Top 10 New Social Media Tools from 2011

by Jason Keath on Jan 12, 2012

One of the most popular articles I wrote in 2011 was a recap of the hottest social media apps in 2010.

In an ecosystem where dozens of new social networks, apps, and services are created each month, it’s hard to stand out and hard to find the diamonds in the rough that really do something new.

Some of the names on this list were not brand new in 2011, but instead, this was the year that they made their mark (see Instagram and Rapportive).

Three of this year’s new tools could be categorized as social networks: Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Several tools from the list are utlizing bookmarklets. A bookmarklet is a shortcut action and link that you can launch from your browsers bookmark bar. What you can accomplish with a bookmarklet is getting increasingly useful with the growth of social media.

Efficiency is also a big theme of the list this year — from automation to auto-curation.

As we continue to push the boundaries of what social media can do, it is the innovation and intelligence of tools like these that allow us to continue to move forward.

1. Instagram

We talked a lot about Instagram last month. And the mobile, photo-based social network just keeps growing and gaining more traction. They have surged past 15 million members in less than a year.

Instagram has 100,000 downloads a week in China alone as I am writing this. Their international expansion is just as impressive as their US adoption. And brands are embracing Instagram.

Instagram recently released version 2.0 of their app, added new filters, and confirmed an Android version is on the way in 2012. They also hinted that video might be on the way.

While, like Groupon, there are a ton of copycats, Instagram is growing a massive audience very quickly. And in an industry where the network effect will serve as a protective shield against competitors, Instagram has built quite a strong defensive wall while still only employing 6 people.

I must also warn those not using Instagram yet, it is still only an iPhone app (as January 2012) and currently cannot be used from other mobile devices or the web.

2. Google+

Google has yet to gain enough members (54 million) to be a serious competitor to Facebook (800 million), and yet they continue to innovate and iterate their new social network at a break-neck pace. They are playing catchup with Facebook of course, recently launching Google+ pages. However, a few strong features of Google+ have already been echoed by powerhouse Facebook, including group video chat, a simpler re-share button, and asymmetrical relationships.

Still, the video chat feature on Facebook looks paltry compared to Google+ Hangouts, which is already being used by everyone from the Black Eyed Peas (live from Central Park) to the Muppets who were one of the first brands to launch a new Google+ Business Page.

Google+’s asymmetry is another strength not fully adopted by Facebook yet. On Google+ I can follow you and you do not have to follow me, like on Twitter. Combine that with their easy sharing and threaded conversations, and the entire network can potentially come into contact with every public post you make. The opportunities for conversation are simply larger.

With all that being said, Google+ has a long way to go to even compete with Twitter’s 100 million monthly active users, much less Facebook. If they keep innovating and putting the full power of Google’s online presence, I get the feeling they might start to make Zuckerburg a little nervous.

UPDATE: Google integrated Google Plus into their search results in a big way with their recent “Search Plus Your World” release.

3. Timely

This simple little app is made by the crew over at Flowtown (recently acquired by Demandforce). What it does is simple. Timely will schedule your tweets for you, sprinkled throughout the day, at times that they think your followers are paying the most attention.

How do they do this? They pull in your last 100 tweets, weigh each of them based on reaction, and determine when your followers like your tweets the best.

The tool is very simple and very user-friendly. You save their bookmarklet on your browser and whenever you are on a webpage that you want to share, just click the bookmarklet. Up pops a tweet pulled from the title of the page and the page link. You can either add it to your queue, letting Timely do the work of when it will publish, or you can post it right away. Timely also allow multiple Twitter accounts and gives you stats on how each tweet performs.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest is a new social network based on image sharing. The site is a couple years old now, but 2011 was their breakout year. They ask you to “pin” or bookmark images from around the web and share with your Pinterest followers. It is part photo album, part shopping cart, and part vision board. Think Flickr meets Tumblr meets Delicious.

Pinterest works using theme based sharing. Each user sets up different boards they want to pin images too, for instance, some common boards are focused on fashion or humor or inspiration.

The site also uses a bookmarklet button saved to your browser to make it easy to pin images. Click the bookmarklet when you are on a page with an image you like and it will pop up the Pinterest window to help you select the right image and pin it to the right board.

While Pinterest is seeing 4.5 million unique visitors each month already, the site is still invite only. It is getting noticed by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and TechCrunch. Shape Magazine even wrote a piece asking “Can Pinterest Change Your Life?” building on the vision board side of the site.

Pinterest has a largely female membership and a lot of it’s use centers around topics that offer clear monetization opportunities in the future. Whether someone is creating a board of their favorite summer dresses or visualizing all the elements of their approaching wedding.

5. Simply Measured

Disclosure: Social Fresh partner

For the businesses out there, proving your social media is performing and producing a return is increasingly in demand.

These guys created a social media monitoring tool built for data geeks. It produces reports for Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and the social web as a whole (blogs, forums, etc) all based on Excel spreadsheets.

As it pulls all the data you need, it puts the numbers into pre-formatted reports with full graphs and datasets, all exported inside of an Excel spreadsheet. You can perform simple and very useful tasks like exporting all of your Twitter followers and their public info or tracking a Twitter hashtag from an event. Or you can use Simply Measured as a full customizable dashboard reporting tool on all your social media activity.

6. Rapportive

This clever tool brings competitive intel to your email inbox. Or as ReadWriteWeb put it “Rapportive is the world’s best lightweight CRM (customer relationship management).”

Rapportive works in Gmail only as a free add-on for Firefox, Safari, Mailplane, and Chrome. Once installed it displays useful information about the person you are emailing or replying to. Small benefits include seeing a photo of the person you are sending a message to and noticing if they have social networking accounts like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. But the benefits go much farther.

You can follow someone on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn from inside of Gmail. You might notice that the person who emailed you that pitch is actually just an intern, or maybe they are the CMO. This week I got an email from someone wanting to buy a domain name I own centered around soccer and saw through Rapportive that he was a correspondant for ESPN.

The tool gets even more useful when you add on what Rapportive calls Raplets. These are add-ons with access to even more data. You can include Techcrunch’s startup database Crunch Base as a Raplet. If you use MailChimp for your company email marketing, you can see info on your customer email activity from inside of Gmail. If you use Batchbook as your CRM you can see info on customer history if emailing them.

7. Summify

Summify is a simple curation tool. It sends you one email a day, curating a list of the 5 most relevant links shared on the web by your network for the previous 24 hours. Your five links and my five links are different. They use your specific social circle to determine what stories are most relevant for you.

Staying in the know can take a lot of time. Summize takes away that pressure by sending you what your friends collectively thought was important that day. Warning, if all your Summize emails turn out to be Youtube videos of cats, I suppose it can also serve as a life coach (time to clean up those Facebook friends).

You can determine when Summify sends you this catch up email. In the message you will get each story, a summary, who shared it and how much it was shared across the internet as a whole. It also includes additional links if relevant.

8. Argyle Social

Disclosure: Social Fresh partner

Argyle is a social media publishing and metrics software. Argyle works around its use of short URLs for tracking the content you send out to Twitter and Facebook. Your links get shortened to… or you can use your own custom short URL. Social Fresh, for example, uses in honor of our first Twitter handle @sofresh.

The power of using these short URLs is that everything becomes very easily trackable. Argyle tracks clicks even when the URL is reshared by another Twitter or Facebook user. They can also connect all your social posts to conversions through Google analytics, so you know where your customers are coming from and what they are clicking on.

This year, Argyle has evolved from link tracking to working really well as a social media dashboard. You can pull up columns of all the activity you need to monitor and reply to messages within their software. As you would with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

You can also add in multiple users and give them access to all or just some accounts. You can use Argyle short URLs in within other applications. And Argyle also has a bookmarklet that let’s you schedule posts as you browse other websites.

9. Buffer

Buffer is a publishing tool that basically spaces out posts for you so you don’t have to keep coming back to your Twitter or Facebook page when you think your followers are active.

Buffer let’s you publish cool stuff from anywhere. You can email content, post from most browsers with their easy plugin, use a bookmarklet, their Android app, and even a Buffer button they created for blogs to use like a Retweet or Facebook Like button. It is very comprehensive.

Buffer takes the links and posts that you give it and schedules them throughout the day and throughout the week. It gives you spots for four tweets a day and two Facebook updates a day to start, with room to add more. It will suggest times for these and also allows you to change these preset time slots.

Buffer, similar to Timely, will also give you metrics on your posts, showing the audience reach and if they were shared.

10. Ifttt

Ifttt might be the most geeky tool on this list, but it is very cool. It allows you to create social media if/then tasks. For example:

  • If the weather looks like rain, send me an email.
  • If I favorite a message on Twitter send it to my Evernote bookmarks.
  • If I save a Youtube video, send a message to Twitter for me sharing that video.

Some of these shortcuts existed in some form or another previously but were never this easy to create or share with others.

The site will walk you through how to create or sign up for these tasks that they call actions. The signal that an action should be completed, like the example of favoriting a tweet, is called a trigger. And if you share your action with others, it goes into a list of recipes that any user can pull from. You can browse the most popular recipes and find some very useful Ifttt actions.

Some of the most popular actions include:

  • Every time you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, it will be sent to Dropbox
  • Every time it is going to rain, send me a text message
  • Every time I star something in Google Reader, send it to Instapaper so I can read it later


Thank you to all those who suggested ideas for this article. We came up with quite a long list of potential top tools for 2011.

Each of the above tools were recommended by one of these fine people. Thanks to David Berkowitz, Shashi Bellamkonda, Joe Ciarallo, Jason Falls, Tom Martin, Scott Stratten, CC Chapman, Lee Odden, Henry Balanon, Tim McDonald, Ben Curnett, Kelly Lux, Sara Altier, David Spinks, Jeff Slobotski, Megan Berry, Evan Hamilton, Eric Pratum, DJ Waldow, Kristy Bolsinger, Clay Hebert, Ben Watson

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As the CEO and founder of Social Fresh, Jason is the lead analyst and consultant for all Social Fresh brand clients. Jason has 15+ years of experience as a marketing leader and focuses on how to help brands be more...