Top tips for online marketing on a shoestring: Tip 4

Online marketing is an invaluable tool for businesses looking to increase awareness of their product and engage with potential customers. With an understanding of the resources available and a little bit of creativity, an online marketing campaign can be one of the most cost-effective ways of maximizing your business’s potential. During the Business Startup show at London’s ExCeL centre in May, Simply Business partnered with PR agency 3 Monkeys and SEO agency Distilled to discuss some of the top marketing tips for people starting out in business. We have taken some of the top tips from the day and added some of our own and will be publishing them as a blog series over the next week. You can read the fourth tip of our seven-part series below.

4. Engage through social media.

Social media is a great tool to help increase awareness of your brand, participate in thoughtful industry discussions, and engage with potential customers. If used correctly, social media can do wonders for your reputation and credibility.

It is worthwhile to register a Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin account under your business name. But, know that not all of these outlets will be suitable for all businesses. Try different strategies and see what works. Businesses that involve customers’ personal life or hospitality (e.g. hair salons, restaurants) may find the most success on Facebook, while IT consultants may find the most success on Linkedin.

Whichever site(s) you choose as your focus, remember that the primary goals are responsiveness and engagement. Share your knowledge and insight; contribute to the discussion; interact with users. Be active on your page and work to garner likes and comments, so that potential customers will continue to see your updates. This type of engagement will help to build up a network of people who know who you are, recommend you to others, and link to your site.

Social media can also be a great medium for interacting with opinion leaders outside of your direct network. ‘Opinion leaders’ are those that have large spheres of influence online; they have high following counts and retweets on Twitter, many likes and comments on Facebook, etc. Essentially, their feedback reaches and impacts a large audience. You can register with Klout.com to see statistics on users’ online influence and to identify who in your network has “True Reach.” Befriend these people, comment on their statuses, retweet their messages. By engaging with these users, you are rapidly spreading the word about your brand—not just to them, but to their entire online network.

In all cases, the objective is not to shamelessly plug your business. Rather, it is to participate in the online community and posit your company as a voice of authority. If you do this, the business will come.

Helpful links from this section: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, and Klout.

Platforms to manage and aggregate your social media sites: Hootsuite, Radian6, Involver, and Topsy.

Recommended blogs for social media news: Mashable, Social Times, Econsultancy, The Linkedin Blog.

Read Tip 1: Get a website

Read Tip 2: Learn the ins and outs of Google

Read Tip 3: Understand and measure who is using your site

Read Tip 5: Blog to bolster your authority

Read Tip 6: Harness the power of your customers

Read Tip 7: Remember that paid search doesn't need to break the bank