how to create content that captivates audiences

Content Creation or the “material people contribute to the online world” is an ever-changing art. Social media apps like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube allow users boundless opportunities for creativity. But, only so few people rise to the top by finding their niche + a voice that entertains or educates viewers.

As a marketing agency representing a number of CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands, it’s vital we stay agile when crafting content, keeping our clients a cut above the rest. Through this series of blog posts, we’ll share our why behind creative tooling and how-tos to keep your creative process flowing.

Social Media Marketing Tools & Software to Optimize Your Workflow: For Agencies AND Small Business Owners

It’s been a process finding the right tools for our team.

For one, there’s the commitment factor – you get the cheapest rates if you sign up for a year-long payment plan, but then you’re stuck with whatever you get. Good or not.

Obviously try (by free trial offers) before you buy, if it’s an option. But, we’re here to save you time and money.

Here’s the comprehensive list of tools we rely on for day-to-day management; social media planning, posting, and engaging; as well as reporting + the pros and cons behind each one.

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Google Sheets, 15GB free

Cloud-based spreadsheet program

We use it for: 

  • Customizing weekly and monthly reports.
  • Drafting social media post ideas internally.
  • Manually recording social media, email, and advertising analytics.


  • It’s a cheap, accessible program that you and the majority of your clients are already familiar with.
  • If you’re familiar with Excel or Google Drive at all, this program yields a steady learning curve. 


  • It’s a great place to create and store information, but it won’t cover all your bases – you’ll still be manually posting across social media platforms and recording data by hand. 

Those looking to save time would benefit from using the additional programs listed below.

Trello, 10 free team boards

Kanban-style list-making application

We use it for:

  • Drafting social media posts or advertisements + sharing those ideas with clients on approvals.
  • For those looking for a closer agency-client relationship with thorough reviews before publication, this is a great site to exchange ideas before anything goes live.


  • It’s mobile friendly – if you’ve got a client requesting last-minute edits, or you’re always on the go, Trello’s app interface is super user friendly.


  • You can’t schedule out posts on Trello to directly post on Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media platform.

If you need a place to store and share multiple drafts, Trello is a great asset. If you’re in need of a system where you can queue up posts weeks in advance and aren’t afraid to put a little money down, read on.

Basecamp, $99/month
Project management system 

We use it for: 

  • Keeping our team on the same page.


  • Once you’ve got a queue full of tasks and enable BC’s push notifications across your smart devices, you’ll be alerted whenever a teammate comments on tasks or assigns you a new project. 


  • When you spread communication out across platforms, some ideas may slip through the cracks.
  • Outline how your team will utilize BC versus email, GChat, Slack, or otherwise before putting this site to use.

Buffer, $15-$99/month
Software app for managing, posting, & reporting across social media accounts

We use it for: 

  • Scheduling out posts across Facebook and Instagram. 


  • It’s an affordable option with a simple-to-use interface.


  • We’ve noticed Buffer will occasionally downgrade the quality of an image – vibrant red uploading as so-so crimson is no good, especially for food and beverage brands hoping to convey quality to their audience.
  • Buffer addresses this occurrence in their FAQ section and while customer service offered suggestions on how to avoid this result, it’s certainly an annoying issue.
  • No scheduled boosting.
  • You can’t schedule out multiple images within a single Instagram posts – however, you can set up a notification to remind a teammate to post. 

Sprout Social, $99-$249/month
Social media management software

We use it for: 

  • The whole nine yards! Well, almost. 
  • Scheduling out posts across Facebook and Instagram. 
  • Instant customizable monthly reporting.
  • Boosting in advance or day of.  


  • Reporting is soo easy. Just set your preferences and export within a minute. Awesome for clients who need weekly in-depth reports. 
  • Calendar is intuitively designed with in-app cropping + adjustment tools.


  • Like Buffer, you can’t schedule out multiple images within a single Instagram posts – however, you can set up a notification to remind a teammate to post. 

Honorable Mention – Planoly
free resources online

We use it for: 

  • Industry updates 
  • General inspiration 
  • National holiday calendars
best social media tools marketing team iphone ipad

There it is! A list of tools that we currently use for social media planning, execution, and client communication.

You may gather that Sprout Social is our favorite software – against Buffer, it does have a few additional features that we prefer.

For big-picture planning, a combination of Google Sheets, Trello, and Basecamp may serve your team best. If you have to pick just one, how about Google Sheets as it’s cheap, diverse, and collaborative.

With Turkey Day right around the corner, it’s time to execute a killer Black Friday, Cyber Monday (BFCM) marketing plan. That’s right – it’s not too late to improve upon any existing plans you have in the queue or start a campaign from scratch sourcing some inspo from the ideas we’ve collected for you below.

In any case, you need to take part in the sales madness to some extent: “In 2018 the average adult spent $483.18 over the shopping holiday, making a total spend across the US of $90.14 billion,” (Oberlo). Yeah, that’s a chunk of change.

Okay, time to share our favorite BFCM examples.

1. Promote Giving Tuesday Instead, Ivory Ella

Ivory Ella is an online for-profit clothing store affiliated with Save the Elephants, an organization specializing in wildlife conservation. So, it only makes sense for this cause-based brand to lean into Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday following Thanksgiving) rather than Black Friday. 

For every customer who purchased a beanie on Giving Tuesday, Ivory Ella donated 100% of the proceeds towards buying coats for children in need. By holding their sale on a day outside of the Black Friday rush, the competition had certainly simmered down. 

It’s awesome that this campaign reconnected their audience with the meaning of the season – giving! – while spreading the word about their brand. Users were encouraged to snap and share a photo wearing that hat online with the #GivingTuesday, seamlessly spreading the brand’s reach for the foreseeable future.

2. Create a Gift Guide, Trouva

“Gift guide themed emails see a 48% higher transaction rate than purely promotional emails,” (Campaign Monitor). This! ☝☝☝

Put together a compelling gift guide based on any number of details, like gender, price point, or product color. Don’t forget to have fun with it to set your post apart from the crowd! Here’s a short list of some of our favorite gift guide titles from PopSugar: 

  • “13 Unique Gift Ideas For the Dad Who Says He Wants Nothing”
  • “30+ White Elephant Gifts So Cute, Everyone Will Be Fighting Over Them”
  • “Psst, Santa — All We Want For Christmas Are These Sweet Treats From Target”

Here’s an example from Trouva (a curated marketplace for brick and mortar independent shops) of a gift guide based on sustainable products.

They sent this email out with the subject line “Gifts with a Conscience.” A little serious, but clearly targeting an eco-minded audience.

It’s this idea of specificity paired with a curation model that differentiates Trouva’s platform and overall marketing efforts. And, with notable success: “[In 2018, Trouva] was recognised   for the second year running as The Next Web’s Tech5 list of five fastest growing technology companies in the UK, as well as the 8th fastest in Europe, with revenue growth of 3,332 per cent over the past two years.”

3. Make a Statement, Cards Against Humanity

Okay – this one’s a little crazy, but hear us out!

Back in 2013, Cards Against Humanity took the opposite approach to BFCM. Instead of decreasing their prices, they increased them by $5 across the board.

“Amazon  [was] hesitant, but green-lit the price-rise and sat back incredulous as the card game’s sales actually increased year-on-year. The ‘sale’ was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr, was the top post on Reddit and was widely covered in news outlets the world over,” (Our Social Times).

CAH continued to profit off this absurdist approach: In 2016, they crowdsourced over $100k so they could dig a hole for as long as people could pay to keep the backhoe running. 

In 2018, they had a 99% Off Sale: “Every ten minutes, a new deal will go live on this page. Don’t be frightened by the deals. Just click and let the savings wash over you.”

“The sale started off by offering 99% off of a twenty dollar bill, and then REALLY got creative. A 17th-century halberd, a slightly used car, a 30ft inflatable bald eagle, and a sort of “Royal Throne” soon followed the initial offer,” (IMPACT). Users actually bought and received these items – wild.

If it weren’t already obvious, CAH aren’t fans of Black Friday and would rather uplift anti-consumerist culture. This move ultimately fosters brand loyalty. So, don’t be afraid to go against the grain if you’ve got a niche audience or especially fun product line + service. 

4. Time Is Running Out, Lou and Grey

It doesn’t take much to get your audience on the edge of their seats – convey a clear sense of urgency with a short-term + significantly discounted sale and the purchases will roll right in.

When it comes to emails, you can’t go wrong employing minimalist imagery + a dynamic element (see: this clock’s minute hand ticking away). Remember to be super intentional with what you draw attention to in this way – here, it is very clear that time is of the essence.

We recommend running a 3-day promo with a series of automated emails: Email 1, 72 hours prior (introduce your super short sale); Email 2, 48 hours prior (increase intensity of language); and Email 3, 12 hours left (harp on scarcity: “almost completely sold out of our stock, better hurry!”).

That’s it – four of our favorite BFCM campaigns! Did you have a favorite? Or, are you planning something totally different that you’d like our thoughts on? Shoot us a DM on Instagram sometime – we’d love to hear about it.

Looking for a little something more to fuel your BFCM marketing plan? We’ve got a guide to help you out from start to finish: check out  our Black Friday, Cyber Monday Total Execution Plan now.

fb ig branded content tools


Earlier this year, Instagram announced a new tool for business-influencer collaborations: branded content ads. Now, “advertisers have the ability to promote creators’ organic branded content posts as feed and stories ads,” (Instagram Business).


We love this because –

  • The tool is available on the Facebook ads platform – already familiar to most.
  • It could cut down on the amount of time your team spends making ad creatives in-house.
  • You’ve got easy access to analytics + can optimize and test campaigns against your set goals for more effective marketing.
  • Businesses & influencers will reach targeted audiences beyond the people already following them.

As these ads appear across feeds and stories, people will see “Paid partnership with” along with the brand name on each post. This not only abides by FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines, but adds an element of transparency which empowers users to knowingly support the influencers or brands of their choice.

ig branded content tools screenshot news


  1. “Branded content creators need to enable their business partners to promote their post or story as an ad, which they can do in Advanced Settings.”
  2. “The business partner will see the post on Ads Manager under Existing Posts and can choose to run it as an ad in feed or stories format.”
  3. For more detailed step-by-step instructions,   follow along here.


So, when’s the right time to put a branded content post into play?
As we mentioned before, you may want to cut down the time you spend making ads in-house – if an influencer provides you with an awesome testimonial video, promote their post or story.
According to Business Insider Intelligence estimates, ”the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022.”

“Influencer marketing works because it uses tactics like word-of-mouth marketing and social proof, which are now critical aspects of any successful marketing strategy. Customers trust their peers, friends, and people they admire more than the companies selling the products and services they buy and use.” (HubSpot)

Why does branded content work better than any ole ad? It may help you target your core demographic with content creators they already love or resonate with! <- Tweet this!

Imagine this – you’re minding your own business, scrolling through your IG feed and two ads come up. One is a standard skincare ad with a SKU of beauty products. This is shortly followed by another skincare ad, but this one feature Chrissy Teigen – you love how authentic Chrissy seems online (her tweets are gold).

It’s a no brainer – the second ad resonates with you more. At best, you purchase the skincare product that Chrissy endorses. At least, you engage with the ad in some way, could be as simple as liking the post or clicking through.

This type of influential ad is much more likely to get your audience to engage in some way, which warms them up for a potential purchase in the future.

We’re excited this option is available. Already got an idea on how you’ll leverage it for your next influencer partnership or looking for advice on how to do so?   Schedule a free strategy call with our team.


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