Running a startup is a lot of work. A LOT. Not only that, money is scarce resource you don't want to part with easily. I put together this list of 6 free apps that have helped me offload some of that work and enable me to focus on my core product without breaking the bank. Each of these tools offer entry level plans that are generous and give you a chance to validate your idea before committing to a monthly expense.
Schedule Social Media Posts
Buffer is a way to schedule social media posts at your own convenience and have them posted when your users are the most active. This allows you to either segment a portion of your day to load up your Buffer or you can add interesting content to Buffer as you find it and know they are being posted at optimal times when people will see them. Buffer also automatically tracks the analytics for each post so you can see how many followers were engaged with that post.
In a startup, you are being pulled in many different directions all at once. It is difficult to build a following on Twitter or other social media without keeping people engaged consistently throughout the day. If you're working steady on your product or offering, it can really take you out of your flow to stop, tweet, or try to be likeable several times a day.
The initial plan is free, but they offer upgrades to add integrations with RSS feeds. This enables you to easily share content from your own blog or other blogs in your niche.
Free tools to grow your website traffic
SumoMe has some awesome widgets to help grow your website traffic and email lists. The widgets are totally free and really easy to setup - you don't have to be technical or know how to code. Many of the apps revolve around building email lists and tracking engagement with your content. The Heatmaps app is especially cool as you have a visual representation of how users interact and click with your site.
Send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. No contracts, and no credit card required. It’s free forever.
As you are working on building a community around your startup, it's important to give your customers a way to stay connected. While it may seem old school, email still plays a huge role in building a following and generating interest in what you're doing. You should start collecting emails from the beginning, starting with your pre-launch landing page.
Mailchimp makes this really easy by providing integrations and widgets for most major web services you probably already use for your business (Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce). After you collect emails, use Mailchimp to design templates, send newsletters, track opens, and run A/B tests. More advanced usage, requiring a paid plan, involve sophisticated automations such as triggering emails based on behavior within your app. If a user adds items to their shopping cart, but doesn't follow through with the purchase, you can trigger a reminder email a couple days later.
They start you off with a generous free plan of 12,000 monthly emails or up to 2,000 subscribers. For most startups, this will suffice for a while. Pricing is affordable after with paid plans starting at $10 per month. Mailchimp also has a sister app, Mandrill, for transactional email (such as friend request emails, password resets, etc) that includes 12,000 free emails as well.
Segment is the single hub to collect, translate and route your customer data.
Segment gives you one tracking code and connects to hundreds of third party apps such as KissMetrics, MailChimp, MixPanel, Flurry, and more.
They have a free developer plan that supports up to 100,000 monthly visits and 20+ integrations.
Free In-Browser Photoshop
Pixlr editor is a great in-browser photo editor, with a very similar user interface to Photoshop. It is a lifesaver, especially for Linux users without access to a good photo editing software (sorry, Gimp, not going to cut it). It may not have everything that Photoshop has (I am not an advanced user, so I haven't found anything it doesn't have), but it is very close in basic functionality. Resizing, layers, filters, toolbars, keyboard shortcuts are all the same / very similar. If you've used Photoshop, you will feel very comfortable.
It is also free.
Free Email with Custom Domain