Social Media Marketing on a Budget

For small businesses and other organizations with limited budgets, social media marketing can be a great equalizer by providing another way of engaging with your target market and the public. Social media marketing provides strong content that attracts prospects, supports search engine optimization, enables direct engagement with prospects, customers and the public, and offers forums for loyal fans. The major issue is that social media marketing requires on-going time and effort to achieve results.

10 Social media marketing on a budget questions

Social media marketing on a budget requires thinking through your business and marketing strategy first. Here’s a set of ten questions to help you lay the groundwork.

  1. What are your top-level business and marketing goals? Do you want to expand your pool of prospects, increase sales, or develop loyal fans?
  2. What are your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses? What can you offer prospects and the public in terms of social media content that will set you apart from your competitors?
  3. What resources, both human and financial, can you apply to handling social media marketing? Who will create your social media marketing content and who will take care of the related technology and distribution?
  4. How much time do you have, given your limited resources, to dedicate to another project? Working on a budget, it’s a sure guess your employees aren’t sitting around waiting for something new to do. If social media is another item for employees to do in their “free” time, it won’t get done.
  5. Who’s best capable of online social interaction? Understand that the person with the most available bandwidth may not be the person most capable of representing your company in social media forums.
  6. Is any one in your organization interested in performing these tasks? Bear in mind that it may not be the person you expect or desire.
  7. Are there other areas where you can save resources to use in social media marketing?
  8. What type of social media oversight is required? Do you have a set of social media guidelines? Is additional support or management needed?
  9. What non-promotion content can you use? On social media, you should keep your promotion ratio to other content at a one to ten ratio. Too much self-promotion and readers will leave.
  10. Have you gotten permission to use customers and the public’s images and other materials? Be on the safe side and ensure that you’ve got permission to use the creative commons.

7 Social media marketing on a budget options

With so many social media options, where do I start? Take a deep breath. Focus your efforts on one form of social media and do it well. Here are seven options.

  1. Be a publisher with a blog. At the heart of social media marketing, blogs distribute a wide variety of content format types including text, photographs/graphics, video, audio and slides in a search-friendly way. While blogs require strong content and good grammar, they’re the perfect business platform since they allow you to give customers useful information about your products before, during and after the sale.
  2. Become a director with YouTube. Get over your stage fright and jump into online video’s great story telling qualities to support your business and drive sales. Of course, it helps that YouTube is the number search engine after Google and video supports search optimization. Further, YouTube’s has social sharing and comments for communication.
  3. Join Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla of online traffic. Understand that Facebook users are there to connect with their family, friends and colleagues not to get bombarded with promotional messages. Your Facebook page must be about your customers. It’s useful for having a dialog with customers, allowing them to talk to each other, and/or sharing relevant information. But, understand that consumers may leave after they get their discount or when their wall gets too crowded.
  4. Tweet on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Twitter is great for a variety of communication forms to broadcast your message and interact with prospects and customers. The drawback of Twitter is it has a secret language and requires you to build your audience. For businesses, Twitter can be useful for customer service and providing customers with timely, relevant, information. Expand your reach by participating in Twitter chats such as, #UsGuys, the 24/7 chat about social media. Twitter is a great addition to conferences and meetings to get content out with searchable hashtags.
  5. Smile, you’re on Flickr. Is your product photogenic? While Flickr is a hotbed for bakers and photographers, consider how you can use it to communicate with your customers by participating in Flickr groups like those for hobbies, crafts and travel. How can you get your customers to share their images? Don’t forget to add keyword-rich text for search optimization.
  6. Go beyond jobs on LinkedIn. Often considered the stepchild of social media, LinkedIn can be useful for positioning your firm or yourself as an expert. Use LinkedIn’s question and answer and groups to build an audience for your services.
  7. Get together offline for a Meetup. Is your business appropriate for reaching out to the public? If so, MeetUp can help you wrangle up your prospects and allows for an asynchronous conversation via comments on the Meetups page for your event. Events can occur for a variety of reasons. (Check out this list of 100 ways to thank your customers for some additional ideas.)

Regardless of which of these social media marketing options you choose, it’s critical that you create content that meets your prospects and customers’ needs. Further, understand that while these social media marketing options may be low cost in terms of usage fees, they still require time and effort, the most precious resources of all for a small business on a budget.

Do you have any other budget social media marketing suggestions that you’d add to this list? If so, what are they and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: RambergMediaImages via Flickr

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