Depending on where you turn, you’re going to hear a million different things and opinions about social media marketing. Some will say social media is, and should remain, free to use. Some will say you have to pay for ads to see success. Some will say you need an active account on every social media platform. Others will say to focus on only one or two accounts. Some will say you need to post once a day, others will tell you to post 3-5 times a day. Some will tell you text based content is optimal while others insist photos produce the best results.
You get my drift.
The reality is that none of these statements is either right or wrong.
Your social media success will depend on you, your business, how you run your campaigns, and how you execute your strategy.
And if you want to create a successful social media marketing strategy that doesn’t involve ads, pay-per-click options, or costly promotions, you can do it. And you can succeed at it.
But it’s going to take a different strategy than those who choose to use methods that rely on cash to grow their exposure and results.
To be clear up front, when I say you can succeed at social media marketing without spending money, I am referring to the direct costs associated with paying for marketing tactics. No matter what, everything costs money. Time is money. And someone – or multiple people – need to spend quality time on social media. This time and effort (and salaries) aren’t free.
Education often isn’t free either. You may need to take courses, hire a consultant, or buy books to educate yourself properly. There are a TON of free resources out there (heck, you’re here on my blog for free right?) but sometimes you may need to up the ante and pay for some quality training or support.
That being said, yes, you can successfully market your business on social media without spending money. But no, this isn’t a gimmick or get-rich-quick scheme. So if you’re looking for that, this is not the solution for you.
The reason I can say that you can market on social media without spending money is that I am proof of it.
I started this journey with no money to invest. I grew my audience and presence slowly, but effectively. I broadened my horizons regularly and tried new things. And while I’m no where near the end of the journey, a year and a half into the journey, I’ve made huge strides towards success.
As many of you know (and if not, you can read this post), I write this blog and grow my business in my “spare” time. I have a full time day job, unrelated to this world, so this is what I do outside of work hours. I have devoted a lot of time, but it’s not my only commitment – far from it.
I also didn’t want to invest any money up front because I had no idea what to expect. I started my blog on a free wordpress.com site so I didn’t even have to pay for hosting or themes. To be fair, I did switch to a new, hosted site in September 2013 in order to better grow my business and customize my website. But if you have a business, you know the value of a well formatted website.
As my blog grew and my business grew, I wanted to continue to see what I could achieve without financial infusions. I constantly write about how to use free social media marketing practices and I would feel hypocritical to stand there telling you to do one thing while I did another. So I continued to market my business without spending money. It was just my time and input.
In the year and a half since I started this blog, I have made money from consulting clients and ebook sales. I have just recently launched a new Instagram training program and have multiple speaking engagements and presentations lined up for later this year.
But enough about me. Here are my best tips on how to succeed with social media without spending money on ads, promotions, and costly marketing.
If you have been following my blog or social media accounts for any period of time, you know how much value I place on relationships. I choose to connect with my audience on a personal level. I’m not throwing spam at them. I’m not talking about my own content and how awesome it is. No. Instead, I help them. I work with them. I give them what they want and need.
And most importantly, I have conversations with them. Ask questions – get answers. Get asked questions – give answers. Respond to comments and keep the dialogue going.
People want to talk to people. Building a real relationship with your audience means that you can promote and grow your business without being salesy, slimy, or dumping tons of money into ads. Because you don’t have to pay to get people to hear your message. When you have a relationship with them, they want to hear your message.
To create relationships, you have to be real. You have to be authentic. Make fun of yourself when it’s appropriate. Tell people what’s going on in your business. Share your stories – successful and disappointing. Post pictures that let your audience into your world (behind-the-scenes, employees, your work place, entertainment, challenges, etc.).
Remember, people aren’t on social media to see what your business is selling today. They’re there to see what’s happening in the lives of those they choose to follow. Embrace that mentality.
Really, I could end this post here. If you don’t have relationships with your customers and audience, you will have to spend money.
But there are additional tactics you can employ – many of which fall into a part of the relationship aspect – to see even more success without financial infusions into social media.
Find Social Media Partners
I want to advise this tactic cautiously. This ties in directly to having relationships, not trying to game a system.
One reason I’ve come so far in my business is because of the help of others. People who have small, medium, and large devoted audiences have shared my content, promoted my services, or recommended me to potential clients. These relationships with my “partners” have been invaluable.
Obviously, when a person with hundreds of thousands of followers shares your content or mentions your name, it’s gonna be a great piece of promotion for your business. But you can’t go out looking for it, asking for it, or trying to barter for it.
I never went out looking for a share-for-share opportunity. I have never shared anyone’s content or promoted a company that I don’t personally recommend or agree with. Instead, I got to know people. I forged relationships with people and they referred me to others. This becomes a snowball effect and will help you get plenty of attention – the right way.
Stop Focusing on the Numbers
I know this is easier said than done. I still look at my numbers – numbers of likes, numbers of followers, numbers of subscribers, numbers of visits, numbers of referral visitors, numbers of sales, etc.
But it shouldn’t be just about the numbers. It should be about the growth of those numbers. You see, my numbers are different than your numbers which are different than your competitors numbers. So instead of focusing on how many fans you have, look at how many fans you’ve gained in a certain period of time. And look at how those fans (old and new) are engaging with your content. 100 highly engaged fans, directly involved in your conversation are much better for business than 1000 fans who ignore your content and your business.
Use a Strategy and Set Goals
Most importantly, for any success, you need a strategy. Throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks won’t bring long-term success. Sure, you can try the occasional “test” but every test should be a part of a strategic plan.
Knowing what you want and where you want to be allows you to focus on the right things. Maybe Facebook is your best plan. Or maybe it’s Twitter. Maybe you should dominate one site. Or maybe you should delve into all the major platforms. Maybe you want 10 new clients. Or maybe you want $10,000 in sales.
A clear strategy and defined goals will allow you to focus your time and resources where they will benefit you most. And these may evolve over months or years. But they allow you to maximize your investment of time and social media content.
Your goals and your strategy are unique to you and your business. But without these being clearly defined, you’re going to try everything you can think of. And much of the time, this will result in turning to ads and promotions that you “hope” will be the solution.
On a side note, even if you do use ads, you still need a clear strategy. Otherwise, your ads will be wasted money on an undefined audience.
Give Away Free Stuff
People love free stuff. You do. And so you do your customers. So give them free stuff. Lots of it.
Give away ebooks, videos, blog posts, consultations, or whatever else you can think of. You can also be a guest on someone’s podcast. Quality free products or services that actually prove your worth are a million times more valuable than any paid ad. And posts for free stuff get shared – a lot! That will get you exposure and reach that you can’t get on your own.
Using these free things, you can also be working to build your list. You own your list. You can keep in contact with your audience directly through your list.
And, using your list, or if you have a well respected blog or social media presence, you can actually promote your own products or services intermittently without needing to pay for the promotion.
Provide Social Media Exclusive Discounts
Almost as much as they like free stuff, people love discounts. Offering discounts exclusive to social media followers is a really good way to reward your fans and grow your business through social media. Most consumers that choose to follow a brand on social media do so because they want a discount. And while discounts shouldn’t be your only reason to have people follow you, it is a very effective method.
People are also more likely to share content that advertises a discount. They want their friends to get the same good discounts too. So not only do you reach your current audience, but you can reach new audiences, grow your fan base, and drive sales. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Contests are a great way to boost your business, your brand awareness, get new fans, and make sales. But you have to use them well.
First of all, your “prize” should never be a free iPad (or other similar gimmick). Well, unless you sell Mac products. Then maybe it could be. But really, your prize should be something from your business. Maybe it’s a free service, or a free product, or a discount, or an exclusive benefit. It should also be something that doesn’t cost you to give it away. Essentially, it will become a loss leader, but it shouldn’t be something you have to pay to get.
And, depending on the platform you’re using, you can usually run a contest for free on social media. Some Facebook apps will cost a small amount to run an effective contest. And I do recommend you use these tools since they will help you significantly in managing the contest. But, you can also run a contest for free on Facebook. And you can run a contest on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other sites for free. Just always make sure you adhere to all platform contest rules.
As I said, none of these tactics are quick fixes or get-rich-quick schemes. They are a part of an entire social media strategy. And when executed properly, can be highly rewarding.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. I do have anticipations of embracing Facebook ads in the future. It’s likely an inevitable next step to grow my business where I want it to go. But I insist on holding out as long as I can, to continue to prove to you – and myself – that you can successfully market your business on social media without spending a bunch of money. That, and I still don’t like the idea of paying Facebook, but that’s a whole other story!
If you want to talk to me about how we can create an effective social media strategy for you, please contact me.
Or if you have any ways that you’ve used social media to grow your business without paying for ads and marketing, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!Share this post Subscribe to my blog
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