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Free Ways to Advertise Your Business Online: A Guide

Advertising helps your business grow, but it can be expensive to hire a consultant or ad agency. Business owners can increase their brand awareness through social media platforms, email marketing, customer reviews and other sources of non-paid advertising. This article shows you how to develop a strategy that takes advantage of free or inexpensive online platforms to grow your business.

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How to develop an advertising strategy

Advertising your business on a budget can be challenging. The key is to know your audience and what they want. To make the most of free advertising, follow these critical steps:

1. Identify your target customer base

To clearly define your target customer base, look at your current customer base and the customer base of your competitors. Investigate your current customers for common activities, interests and demographics. Looking at your competitors’ customer bases may help you identify overlooked markets and give you ideas for where to find new customers. Honing in on your target audience allows you to focus on people most likely to become customers.

2. Find a need and fill it

People typically shop because they need a solution to a problem. You must show people how your product or service can fix a problem. Online product demonstrations are a great way to showcase your business. Blog posts, newsletters and how-to articles should give potential customers a reason to choose your product over all the others on the market.

3. Brand your business

You want people to recognize your business instantly. Your company logo and web page should be unique. Choose a signature color or scheme, and create a brand voice for all online posts, website articles and customer interactions. Unique branding sets you apart from other businesses in your industry.

Three ways to get free advertising

Consider using these free advertising methods:

1. Send out an email newsletter

Email newsletters are a great way to promote website content. Emails can also be used to share business-related news, such as new products, changes in hours or special events. Every email newsletter should include business information and links to your webpage. Keep track of click-throughs to see how many of your email subscribers are using webpage links and making purchases.

2. Create a blog

A blog is a great way to create a relationship with your customers and establish yourself as an industry authority. To be most effective, a blog should include text, photos and videos. You can use blogs to showcase upcoming events, new products, tips and tricks and more. Create a blogging calendar to ensure that you are posting regularly and that your topics stay relevant and current. Be sure to link to your blog on social media platforms.

3. Take advantage of social media

Social media is a critical component of any marketing strategy. Most platforms are free to use and allow you to post videos, photographs, business links and messages. To make the most of social media, choose the platform that best matches your customer demographics. There are five major types of social media platforms that you should consider:

  • Social networking platforms: These include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social networking platforms provide an effective mix of both text and visuals, making it easy to communicate with potential customers. With a Facebook profile, you can showcase business information and positive reviews and answer customer questions. LinkedIn is a career-oriented networking site that can help you create connections with other industry professionals. With a Twitter profile, you can "tweet" business updates, "retweet" positive customer reviews, post videos and tag partner businesses or customers.
  • Photo sharing platforms: Instagram and Pinterest are great for building brand awareness. Instagram allows you to post videos and comments and create live video streams. You can interact with customers via tagging, messaging and commenting. Instagram’s shoppable posts allow consumers to make purchases directly through the platform. Pinterest allows you to create "boards" that include products, demonstrations, frequently asked questions and more. Customers can follow and "heart" your boards. Pinterest also allows you to "heart" posts from other businesses and individuals.
  • Video sharing platforms: Video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo are great for sharing product demonstrations, how-to videos and new products. Streaming videos allows you to connect with your customers in a way that isn’t possible in a message, tweet or post. Videos that you upload on these platforms can be "liked" and commented on by customers. You can also add links to your website and products from your video posts.
  • Interactive media platforms: These include apps such as Snapchat and TikTok. These platforms have a much smaller following and appeal to a much younger consumer. Much like the other platforms, Snapchat and TikTok allow you to share videos and photos, but they also provide a lot of filters and music options.
  • Community platforms: Platforms like Tumblr and Reddit allow you to post memes, events and topics unique to your industry. Followers can share and comment on your posts. Tumblr can be used to increase brand awareness, demonstrate products and link customers to your website. Reddit discussion boards are a great way to gauge customer interest in a product or service by allowing followers to "up-vote" or "down-vote" a post. Both Tumblr and Reddit are great for generating buzz about your product online.

Related: Social Media Recruiting Tips and Strategies

Free online business advertising FAQs

Here are answers to a few commonly asked questions about free online advertising:

Is advertising free on Yelp?

Businesses can get a free Yelp profile, but ads for your competitors will show up on your profile and your ads will show up on your competitor’s profile. You must pay to get a Yelp profile that is free from ads. Furthermore, Yelp charges based on cost-per-click. The cost-per-click charge can vary greatly from business to business.

Can search engine optimization (SEO) help advertise my business?

While search engine optimization is not technically advertising, SEO can go a long way in making your website and brand more visible to consumers. Researching keywords, understanding industry competitors and optimizing your website are just a few of the steps you can take to optimize your visibility on the web.

How can Quora be used as part of my advertising strategy?

Answering Quora questions will help educate consumers and establish you as an authority figure. To make the most of Quora, be sure your name and title are displayed with your answer.

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