If you have $41,000 to spend on marketing, you can stop reading this article. That’s the average salary for a Social Media Specialist, according to payscale.com — and while it may not sound like much, it’s a lot for most small business owners. Fortunately, there are a number of free online marketing tools you can start using now. In this blog, I’ll tell you about some of the best marketing tools available to small businesses. Most are easy to understand, and only require a little time and ambition to implement. Many even include analytical tools that can tell you how effective they are. At a cost of free, you’re guaranteed to get a great return on investment — so give these tools a try:
Having a Twitter account is a lot like having a gym membership. It’s only effective if you use it. Fortunately, getting more value from your Twitter account is no sweat. Twitter Lists is a simple tool that can help you improve interaction with customers, track competitors, and even get a little free PR. This built-in Twitter feature lets you create lists of users to follow, so you can monitor their tweets and connect with them on a regular basis. Create customer lists to respond to inquiries, resolve complaints and share promotions. Check out competitors’ social media strategies. Or, follow journalists, reporters and bloggers who may report on your company’s news. Learn how to use lists here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/76460-using-twitter-lists.
Want to create a Twitter list, but don’t know who to add? Followerwonk can help. This tool analyzes Twitter data to identify relevant users, and helps you tailor content to their interests. Simply enter a keyword into its search window — like your business name, location, or industry type — and Followerwonk will find Twitter profiles that contain your keywords. You can then add them to your lists. One of my favorite things about Followerwonk is the “Track Followers” tool, which displays daily new followers and lost followers in user-friendly graphs that track changes over time. This way, you can which posts won followers (or lost their interest). https://followerwonk.com/bio
One of the best ways to attract and engage customers is to create relevant content. And if that content is shared? Even better. Buzzmodo is a content marketing tool that can help you research trending topics and show you which stories, blogs and articles are being shared most often, for any given topic. Use it to quickly see what is resonating and why — and apply those insights to your own content. You can get ideas on the formats, length, and headline types that work, and share links to the most popular content. Read more here: http://buzzsumo.com/
Answer the Public
Want to know what your customers are thinking? Answer the Public can help you. If you’ve ever typed a question into a Google search, such as, “How do I get rid of fruit flies?” you may have noticed a list of suggested questions below your search window. (It turns out people also want to do away with fleas, flies and Facebook — good luck with that one.) Google generates these questions based on the most common searches. Answer the Public works in a similar way, but it’s a better tool for businesses. Simply enter a word or phrase relevant to your industry, customers, product or service, and you’ll see a visual web of questions most commonly searched. Try it: http://answerthepublic.com/
Social media campaigns like contests, special events and giveaways can help introduce your brand to a larger audience, and boost engagement with current customers — but getting started can be daunting. Shortstack is a self-service platform that lets you build social campaigns, promote events, host giveaways and voting contests, and offer coupons and discounts through social media. Shortstack offers a range of plans with monthly fees, but their base-level plan is free. Find out more here: http://www.shortstack.com/
This free tool from Google gives you insights into how visitors find and use your website, so you can learn how to keep them coming back. You can see how many people visited your site and when, measure how long they stayed, track sales and conversions, and more. Google Analytics also tells you a lot about customer behavior, like whether they visited your site from their computer, iPad or iPhone, and how they found you. When you know more about what your customers are looking for, it’s easier to tailor your content for maximum lead generation and a better user experience. Learn how to use Google Analytics here: http://www.google.com/analytics/
Eye-catching graphics are powerful, and can be some of the best marketing tools for your business. If you don’t have the budget for a full-time graphics team, you may want to try Canva, a free small business marketing resource that lets you be your own graphic designer. Canva is a user-friendly graphics creation tool you can use to design flyers, invitations, newsletters, Facebook covers, presentations, business cards, and more. Start designing: https://www.canva.com/about
If you’ve read the news lately, you know that a single customer can quickly cause irreparable damage to a company’s reputation. (Anyone want to take the kids to Martha’s Diner?) Google Alerts is a free notification system that can help keep you informed when someone mentions your company name (or any word or phrase you enter) online, so you can react fast. Simply sign up for alerts, enter the words or phrases that interest you, and you’ll be among the first to know when anyone posts content that contains the terms you specify. Learn more here: https://www.google.com/alerts
HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Want a little free publicity? If you can’t hire a PR person, HARO may be the next best thing. Created to connect journalists with relevant expert sources, HARO distributes more than 50,000 journalist queries to its membership base each year. News agencies like Fox, ABC and the AP use HARO to find experts who can help them with topics about which they are reporting. Then, HARO’s membership base can reach out to reporters directly, capitalizing on opportunities to tell their brands’ stories. Sign up for this free service here: http://www.helpareporter.com/
Short URLs work better — and with Bitly, you can shorten any URL for free just by placing it in the website’s search window and clicking “Shorten.” But that’s not all this little service does. You can also use bitly to create branded links, optimize your link performance, and capture rich, secure, first-party data that can help you drive engagement. Here’s the link: http://bitly.com/
Nothing feels better than saving money — except, maybe making more money. This collection of free tools can help you do both. Meanwhile, if you need a few more tools to help your business grow (like access to working capital) contact my friend, Blaine Waugh, at Triumph Business Capital.