The brands that stand out today are the ones that know how to get people going by producing clickable, shareable, irresistible media for their audiences to consume.
Whether we’re talking about content marketing or social media marketing, this newfound focus is turning companies into producers, creators, and editors invested in content.
But even without the budgets of all those bigger brands, there are plenty of free tools that can help you feed your audience's craving for fresh content.
On their own, these tools are just tools. But put the right ones in creative hands, and you open up new ways to approach content marketing that can help you grow an engaged audience.
Whether you’re starting out or taking off with your business, here are 7 free tools (and some alternatives and resources) to help you create content that's hard not to share.
But first, why do we share content?
Sharing content is so natural we seldom stop to think about it.
But understanding why we share will help validate your creative instincts as you pursue content ideas that are likely to spread.
According to a survey conducted by CoSchedule, we share:
- To get the word out about causes or brands (84%)
- To grow and nourish our personal relationships with others (78%)
- For a sense of self-fulfillment and participating in the world (69%)
- To define ourselves to others (68%)
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others (49%)
But beyond these data points, what I've learned from creating things for the internet (for fun and for brands), is that people generally:
- Will tag others in their social circles who might relate to or find interest in a piece of content.
- Appreciate being taught something they didn't know before and like passing on the knowledge.
- Are likely to click and share content that appeals to current newsworthy topics or celebrities in your space.
- Don’t have a lot of time, so you need to hook them fast, from the first thing they see (usually a headline and image) and deliver value efficiently.
- Love to laugh and are more likely to share something that can make them chuckle.
- Love to share their opinions and engage with controversy.
- Enjoy being inspired and motivated through content.
With these things in mind, let’s take a look at some of the free tools that can help you raise the bar on your content marketing efforts.
Make a Meme for Memes
Memes, in today’s internet culture, are inside jokes that are easy to emulate and hard to nail. But at least they’re not a problem to make.
Memes aren't for every brand, but they're a good way to resonate with a millennial audience if your brand has a sense of humor.
The key is to find a meme that is either timeless or trending right now and adapt the source to suit your needs as a brand while delighting your audience.
You can use Make a Meme's Meme Generator to make the standard memes that most people are familiar with in no time at all.
Know Your Meme is a great resource for finding relevant memes to capitalize on and templates you can use to go beyond the traditional caption meme, and leverage some more obscure ones (you can add text easily in Powerpoint or KeyNote).
Lumen5 for Editorial Videos
Editorial videos are a great alternative or complement to long-form articles and even short-form listicles.
Because they are videos, you can upload them natively to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other platforms to take advantage of the audiences across multiple platforms.
Lumen5 is a nifty tool that makes it easy to create these videos.
You can import a blog post or script (or start from scratch), choose from a library of stock photos and music, make tweaks to the text and pacing, and upload your video where you want it to live.
As an example, here's a quick video I made based on a blog post I wrote in the past.
Fake iPhone Text Generator for Dialogue
At some point, you've probably seen screen grabs of funny iPhone conversations on the internet.
Instead of trying to create these conversations manually, you can use the Fake iPhone Text Generator to help you turn them around in seconds.
You can use these images to give your audience a reason to laugh, announce an upcoming event, or communicate creatively through dialogue.
GIPHY for GIFs
Whether you call them "gifs" or "jifs", there's no denying that GIFs are a versatile type of micro-content and a great way to grab attention.
With GIPHY, you can access a library of existing GIFs or create your own from a YouTube video or footage you shot yourself. It gives you a ton of editing options and the ability to embed your GIF hosted via GIPHY or download the source file to upload elsewhere yourself.
You can use these GIFs to entertain your audience, explain how to do something (like use a website or app), or engage with people in Facebook comments, or on Twitter.
Canva for Quotes
Quote graphics, borrowed words made beautiful through design, are a great source of inspiration and motivation for many people.
And if motivation is what your brand is about (e.g. your products relate to fitness or productivity), you should consider integrating quote graphics into your social media publishing.
Canva is a great tool for making quick designs (the image above took me a literal minute to make). But it's especially handy for social posts since the optimal dimensions for each specific social platform (e.g. Instagram) are already laid out for you.
For thought-provoking quotes to use, look no further than Brainy Quotes: a repository of unforgettable lines covering a range of topics by a variety of authors, speakers, and famous people.
Qzzr for Quizzes
Whether they’re holding up a mirror to tell us who we are, testing our knowledge, or diagnosing our needs, quizzes are fun and interactive pieces of content that are actually a lot easier to make than you might think.
There are a quite a few different quiz making tools, but Qzzr is one of the most well-known and is fairly useful even on its free plan.
If your quizzes really resonate with your audience, you can consider a paid plan to start using them to get emails and convert leads. Depending on how you crafted your quiz, you can even use the answers to build "lead profiles" based on the information quiz-takers offer up, such as their favorite color and style preferences.
Qzzr lets you create 3 types of quizzes:
- Personality Quizzes: Based on your answers, these quizzes match you to a personality type, celebrity or character. They tell you a bit about yourself and people love to share their results, whether they agree with them or not.
- Checklist Quizzes: These quizzes simply give you an outcome based on how many items you check off, usually to help you gauge where you are on a scale.
- Graded Quizzes: These are quizzes in the most traditional sense—a test you take to prove what you know (think trivia). But instead of being at the top of your class, you get to showoff to your social circle.
Quizzes offer up the potential to create a viral loop through social sharing: You take the quiz, get your result, share it with your friends, and some of them might also take the quiz, and help repeat the process.
Alternatively, you can use Typeform to create good-looking quizzes, calculators, and other interactive tools.
Playbuzz for Interactive Content
Last but definitely not least is Playbuzz: a platform that offers a whole suite of interactive content creation tools you can use for free.
Its focus is on letting you create interactive, embeddable Buzzfeed-style content that hooks your audience and is built for sharing. With Facebook comments and sharing integrated into the experience, it offers an inherently social-friendly experience.
There are a ton of possibilities and use cases for this tool. You can create a quiz to guide your audience through a purchase decision. Or maybe test their knowledge of your niche. Or even provide a short slideshow listicle of tips. Or write a Buzzfeed-esque post.
You also get analytics to measure the performance of the interactive content you create, and the opportunity to distribute your work to Playbuzz's network.
Browse through some examples from the Playbuzz community to see what you can create, or check out how Pride Designz used the platform in this episode of Shopify Masters.
What's your tool kit for creating content?
Content marketing can be so much more than just blogging. You can serve up original, interactive, engaging, funny, or novel content that helps you stand out on the internet and stand apart from your competitors.
Coupled with great ideas, the tools above are handy for keeping your content marketing and social media publishing fresh and exciting over time.
But there are countless types of content out there and tools for creating them, from infographic makers to video editing apps.
What content creation tools do you find useful? Share them in the comments below!