Although my website and the articles I write are primarily about Microsoft, once in a while I feel the need to write about other software or services that I’ve found and have crept in to my weekly routines. I’ve got six I want to share that have helped me become more productive and/or helped me with building and focusing in on my own personal brand. You might already be using a few, or maybe even all of them, but hopefully you will find something new that piques your interest.
DISCLAIMER: I am not getting paid to promote any of these brands, I just really rate them highly! For those that have an affiliate link, I have used those. For this I might get a discount but nothing more!
In 2019 I started doing some Forms Pro Webinars. I wanted to have some easy links for people to use to download and access the webinar invite rather than the long Microsoft Teams meeting urls that are created by default. Rather than using something like bitly just to shorten the link, I wanted to make them a bit ‘prettier’. I stumbled across Rebrandly. It is a service you can connect to your own domain and create your own personalised shortened urls which you can then track and share. For example, the link to a page for my subscribers to update their preferences is long with a series of letters and numbers in it, not pretty if I ever want to share it anywhere. So, I have https://link.meganvwalker.com/content which looks good, and is on point with my personal brand. Oh, and best of all, the pricing structure has an amazing free option, which is the one I am using.
I use WordPress for my website. For many, it’s good practice to have an online form so people can contact you. I’ve used so many different plugins over the years but recently switched to Cognito Forms. The reason for switching came about with the recent MVP Advent Calendar I launched for December 2019. Many of the MVP’s had contests that needed an online form for visitors to complete to enter. I wanted something simple and easy, that I could totally customise and keep each form totally separate. Again, there are a ton of different solutions that achieve this, but I have been really impressed with the features of Cognito Forms. I pay for the Pro version ($10 a month) currently, but only got that for a couple of the features for the advent calendar, so may even drop back to the free version. If you are interested in checking it out, you can use this referral link and you’ll gt a free month: https://link.meganvwalker.com/cognito-forms (and why yes, I did create that link using Rebrandly 😉 ).
You might have heard of a little thing called Power Automate. Before this I was using IFTTT and loved it, so it’s only natural that at some point I would check out Zapier. It’s similar in the sense that you can create automated workflows, or Zaps as they are called. I used it a few times for the MVP Advent Calendar, and have also used it for part of a process for my new Forms Pro Online Course. There are two apps (think connectors in Power Automate) that I use a lot. One is for Cognito Forms, and the other for MailChimp. I’ve found that there are more options available for the MailChimp app specifically which has made my life a ton easier when trying to automate things. I currently use the free version which is fine for now, but only allows up to 5 zaps, so may need to upgrade in the future.
I came across TubeBuddy one day when I was trying to get some data out of YouTube, I wanted to download everything, and it didn’t seem possible. I found this tool which provided me the ability and so much more. You can use the TubeBuddy chrome extension which then provides you with a really cool experience when you are logged in to YouTube. You’ll start seeing ‘Channelytics’ when you are on your own channel, but also when you are viewing other channels. This provides you with a comparison of subscribers, videos and views over the past 30 days. There is a cost, no free version available, but it’s a really great tool with fantastic insights. There are also discounts if you have less than 1,000 subscribers, if you pay yearly, have more than 1 channel or are part of a non-profit.
Buffer is not new, and it’s likely you’ve heard of it, or are even using it already yourself. You can use it for free to schedule and publish updates out to your social media profiles, or go for one of their paid options. Rather than paying for this, I use an awesome WordPress plugin called WordPress to Buffer Pro created by a company called WP Zinc. It provides me with the ability to schedule posts to go out directly from each blog post either when it publishes, and/or when I update it. Buffer itself is awesome, but this plugin gives me exactly what I need in terms of being able to post my own content as and when I want to.
MailChimp is my last suggestion. I’ve used it since July 2017 when I first launched my blog. Anyone I talk to about starting a website with a blogging element, I suggest starting with a way for people to subscribe to your content. Give them a choice on how they want to know you have a new article to read. For me, I like getting stuff sent to my mail box. I miss posts on Twitter and LinkedIn and for those who write great content, I want to be sure I am notified. Although I have been using MailChimp for several years now, I was using it badly. I had everyone in one ‘bucket’ with no way to separate out what people might truly be interested in. I also started with just a newsletter and in 2019 added in webinars, courses, consulting and the advent calendar. To make sure people got the right things, I had to delve in to understanding how to use groups, segments and tags correctly. You can use the free version for quite a while before you get to the point of needing to pay, which tends to be when you have a lot of subscribers, so it’s not a bad reason to cough up some money right?
So, those are my six suggestions for 2020. Are you using any of them already? Any you might check out? I also love hearing about other tools people might be using. What have you found that is either free or low cost that you couldn’t live without now? Would love to hear in the comments below! Share with others!