Building a Content Marketing Software Stack That Rocks – Part II: Content Creation Tools

If you work in marketing, you likely get a dozen emails from software companies each week promising to solve your marketing problems with the flip of a switch. “Buy this software and POOF! Your problems are gone!” Yeah right, guys.

While wading into the world of software, tools, and digital resources can be overwhelming at the outset, there’s hope for building a just-right content marketing software stack. In our last post on this topic, we discussed how to choose the right content marketing strategy and planning tools.

This week, we will discuss the ins and outs of tools to help you create content. Just like a rock star walking on stage with dozens of guitars, amplifiers, and microphones, you need tools to support content marketing that rocks.

Let’s dive into some of these tools, and get you on stage where you belong.

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Why Bother?

In our most recent content planning research, 80% of respondents who were effective in their content planning reported they also use online planning tools (instead of offline methods like spreadsheets for keeping track of their strategy and planning).

While you could get up in front of 10,000 screaming fans with nothing but an acoustic guitar, most of them wouldn’t hear you. Likewise, without the right tools to streamline your content efforts, your hard work might fall on deaf ears.

Now put on those fancy headphones, and let’s rock.

Setting a Tempo for Your Tune: The Framework for Content Creation

By this point, you should have a content marketing strategy and editorial plan in place. But creating a rock-solid strategy and plan certainly doesn’t mean the tough stuff is behind you. Strategy and planning is all about setting the stage.

Creating content is when the real performance begins.

Likewise when a band gets in front of a crowd, they need to be playing in the same key, playing the same song (obviously), and band members need to hear each other in order to communicate in real-time, ensuring a top notch performance.

Your content program is no different. As you create individual stories, your team, audience, and content should all be in sync. Developing a feedback loop, agreeing to a healthy publishing cadence, and responding to customers in real-time all should happen fast. And the most important part? It needs to appear seamless and simple to your audience. A haphazard content performance will only result in a disinterested audience. Nobody likes a crap concert. And nobody wants crap content, either.

How To Select The Right Content Creation Tools

The best writers, editors, videographers, and designers out there would likely tell you the same story; nothing is worse than wasting time in unproductive meetings, dealing with scheduling snafus, or putting out last minute fires. These folks want to do one thing; create killer content.

By using tools that don’t match your skills or fit with your workflow, you run the risk of bogging your content creators down in technical confusion. And depending on your level of sophistication and skill, the complexity of this software will range drastically.

Here are four categories of content creation software to consider, and some advice on how to select the right tools in each category.

1. Text-based Content Creation Tools

Whether it’s a blog post, whitepaper, ebook, or script, your text-based content is the backbone of your content program. And while it might seem like all you need is Microsoft Word, the process of creating text-based content can get complicated. When you have thousands of words to produce on a weekly basis, you’re gonna need a few extra tools to streamline idea generation, team collaboration, checking character counts, and all the other pesky small stuff that can turn into death by a thousand cuts.

To avoid that, here are a few tools to help you create killer text-based content.

Evernote – Evernote is a cloud-based tool that can help you keep track of ideas, half-baked blog posts, on-the-fly notes, and more.

Answer The Public – This nifty little tool comes in handy when you need to come up with story ideas, or jumpstart the process. It uses search engine results to build visual networks of questions based on the topic you punch in.

Word2CleanHTML – Whether you create content in a Word document, Google Drive doc or somewhere else, you probably have noticed that copying and pasting text right into your content management system can yield funky formatting. This tool creates a clean HTML version of your text in a few clicks. Very handy indeed.

WordCounter – While we don’t recommend following hard word and character counts for all your content, sometimes you need to know exactly where you stand. Whether you’re drafting tweets, or submitting a piece to a media outlet that requires a specific number of words, this tool is worth bookmarking. Of course, if you’re a DivvyHQ user, a word and character counter is built right into our editor.

2. Visual Content Creation Tools

Content creation most certainly doesn’t stop at pithy tweets and long-form blog posts. In fact, the pendulum is swinging heavily in the direction of visual content. So whether or not you’re a designer, you still need to produce visual content. Can all of us master Adobe Photoshop? Unlikely.

Here are some visual content creation tools to help any marketer make magic, even if you’re not ready to level up into hardcore design tools.

Adobe Creative Cloud Express – I’m starting with this one as it’s probably my favorite visual design tool at the moment. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, this tool is available for free and comes with a gigantic library of pre-designed layouts, templates, stock photos, fonts and styles.

Canva – Canva is a free design tool with templates, typography, icons, and a small photo library too. There’s some premium content, and many social media templates worth checking out.

DesignWizard – DesignWizard is another powerful-but-simple design tool boasting over 17,000 design templates (10,000 free) and over 1.2 million images available in their stock database. All of their design tools are available with their free-subscription option.

Meme Generator – Memes aren’t for every marketer, but used in the right context they can certainly add a punch to social media content. This site lets you create custom memes.

Info.gram – If you work in marketing, at some point you’re going to need charts and infographics. Ingo.gram is a tool to help you do just that. It’s easy to use, and hugely helpful if you’re looking to knock out infographics fast.

ColorZilla – Ever needed to design a feature image for a blog post, or social media posts that follows brand standards? Problem solved! ColorZilla is a Chrome and Firefox browser add-on that let’s you use an eyedropper functionality and color analyzer to immediately pull the image specs on a website, or other online content.

Compfight – At some point in your content journey, you’re going to need stock photos. Compfight is a great place to start your search, mainly because photos are free.

Shutterstock – Shutterstock is a credit-based stock photo, video, and music website. While you could also go the more expensive iStock route, Shutterstock has pretty much everything you’ll need.

InVision – InVision is a collaborative and interactive prototyping tool for designing everything from infographics to websites. The nicest feature is being able to make comments right within the design, and add clickable functionality to areas within design.

Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator – Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are the industry gold standard when it comes to professional design. If you’re a designer, you’re using this software. If you’re serious about scaling design within your content operations, you’ll need to get familiar with both Photoshop and Illustrator at some point.

3. Video Content Creation Tools

Can we all produce Hollywood movies? Nope. Just because you don’t have a Hollywood budget or skillset, that doesn’t mean you can’t produce some solid video content as a part of your broader content mix. Along with infographics and interactive content, customers across all business types are demanding more video. Video truly sweetens your program and improves engagement with target customers.

Here are some tools to help you produce top-notch video, no matter your level of expertise.

iMovie – If you have an Apple computer, you already have this software. Apple iMovie offers a pleasantly simple interface, with some pretty advanced video editing features. From color correction, to plug-and-play titles, iMovie makes video editing straightforward for beginners and experienced editors alike.

Powtoon – At some point, most teams can make use of animated explainer videos. Whether for a product launch, sales pitch, or entertaining customer feature, animated explainers are a great storytelling device. Powtoon is an online service that makes animated explainers pretty dang simple.

Wistia – The most common way to get a video on your website, or in a piece of content is to embed it from a hosting service. Typically, it will live on YouTube or Vimeo and you will embed it using a script or code. But for teams who want a bit more control, Wistia is a video hosting service that delivers. It ensures playability across a range of devices and browser types, as well as baked in SEO and optimization features (a solid value add).

Final Cut – Once you’ve cut your teeth on a few projects and are ready to level up, you might be ready for Final Cut. This is the go-to software for video editing professionals worldwide. While it’s not nearly as simple as iMovie, it comes with literally all the bells and whistles.

Adobe Premiere – Premiere is Adobe’s answer to Final Cut Pro. If you’re comfortable within the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator), then Adobe will be a natural fit. It’s arguably just as powerful as Final Cut. It simply offers a different interface.

Boords – Beyond all the technical stuff, the most important aspect of any video is telling a compelling story. A big part of planning your story out is creating visual storyboards to illustrate how your video will develop from shot to shot. Boords is an online software to help you do just that. And while not every single project will need storyboards, anything with a narrative (and especially anything animated) should absolutely go through the storyboarding process.

4. Interactive Content Creation Tools

Interactive web-based content is a no-brainer for teams looking to level up. Much like video, skills in this area will range drastically. But, you don’t need to learn Javascript or Laravel in order to get into creating interactive web content. Here are some tools that can get you started, no matter your level of expertise.

SquareSpace – A key tenet of content marketing is creating an owned property where you can direct customers. Whether you are creating a unique web experience, blog, or another owned property, SquareSpace is arguably the easiest way to get up and running on the web fast.

WordPress – WordPress is the most popular blog platform on the Internet. In fact due to its widespread use, many organizations build highly customized websites using the WordPress engine. There are many plugins and frameworks to choose from. It requires some HTML and light CSS skills, so don’t wade into this world thinking you’ll have a web experience up and running in minutes!

Ceros – Ceros is a content marketing software for building microsites, campaign experiences, infographics, ebooks and more. Ceros is a fantastic option for teams who want fancy features, but don’t want to build these experiences from scratch. It’s a great option for getting a branded web experience up and running on a tight timeline.

SnapApp – Much like Ceros, SnapApp boasts interactive plug-and-play content features. But unlike Ceros, SnapApp offers calculators, polls, quizzes and contests, whereas Ceros is more heavily focused on creating a rich visual user experience.

5. Audio Content Creation Tools

2016 seemed to be the year that podcasts took wing and by 2017, nearly every brand has begun producing audio content; be it a podcast, interview series, or audiobook. Just like video, tools for audio range from professional level recording equipment, all the way on down to browser-based interview tools. No matter your level of expertise, you should be dipping a toe in these waters. Here are a few tools that can help you create audio content.

Audacity – Audacity is a free downloadable audio recording software with a simple user interface. It allows you to select a microphone source, or record straight out of your computer’s microphone.

Zencastr – Zencastr is a browser-based collaborative podcasting software. It allows for separate tracking for each guest, and makes remote interviews and audio collaborate very straightforward. If you are planning an interview-based podcast, this is your go-to option.

Speech Notes – For journalists and content professionals alike, getting audio conversations into words on paper can be an incredibly time-consuming thing. Speech Notes is a browser-based plugin that transcribes audio into text. While it’s not perfect, it’s fairly accurate AND it’s free.

Transcribe – Transcribe is just like Speech Notes, except it’s a more robust software and offers more accurate audio transcriptions.

Pro Tools – Okay, you likely won’t want to go anywhere near Pro Tools. But if you’re getting really serious about producing broadcast-quality audio, consider checking Pro Tools out, or hiring someone with Pro Tools experience. You can do everything from sweeten and correct audio, to produce movie scores. Get ready to hunker down if you’re serious about this software.

Check Back Next Week for Optimization Tools

Building a just-right content marketing stack might take you weeks, possibly months depending on the scope and complexity of your content operation and budget available. Don’t rush it. Taking the time to sort through some free and paid tools to improve your creation efforts will pay off down the line.

Next week, we’ll be getting serious about content optimization. Get ready to nerd out, and subscribe to the blog to hear from us right when it publishes!