Three great online tools I rely on.

At the risk of opening a can of worms, here, I'm going to tell you a bit about three of my favourite online tools for upping your marketing intelligence game. The who, the what and, of course, the why. 

While there are literally millions of tools out there these days to measure everything brands do online, these are tools that I've relied on over the years to make better marketing decisions. In most cases, I've been using these products over a long period of time and they're yet to let me down. 

This won't be a long, technical review of each product. Rather a shout out and a big high five for some of the main features and the reasons for investing some time to check them out for yourself.  If your interest is piqued and you yearn for more information, each of them has a decent website in which you can indulge your inner geek. 

If you consider yourself well schooled on the topic of digital analytics and have your own go-to list, that's fine. I'd still encourage you to read on, however. At the very least, maybe this article will convince you to go and evaluate something new. If, on the other hand, you're a complete newbie to this space, then these three tools are a good place to start, as between them, they cover a lot of the popular channels that brands play with on a daily basis. 

Ok, without further ado... 

1. SOCIAL BAKERS

Social Bakers has been around since 2009 and I can almost guarantee that if you're a brand of note, even if you aren't using the platform to analyse your own social media performance, one of your competitors is. Monitoring your performance, that is. 

Therein lies one of my favourite features of the platform. Not only do you have the ability to track your own digital execution, you can keep a close eye on what your main rivals are up to as well.  Before we get into that, though, let's paint with some broader strokes. 

The Social Bakers 'Suite', combines three key modules.

1. Social Media Analytics, Reporting & Publishing

For the majority of businesses, the Analytics, Reporting and Publishing module will be more than enough to keep you busy and well informed. The platform draws native data from each of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn, and combines them with a host of Social Bakers exclusive metrics in the one, customisable dashboard. Like you'd expect, there are also a swag of pre-built reports you can schedule, as well as the ability to create custom reports and have them periodically delivered via email to anyone, regardless of whether they're an assigned user or not. 

On top of that, the module also gives you access to a publishing platform (similar to the likes of Hootsuite and Sprout Social), in which you can schedule and publish content directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ (Google what?), and a social listening tool, should you want to keep a virtual ear to the ground around a number of pre-defined keywords and phrases. 

Best of all, you can benchmark all of your own organic data against that of your competitors, other industry leaders, an industry as a whole or even an entire country, with filters aplenty to weed out exactly the information you're after. 

2. Competitive Ads Insights and Data Integration

If you really want to play Big Brother, you can opt for the Competitive Ads Insights and Data Integration module, which, aside from being a mouthful to articulate, adds insights into your competitors' paid social media strategy with tools like Promoted Post Detection, as well as providing the ability to connect your Social Bakers data with Google Analytics in order to track ROI against your web traffic and sales. 

3. Predictive Intelligence & Recommendations

For an artificial intelligence fix, the Predictive Intelligence & Recommendations module harnesses Social Bakers' vast library of content to predicatively advise you which of your posts to promote, and at what time. If you're suffering a creative block, then you can also use the library to view the kind of content that's kicking goals around the world, based on keywords, categories, industries and regions. 

Altogether, the Social Bakers offering is a strong one and it's been a platform I've been using for over four years now. The data is comprehensive (particularly on the Facebook side of things), the tools are intuitive and the competitive intelligence is exceptional. 

Prices start from US$120 a month but vary depending on module selection and the number of profiles you wish to monitor. To get a feel for the platform, without committing to buy, there are a number of free tools available on the Social Bakers website. To unlock them, you'll just need to provide some basic business details.  

2. ICONOSQUARE

Launched in France in 2011 under the name Statigram, Iconosquare has chosen to play solely in the realm of Instagram. And why wouldn't you, with Instagram reporting a user base of over 700 million users back in April 2017, it won't be long before they've joined the exclusive 1 billion users club. 

It's a brilliant platform, and one that I've been using since 2012. It's packed with all of the features you need to manage business level Instagram accounts of any size and it's also dirt cheap, starting at less than ten bucks a month. Let's take a look. 

Iconosquare offers five main categories:

1. Analytics

As you'd expect, the analytics feature provides you with all of the pertinent data to measure the performance of your Instagram account, or accounts if you have multiple. From audience and engagement metrics to hashtag, filter and timing analytics, the platform has it all. Like Social Bakers, you can also compare yourself against your competitors or other industry leaders, with benchmarking of up to 7 additional profiles (whether you own them or not). 

2. Activity

As the name suggests, the Activity feature allows you to manage the activity of your accounts, from your desktop, with the ability to track and respond to comments on your content. Not only that, you can also setup filters to create custom feeds based on hashtags and specific users. This is great if you want to keep an eye on all of your competitors' posts in one feed, or if you want to monitor the performance of one or more campaign hashtags. If part of your strategy involves the use of Instagram influencers, then setting up a custom feed to track their content is also a no-brainer. 

3. Content Management

There are a few cool features within this category. Firstly the media search feature allows you to search for particular content across the network, based on number of different filters. Far from a simple search that just spits out all content for a particular hashtag, the ability to combine multiple filters allows you to refine a search based on very specific requirements. Want to find content that's tagged with multiple hashtags, an @mention of your brand, has more than 1000 likes and was posted by a user with more than 30,000 followers in the last 3 weeks? No worries. 

On top of that, the Content Management tool allows you to curate an online media library, made up of the content you've already posted, as well as images and video that you can upload directly from your computer, Dropbox, Google Drive or One Drive. The content in the library can then be labeled and categorised for use in the Publishing platform.  

4. Publishing

Speaking of the Publishing platform, as any Social Media Manager will tell you, the inability for brands to publish content to Instagram directly from a desktop computer or laptop is frustrating. Well, Iconosquare does a good job of getting around this... sort of. 

While the final act of publishing on Instagram still needs to happen within the Instagram app, the Publishing tool within Iconosquare let's you use your media library to pre-prepare posts and schedule them into a publishing calendar, allowing you to create and plan your posts in advance. You can prepare a post, add a caption, insert a pre-saved list of hashtags and schedule the post for a particular time, all within Iconosquare. You can even preview what your Instagram profile page will look like once the new posts go live. 

At the scheduled time, the complementary Iconosquare app (available in the iOS and Android app stores) will prompt you to post the content. From there, it's just a few clicks to get your content live. All of the curating, planning and building of the content can be done in advance. 

5. Influencers 

Finally, if your brand is on the lookout for Instagram influencers, Iconosquare's Influencers tool allows you to quickly search for and filter potential influencers that meet your requirements. From the shortlist, you can then assess their suitability further by digging through their profile analytics to check on engagement and audience metrics. Pretty cool stuff.  


3. MOUSEFLOW

Last but not least, Mouseflow sidesteps social media altogether and instead focuses on your website's user experience. This tool was introduced to me about 12 months ago by Mark Berger, a former colleague of mine, and it's been a favourite ever since. It's one of the first digital tools I recommend to any of my clients and it was the first metrics tool I setup on my own site. 

There's simply no other tool (that I've come across), that gives you real time, unfiltered insights into how your website viewers are using your site. The feature set includes many of the heat maps that are common across platforms like this. Scroll levels, clicks, movement, user attention etc, they're all there. It's the live recordings of user sessions, though, that are most interesting to me. 

Depending on the quantity of traffic your site receives, you can set Mouseflow to record every session or only a percentage of sessions (1 in 3 for example). It then collates all of the recordings into a list, where you can filter them by location, referrer, entry page, number of pages visited, visit duration, browser, device and action (form interactions etc). From there, you can playback any of the recordings and watch the session as though you're watching over the user's shoulder. 

The real-world information you can glean from watching first hand how your customers (or potential customers) are using your site is invaluable. Maybe your navigation isn't up to scratch and your users are finding it difficult to locate the content they're after. Perhaps there's a piece of technical copy that's being re-read a number of times and needs to be simplified. Is there a step in your checkout process that's proving a road block to sales? The insights and possibilities for improvement are endless.

With a 'free forever' plan that gives you full access for one website and up to 100 recordings per month, even small businesses can utilise this platform. Even the Pro plan for US$299 a month (if you pay annually), which allows you to monitor up to 10 websites and record 100,000 sessions per month is a relatively inexpensive (for the size of the business) way to gain real, qualitative insights into your website user experience.  

Check it out at mouseflow.com.

Hopefully this article has been helpful and given you some inspiration to check these tools out further in order to up your online marketing intelligence game. 

Have you used these tools yourself, or do you have other favourites? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts.