By Caryn Starr-Gates
There are plenty of tactics you can take to gain more visibility for your business. Paid advertising is the most obvious—trade or consumer journals, newspapers, radio or televisions spots, billboards (you get the idea)—but in today’s tight economy many businesses are cutting back on that route and seeking less expensive or free alternatives.
Free publicity is earned when you or your company is mentioned in the press as part of a story (for example, when an event is being covered or a new product is being launched). In addition to placement in traditional media (print and broadcast outlets), free publicity is also attained in the social media world, where everyone can be a citizen journalist. It’s also a great place to boost your business exposure if you do it right and often.
As a disclaimer I will say that just because social media is a popular platform does not mean it’s for everyone; nor are all of the networks appropriate for everyone. But if you feel it is appropriate for your business and you will be able to maintain it on a regular basis, set up your accounts and take it from there.
- A LinkedIn profile, Facebook business page, and/or a Twitter account are great ways to engage your audience—share interesting commentaries, blog posts, and articles from other sources, and provide information about your area of expertise (without selling—just sharing).
- Search LinkedIn for good connections in related industries or for those who could become good referral sources and vice versa. Send an invitation to connect and start the conversation.
- Create a well-written branded profile or description. Make sure keywords are there that potential clients or employers would use to find someone with your skills or background. Use your profile to position yourself as an expert in your field, a valuable resource, a smart addition to a team. Change it up now and then to refresh your online presence—your followers will get a notification that you’ve changed your status or profile and the right person might be interested enough to check you out anew. Think of it as a different kind of resume.
- Use your social accounts to engage your audience in a number of ways: announce promotions and run contests, or inform your followers about your company’s good news or your personal accomplishments. Post links to videos on YouTube or Vimeo, or to photos on Flickr or Pinterest.
- Respond to discussions on LinkedIn or other companies’ Facebook pages, or to blog posts and articles you read that are related to your business. Work in something about why you are responding that identifies you or explains why you would be responding if this is appropriate.
Don’t overtly promote your own company—that feels spammy and we all hate that! Rather, respond to the post thoughtfully from the standpoint as an expert or helpful and interested reader. This is also a way to develop positive relationships over the internet with others in your field or area of interest. Others will start to recognize you, connections can develop, a future client, colleague or employer might start an online conversation with you … who knows where it will lead!?
- Feeling bloggy? Go ahead—write about your area of expertise and be sure to tell your social network connections that a new post is up (love those links).
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all of this and you certainly don’t have to do it all at the same time. Try out a few things that are comfortable for you and see how it goes. Work with a marketing consultant who can help you frame your activities or work them into a marketing plan so you don’t fall prey to a scattershot approach. And make sure your marketing materials reflect your brand and are professionally written and designed; when all those new audience members, blog subscribers, or social network followers ask for more information, they’ll be directed to a website or receive a brochure or presentation kit that shows off your business to its best advantage.
Caryn Starr-Gates is a freelance promotional copywriter and owner of StarrGates Business Communications (www.starrgates.com) in Fair Lawn, N.J. She helps small businesses and solo-prenuers market their messages across all media platforms—print, broadcast, digital—in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations. She can be reached at (201) 791-4694 or email@example.com.