I love Google Analytics and I think it’s easy to use. That said, you’ll need to spend time learning how to use it and set it up. You don’t need to hire someone special to set it up, but you do have to set aside a period of time to do it. Also, it’s easy to fall into looking at the same metrics you’ve always looked at, so it’s really important to break out of your comfort zone if you’re using Google Analytics. Learn how campaign management works, and learn how to set goals and track them. When you break out of what you’re used to, it’s amazing how much data you can get. And it surprises me every day that Google Analytics is still free! Every month I wonder if they’ll start charging.
I’m on a podcast, and my co-hosts and I use Slack to collaborate, research, and plan our shows. We’ll pin things, share links, and have discussions about upcoming shows. It’s really great. I also like Slack because we all have so many platforms, and we’re connected to so many people, Slack’s closer to being an all-in-one communications app than any other. 15 years ago, we relied on phones and emails, but now you can find, and connect with, people a million different ways. I would still love an all-in-one app, which used to be email, but Slack is the closest thing now.
I actually teach courses on WordPress through the digital and social media certificate program at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies! WordPress is great for content creation and management, but it’s not as intuitive as Wix or Squarespace. That said, if you want a more sophisticated website, WordPress is best. But know that you need to take the time to learn it. You should spend 4-6 hours sitting there, clicking through, and going through tutorials on a site like Lynda.com to get the most out of it.
I really like MailChimp because it’s simple, really easy to use, and it makes your content visual. There’s nothing more boring than text, and I should know since I’m coming from the PR industry (a very text-heavy industry)! MailChimp helps you get beyond text and brings your content to life.
Google Drive is amazing; it shows how far we’ve come with making it easy to collaborate with people in different geographies and firewalls.
I really like Dropbox. It’s easier to upload documents, and it feels more private than Google Drive. But collaboration is much better on Google Drive. In Dropbox, if several people open a document and edit it, then the drafts are not saved. If we’re using Dropbox, I ask people to work on a document, save it, and then upload it back to Dropbox; this way we always only have one copy.
I use FreshBooks for time tracking. I’ve never integrated FreshBooks with Sage 50, but I probably should! I really, really like FreshBooks and what they have to offer. They’ve done a great job of integrating time tracking, invoicing, and project management, all into one tool.
I use Sage 50 for accounting as well as payroll. I chose it because that’s what my accountant knows and is familiar with.
LinkedIn is good for recruiting. But I also use it as my personal Rolodex. Nowadays, people move around so much, and change jobs so often, it’s hard to keep track of them. I know that if I want to get a hold of someone, I can shoot them a message on LinkedIn and get a hold of them, even if I don’t know their current email address. I did that earlier today with a former client I wanted to reconnect with. It’s a fantastic unwritten benefit of LinkedIn. It’s a great real-time contact management system.
My Inside PR co-hosts, Gini Dietrich and Joe Thornley, and I talked about our favorite PR and social media tools on a couple of recent episodes: IPR 431 and IPR 432. We also talk about them on IPR 433, but that hasn’t been published yet.
I use Sage 50 (formerly Simply Accounting Pro) for all accounting, including payroll and accounts receivable. It’s like QuickBooks, but I chose it over QuickBooks since it’s what our accountant uses; I listen to their recommendations.
I sometimes use Slack for project management. It’s not really a project management tool, but I find you can organize projects by channel. For simple projects, Slack has a lot of great features.
I love Hootsuite. It’s a great platform, and the enterprise version is fantastic. It’s an effective social listening tool for saved searches, hashtags, and keywords. A challenge with Hootsuite is that the platform is so wide, you have to have a very wide screen to look at it in one view. If I’m traveling and on my laptop, I have to scroll back and forth to get the full picture. A big piece of advice I would give to you if you start out with the free version is that you should definitely go through training via Hootsuite U (Hootsuite University). This will help you learn how to collaborate effectively and assign tweets and tasks, etc. to people. You’ll find different, and more sophisticated, ways to use it if you go through the training.