20 different packages before finding this one. It’s simple and it works.

7. Bitly – Free/Paid | Web

Want to know how many people clicked on a web link? Need to shorten a web URL to fit into Twitter? Bitly is the leading link shortener on the market. It takes your long link and makes it short and snappy. Paid Bitly options allow to brand your short links for even more marketing oomph.

8. Word Hippo – Free | Web

Stuck for a synonym? Looking for a word that rhymes with …? Need a word that means the opposite of the one you are using? Word Hippo is a user-friendly online Thesaurus that gives dynamite alternatives. I flick between using Thesaurus.com and Word Hippo, but find Word Hippo has the edge at times purely for speed and the creative words it delivers.

Social Media Apps

9. Periscope – Free | Web/App

You will notice that I haven’t mentioned any other social media in their own right. I am taking the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn as a given for this list. But there is new kid on the block.

Periscope is live interactive broadcasting from your smartphone and has only been going a few short months. It is quite addictive to drop into broadcasts showing behind the scenes in coffee shops, or wandering around Paris. I am already seeing the same buzz around Periscope as was happening around Twitter in the early days. Definitely more buzz here than Google+ or Pinterest in their early days. My prediction: Periscope is one test out as I see big things for it.

10. Hashtagify.me – Free | Web

Need to know the best hashtag to use in a social media share? Want to know which hashtag is more popular #1 or #2? Hashtagify tells you the top 10 hashtags around a particular tag you are interested in, and gives you details of popularity of a particular term, as well showing you the most recent uses of the term. Very handy way to make sure that you are not using a tag that has been taken over for nefarious purposes or has turned into a bit of a joke.

11. Quickpin – Free | Extension

This is a cool Chrome extension. If you are into Pinterest you know that the standard Pinterest Chrome extension does not allow you to pin from Facebook to your boards. Quickpin solves the problem. You can find something from a Facebook page you like, and then click Quickpin, and it’s done. Super simple!

Tip: Use Quickpin Chrome extension to pin to Pinterest from Facebook.Click To Tweet

Graphic Design Apps

12. Canva – Free/Paid | Web/App

This is my hands down, favourite program of the past 5 years. I call it idiot proof design, which is why I use it a few times each day to quickly create things. Visuals are a core part of content marketing, and being able to quickly create stunning visuals in minutes is a game changer.

13. Pictaculous – Free | Web

I admit it. I am colour challenged and my ability to put colours together on par with my ability to cook (Instant Noodles anyone?) With Pictaculous, you upload an image and the colour elves get to work and give you a range of different palette options to play with. Makes it look like you have a decent interior designer on tap.

14. ColorZilla – Free | Extension

If you have ever struggled to match a particular colour from a photo or a website, this free extension for Chrome and Firefox is the answer. It is simply a colour picker, so you just hover the eyedropper over the colour you want to know the code for, click the dropper and the colour is saved to your colour clipboard. It tells you RGB and Hex. Brilliant if you are doing something in Canva and want to get the colour just right.

15. Cite – Free | App (IOS Only) (Now discontinued)

Cite is a Twitter app where you first select a tweetable quote from something you are reading. You then click on the Cite extension in Safari, and Cite turns the quote into a pretty graphical quote and tweet it to your followers. Why? Images get more engagement than straight text. This is the simplest way to create quote images as it requires zero graphic design ability. Yes, the design is pretty basic, but it still is better than nothing.

Productivity Apps

17. Focus@Will – Free/Paid | Web/App

Brain hacks are some of my favourites to explore. As a copywriter, I need to be able to switch into clear focussed mode at the drop of a pencil. That’s where Focus@Will comes in. This is music scientifically designed to move your brain patterns into focus mode. There are special options you can choose if you have ADHD (which my teenagers seem to like). There is not a whale noise amongst any of the Focus@Will music options. All I can say is this really works for me and Focus@Will is my permanent working backing track.

Web Essential Apps

17. Gravatar – Free | Web

Have you wondered why some people have a photo that seems to follow them around the web? Gravatars are the secret. Set up your own Gravatar and you too will be seen everywhere you go.

18. Breach Alarm: Should I Change My Password – Free/Paid | Web

How would you cope if your personal details were hacked? Over 87,000 passwords per day are stolen around the web. Breach alarm offers a free service to notify you if your details are amongst those released on the web. Breach Alarm won’t stop you being hacked – but at least it will tell you if your details are on the web so you can take action and change your passwords.

19. Google Alerts – Free | Web

While we are on monitoring, would it help if every time someone mentioned your name or your business name somewhere around the net you got a notification? Why do that? So you can pop in and thank, correct, respond or highlight it.

Enter Google Alerts. This is a free service from Google and you can set up alerts for a whole raft of possibilities from brand mentions through to tracking hot topics. It is very easy to set up and I have alerts set up for my core details on the net.

How does it work? Recently some cherub set up a fake Twitter account using my name and brand. I was alerted to the account within hours of it being set up. I got onto Twitter and had it closed down ASAP. Without the alert I wouldn’t have been any the wiser and it could have gone on to cause some damage to my brand.

20. Dropbox – Free/Paid | Web/App

Backup your life to the cloud with Dropbox. Every one of my photos I have taken in my life; every client file I have created; all my graphic design images; all my website backups … pretty much everything digital about me lives in Dropbox. (The only things I don’t put in Dropbox are my financial files and passwords – but they are in other cloud programs.)

The benefit is that I never have to stress about files going missing or worrying about what would happen if every computer in our business was stolen. There is always a backup in Dropbox. And yes, I also still do external hard drive backups just in case. Every business needs backups of their backups.

What apps have I missed? What are your go-to apps?

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