Many small to mid-sized business (SMB) owners who once considered Facebook advertising a relatively inexpensive and indispensable “place to be” in social media now ‘dislike’ Facebook advertising because of the rising cost.
Larger businesses with unlimited resources can justify being active on Facebook but SMBs are at a distinct disadvantage due to lack of funding, qualified staff and expertise. Social media advertising, including Facebook, is out of the question for SMB owners who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars a month on these programs.
SMB owners who can’t afford Facebook advertising but need to spread the word about their brand and increase leads have options. In addition to the obvious tools like SEO, blogging and LinkedIn, here are three cost-effective digital initiatives to help SMB owners.
1. Incentive sharing. When a business entices users to share their content, in exchange for providing customers with special offers or deals, that’s called “incentive sharing.” For instance, let’s say a company publishes an Infographic and stipulates that the tenth person to share it with his or her followers will receive a free gift card. By asking each person to share the product or service with X number of friends in exchange for a special offer, it creates a self-sustaining chain of referrals for a small business.
A great example of recent incentive sharing is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which to date has helped raised $100 million. This viral/social media campaign was arguably the most successful form of incentive sharing to date. SMBs can use the ice bucket challenge as a paradigm for an incentive sharing campaign. In theory, it’s no different from Candy Crush, where you receive extra points when your friends sign up and start playing.
By motivating users to share content, it almost becomes a game or competition that is fun and relatively painless. The biggest winner though, is usually the business or cause being promoted.
2. Educational demonstrations. Hosting demonstrations to promote your products and services is excellent way to educate your customers or potential customers about your business. The customer learns something while the small business is established as a thought leader and local expert in their field.
Local businesses such as restaurants, hardware and liquor stores can especially excel when it comes to demonstrations. For example, a hardware store can hold a workshop teaching customers how to build certain things and which tools are best for the job. A restaurant can offer cooking classes and test tastings for potential new menu items. Liquor stores can host wine and beer tastings.
With millennials embracing DIY projects, and consuming more wine and craft beer than ever before, these are great places to start. Demonstrations teach customers and promote the products your business is selling while encouraging consumers to visit your location.
Event invites and pictures from the demo can be shared through social media accounts. After viewing a friend’s picture, some of his/her social media followers might reach out to say “That wine tasting looked awesome – where did you do that?” When that happens, it is only be a matter of time before more people start attending these events and profits start rising.
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3. Snapchat/Vine. Social media is becoming increasingly visual. This is evident by the rise of newer photo-sharing platforms, particularly Snapchat and Vine.
Small businesses can leverage these platforms more intimately than Facebook and Twitter to establish a direct connection to send their customers special offers and deals directly. A restaurant could send a photo or video of their weekly special through Snapchat, capitalizing on the visual medium to encourage customers to come in and try it.
Businesses can also encourage customers to share their own experiences through Vine. If a picture advertisement is worth a 1,000 words, then Vine videos are much more valuable that traditional advertising. Reaching potential customers in six seconds is a challenge but forming that connection and catching their attention with the right video may be worth six hours’ worth of effort.
A recent study by The 7th Chamber found that five Tweets a second contain a Vine link. Studies are showing that a branded Vine is four times more likely to be seen than a branded video. Businesses can capitalize on the popularity of this mobile app by sending out a Vine video featuring one of its products’ uses, a customer modeling apparel, a patron eating at your restaurant or drinking at your bar. This allows their friends to see them interacting with your business in a positive way, thereby increasing the chances that they will do so themselves.
Pricey Facebook advertising is simply not feasible for a number of SMB owners these days, but less expensive and effective opportunities are out there. SMBs that are adaptable and open to trying newer technologies and social media channels can stand up and fight bigger competitors on a daily basis without going bankrupt in the process.
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