“I don’t like a bargain” said no one ever. You’ll often find me scouring the aisles at T.J. Maxx or Nordstrom Rack for a good deal like a hungry raccoon hunting down its next meal, so it’s no surprise that I’m writing an article on how to keep costs down on social media (my favorite topic).

It doesn’t matter if you are at a small firm, a mid-sized, or large firm, today everyone is looking to keep costs down and to maximize the latest technologies that will enhance marketing efforts and streamline processes while effectively engaging with clients.

Almost two years ago I moved from Big Law to a terrific, entrepreneurial mid-size firm. Along with the move came a more limited budget and a smaller in-house team, which meant that I had to become more nimble, resourceful and creative when it came to just about everything. I make every marketing dollar count that much more when working within a tighter budget, and as a result, I’m always on the hunt for new technologies that will make my life easier and my marketing efforts better.

The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to save time or a buck thanks to some really cool new apps and online tools that will help you differentiate your firm and give you a competitive edge. Take a look:

  1. Canva: Social media posts with images gain more views and engagement, period. But these images must be correctly sized for social media. I personally don’t believe that you should post anything to social media without an image if you want your post to be noticed. So, for all of you non-designers out there, you can easily create and post a custom image to your social media channels using my favorite online design tool, Canva. This terrific site, which has an accompanying app for iOS and Android users, enables you to create perfectly sized social media graphics with eye-catching headlines and layouts, and has hundreds of pre-designed templates (or you can create your own from scratch). It’s easy to add text or your logo to a design. You can create invitations, ads, headers, letters, magazines, resumes, presentations, eBooks as well. Oh and did I mention that many of the design templates on Canva are free? Score! It does have a paid option for $12.95 per person per month for an amped-up work version. I’ll just say that if I (someone who cannot even color within the lines and has no creative talent whatsoever) can create awesome graphics on Canva, so can you.
  2. Crello: In the same vein as Canva, Crello is a newer graphic design tool for creating social media, web and print images. It has 30 different formats and 10,000 free and ready-to-use templates for creating graphics (there are some paid options available for a nominal cost). Similar to Canva, you can create a graphic from scratch or use one of the site’s existing templates. One of its great features is that you can upload your own fonts, images and apply filters. The templates are already pre-sized for social media as well as for blogs, cards, posters, flyers, ads, etc.
  3. Unsplash: Consider this web site your gift from the photography community. Unsplash is an online database of high-resolution, watermark-free images that are free for use. With hundreds of thousands of images from which to choose, it won’t be hard to find one that will fit your photography needs.
  4. Infogram: This tool is my new best friend. It creates engaging (and interactive) infographics and reports in just minutes. Dip your toes by trying a free subscription, which gives you the ability to create up to 10 projects. If you find yourself hooked, a monthly subscription costs just $19 to create up to 100(!) projects.
  5. Ripl: This app enables you to take simple images and turn them into quote animations – or in other words, you can create Canva-like social media images but with animated features. There is a free version and a paid version that costs $9.99 per month. (The benefit to the paid version is that is the only way you can remove their watermark on each image, and you can replace it with your own logo.) You can add music to the posts (your own or theirs) and add your logo. Available for iOS and Android users.
  6. PicMonkey: A great, cheaper alternative to Photoshop is online photo editing tool PicMonkey, which offers cool effects such as photo filters at just $3.99 per month. PicMonkey is kind of like the Photoshop for dummies – it is really easy to use, enabling you to create photo collages, edit photos as well as access fully customizable templates that can be easily uploaded to social media directly from its mobile app.
  7. Word Swag: You no longer need Photoshop or a graphic designer to help you create visually arresting content, which is a very powerful way to communicate with your target audiences. Word Swag is an app that enables both iOS and Android users to create visuals that include eye-catching typography and images right from your mobile phone.
  8. Missinglettr: If you have a blog, Missinglettr is a great tool to help you create unique social media marketing campaigns that are spread out over the course of a year. Using your blog RSS feed, campaigns are created minutes after a blog post is published. Missinglettr also extracts different images from blog content to accompany your content. You review and approve each piece of content and image before it’s posted. I don’t know about you but automatically turning blog posts into bite-sized social media campaigns would be a huge time saver for me and my small internal team. This is a great way to repurpose evergreen content. Also, Missinglettr pricing is very reasonable (there are three price plans and one of them is free!) in comparison to other social media automation tools, making it a very appealing option.
  9. Typito has been described as “Canva for video.” It is web based drag-and-drop tool to create video explainers with attractive typography, images and brand layouts.
  10. Anchor Videos lets iOS and Android users quickly turn audio recordings into animated videos that are optimized for social media. The word-by-word transcription syncs with audio. The best part? It’s free! Food for thought: This would be a great way to repurpose a lawyer transcript from a press interview or a CLE presentation.
  11. Story Slicer helps you split long videos into short clips so that you can post them as stories on Instagram and Facebook. It conveniently saves them into your camera roll. The cost? A mere $1.99 in the app store. I personally think I’ll get a lot of use out of this one!
  12. Adioma: While not free (pricing levels vary, but plans are either $39 or $69 per month), this nifty tool enables users to easily create an infographic without having to hire a graphic designer. Simply upload your text and using generative infographic templates (the timeline, tree, grid and cycle), this brilliant site will build an infographic to adapt to your text (so you can add as much content as you like). You can customize fonts, colors and icons, and add your logo or an illustration. The resulting infographic is then easily downloadable for posting to social media.
  13. Hashtagify.me: Popular and relevant hashtags can extend the reach of your firm and its lawyers on key social media networks. If your content is great and if you use hashtags correctly, your firm can attract more followers. A great (and free!) online tool to help you find trending hashtags is hashtagify.me. It is essentially a hashtag search/discovery engine. It gives you some basic analytics too. Try it and you’ll thank me later!
  14. Tweetroot: This free iPhone app will enable you to create a tag or word cloud from a specific Twitter account’s tweets. Tweetroot pulls in a stream of recent tweets and analyzes what words are being used most frequently across them. From this data, it then creates a colorful collage that highlights the top recurring words in the tweets. Tweetroot has more than 35 color palettes and more than 20 fonts that you can mix and match to customize your word clouds. When you’re done, you can easily share your creations via social media. Currently only available to iOS users.
  15. Planable is a late addition to this story and was brought to my attention by its founder, who saw this story on LinkedIn (talk about the power of social media!). It’s a very cool social media content collaboration platform that simplifies and speeds up the way you manage and post social media content by improving collaboration and communication among teams, eliminating lengthy back and forth threads and streamlining the approval process, enabling you to get your content distributed faster. With Planable, you have a single platform that allows you and your team to work together on social media posts. You can preview social media posts as a team as though they were live, so you no longer need to take screenshots or create Photoshop mockups. Planable ranges in cost from $14 to $99 per month depending on the number of employees on your team and the workspaces you need. Each option gives you the option to create an unlimited number of posts. It’s available to iOS and Android users.
  16. Google Alert: This may sound basic to some of you, but I bring this one up because so many business professionals do not take advantage of setting up Google searches on their top clients and prospects. Google Alerts are free! They can provide great insights into your clients (and prospects) and give you a great excuse to reach out to them. Maybe they just acquired a new building or completed a merger – congratulate them! Or perhaps you saw that they may be in a thorny legal or business situation, gently reach out to them and offer your expertise if it seems appropriate. Being aware of major developments and news affecting your clients’ organizations enables you to better anticipate their needs. Such timely touchpoints enable you to stay top of mind with important connections. Bottom line: Don’t let your clients and VIP contacts people forget about you.
  17. LinkedIn: Did I forget about LinkedIn? No way, it just seems like such a no-brainer to me, but I will dedicate this last bullet to reminding you about its merits, in case you forgot about them or you haven’t been regularly using the platform. Every professional should be using LinkedIn every day. LinkedIn continues to be the most important social media channel for law firm business development and professional networking. Why? Because it enables you to quickly build and grow relationships, strengthen your brand and stay top of mind with key individuals in your professional network regardless of geography. So, use it smartly and use it often. Connect and engage with former colleagues and classmates. Share content that your firm produces, or better yet, content that you wrote especially during peak times (that’s during commuting hours in the am and pm when you have a captive audience). Download the LinkedIn app ASAP if you haven’t yet (it’s free!). Note: I have never seen LinkedIn directly lead to new business more than I have in the last year (hint – use the notifications section to give you reasons to be in touch with VIP contacts in your network on job moves, anniversaries, etc. – information is power here!). While there are monthly paid subscription options for LinkedIn, the free version will usually meet most of the average business person’s needs unless you are job searching or doing a lot of prospecting.

I hope that this article has given you some inspiration and ideas, and some new tools that you can incorporate into your social media technology strategy. At the end of the day, every single social media marketing effort should be designed to support your organization’s business development efforts. Try them out and let me know what you think, better yet, post to social about what you think of them!

Originally published by JD Supra. Read the full article.

Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 16 years, she has been working with some of the most prominent law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating, business development, internal and external communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multi-channel content marketing and thought leadership campaigns. She has a diverse range of experience in both Big Law and mid-size/small-law firms.