Modern content marketing is a complex beast that needs a variety of tools to achieve even mid-sized engagement figures.
Tiny brands might be able to get away with manual posting schedules and simple content creation tools. But later in the game, you’ll need to make use of some of the many content marketing tools that can automate your content distribution, or help out with the production side.
You don’t have to resort to the popular (and possibly expensive) tools to get things done, though. Here are some underdog tools that can help you achieve your content goals!
Sparkpost is the perfect response to major email marketing platforms paywalling some of their best features. With Sparkpost, even the free tier (15,000 emails for 30 days, 500 emails per month forever) has all of the features of the premium plans.
These include predictive insights, transactional emails, real-time analytics and performance data, and even dynamic templates. It also features a powerful API and a large community of developers, who can extend its functionality even more.
With Sparkpost, you can get your content where it needs to be seen, and figure out what content is performing well and sending users down the sales funnel effectively. With 99.99% delivery and uptime, you can be assured that your emails are getting to where they need to be as well.
An alternative to: Mailchimp
Sparkpost actually performed an awesome campaign to hook Mandrill users after MailChimp announced that Mandrill’s transactional emails would now be a paid feature of their main service. With all the features needed to compete against MailChimp, Sparkpost is a true underdog alternative.
Buffer allows you to manage your content across multiple social media networks, cross-sharing links and scheduling posts as you need them. It also allows for Pinterest posting, which is a feature not commonly found on other social media management platforms, and has awesome extensions like Pablo for overlaying text.
Buffer also has a great browser extension that allows you to immediately share content to your networks that you see while browsing. And of course, it comes with a bevy of analytics tools and everything else you’d need in this sort of platform, all wrapped up in an elegant user interface.
An alternative to: HootSuite
HootSuite is the usual go-to for platforms that let you manage posts on multiple social networks. Buffer is somewhat easier to use and also has a simpler pricing plan.
Visual content is hugely more engaging and shareable than text-based content. Stencil allows you to leverage this, letting you create beautiful image content with a simple interface.
Stencil provides you with over 2.1 million stock photos, thousands of fonts, hundreds of thousands of searchable quotes, over a million icons, and support for custom logos and fonts.
Stencil is specifically built to make it easier than ever to create social media content. To make this happen, it features fast installation speed, hundreds of quick templates for ready deployment, and even Buffer integration for scheduled social sharing.
An alternative to: Canva
Canva is also easy to use and is far more versatile than Stencil. However, Stencil is cheaper, quicker to deploy specifically for social media images, and even has a free tier of 10 images per month.
Proper grammar is essential to your content’s SEO and readability. Bad grammar in copy is associated with poor quality content, and will ruin your credibility!
With ProWritingAid, you can not only check your articles for grammatical and spelling errors, but also analyze your text to see how it matches different styles, such as academic, blog post, or business. You can also check your content to see if it complies with regional English, such as UK or US English. It also comes with a plagiarism checker.
An alternative to: Grammarly
ProWritingAid costs $50 a year at its most expensive (1 year) option, which is already cheaper than the cheapest Grammarly plan, which weighs in at $139.95. It gets even cheaper as you prepay for longer periods, with the option for a $175 lifetime subscription
Discovering ideas for content marketing can be a pretty sudden, unexpected experience at times, as you randomly come across them whether you’re actively researching or idly browsing. Instapaper lets you capture these ideas with the honest-to-goodness touch of a button, no fiddling or clipping necessary. You can save articles to your Instapaper account, stripped of images and ads—just that pure textual action.
An alternative to: Evernote
Instapaper is fast and simple, stripping away all the other personal note-taking features of Evernote and doing one thing very well.
As your team gets larger, managing it effectively and distributing content distribution across social channels becomes more and more important—and oftentimes, more complicated.
Sprout Social keeps things simple by allowing you to assign individual social management tasks to each member, and getting real-time reporting and analytics in an elegant workflow view. You also get automation tools for social media, including chatbot builders, automatic post queueing with send time optimization, and more.
An alternative to: CoSchedule, HootSuite
Sprout Social boasts a comprehensive array of content marketing tools that competes against multiple platforms, and does it all while providing a simpler, less cluttered interface compared to the competition.
If you need to perform more advanced image manipulation, GIMP is an excellent free and open-source alternative to the very obvious competition out there. It features compositing, layer-based editing, advanced photo enhancement, a diverse array of plugins, and support for importing and exporting all major image formats.
An alternative to: Adobe Photoshop, what else?
Let’s get this out of the way: Photoshop is pretty darn good. However, it’s also pretty darn expensive. GIMP has almost all of its features at zero cost. It’s a little harder to use, but no less powerful.
If content is king, then video content is even kinger. More consumers want to see brands produce videos than any other kind of content. Biteable makes video content production a simple drag-and-drop affair, made even better thanks to a large catalogue of templates, stock footage, music, and the ability to easily add branding.
An alternative to: Shakr, Adobe Premiere and other video editing tools
Biteable costs just $23 a month when you’re billed yearly. If your only objective is to make quick but shareable and high-quality video content, then you can get this and do away with pricier pro-level software.
9. DaVinci Resolve
Making advanced professional-grade video content often requires tools like compositing and color grading, which are only present on expensive video editing suites.
Or are they? With DaVinci Resolve, you get color correction, 3D compositing, keying, rotoscoping, and many others, on top of non-linear editing, all in one free package. It has almost all the features of the $300 Studio version and other professional software—certainly everything you need for your video content creation.
An alternative to: DaVinci Resolve Studio (paid version), Adobe Premiere and other video editing tools
Writing your content directly in an online CMS like WordPress is standard practice these days, but there’s still nothing quite like having control over actual files in your physical machine. For that, you’ll probably be producing content on an office suite of some kind.
LibreOffice is a free and open-source fork of the original FOSS office suite, OpenOffice. It’s got equivalent tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, database management, and mathematical formulas. It supports creation and editing of all major formats in each of its component products.
An alternative to: Microsoft Office
11. Google Drive (as an online collaborative office suite)
Google Drive might not exactly be an underdog these days, but as an office suite, it’s an alternative to the online versions of Microsoft Office’s online tools. It features collaborative editing for documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, as well as online storage and communications tools.
You can upgrade Google Drive to a true Office 365-suite by switching over to G Suite.
An alternative to: Microsoft Office Online (free), Office 365
Highly shareable evergreen content is one of the most important things you can ever create as a content marketer. Infographics are among of the best candidates for evergreen work, as they’re highly informative and visually engaging.
Piktochart makes infographic creation a breeze, thanks to professional-looking templates and collaborative editing tools that allow your whole team to work on an infographic.
An alternative to: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva
Piktochart zeroes in on infographic creation, pretty much to the exclusion of anything else. The competition might be better at making presentations and other graphic design work, but Piktochart can easily be your go-to for easy yet high-quality infographic work.
IFTTT, short for “IF This Then That,” is well-known for its ability to automate users’ lives using “recipes,” or sequences of automated actions that are triggered by user-defined conditions.
This automation capability allows content marketers to perform a variety of tasks, ranging from cross-posting content across various social networks, to scheduling posts via calendar apps.
IFTTT’s highly granular control over triggers and actions allows you to fully customize your content distribution, as well as make saving interesting articles a breeze.
An alternative to: Evernote, CoSchedule
IFTTT’s community provides thousands of downloadable recipes that you can use for your content marketing, that can even cover the functions of many larger content marketing tools. It’s totally free, too.
14. SmallSEOTools.com – Plagiarism Checker
Plagiarism is one of the greatest sins in content marketing, and a single nasty hit is all it takes to send your SEO ranking and credibility down the gutter.
With the free Plagiarism Checker at SmallSEOTools.com, you can test your written content against the entire Web for plagiarism. It’s a perfect tool for verifying outsourced content, and also to check if your own content is following your sources too closely.
An alternative to: Copyscape
Copyscape is an extremely powerful plagiarism checker, but it also has a cost associated with it per search, which can ramp up as you keep using it. SmallSEOTools.com’s checker can perform basic checks at no cost.
15. Hemingway App
Ernest Hemingway was a master of writing simply and concisely, and his style would be a perfect match for modern SEO-friendly readability practices. Short sentences and paragraphs, active voice, and less complicated words are the order of the day here.
With the Hemingway App, you can analyze your content and identify ways through which you can simplify it and make it more readable. The App will highlight any problematic sentences or fragments, using colors corresponding to concerns that can be addressed. You’ll also get a running total of things to fix, as well as a readability score that corresponds to a grade level reading ability.
The Hemingway App is totally free online, with a desktop app that costs $19.99. The desktop app includes integration with WordPress and Medium for instant posting, as well as exporting to major file formats.
An alternative to: Grammarly
Grammarly includes a readability feature that is similar to what the Hemingway App offers, though it comes with a hefty monthly cost.
While other content distribution apps give you a lot of control over your posting schedules, Edgar takes out a lot of the work by offering automatic status update generation for articles and blogs. It also streamlines posting with a scheduling system that works off libraries of content which you categorize yourself.
You also get automated resharing, and you can recycle your updates with status update variations.
An alternative to: HootSuite, CoSchedule
When’s the best time to tweet your content? There’s no hard and fast rule for determining this, and personalized insights based on your audience and activity is the best way to get the answer.
Tweriod analyzes your followers and your tweets and makes a report for you that suggests the best time to post. It provides both general statistics and hourly graphs to help you get an idea of your tweets’ success.
An alternative to: Union Metrics Twitter Assistant
Twitter’s official partner, Union Metrics, has a tool that provides similar functionality. However, Tweriod is still one of the top Twitter marketing tools out there.
Stock photos are an important part of visual content creation, but they can be prohibitively expensive. Pixabay offers over a million free stock photos and videos that can be used even without crediting the creators.
You can also give back to the community by uploading your own stock photos, giving up the rights to them in the process.
An alternative to: Shutterstock
Shutterstock sells a mix of royalty-free stock photos, and images that are cleared for media or non-commercial use. In contrast, every image on Pixabay is cleared for all kinds of use, and is free.
Podcasts aren’t a very common content marketing channel, but they can be powerful tools if created and marketed well. With Audacity, you get powerful, pro-level single-track recording and a multitude of plugins to extend functionality, all in a free and open-source package.
An alternative to: Logic Pro, Adobe Audition, GarageBand
Nineteen underdog ways to create, manage, and share content—and still there are so many alternative tools out there, both bigger and smaller. Yet all the automation, intuitive platforms, and fully-featured software suites in the world won’t help you if your topics aren’t targeted or engaging.
Your content must be informed by data-driven insights into your audience and niche. With Zag, you get a whole host of tools that can provide you with information from forum engagement, social listening, topical research and more, all in one unified platform.
Check out our apps and see how Zag can help you level up your content marketing game!