What are the best apps for small business owners?
We have apps for socialising, apps for playing, apps for dating, apps for watching, and of course, apps for working.
As a small business owner myself, I often find myself browsing through the app store wondering whether there’s anything I’ve missed out on.
In today’s post, I’m going to share an entire list of what’s on my own phone, as well as some recommendations from other small business owners, and recommendations for alternative apps where possible.
Let’s dive in…
Let’s start with the biggest category in the list. Social media.
It’s massive, it’s not going anywhere, and you can’t afford to not use it if you’re looking to grow your small business.
So what are some of the best social media apps available on the market?
Facebook started life with one app, and trying to manage your business page through it was terrible.
Eventually, they introduced Facebook Pages as a standalone app. It was also terrible.
Over time though, it’s gotten better and better.
If you do any sort of serious business on Facebook (which you should be!) then Facebook Pages is a must!
I’m in the B2B space at Canny. And LinkedIn is my preferred social media channel of choice.
LinkedIn lets me perform research on potential new clients, as well as join in meaningful discussions across my network.
The app itself is great, and has improved tenfold in the last several years. The search functionality is now particularly useful!
Twitter is a bit like Jon Snow. It died and came back to life.
There’s something about it that people like, and it’s used widely across the business space.
On Twitter, the best thing you can do is find potential leads and prospects using the search functionality.
And because it’s a less formal space than LinkedIn, people share things they’re interested in, meaning it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a potential new partner.
Instagram is one of personal favourites. The visuals (when you follow the right people) just draw you right in!
And as it’s one of the fastest rising social networks, you need to be tapping into that world.
Especially if your audience is teenagers to mid-30s.
That said, even my Mam is on Instagram these days and it’s easy to see it going the way of Facebook, where everyone ends up on there.
It also shares Facebook’s great advertising platform, so setting up ads is not only really reasonable, but very easy to do.
Depending on your target audience, Pinterest could be a massive winner for your business.
In the wedding, cooking, or crafty spaces? You must be on Pinterest.
At Canny, we use Pinterest for inspiration, as there’s so much great visual content on there!
If you do anything remotely visual, then alongside Instagram, Pinterest is a must for you.
Reddit is a sleeper contender for “best social network” for me.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, remember mIRC from years ago? It’s kind of like that.
On Reddit, you join communities, which are essentially forums, based on your interest group.
I’m in several for business such as /r/Entrepreneur, /r/EntrepreneurRideAlong, /r/Business, and then several for design, and of course, wrestling.
The Reddit app is great, and easy to find new areas where you could work in content about your business.
Don’t just use Reddit to sell. You have to be involved in the community, you can’t just go steaming in with links and adverts!
I’m not a user of Snapchat, there are too many buttons for my liking!
That said, GaryVee puts a lot of faith in Snapchat, and that man knows his social media apps.
Again, it’s all relevant to your target audience. But if you’re targeting the younger generation, don’t sleep on Snapchat.
Hootsuite / Buffer
I was an avid user of Hootsuite a long time ago. Others prefer Buffer. They perform pretty much the same tasks.
Essentially, you signup with either platform, and connect your social media accounts.
From there, you’re able to schedule all of your social media posts.
So if you’re anything like our client, Robbie Thompson, who’s posting out daily information and can’t guarantee you’ll be available – it’s great!
One thing to be careful of, is that automation is rarely the answer to making great sales.
People buy from people.
Automation is great, but you have to get it right.
With the massive rise of video, YouTube is a must when you’re creating your digital marketing strategy.
The YouTube app lets you get notifications from your channel, organise your channel, as well as record videos and go live.
The main YouTube platform is better accessed through your desktop machine, but you can do enough with the app if you’re always on the go.
Quora isn’t really a typical social network, more of a question and answer database.
If you’re thinking something, the chances are it’s already been asked on Quora.
I use Quora for compiling lists of great blog post ideas.
I’ll browse the top posts in topics such as Branding, Web Design, Digital Marketing, and keep a note of what people are asking regularly.
Then, I’ll make posts about them on the Canny blog.
Shapr is more of a networking app, than a social network, but this is the best place for it.
Imagine Tinder, but for business networking, rather than dating.
You fill out your profile with what you’re interested in, and then swipe left and right as desired.
You can start a range of meaningful conversations with relevant people.
You can reply to conversations on your laptop or desktop device by replying to your notifications via email. I find that a whole lot easier than typing everything on my phone!
Next on the list, are dedicated communications apps. I use each of these apps day in, day out to keep Canny running.
Different people prefer different contact methods, and it’s best to be able to communicate with them natively, rather than trying to drag them over to a platform they’re unsure of.
Facetime is built into all of your iDevices and it’s a great way for connecting face to face with clients and customers around the globe.
As it’s built in, a lot of people tend to use Facetime over something like Skype, although it does lack some of the features.
If you’re looking to put together quite an informal face to face catchup, and you both have iDevices, then Facetime is the app for you.
Messenger is Facebook’s now standalone messaging app.
It’s great for connecting with people, but if they’re not in your friend network, then you have to accept their message request.
Also, Facebook Page messages go into the Pages app rather than Messenger. Something to be aware of!
WhatsApp is a great alternative to Facetime and is completely device agnostic.
So if you need to get some face to face time in with someone that’s on a different device to you, WhatsApp is the right choice for that.
It also offers free text messaging using WiFi or your data service.
WhatsApp usage is restricted in certain parts of the World. WeChat is often the preferred alternative.
Oh Microsoft. I have a love/hate relationship with Skype.
Skype is basically peer-to-peer chat and video. And it’s great, but temperamental.
And, with the introduction of browser Skype and linking everything to an Outlook account, they’ve really managed to confuse what was once a simple process.
So why do we use it?
That one simple feature is what keeps us coming back to using Skype. Screen sharing isn’t great in the App version, but perfect on desktop.
As an alternative, try Zoom.
Ah, the communications solutions for agencies and businesses around the World.
We don’t use Slack at Canny, but many teams do. We have used it in the past, but it was quite cumbersome for what we required.
Slack lets you integrate other third party services, showing updates to all team members along the way.
The Slack app is great and is a great way to communicate with a whole team of people and keep clients in the loop.
Apps that make me more productive, allow me to make decisions faster, or access things I thought I’d left at the office, are my favourite type of app.
Here are some of my favourite productivity apps;
Google Calendar needs no explaining. It’s a calendar, made by Google.
But having the calendar app on your phone at all times is great.
It means during a meeting, or when you’re out and about, you can easily set up meetings without fear of double booking.
I’ve used it to schedule a whole load of meetings while I’ve been on the train. I’ve used it to pull together agendas for business trips.
Google Calendar, on your phone, is an absolute must.
You can sync Google Calendar to iCal, which means when pesky Outlook users send through their meeting invites, you can accept them, and it pops into your Google Calendar with ease.
Asana is our project management tool of choice at Canny.
We use it for creating to-do lists, keeping track of clients, managing projects, storing blog, marketing, and business advertising ideas, and a whole lot more.
The free version of Asana has two board options right out of the box;
- To-do list (a typical list style board)
- A kanban board (cards, sorted into columns)
You can also upgrade to the Pro version of Asana for more options!
As a self-professed workaholic, having Asana on my mobile allows me to update project status’ or assign new tasks no matter where I am or what I’m up to.
Trello is another popular choice when it comes to project management, especially in the development world.
Essentially though, Trello offers a kanban board feature, and that’s about it.
Whereas some people prefer their apps to have one true purpose, I prefer mine to be versatile.
Trello’s good, and some people prefer it. But honestly, I’d have a hard time recommending it over Asana.
Evernote is a great app for jotting down ideas on the go.
Think of it as a digital notebook.
I used to use Evernote for keeping track of thoughts and ideas, starting off blog posts, and sharing notes with clients etc.
But, as they restricted the limit to two devices on the free plan, I looked elsewhere for alternatives.
Don’t get me wrong, Evernote is a great app, but I’ve moved on to using Google’s suite of apps as a replacement.
Google Docs is a good replacement for Evernote if you’re using it for writing only.
And the mobile app is every bit as good as the desktop version.
Recently I used Google Docs to finish up a blog post on the train on the way to London. I’ve also used it to note down a whole load of ideas that I could then pick up later.
At Canny, we use Google Docs to share our blog posts internally, review them, and sign them off, before they’re loaded for publication in our website.
As an added bonus, Google Docs allows us to not have to use Microsoft Word. It’s worth it just for that in my opinion!
Google Sheets is the Google equivalent of Microsoft Excel.
I use this app on my phone for adding content to our content plan. It’s also really helpful when running complex calculations that the built in Apple Calculator won’t do.
The full benefits of Google Sheets are to be had when using their desktop application, but the mobile app has definitely saved my bacon a few times.
I wasn’t sure which category Mail should be in. But I use Mail, day in, day out.
I use it when I’m travelling to work, I use it when I’m on the train, in between meetings, standing around waiting.
Having Mail on my phone allows me to check in with everyone I need to, and ensures I don’t miss any important goings-on within the agency.
Dropbox has been the ultimate life saving app when it comes to work and trying to stay productive.
If I’ve been working at something in the office, I can just pop it into Dropbox and make sure I have it at home too.
I’ve used Dropbox on my phone to pull up important meetings in a presentation, and access files to give a client quick answers.
The Dropbox mobile app is great, and I honestly use it day-in day-out to access my files on the go.
Business and Website Management
The next category on the list is an interesting one. Depending on what it is your business is and what it does, you might have different requirements.
But here are a few apps I use daily to keep things running smoothly for Canny;
Drift is the Live Chat feature we use on the Canny website.
When someone pops a message in there, it sends me both an eamil, and a mobile push notification.
I can then choose to respond to the enquiry via the Drift app, or login on my browser.
Drift has been an invaluable tool in the growth of Canny, and I opt to use the app around 90% of the time.
Active Campaign CRM
We use Active Campaign to manage our email list at Canny, but it’s also used as our CRM.
The Active Campaign CRM app lets me add, edit, and move deals in our pipeline on the go.
This is extremely handy, especially when away on business and you need to remind yourself which stage in the process a lead is at.
Or, coming out of a meeting, you can amend your deals and keep your CRM as up-to-date as possible.
Google Analytics is hands down the best tool for monitoring traffic on your site.
There’s not a huge advantage of having the data on your mobile phone, but if you’re curious how your site and advertising is performing day to day, then you can have that data to hand.
The Google Analytics app is surprisingly robust and lets you access a wide range of Analytics information.
Now, I’ve had to take a recommendation on Toggl, which is a time tracking app.
Within Canny, we use Clockify, and we love it.
But Toggl comes highly recommended and the Toggl companion app is supposed to be great.
So, if you’re looking for on the go time tracking, Toggl could be for you.
Finance is always a tricky discussion. There are way too many alternatives and options for different things.
Here’s a look at what I use to keep Canny’s finances on track;
We tried several cloud accounting solutions before finally settling on SageOne as our software of choice.
The desktop application is great, and the mobile application gives a great macro overview of where you’re at with your business financially.
You can’t reconcile payments through the app, which is a bit of a pain, but apart from that, it’s great.
Accounting apps are a personal preference. I have friends that use Xero, Freshbooks, and QuickBooks, and it always comes down to “well, it just worked for me, and I like it.”
Just like accounting software, banking is again a personal preference.
We bank with Lloyds at Canny, and their mobile banking app is great. Although, you can’t add a new payee without your card reader, which is a little bit irritating.
Personally, I use both Natwest and Santader’s apps, and they’re also great. The Santander app resolves the problem outlined above.
I need to make payments on the go quite regularly, and having my banking apps on my mobile phone has come in handy at times.
At Canny, we’re always travelling to see clients, and I’ve found a handful of great apps that makes this even easier.
We use The Trainline to book all of our tickets. And their app makes it really, really easy!
You can check prices and buy tickets there and then.
The most handy feature of all, is being able to download the tickets straight to your Apple wallet. You can also share the tickets with other members of your travelling party.
This means we can share the tickets out to the relevant team members, and everyone has their own ticket on them at all times.
Plus, no waiting in long queues at the train station. Easy!
When travelling to a new city, sometimes trying to figure out their city wide travel system can be a pain in the backside.
And that’s why I use Uber so much.
When I get off a train, or plane, I quite often need to get where I’m going quickly.
And Uber lets me do that with ease.
Never use Uber in London. You’ll spend much longer waiting in traffic than anticipated, and it would’ve been easier and quicker to just jump the Tube.
British Airways (and Executive Club)
Newcastle Airport isn’t terribly well connected to the rest of the World.
For holidays in Spain, it’s great. For worldwide air travel, not so much.
As a result, I always use the British Airways app to book flights, meaning I can connect in Heathrow and get to most places in the World with one direct flight.
It also means I accrue Executive Club points which can then be used for discounts on further air travel!
With the invention of 26-30 year old Railcard, I’m now a proud Railcard holder again.
And the app is great. No more forgetting your card!
Apply online, plug your acceptance code into the app, and boom, you’re off on your travels.
The easy QR code scanner lets the train guard scan you in, and then you can relax. No more digging around in your wallet to find your travel pass.
The Airbnb app is great for booking business travel stays.
It’s basically the Airbnb website, in app form. Which is fantastic!
Easy to use, easy to communicate with your hosts, and easy to book.
What more could you want from a “hotel” app?
One important thing to make sure you don’t underestimate, is your own personal downtime. You need to find a way to relax and switch off from your business at times.
Here are the few apps I use to help me do just that;
Remember Snake? Well, Slither.io is snake on steroids.
You can play against other players from around the world, or against the AI (which is great when you have no internet signal!)
Basically, you try and eat other snakes with your snake.
A great waste of time!
Admittedly, I don’t use the Netflix app on my mobile, because honestly, I can’t appreciate media on such a small screen.
But I do use it on my tablet.
It’s the perfect way to wind down in a hotel room after a day of meetings, or on a train back home after a busy day!
Pass the popcorn.
If you still feel like your brain has some gas left in it, tune into the TED app rather than Netflix.
Brainy people, saying brainy things, that make you brainier. #brainybrainybrain
I love TED talks, and they’re a great way to learn, and their app is great.
Podcasts are possibly my favourite way to unwind. If I’m tired, I can just rest my head, and let my podcast run.
No eyes required!
Check out our list of podcasts that will help grow your business if you’re stuck for listening inspiration.
Conclusion: The Best Apps for Small Business Owners (A Complete List)
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to apps for helping run their business.
I prefer my apps to be versatile, and my data to be stored in the cloud so I can access it any time, any place.
My favourite apps always help me speed up my workflow, or dig me out of a hole when I forget something!
What do you think? What are the best apps you use from day to day? Let us know in the comments below.