Promoting your blog or website can be a frustrating process, given that most small business owners are working with minimal resources and money for a marketing budget is just not a viable option. Luckily, with the emergence of a plethora of social networking sites, free widgets and tools galore, promoting yourself online doesn’t have to cost a bundle. There are plenty of free and low cost options to choose from.
Promoting with Facebook
Setting up a Facebook fan page is pretty much a must-have in today’s social media-sphere. To begin building fans, add your friends initially, and ask a few close friends to email it out as a “page suggestion” so that you reach a broader network of readers. Join other fan pages that are similar or within your niche and participate in their comments and forums section, while providing a subtle link back to your website or fan page. However, make sure that you are contributing poignant content, rather than pushing your own website. It’s bad online etiquette and makes you look like a spammer — and Facebook will penalize you if you leave similar comments on multiple fan pages.
Twitter is the most beneficial online promotional tool — if you use it correctly. The most common mistake that people make in trying to promote their business or blog on Twitter is making the content completely self serving. Twitter is, in the most basic way, a social networking platform. It’s built so that users can interact with one another. A good rule of thumb for promoting yourself on Twitter is to “tweet” two to three personal musings for every blog post tweet you send out. “Re-tweeting” (or copying another person’s tweets and crediting them) is a great way to get more exposure, since most people tend to give an online shout-out to people who re-tweet them. The key to mastering Twitter is interacting with other users. Comment on their statements, answer questions, and get involved. It will make you stand out and give you credibility in a sea of blogger spammers.
Stumbleupon is a fantastic tool for generating web traffic. It has been invaluable for LifeStyler, and typically generates around 15%-20% of our monthly traffic. The way StumbleUpon works is that users choose a variety of topics that they are interested in reading about, and when they install the toolbar into their web browser, they can randomly click a “stumble” button which allows them to pull up a random web page tailored to their chosen web topics. When a publisher publishes web content, they (or a random user) can submit the web page to StumbleUpon, where it will be archived and tagged for users to stumble. I always stumble my own stories, and also offer my readers the option to stumble my content with a social networking sharing widget on WordPress.
Paid advertising is no longer for huge companies with multi-million dollar marketing budgets. Even the smallest company can afford to promote themselves online. The two cheapest and most common platforms for bloggers to advertise themselves are Google AdWords and Facebook ads. I have used both at some point, and have found Ad Sense to be the best for driving traffic. Using AdWords is an experiment, though, and you will quite possibly have to test out a few different ads and keywords to find a sweet spot. The key is to target hyper-detailed keywords, instead of general ones (i.e. east village coffee shop, instead of nyc coffee shop), since companies with a larger budget will undoubtedly be given a higher ranking for more general terms. Formulating an effective ad can also be an issue. Make sure the copy is concise, clear, and includes a few targeted keywords. Google has a helpful tutorial on creating good copy.
Facebook ads tend to not always produce good results, and I believe the reason for that is the general overlook they receive since Facebook users are busy checking status updates, photos and videos. There’s too much competition on the page, and ads typically go overlooked. But Facebook ads are generally inexpensive, so it’s worth testing out the waters to see if it generates a return for your business. The same rules apply with writing effective ad copy.