'How can I advertise on social media for free?'
This has to be one of the most common questions that I hear on a day to day basis and not just when I am working with a client either! If I am out at a social event and the conversation turns to what each person does for a living, once a business owner finds out what I do it isn't usually long before they are asking for my thoughts on Google Adwords, Facebook advertising or how to advertise online for free.
It stands to reason really:
Businesses need customers
New customers are achieved through advertising
Advertising comes at a price (even if that price is time)
How can a business lower their advertising cost whilst gaining new customers
Note: don't forget about your existing customers of course.
Budget is a key factor here- not everyone has a nice big pot of funds put aside to promote their business. Indeed a lot of people don't have any money to invest in advertising. Times are tough and the mere perceived risk of outlaying liquid funds to advertise with no guarantee of a return is enough to put a lot of business owners off of advertising.
So this leads to these business owners thinking, 'what if I could advertise for free...?' or more specifically, 'what if I could advertise online for free...?' I say online because this is where the audience is located in most cases. I'm not about to go into the pros and cons of different advertising platforms. That would a whole new article. Suffice to say that most people are online, using social media and susceptible to finding products and services using search engines and social media.
A brief description of the above two platforms when considering advertising:
Search engines- an example would be Google. Nothing happens until the viewer types something into the search box. They are proactively looking for something. You have three choices of being found on a search engine:
Pay to be soon i.e. Google Adwords
Get to the top of the organic listings by having an awesome online presence
Get a 'pin in the map' above the organic listings and below the adverts by having a Google Business page. DO THIS! It is free.
This is an example of PULL advertising. You are promoting your business to those who are looking and are pulling them to you.
Social media- an example would be Facebook. People spend most of their time here having conversations about interesting topics with friends and colleagues. They are not necessarily looking for anything in particular. An exception to this would be a local 'recommendations' page. Your presence on that page at the time of a potential customer posting is fundamental to replying to that client (unless someone tags you in to that post).
This is an example of PUSH advertising. You are pushing your business in front of people who may or may not be looking for you at the time of pushing.
PAID ADS OR FREE ADS
I want to make one thing clear here: I am not against paying for advertising online. It works and I know it works. I have managed many campaigns for my own clients successfully. One thing that I do know, however, is that it is not a requirement for your business to pay for advertising. This is important. Let me repeat and expand on this:
It is not a requirement for your business to pay for advertising. Your business can still be successful.
What gives me the right to say this?
I work with several businesses as a digital marketing consultant. These companies range from entrepreneurs up to companies who turn over 7 digit figures. these businesses pay for me to manage and arrange their digital marketing to increase their client base. However, I do not require any marketing budget from them in order to improve their online visibility and engagement. Everything I do focuses on using what is already available online for free. I firmly believe that free methods of advertising online have been largely overlooked by many businesses because they hire marketing agencies who tell them they need to spend on adwords or PPC (pay per click) in order to get a decent response. These agencies then charge companies to manage these campaigns.
I run a few businesses. I've tried every form of paid advertising that I can think of over the years of being in business: google Adwords, Facebook Ads, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, local directories and websites; you name it, I've done it. I've paid thousands of pounds and monitored the responses and I can safely say that I have never made a significant return on my paid investment when compared with advertising for free online. Never. even as a standalone investment I cannot think of one campaign that really benefited my businesses in a memorable way. (This is what lead me to my focus on being a #Freenius).
I now earn more than twice as much as my highest paid employed job and my business is still growing. So I give myself the right to give this advice based on all of the above.
WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM SHOULD I USE?
This is somewhat subjective. I don't know what your business offers so I don't know your industry. What works for one might not work for another. There are plenty of options available to you. Some of the more popular ones are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn but there are plenty more.
What I will say is that you do not necessarily need to throw your business all over every platform out there. this will take time to maintain and will probably not give you a significant return on your time when compared with concentrating on less platforms. Pick one platform and focus on getting it right. Facebook would generally be my 'go to' platform for a lot of the smaller businesses that I work with as it has the largest following with some easy ways to reach new customers.
HOW DO I ADVERTISE FOR FREE?
This is what it is all about. You will, of course, need to set up your own Facebook page and ideally a Facebook Business page too. These are very easy things to set up and you can obtain a step by step guide on how to do this using Google, Youtube or Facebook. It isn't difficult.
Once your page is set up you will need to brand it. Add your logo, a cover image, some information, your contact number, address, website link etc. Now you may not be a graphic designer when adding a cover image but again, there are free tools out there which can help.
Canva is a graphic design website which has a free version and this is perfectly acceptable to use. Setting up an account is easy. You will find that Canva even has preset templates for everything from cover images to adverts for every platform that you will need.
You will be able to use this software to brand your page and also to create adverts. It just takes a little bit of time to play with it and find out what it can do. Again, if you are unsure you can easily find advise online about how to use Canva.
Once you have designed a couple of adverts you can use them to passively post to local pages. If you type the name of the town where you live into the search bar at the top of Facebook and hit return you will find it offers you options of the local business pages which you can join. Belonging to local groups means that you can often post your advert to those pages. It is always worth making sure that adverts are allowed and not to overdo the posts. You don't want to annoy people by appearing 'spammy'.
I recommend not posting to any more than 5 local groups per day. Facebook do want you to spend money with them by choosing their advertising campaign options so they will get a bit narked if you choose this free way. Over posting to groups can earn you a Facebook ban for a day, a week or longer. So be sensible.
You can also join 'recommend a business' pages and keep an eye on these in case anyone is looking for your service or product.
WHAT IS YOUR INVESTMENT?
In a nutshell, you are investing time. No capital. No funds. Just time. Initially it might take you a little while to get yourself familiar with Facebook and/ or Canva but once you can use these and have designed a couple of simple adverts then all you really need is the time to post your advert, along with a paragraph of text about your business, a link to your website and contact details to a few groups or pages each day. This is a 10 minute job (or less).
Plenty of businesses pay professional digital marketing agencies to do this for them (albeit usually part of a bigger management package) but this really is not a difficult thing to do! I'd recommend asking whether you need to pay anyone to do this kind of advertising when:
you would be paying someone to do something that is, essentially, free!
you can do this yourself, as outlined above
you could save funds by doing this yourself to invest in other areas of your business
Designing an advert for social media could cost anywhere between £20-100 depending on the content and designer. Canva is free. Actually posting to social media takes moments. If you cannot invest 5-10 minutes each day to do this yourself I would be asking why not?
Regardless of how much money I have spent on advertising I can comfortably say that it has not been a requirement of my business success (and I am successful) and is not a part of my core strategy for the businesses that I work with. I believe that there will come a day when paid advertising may help some of my business ventures get to 'the next level' (which depends on the product, business model and industry into which I venture) but right now I have a waiting list for website design and am in more demand for digital marketing than I have time for. I have built my business largely using Facebook for free and from there have engineered ways in which clients can find me for free.
I am nothing special. You can do this too. So do it.
If you need any help or further advice then please get in touch!