So often I speak with campaigners, activists and people working for nonprofit organisations who understand the importance of having a digital strategy. However, they can lack the resources, budget or expertise required to fully realise the benefits that digital and social media offer for their campaign or cause. Finding the time or having the skills to create content for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is a common frustration among many. 

When you’re campaigning for change, social media lets you communicate with audiences, cultivate relationships and convert observers to supporters. It enables you to reach and connect with people across geographies and demographics. It can help you build, organise and mobilise your support base. It encourages meaningful engagement. But you need the right content. Engaging, informative, and shareable content that promotes key campaign messages will inspire people to take action. Gone are the days where your social media offering consisted of sharing news articles and links to your website. Online audiences are now consuming, and expecting more visual content, more video, more Instagram Stories. For so many changemakers, whose capacity is already stretched, it’s exhausting just trying to keep up.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of easy-to-use, *free* tools to help you up your social media game. Whether you’re looking to do some video editing, create graphics, infographics and animations, or make your Insta Stories stand out from the crowd, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Canva (2.0)

Canva is an easy-to-use graphic design tool, that offer both free and premium subscriptions. What’s even better is that Canva offers its premium version free to registered nonprofits (you can apply here). Canva provides templates already sized for different social media platforms and formats, enabling you to create a variety of high-impact social media graphics and other marketing materials with ease. Stock images, icons and other elements are plentiful (even with the free versions), or you can upload your own. The premium version also allows you to upload your organisation’s logo, brand colours and fonts. Above all, the interface is so simple and intuitive that you’ll be an amateur graphic designer in no time.

canva, graphic design, social media content creation

While Canva has been a firm favourite among many digital-savvy campaigners for some time, the recent launch of Canva 2.0 provides a whole new array of possibilities. The game changer for me is that you can create animated graphics that can be downloaded in GIF and MP4 formats – this feature is ideal for creating Instagram Stories. With the update Canva has also introduced a ‘Design School’ which offer courses and tutorials to help you in your design journey.

If that wasn’t enough, Canva also has this pretty nifty blog for nonprofits with tips on social media, marketing and design, such as this article on ‘8 clever ideas for nonprofit fundraising’. If you’re not already using Canva, get on it – you won’t be disappointed!

  1. Lumen5

Lumen5’s tagline says it all – ‘Social videos made easy’. This intelligent app lets you turn your blog post, or any piece of text, into a short, engaging video for your social media channels. Simply enter the URL or copy and paste some text to start building your video. Or you can start from scratch with one of Lumen5’s ready made templates.

lumen5, social media video, digital content creationThe features with the free version are more limited, but you’ll still have access to over 10 million stock images, videos and music tracks. It’s a great tool to help you experiment with turning text and key messages into short videos for your social media channels.

  1. Shotcut

I’m a Windows user and ever since Windows Movie Maker was discontinued in 2017, I’ve been searching for a free tool that would help me with some simple video editing. Then I came across Shotcut, which is straightforward, free and ideal for novice video editors. With Shotcut you can trim, splice, caption and add various effects to your video content.

shotcut, video editing, social media, digital contentOnce you become familiar with the interface, you’ll be editing videos with just a few easy steps. Cut your video footage to a specified length, split your clips, delete unwanted footage and add seamless transitions between two sections.

Download Shotcut today and give it a go!

  1. Biteable

If I were ranking these tools, Biteable would be a strong contender for poll position. Billed as ‘The World’s Simplest Video Maker’, I find it hard to argue. Biteable has a library with a huge collection of pre-animated templates that you can select from, with each acting as a scene in your animation. You can then start customising by adding text, images or video footage where relevant. Next you can select your colours and pick some background music, then Biteable builds your video and away you go! It really is that easy. The final product is slick, engaging and very professional looking. The one caveat is that the free version is quite limited and your videos will have a watermark. However, at about €240 per year ($276), Biteable Premium is extremely good value. Try out the free version and if you think you’ll use it a few times throughout the year, it might be worth the investment.

biteable, social media video, animation, free video tool, content creationI could go on about how good this tool is, but it’s best you go see for yourself…

  1. Unfold

With over 300 million people posting every day, Instagram Stories has become a crucial channel for reaching audiences in recent years and this is likely to continue through 2019. So, not only should you be integrating Instagram Stories into your digital strategy, but doing so in a strategic way by creating authentic, engaging content that drives attention and action.

Enter Unfold. A mobile app that allows you to choose from a variety of templates, to which you can add your own photos (single or multiple) and text before uploading them to your Instagram Story. If you’re looking to get started with Instagram Stories or to make them a bite more engaging and creative – Unfold is the tool for you.

unfold, instagram stories, social media tool, free content creation, appUnfold is available to download on iOS and Android.

And that’s it. Five free tools to help you create more content and inspire online audiences to take action in 2019.

Craig Dwyer is the Founder of ForaChange and works with campaigners, activists and nonprofit organisations on using digital and social media as a driver of communication, mobilisation and engagement. Get in touch! info@forachange.org