Marketing and public relations can be expensive. Or, I should say, the perception is that all of it is expensive, or that some of it (like Facebook) is free. No matter what you are trying to promote, you should be prepared to spend at least a little bit of money. Sure, lots of social media and other options are free. But, with even a small budget you can increase your chances of more people seeing your message.
Inexpensive promotions on Facebook
Ok, I’m going to start with Facebook because this is one of the first things people think of and Facebook has made some recent important changes. Yes, Facebook is free to join. You can also create a page separate from your account for free, as well as advertise scheduled events, all for free. But while it may seem relatively easy to have something go viral, the fact is in comparison to the amount of “stuff” out there, only a very small percentage actually goes viral. Think about it, when you are browsing your own personal Facebook feed, how much of it do you just scroll past and how much of it do you actually click, read from start to finish, and then act upon it? Probably not much.
Still, Facebook is too large to be ignored, so you should have a presence on Facebook. If you are having an event, create an event. Strongly consider a paid promotion, which can cost as little as $5 and you can spend as much as you want. What is nice about these paid promotions is that you can be very specific in telling Facebook who you want to see your post or ad. You can pick my age, gender, geography, interests and so on. But, when used efficiently, Facebook can be a great tool for people to find your message. Recently Facebook has made several announcements that have stated that if you want your message to be heard, you are going to have to pay. Any page owner or manager on Facebook will tell you that their organic reach has dropped tremendously in recent months. At the time of this writing, I have over 6500 followers and any one of my posts that I make to my page will only reach about 30-60 people, unless I pay to promote it. This is why you shouldn’t count on something going viral. If only 30 people are seeing it to begin with, that’s very difficult and you’d have to have extraordinary content to go viral.
Promotions on Twitter
Twitter has a lot of similarities to Facebook, but the dynamic is much different. While it has recently changed to more of a link feeder for many businesses, there still are conversations going on Twitter. As it should be! That is what Twitter is designed for. If you are going to have and nurture a presence on Twitter, you must reach out to your followers and engage them in conversations. Respond to their Tweets, ask them questions and be very interactive. If you just drop links and run, you won’t build a strong presence on Twitter. You can also do paid promotions on Twitter so that your Tweet reaches more people.
You may also want to consider a Twitter party, but it requires a decent presence first. Once you have built up followers and are interacting, ask 3-5 of them to participate in a Twitter Chat with you. Schedule a time, pick a hashtag and go! You can do plenty of internet searches on how to have a successful Twitter Chat or party and they are very popular. I recommend participating in some before you host your own so you can get a feel for how one works.
Promotions on Pinterest
Pinterest now offers an option to do paid promotional pins. You have to be approved on Pinterest as a business and you have to apply to the program, which at this writing is still in beta mode. But once you’re in, you can pay to promote a specific pin. If you are a florist, baker, wedding planner, home décor or any other business that is highly visual, you should absolutely be on Pinterest. Pinterest is free to join and free to join even if you are a business, you will just pay for any pin promotions that you do.
Ways to use traditional print media to promote your message
Traditional Print Media is not dead. There are still many publications with decent subscriber rates. I’m not talking about taking out a full page ad in the New York Times. There are many great local weeklies that can allow you to reach a very specific audience. Also make sure you ask about combining options and doing both print and on their website. Depending on what you are trying to promote, you can choose from many inexpensive options:
- Classified ad
- Letter to Editor
- Op/Ed piece on your cause
- Send a press release about an event or whatever you are promoting
- Print ad depending on what you are promoting and that paper’s audience-for example, if you are looking for summer interns, why wouldn’t you put an ad in a local college newspaper?
- Sticker/flyer on top of daily paper, or other add-ins
- See if your local cable station has one of those local access community bulletin boards, or inquire about doing an ad.
Other more grassroots ways to self promote
I call these grassroots ways to promote yourself, because, well, because I don’t know what else to call it and they have a very grassroots feel to them.
- Find a local venue (library, church) and set up free or low cost classes in your area of expertise. Great way to get your name out there and reach new people on a very personal level.
- Have business cards or postcards printed up and distribute locally. I clip a bunch together in a paper clip and then pin that bundle of cards to bulletin boards at grocery stores and other places in the community.
- Never leave home without a business card. I can’t tell you how many diners or pizzerias that I go in to, and they have a spot for individuals to leave business cards. Leave them, you never know!
- Church bulletins-Awesomely inexpensive way to reach local families, if that is your audience. I got a pitch from a local church asking if I want to advertise for just $8.
- Craigslist-People still use it! Depending on what you are promoting, it might be a great free option for you. All it takes is 10 minutes of your time to post.
- Sponsor a local kids’ sports team. Have your name printed on their shirts, which not only will be seen by every parent at the game, but all of their friends when they see the photos of the soccer game on Facebook.
- Find a trade show or conference and inquire about sponsorships. I recently sponsored a regional conference that shares my target audience, and it only cost me $75.
- If you are selling something, there are a zillion fairs, craft shows, church bazaars and events like that, which often have very reasonably priced rental space.
- Yard signs-These can be purchased for as little as $5 or $6 each. Keep them simple with a web address that is easy to remember or a QR code. Make sure you get permission if you wish to post these in public places.
- Your car-You can purchase a vinyl sticker or removable magnet for $10-$20 and up, depending on size and number of colors.
- Online Petitions: You can create free online petitions to voice your concern about a change you’d like made, or one that you don’t want to happen. This can be a great way for people to participate, since when they sign a petition they feel like they are doing something. But, you will definitely have to combine it with the promotional ideas above, particularly on social media, so that people see the petition.
- Schools-There are many ways you can get your name in front of an entire school and their families. You can put ads in their papers or bulletins, sponsor one of their events, donate gifts in kind and much more.
- Fun runs and 5k runs-Many different levels of sponsorship exist for these events and you could have your name and/or website on flyers, their website, shirts, banners and more.
- Donate gift baskets to charity raffles-Many special events and fundraisers love to have nice gift baskets to raffle or auction off. Bundle up a basket of your products or services and donate.
- Bloggers-find bloggers that fit your need and see what you can work out. If you want them to do a sponsored post, expect to pay $50 and up, depending on the size of their audience. You could also offer them a rate for a banner ad on their website. If you are a charity or non-profit that is near and dear to their heart, they may do it for free, but don’t count on it. (I get numerous daily requests so there is no way I could do them all!)
- Direct mail campaigns can be as little as $250 for a small postcard campaign and will allow you to target specific zip codes. Keep your message simple, clean, with a call to action and not spammy looking.
I hope this gives you a good starting point if you have a limited budget and are looking for ways to promote a message. You don’t have to start out with thousands or even hundreds of dollars. If you are asking yourself, which is the most effective way to use my money? Well, that’s hard to answer. Different causes, businesses and niches work better on one platform than another. Start a spreadsheet and see what each view or your reach is costing you per person. Check it monthly, evaluate and readjust.
Good luck and have fun with it. If you are passionate about what you are doing, it will shine through!
If you would like to reprint this as a handout, here you go: