As a marketing service provider, you need to generate results for your small business (SMB) clients. However, their budget is tight and the time you can dedicate to them is restricted. How can you achieve stellar results with these two fundamental conditions? We dug deep into dozens of content marketing hacks and selected the 6 best free ways to promote any blog post that your SMB has on their website to gain more traffic that can later be converted into leads.
Free Content Promotion Hack #1: Micro-Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a hot trend for 2017, but it’s not always the right tactic for small businesses. We came up with a better way to harness the power of influencer marketing. Micro-influencer marketing (as can be understood from the name) involves reaching out to a few smaller influencers who aren’t yet super-famous or charging for their recommendations. Their opinion is taken seriously by their several-thousand strong followers, making them just as effective as one super-famous influencer (if not more so).
How much of your time it may take: Up to half an hour to create an initial list of influencers which you can reuse multiple times. Once you know who to target, just a few minutes per piece of content.
How to do it:
- Compile a list of influencers in your SMB client’s field who have several thousand followers (but not tens of thousands). Look for micro-influencers who are local to your SMB client’s market. The easiest route is to ask your SMB client to name influencers in their industry. Otherwise, check their existing followers for accounts of the size you need, search Instagram or Twitter using industry hashtags or use one of these free tools to identify micro-influencers:
- Use the free version of Followerwonk to search up to 50 twitter bios per day to identify micro-influencers.
- Kred is free for the first year, enabling you to identify and organize influencers.
- Klear’s free set of tools enable you to find influencers on Twitter and Instagram according to your field of industry and location, and view their level of influence and responsiveness to outreach.
- Hootsuite Enterprise users can access TrendSpottr for Instagram for free, to identify influencers by field, hashtag and location.
- Regularly incorporate quotes from micro-influencers into the content you create (or have already created) for your small business clients or reach out to them personally with your existing top content, asking them to share it with their followers.
Expected outcome: Influencer marketing can convert with an ROI of over 200%
Free Content Promotion Hack #2: Use Hashtags on Facebook
Previous wisdom insisted that hashtags on Facebook were ineffective and caused a post to underperform. However, Facebook users do utilize hashtags to search for posts, so placing them correctly can bring new audiences to your content. Hashtags drive engagement with your SMB client by inviting their audience to continue the conversation across the platforms you use.
How much of your time it may take: A few minutes per post
How to do it:
- Use your SMB client’s existing list of industry keywords focusing on those which are specific to your SMB client’s sector if possible.
- Keep hashtags brief and unique when seeking to direct your SMB client’s audience to follow your campaign across other platforms. A good example is the successful #SFBatKid campaign for the Make A Wish foundation.
- If using hashtags to capture potential customers searching for your SMB client’s product or service, use carefully focused hashtags that are specific to their niche and/or locale. Hashtags that are too broad will cause your SMB client’s posts to be lost in the forest of possibilities. For example, #YogaWithCats or #YogaDesMoines instead of #Yoga.
- Research has shown that on Facebook, one or two carefully-chosen hashtags can boost your post’s success, but engagement drops for every additional hashtag used and plummets on reaching seven hashtags.
Facebook hashtags should be short; ideally only six characters and definitely not more than twenty, unlike Instagram posts which perform best with lots of hashtags of over twenty characters.
Expected outcome: Using one or two carefully chosen hashtags in Facebook posts and ads consistently raises click through rates by a small but significant amount. Facebook hashtags bring more traffic for small businesses that cater to niche interests, since potential customers search Facebook for related posts.
Free Content Promotion Hack #3: Maximize the potential of Facebook Live
All types of SMBs can find an angle for Facebook Live, but it lends itself particularly well to small businesses in the makeup and beauty sector, sports, fitness and outdoor activities, and restaurants and culinary businesses.
How much of your time it may take: Half an hour of extra planning when arranging other video content, promotion in advance, and sharing after the event.
How to do it:
- Check your SMB client’s existing content for material which can easily convert to video format, such as an in-house expert talking the audience through an infographic. For example, SEJ experimented with discussing their weekly marketing news roundup as a Facebook Live video.
- If your SMB client already produces video content, incorporate Facebook Live into their video content schedule. If your client does not already include videos in their marketing efforts, you can help them kill two birds with one piece of content by producing a Facebook Live video and then repurposing it for YouTube. For example, a Q & A session with industry experts was very popular for the SEJ marketing team, who could then share the edited video as YouTube content. If your SMB client is creating a new promotional video, you could share a Facebook Live broadcast of the process. Audiences love behind-the-scenes peeks and natural presentations.
- Content published to Facebook Live has a higher engagement rate when viewed live and in the moments immediately after the event, so promote Facebook Live videos well before and during the broadcast. Six days after the Weather Channel created a video using Facebook Live, analytics showed that 90% of the viewers came while it was live and during the first hour following broadcast. A New York Times Facebook Live video received 50% of its total viewers during the broadcast itself. Even a smaller and shorter video attracted 34% of its one-week views during broadcast.
- Facebook recommends a five minute minimum for Facebook Live videos, but research has shown that the longer the Facebook Live broadcast, the more people will engage with it.
- Use the comments section during broadcast so as to engage personally with audience and increase the strength of your SMB client’s relationship with their customers.
- One example of a small business maximizing Facebook Live content is Trey Ratcliff, a professional photographer who uses it to give his followers feedback on their own photography work. Another organization that is leading the way in Facebook Live usage is the ASPCA, which uses Facebook Live to showcase the animals they have for adoption and let their audience behind the scenes on animal cruelty raids.
- Remember to involve and tag influencers and to use hashtags in your Facebook Live video posts, as per our previous suggestions
Expected outcome: Facebook Live video posts can more than double the reach of the average Facebook post. Native Facebook videos also enjoy a higher level of engagement than YouTube videos shared on Facebook.
Free Content Promotion Hack #4: Lengthen Your SMB’s Existing Content
Many marketers tend to overlook their existing content, forgetting that it keeps working for their SMB client for a long time. If you don’t have the time or money to create new content, improve the performance of an existing piece by making it longer. Research has found that content over 2000 words more likely to rank in the first ten search engine results, both because Google recognizes it as more valuable, and because fewer writers are willing to invest the energy required to write longform articles, leaving your SMB client with less competition for these types of posts.
How much of your time it may take: If you already have the research to hand on a topic, adding an extra few hundred words should not take longer than half an hour.
How to do it:
You can either combine two or more shorter pieces on the same topic into one longer and deeper article, or you can add new original content onto an existing post. As you do so, remember to incorporate micro-influencers and hashtags when you reshare it to social media, and include a plan to convert this high-performing post into Facebook Live video content.
Expected outcome: A BuzzSumo research study found that content of 2000-3000 words gets around 33% more shares than content of under 2000 words.
Free Content Promotion Hack #5: Brand SMB Clients as an Industry Experts
There are tools widely used by PR experts which connect journalists with industry experts to increase your SMB client’s name recognition and give them the opportunity to share their content with a wider audience.
How much of your time it may take: A few minutes per day
How to do it:
- Create a free profile for your small business client on HARO, MyBlogU or SourceBottle, using industry keywords and emphasizing their fields of expertise. There’s no need to create new content, just look through existing content for areas in which your SMB client could realistically be marketed as an expert.
- Check your email (or in the case of MyBlogU, the website) regularly for queries that could land your SMB client’s content on major news publications and brand them as a trustworthy voice.
- When a pitch option arrives that will suit your SMB client, just reply with a short, targeted response highlighting your SMB client’s expertise in this arena.
- Keep a particular lookout for queries from local journalists or for publications which serve your SMB client’s local market.
Expected Outcome: Content can be sent to as many as 23 million readers via a free HARO connection. Mention as an industry expert on a reliable publication like the Wall Street Journal or Good Morning America brings your small business client to far more eyes than you could reach on your own.
Free Content Promotion Hack #6: Maximize Promotion on Medium and Reddit
Thousands of readers read aggregating sites like Medium and Reddit every day, and major news publications and official organizations check them for trending topics. Even Amazon and The White House use Medium as well as sending out press releases. Choose the right one or two sites for your SMB client to build a loyal audience.
How much of your time it may take: Half an hour initially to become comfortable using Medium, Reddit and similar sites. Then a few minutes per day to share content.
How to do it:
- Choose which sites are best suited for your client. Posting on every site possible would be over-exposure rather than maximizing exposure. These are a few possibilities:
- Reddit has sub-reddits on every topic imaginable, so it’s just a matter of choosing the right one for your SMB client’s target market. For example, a web design business would choose a thread in the /r/webdesign subreddit
- Medium has categories for technology, lifestyle, culture and design, with sub-topics which would be suitable for almost any small business as long as you find the right angle. E.g. the same web design business could share a post about how they brainstormed their latest popular design in Medium’s ‘Digital Design’ section; a hi-tech start-up could share content to The Start-Up Grind’, etc.
- UCreative accepts content about creative pursuits like photography and design.
- BizSugar is for entrepreneurs, marketers and small businesses wishing to share their experiences while indirectly promoting their product.
- OffBeatBride is suitable not just for marketing content by wedding planners but also for any small business that could conceivably be involved in a wedding - DJs, fashion designers, florists, caterers, etc.
- Yummly is a recipe-sharing site which caterers, restaurants and other food-based small businesses can use to promote their services.
- Sign up to the sites and identify the tags, subreddits and categories that are most relevant to your SMB client’s field.
- When you create a particularly engaging or high-performing blog post for your SMB client, share it in the right category or subreddit and with the right tags as well as on your regular social media platforms.
- When you cross-share to site like Medium or Reddit, remember to set canonical links so as to keep your SB client’s website as the top-ranking result. It’s been definitively proven that cross-sharing of this type is not penalized by Google for duplicate content, but setting canonicals helps you be sure to avoid it.
- As well as always posting content to your SMB client’s website or blog first,It’s recommended to wait a few days before cross-posting to another website. There is no fixed time period: Opinions vary between waiting one to seven days to allowing at least two weeks, so that Google has a chance to index the original post and view it as the authoritative version.
- Don’t automatically cross-post every piece of content you create for your SMB client. Remember to keep some items unique to the home website.
Expected Outcome: Your SMB client’s content will garner a supportive audience that will boost their Google search rankings and potentially bring them to the attention of even bigger publications.
Cross-posting to popular websites brings your SMB client more exposure for their brand name and can drive new leads to their own website. By sharing high performing content in the right category and/or with the right tags for your SMB client’s industry, they can access a new audience that is already receptive to their product because they chose to read posts on this subject.
Hack #1: Tag and quote micro-influencers
Hack #2: Add one or two short hashtags to Facebook posts and ads
Hack #3: Include Facebook Live, followed by YouTube, when planning video content
Hack #4: Lengthen and repost existing social media content
Hack #5: Connect your SMB client with journalists looking for an industry expert
Hack #6: Promote on Medium, Reddit and other relevant media