Well in the old days of stone wheels and rock-started fires most businesses had to fork over 30 percent or more of their budget on trying to advertise their products and make them well known to the public. Companies hired writers, animators, actors, professionals, psychologists, analysts, or maybe even clowns, all for the purpose of making their products look more effective or user-friendly than anyone else’s. Some even paid millions of dollars just to get a minute on Super-Bowl Sunday, making even stay-at home moms confess: “I just watch the Super-Bowl for the commercials”. Well thankfully those options have not lost their appeal, but we can certainly be even more grateful for the host of new options that have arisen out of the great Social Media Revolution, allowing even Joe-Shmoe to be able to advertise his small business for next to nothing! And you can too!
From a marketing standpoint, it’s a great time to own or start a business. The social web makes it more cost-effective than ever to get the word out about your products and services, no matter what industry you’re in. Most social media accounts are free to set up, and many targeted online ad platforms are inexpensive. The most it will cost you to get your marketing campaign rolling, at least in the beginning, is time. Mashable.com gives us these 4 tips on how we can better utilize the networks of Social Media and obtain free advertising through the vast medium of the internet.
Number 1: Become an Expert
Advertising is not always the best way to market on social networks. People crave valuable content, and it can be as niche as the very products you’re selling. By blogging, tweeting, sharing, and updating about things relevant to your industry, you can build credibility in your field.
“Whether you’re selling specialty cookies or enterprise software, you probably have significant expertise that you can share with potential customers,” said Leyl Master Black a Managing Director at Sparkpr. This can easily build your credibility as you share how-to articles, make videos about your products or services, post pictures, and comment on other products at industry trade shows. The more content you post online, no matter where it’s at, can bring attention to your brand at little or no cost.
YouTube is one of the most overlooked tools for advertising, anyone can see a YouTube clip, and anyone can make one as well, all it takes is a video camera and some software, both of which don’t have to be entirely expensive.
Number 2: Super Users
Before your image was controlled by what kind of advertisements you could produce, but in the new world of social media, your image is controlled more by what your customers say about your products. This can be used completely to you advantage as you target and cultivate super users, who are customers that are already fans of your brand.
“If I know there’s a Twitter user who loves purses and talks about them a lot (which I can find using Twitter Search), and I sell purses, I reach out to her and offer her 20% off to come in or check out my catalog online, just because I know she digs purses,” said Jason Falls, a social media strategist and consultant whose blog discusses the online marketing industry. “If she blogs about purses, maybe I send her a new model with a note that says, ‘Thanks for telling people about purses. We dig you.’ I’m betting she’d talk about me, and I didn’t have to break the bank to get the conversational love.”
It’s hard to fit in with a new group of friends. The fact is they don’t trust you yet, and you don’t know enough about them to try to win that trust through your conversation. In the past you might have seen someone at a social gathering try to break the ice with a certain group of people they don’t even know. They might crack a few jokes, only to receive a few chuckles, and then be ignored for the rest of the evening. Meanwhile a few minutes later a latecomer might walk in, all the socialites hail his arrival, and he proceeds to rattle off the selfsame jokes that Mr. Unknown tried a little while earlier. This time the crowd bursts into uncontrollable laughter, and shrimp cocktail sauce has stained the nice white carpet. Why the difference in reaction? Both men are similar in looks, appeal, and their economic status could even be roughly the same. They probably even got the jokes off the same George Carlin quote calendar, having read it that morning at the office. The difference is Mr. Unknown is unknown, unfamiliar, and while telling the jokes everyone is wondering who is is and what he stands for. Meanwhile Mr. Popular has been around a bit, everyone loves him, and they have learned to trust that when he speaks, it’ll be worth listening to what he says.
The same principle is found in marketing and advertising. People will take information more seriously if it comes from a source that they have learned to trust. When companies advertise and say “this product is excellent” most people will want a second opinion. If that second opinion comes from one who is considered an expert in their field, or someone who is well trusted then customers will be much more likely to purchase that product.
When an endorsement comes from someone outside of your company, like a trusted blogger or social sharer, it has greater value and reach than anything you could send through official channels. You can’t control what the social web says about your brand directly, but by identifying and wooing brand ambassadors, you can certainly have an influence — the kind that no paid advertisement can match.
Number 3: Ensure that people can FIND you
This point may seem obvious, but it’s a common misstep, especially for new businesses. If and when people hear about your brand, they will go straight to their favorite services — Google, Yelp, and other listing sites — to find out more about you. Take the time to ensure that your entry there is accurate, and that there are direct links to your website and phone number.
But there’s more you can do to get your brand out there for free.
“Look beyond Yelp for free business listings,” said Black. “MerchantCircle, Google Local Business Center,Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local, YellowPages.com, SearchLocal, and SuperPages are some of the online directory services that allow businesses to create a free listing. Make sure that you’re on these sites, and if the site already lists your business, you should ‘claim’ it by adding more details to the listing, such as your company website URL, a map, phone numbers, or business hours.”
Black also noted that many of the directory sites allow customers to leave feedback and reviews. “Encourage your customers to post reviews of your products or services, or provide incentives for them to do this. For example, one merchant applies an additional 10% discount to their coupons on MerchantCircle if the consumer leaves a review on the site. This encourages repeat business as well as reviews.”
Number 4: Offer Ad-Funded Payment Options
If you have a steady flow of customers, and you’re looking to boost the size of your transactions and increase customer loyalty, one low- (or no-) cost strategy is to implement transactional advertising.
“Popularized by TrialPay, this ad-funded approach to payments works to turn browsers into buyers,” said Black. “Consumers are able to get your product for free in return for buying something from a brand advertiser such as Gap or Netflix. The advertiser then pays you once the sale is completed.”
For companies selling relatively low-cost or web-accessible products, a highly targeted “reverse advertising” strategy like this could be a smart move.
“For example, IntroWizard used TrialPay to convert ‘intermediary’ customers who had tried their free Flash web design software but hadn’t made a purchase yet — boosting their profits by 15% at no additional cost,” said Black.
So what do you think? Will you use any of these methods in your next campaign?