photo-online-tool“The amount of time people spend online has not increased since last year,” according to a CNET News article sourcing a report released by Forrester.  Perhaps more interesting, however, is the reason for the trend – online behavior is changing. “Engagement with the online channel has deepened,” writes Forrester analyst Jackie Anderson. “Web users are becoming savvier and are better multi-taskers.  Many know exactly where they want to go when they log in.”
While people aren’t necessarily spending more time online, the internet remains an absolutely essential part of everyday business and personal life, so what could explain this static usage?
Online users are becoming smarter, more knowledgeable and putting up with less…well…bologna to get to what they want.  Their need for immediate results has created the demand for quick, easy and (oftentimes) free services and tools that help execute and measure social engagement, marketing campaigns, business processes, news distribution, etc.
That said, we’ve come up with a list of free tools we love that make your life easier, whether you’re creating your company’s next email marketing initiative, researching the competition, or just trying to find out who’s going to your high school reunion (so you can make your “non-biased” decision based on anticipated attendance).
1.    Tiny (or is a free website that enables you to take a paragraph long URL and shorten it into well… a tiny URL.  It is especially useful for tweeting when every character matters.  You can create a login so you can easily see how many clicks your adorable, truncated URLs are receiving.
2.    Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a valuable yet often overlooked tool.  Once you’ve established a Google account, you only need to toggle Alerts and add the keywords you want to track, and the frequency in which you’d like to receive information containing your words or phrases via email.  The Alerts tool is helpful for research, brand monitoring, competitive analysis, or just keeping up with any news item that contains the word, “Britney” (we’re not judging).
3.    Picnik
Picnik is an online application for those of us who don’t have our Adobe Photoshop PhD (or a couple hundred bucks for the software). You can crop, edit, resize or adjust your images and photos including converting them into JPEGs, with a few quick and easy clicks.
4.    Hootsuite
Too many social accounts and too little time?  Use Hootsuite to manage it all for you.  See who is following you, manage lists, schedule tweets for the future, track statistics, customize URLs, and much more.  Plus, let’s be honest, the owl logo is incredibly cute.
5.   Lightscreen
Lightscreen is the open source alternative to its not-so open source counterpart SnagIt.  Lightscreen enables you grab screen captures of your entire screen, specific areas, a scrolling screen shot and more.  And it saves all of your images as editable JPEGs on your desktop.
6.   dBusinessNews is a daily news site that makes it easy to get free press release or news distribution.  The site is updated on a daily basis, and it has great local and national reach to get your message out…without draining your bank account.
7.   Klout
Ever wondered whether your social media efforts are a bunch of hooey and virtual glad-handing?  Well, Klout has developed a scoring index that measures your reach, amplification and network influence to generate a score or number.  Spark a friendly office rivalry to see who has more clout…according to Klout.
8.    StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is a great social media internet community that promotes sharing and recommending useful web pages, articles, photos and videos.  Users can also post original articles and press releases to distribute company or personal information cost-effectively.
With the speed of communications moving more rapidly every day, and prices increasing faster than you can say, “inflation,” having free and easy tools at your fingertips is just one way we’d like to make your online marketing life easier (and enhance your multimedia search for Britney Spears).
Have a favorite free tool or app that you can’t live without?  Leave a comment or tweet it

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