The times, they are a-changin'.
(My business partner begged me to remove that line, is my southern showing? I digress)
While the concept of advertising probably isn’t going anywhere, the methods we use to reach customers are rapidly changing and can at times be quite volatile (What's SEO? What's keyword stuffing? Why is everyone talking about Pandas and cookies?). As a Digital Strategist, sometimes it feels like my entire job is just keeping up and sorting through the trends.
It can also get very expensive, very fast. Each facet of Digital Marketing is easily a full time job. You've got Search Engine Optimization/SEO (both on-page and off-page), Pay-per-click/PPC, content creation, Social Media Management, Influencer Marketing, copywriting... the list goes on and gets longer every day.
SO. I’ve filtered through the noise a bit. Here are a few reliable and totally free Digital Marketing techniques that I can always count on.
1. Google Business Profile
This one will take you 5 minutes. FILL OUT YOUR GOOGLE BUSINESS PROFILE! This is the blurb that displays on the right-hand side when you Google Search your business. If you don’t have one set up, you’re really missing out on potential traffic (especially if you’re a B2C local business). You can post your hours, website, phone number, and reviews. This makes your business more visible in general. It’s also a great place to ask for reviews. People who are searching for services usually see businesses with the highest and most Google Reviews first.
2. Facebook Groups
If you have a business Facebook Page (which you should), join relevant Groups and become active within them. The key here is interaction and exposure. You want to make every attempt to reach as many people as possible and stay at the front of their mind. Judy from Atlanta might not know that she needs consulting services, but when she writes a post on Small Business Owners USA asking for advice on falling sales, you can provide valuable info and create a new business connection. Chances are, next time she needs consulting services, she’s going to remember you.
3. Build your Sphere of Influence
This one is adapted from Real Estate Marketing. A Real Estate Agent is basically a professional marketing guru who happens to sell houses. One major tactic they use is called Sphere of Influence Marketing. This basically means establishing yourself as an expert and a minor celebrity in your field. Hosting events, giving lectures, checking in on your contacts frequently, sending birthday cards, the list goes on. This is basically just nurturing your network and actively making an effort to expand it. You know what they say: “It’s not what you know…”
4. Create Content
You can’t really expect to reach people with a blank poster. And you can’t expect people to follow you or listen to you if you have a blank profile. This is easily a full time job, but it must be done. My trick here is to focus on creating long-form content. From there, you can break it down into smaller bits of content. So in essence you're getting a few pieces of content from one content-making-session. For example: if you created a video interview, you could cut small 30 second sections of hard-hitting dialogue and post them on social media. You could host the long-form version on Youtube and link it back to your site. You could take quotes and put them into image form using Pablo or Canva. You could even take a few bullet points and make a Facebook post using a stock photo. This way you’re getting the most bang for your buck (and time).
5. The $1.80 Method
The $1.80 method was coined by Gary Veynerchuck, whom I humbly refer to as the King of Social Media Marketing. This method puts the social back into social media. It forces you to interact with your community and get your (or your company’s) name in front of more people. It goes like this: Every day (or as often as possible) leave your two cents in the comment section of nine posts in your top 10 hashtags. I recommend doing some hashtag research first: Search for a few terms that are relevant to your business, and choose 10 that have a high number of users and decent engagement/activity. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, though. Curate a mix of super-popular and kind-of-popular tags. Even though the hashtags with millions of posts will expose your message to lots of people, they are highly competitive and you risk being lost among the crowd. Once you have your list of 10 hashtags, take the time to visit each one and leave a comment or interact with the top 9 posts. Something simple like “This is really great! What else have you been working on?” or “Wow I didn’t know it was possible for a dog to be so cute”…. and on and on.
6. Ask for Reviews
Reviews are everything and they’re gaining traction rapidly. People want to do their research before making a decision, and businesses without them are siding in rank. Chances are, you have at least a few happy customers or clients. Send them a humble email and ask for a favor. Let them know that satisfaction is the backbone of your organization and you would appreciate a review. It’s up to you where you would like the reviews to live, however, I would recommend opting for a social profile instead of your website. You can always pull the testimonial from Facebook onto your website, but you can’t get reviews from your website on to Facebook. Plus, reviews on social platforms like Facebook and Google are often more visible than reviews that live on your website. So send out an email asking for reviews, and include a link to multiple social sites. Google Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp are good places to start. If you really want a testimonial section of your website (which is never a bad idea), you can copy the review and name from Social Media over to your website later.
7. Harness the Power of Links
One of the major ranking factors for Google’s algorithm is backlink profile; that is, the number of sites that contain a link back to your website. Think of a backlink as a digital flyer for your business. Just as you would in the “real world,” you want to put up as many flyers as possible. You don’t however, want your flyers in the bad part of town or in questionable spots like the men’s bathroom at the local dive bar. Think quality over quantity. Google, not surprisingly, loves it when you use their social platforms (Google+ and Youtube) so one link from these sites will boost your ranking more than 20 links from your buddy's random hobby blog. You can get creative with the way you get links. If you’re a B2B company, ask your partners for links. They might have a section of their website that lists businesses they work with. Similarly, you could create a page on your website that lists your partners. This way you can say “hey Bob, I appreciate working together. I listed your business on my ‘Partners’ page. Do you think you could list me on your site as well?” Bam. Backlink built. If you’re a B2C business you can put links on forums, blogs, and directories but use these sparingly.
8. Optimize and Connect all Social Profiles
This one is pretty self-explanatory but is often overlooked. If someone finds you on Twitter, make sure they can click through to your Facebook! Every platform you exist on should connect to the others. It’s like a web. If you have an email list, make sure each email you send out contains a link to your Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc etc etc. Make sure you have similar (ideally identical) profile pictures and bio text. And make sure your profiles contains a link back to your website!
9. Make it Easy and Fun for Customers to Engage With Your Business Online
Create hashtags, giveaways, and regular story lines that your customers can follow and engage with. Social Media is meant to be, well, social. You will grow faster with a bit of personality and fun than you will with robotic, useless posts. Have an ongoing office prank war? Post updates for your viewers to follow along with. Can’t decide which new menu item to offer? Post a poll! The key here is to treat your followers as friends and build rapport through engagement.
Collaborating is an awesome way to get your name in front of a new group of people while providing the same service to whoever you’re collaborating with. It’s also a good way to get to know your industry (or another industry) from someone else’s point of view. You’ll both be expanding your following while learning a thing or two from the other. Win-win-win!
Digital Marketing doesn't have to be a huge undertaking: think of it as building good habits. You wouldn't wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide that "today's the day" you start implementing 20 new habits. If you actually wanted a shot at achieving them, you would work them into your every-day routine over time. The same goes for Digital Marketing. Sure, you could hire an amazing Digital Marketing Firm like mine to get it done ASAP. But if you aren't ready to dive in head-first, there are plenty of things you can do that will have a big impact in the long-run.
Let me know which #1-10 resonated with you most in the comment section. If you use them, let me know so I can feature them. Get out there and get started!
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