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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > September 2017

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Vol. 37 No. 7 — September 2017

Top Marketing Tools to Know
by Jennifer E. Burke

No matter the size of your library, you likely have a shoestring budget and limited resources. So make the best use of the tools that are available.
After presenting a well-received session on top affordable marketing tools libraries can, and should, be using for their communication and outreach efforts at Computers in Libraries 2017, I was asked to recap my favorites for Computers in Libraries’ readers. So here goes… 

I wish I could share all 25-plus tools I showed in 45 minutes at the event, but, alas, that’s not possible. Here are my top must-have tools and then a roundup of as many tools as the editors let me fit in.


Having good-looking images or graphics in your marketing is not optional. We process images a lot faster and with greater focus than we do text. Use this to your advantage, and draw people in with attractive visual content.

As a serious amateur photographer all my life, I admit that my go-to photo tool is Adobe’s Lightroom via a Creative Cloud license. But I still use other fast, simple tools for various projects.

Pixlr Express ( is a free, user-friendly, basic photo-editing tool with filters and some effects. There are more advanced features in Editor, such as layers and color replacement. It offers desktop and mobile versions.

Gimp ( is a free, open source image editor that’s very similar to Photoshop, with nearly the same learning curve. If you can use Photoshop, you can use Gimp for the same actions. It won’t hurt to try it, since it’s free and you are always going to need graphics.

Canva ( has photo-editing capabilities, along with the wonders of its graphic design simplicity. To begin, select Filter, and then go to Advanced (adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation; add a touch of blur; or use the built-in filters). I can’t say enough about how life-changing Canva is for making good design accessible and affordable—go sign up.

Coolors ( is easy to use to create color palettes or to find complementary colors for existing brand colors. You can find inspiration in pre-made palettes.


We aren’t all photographers or videographers, and sometimes, we can’t take or use pictures of our own patrons or community in our marketing—but we still need good-looking images. However, I find that most of the big stock photo sites are so generic. Ugh. Don’t use boring, unrepresentative, unimaginative photos in projects anymore. Try these sources instead, which offer photos freely, mostly under Creative Commons licenses (CC0;

Unsplash (CC0; is a side project started by artists, designers, and photographers years ago that has grown to be one of largest free photo sites (with some of the most gorgeous photos). The tagging and metadata here is still a little lacking, but the quality makes up for it.

Pexels ( curates CC0 photos from other places on the web and has about 30,000 right now. Photographers can also contribute directly to the site.

#WoCinTech ( offers a set of photos to show the full representation of women in all aspects of technology work. It is available under a CC (Attribution) license.

Pond5 ( is very affordable. It’s easy to search and filter (including faceted searching) HD royalty-free video stock (e.g., more than 2,000 video clips for $30 or less for the term “library”). It also sells photos, sound effects, and music. You can subscribe to an email list and get tips, tutorials, and a free HD video clip each week.

AudioJungle ( offers higher-quality, royalty-free stock music and sound effects in a range of genres and styles. Users can search or browse offerings from Envato Market (the company also has brands that sell web themes, graphics, photos, etc.). Audio clips range from $1 to $39 each, but are $19 on average.


It’s hot and getting hotter. You don’t need fancy gear or expensive editing software to create share-worthy videos to highlight and promote your library. The following are cloud-based tools or apps that you can use anywhere—so no more excuses.

WeVideo ( lets you upload and edit video that you took with any device or camera. You can add an extra audio track or music, make cuts and shorten clips, add transitions and simple effects, and even collaborate with videos from friends or colleagues. Why waste time learning more powerful and complicated software when you can have a tool that’s available anywhere? There’s a free account (5 minutes of video per month, watermarked), a paid account that’s $5 per month (up to 30 minutes of video per month, 720p HD), and an unlimited account that’s $8 a month and has unlimited videos, 1080p and 4K HD, and premium editing.

Biteable ( is online software for creating attention-grabbing animations to add to other videos or use on social media. There are templates, customizable colors, and text. You can also add your own images or logo. It takes a little time to learn to use. The free version has a watermark, and the HD non-watermarked version is $99 per year.

Audacity ( is not a video tool, but it complements one. It is free, open source audio-recording software that you can use for editing sound, recording, and podcasting. It works exceptionally across OSs.


We know that social media is an important piece of our marketing plans, and we need to manage it well. Since each social media management tool has its own quirks and perks, including different results (yes, really), I recommend trying more than one. I use a combination of Hootsuite, Buffer, Social Jukebox, and a paid tool called MissingLttr. There is no perfect social media tool.

Hootsuite ( helps keep your social media better organized, and it measures the results of your efforts from one dashboard. You can manage multiple profiles, auto-schedule future posts, monitor lists and library mentions, and save searches. The browser extension automatically populates text for sharing. Hootsuite is one of a few schedulers that has official access to Instagram. The free plan includes three social profiles, basic analytics, and scheduling (long range, but individually). The professional plan starts at $10 per month for up to 10 profiles, and it has enhanced analytics and bulk message scheduling.

Buffer ( is helpful in addition to Hootsuite because it handles inline image posting better, often leading to higher engagement. It’s easy to see which items shared via Buffer had better results and to reshare them with a minor tweak. The free plan allows only one social profile per platform and 10 scheduled posts. You can pay $10 a month for up to 10 social profiles and 100 planned posts per profile.

Tagboard ( allows you to search hashtags from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more. See what else others are saying via the hashtags you are using or interested in. It is smart to double-check before you use that tag in your post to make sure it means what you think it does. You can filter the results by network, and you can save them.

Audiense ( is a social metrics and analytics tool with robust data, even with the free account. Use it to analyze your social followers and find more like them, especially on Twitter. You can discover when is the best time for you to tweet, how much influence your followers have, what your followers have in common, and more.

LikeAlzyer ( is a simple, free Facebook metrics tool that allows you to check any Facebook page metrics (no need for authorization—just link to the page). It grades out of 100 and compares a page to what it believes are likely competitor pages. Its reports include suggestions for improvement.


Clarity in communication is key to marketing success. But we aren’t all natural-born writers or editors. Here are tools to help beat distraction while writing and to help clean up our work afterward.

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer ( checks and grades blog posts, emails, fliers, and newsletters to determine if they have good, concise, attention-grabbing headlines.

Grammarly ( finds and fixes errors that Word misses, improves clarity, offers synonyms, and gives feedback on the errors you make. This free, all-in-one tool has a nifty browser extension, so you can check your work in your email, on Facebook, or anywhere you write online.


Trello ( is a visual organizer and a great way to remember ideas, collect supplies, create checklists, manage a project, and get your thought process in order. It makes it easy to organize anything you want to do. You can track all your to-dos in one place. It has a mobile version, and I frequently hop between the web and iPad versions.

Asana ( is another visual-based project management and team collaboration tool. I’m exploring it further because I’m a visual person and like the progress tracker. It has a clean dashboard and movable cards and lists. You can give team members assignments and see a clear visual tracking of project progress. It’s free for up to 15 team members, with unlimited projects and tasks and a basic dashboard.

Typeform ( is an online survey app that is better designed than SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. It has a cleaner interface, more interactivity, and (it claims) higher completion rates because it is more engaging. Use it to create contact forms, polls, surveys, quizzes, tests, registration forms, and more. It integrates with other apps via Zapier (e.g., you can automatically download results to Google Sheets). The free, basic plan lets you create as many typeforms as you want. Pro accounts include logic jumping.

Zoom ( is a tool for webinars, web conferencing, and videoconferencing. The free plan allows for unlimited 1:1 web calls and 40 minutes for groups of up to 50 people. You can schedule and record meetings. Any meeting participant has screen sharing and chatting abilities, and participants can join by phone. Paid plans start at $15 a month and include unlimited time meetings for up to 50 people and cloud storage.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of free software, apps, and tools that can help with so many aspects of marketing—all without breaking the budget. No matter the size of your library, you likely have a shoestring budget and limited resources. So make the best use of the tools that are available. What are you waiting for?

Jennifer E. Burke ( is president of IntelliCraft Research, LLC (, a Philadelphia-based strategic marketing consultancy for libraries. She’s a former advertising executive, a member of multiple library associations, and a trainer on strategic storytelling in marketing. Burke holds a B.S. in communications with a TV/film minor from Northwestern University and an M.S.L.I.S. from Drexel University. She spent 5 years as an IMLS Fellow in Drexel’s information studies Ph.D. program working on digital libraries and education.