In business, there is no maxim more quoted than “you have to spend money to make money”. Businesses of all sizes set aside budgets for marketing and customer service, on the theory that success in these areas depends on large up-front capital investment.For large corporations, this may be true. However, for your small business, the story might be different.
With the rise of social media, it is becoming increasingly feasible to market your small business without spending a penny. By giving users the ability to maintain a free web presence, social media websites provide resourceful users with everything they need to start marketing their business for free. The only thing you need to bring to the table is a bit of patience and effort. With this 5-step plan for social media success, you’ll have your online marketing project up and running no time.
Establishing your Presence
The first step in your marketing project is getting your web presence established. The best way to do this is to sign up with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Facebook is a great site that lets you set up an unlimited number of accounts, and gives you the option of maintaining “pages” that people can follow as fans. LinkedIn is a professional networking service that allows you to build a network of professional contacts, and become a member of interest-specific group discussion pages. Twitter is a site that allows you to send short messages to members of your network, making it a perfect resource for spreading the word. Just sign up for these services using your name and e-mail address, and you’ll be ready to start networking.
Building your Network
Once you have your online presence established, your next goal should be to build up a rich network of friends, acquaintances, business associates, and customers. Facebook allows you to search users by name, so it is a logical place to start building a social network. Use the search feature to look for contacts by first name and last name. Join groups (Facebook social pages) related to your interests, and add others from these groups. Once you have a large Facebook network built up, ask your contacts whether they have Twitter or LinkedIn. Use Twitter user names to add contacts on Twitter. Search by first name and last name to find contacts on LinkedIn.
Getting the Message Out
Once you have built up your social network, your next task is to get your message out. Between Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you now have many communication tools at your disposal. Start a Facebook “page” for your business, and use this page to send mass messages to fans and post promotional materials on walls. Use your Twitter account to send out 140-character messages advertising your products and services. Use the LinkedIn groups feature to post 200 character messages to networks of people who share a common interest related to your business. Using these methods, you can get your message out to a virtually unlimited audience of potential customers.
Giving Away a Freebie
The final step of your social media marketing project is to give your audience an opportunity to sample your product. If you run a consulting or freelancing business, post samples of your work on your Facebook wall, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter feed. If you run a food or retail business, organize an event (e.g. sale, food sampling) and invite your Facebook friends by creating an event page. Provide a link to your website, so that all of your contacts will have the ability to peruse your resume and portfolio. Keep updating your profiles and feeds regularly, so that contacts will be reminded of your business continuously. Whenever you see someone post a work request that your business is capable of fulfilling, send that person a link to samples from your portfolio.
Social media is no reason to forgo traditional advertising. However, social media websites represent an incredible opportunity to grow your business without growing your credit card balance. With a strong web presence, a large social network, and a decent work ethic, you can increase your potential customer base without spending a penny. How much growth you achieve using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is completely up to you. But for the enterprising social networker with passion, dedication, and drive, the sky is truly the limit.