Untangling the line of online marketing

By Sarah Carlson SOFA

The Society for Financial Awareness

Online marketing sounds complicated, but it comes back to some key principles: work with the people we know and build upon our relationships with them. They will listen to our message and share it with others, thus propelling us to the top.

Free marketing? Who ever heard of such a thing?

Online marketing is probably one of the best ways to gain exposure and grow your name recognition with no cost. So, are we maximizing the marketing opportunities the Internet has to offer?

While online marketing has the potential to reach millions around the globe, it all starts with your existing relationships. Let's talk about the sites we can all use for free and what they can do for our business: And these are just the top five.

Now let's talk about what each one is, what it can do for our business and why we should use them. We'll also break it down into a step by step process.

Step 1: Create a blog

There are several sites that allow you to create your own blog for free. Some of the most popular sites include wordpress.com, typepad.com, and blogger.com, all of which allow you to blog for free. Creating a blog allows you to share messages with everyone you know and even those you don't. The people you know love to hear from you — a blog is just a way of connecting with all of them at once.

Creating a blog can be intimidating — most people believe they don't have enough to write about. Your blogs don't have to be packed with infinite wisdom. They can be updates on your business, promotions for upcoming events, answers to common questions in your business or industry, funny stories about your weekend adventures — anything really.

You want the people you know to be able to connect with you. As they read your posts regularly and laugh at your stories, attend your events or obtain knowledge and insight from your key points, they will begin sharing your blogs and messages with others who you may not know. Consider this an online referral. These people will also be connecting with you through your written word and begin to build a rapport with you, the writer.

Let's not forget to mention the people who surf the Internet waves late at night searching for answers to questions that plague them in their sleep and could stumble across your blog and become a follower of your posts. This gains you exposure to new individuals, allowing them to learn about you, your business and your dreams.
Some key must do's when creating your blog posts:
  • Use common key words that people use in Internet searches.

    For example, if I was a realtor and I wanted to attract people to my blog who were interested in real estate, I would use key words like homes, new homes, purchasing homes, real estate, buyers, sellers, loans, loan modifications, first time home buyer, MLS etc...

    If I was a chiropractor and I wanted to attract people to my blog who are looking for my services, I would use key words like back pain, spine, back bone, adjustment, chiropractor, cure for back pain, etc...

    The goal is to think of whatever words people would search for and include them into your posts, so when they search, your blog is found.

  • Keep it simple. Make the concepts simple, easy to understand and relatable. If you get too in-depth, you will lose most of your audience in the general public.

  • Vary the size of your posts. You don't want all of your blogs to be the same size — sometimes repetitive posts that look the same in length or concept will be ignored and passed off as old hat. You want to make sure that every time you post, it looks and sounds new.

  • Vary the media types. This plays right in with varying the size of your posts. Vary the types — use photos, videos, podcasts, written word and combinations of them all. The more varied the better.
So, now that you have a created a blog what do you do next? Promote it!

Step 2: Promote your blog ... but where?

Facebook: What is it?

Facebook is a place to connect with the people you know and promote your blog. Share pictures, videos, websites you like, articles you've read and anything else that you can think of. Just about everyone has a Facebook page. There are two types of Facebook pages, ones for businesses and ones for personal use.

You can promote yourself and your business with either one or both. Personal pages typically involve more information about our lives, our families, our friends, things we're doing daily, thoughts, inspirations, etc. People post information on there, multiple times per day, on a regular basis. You can, too.

LinkedIn: What is it?

LinkedIn is a networking site for business professionals. Most people in business has a LinkedIn page. This site allows you to connect with the people you know professionally and get referrals to the people they know, obtain recommendations from people who have worked with you in the past and promote your blog and business. There are personal profiles which are free to create and use, and there are also group pages.

Group pages are networks of people who are all interested in a specific topic. For instance, if I was a financial advisor, I could search LinkedIn for groups of financial advisors. You'd be surprised just how many groups you'll find. These groups have what are called discussions. These discussions are posted by people who have personal profiles and belong to that specific group. They talk about things occurring in the industry, business practices, sales, marketing, upcoming events, etc. By joining these groups and posting in the discussions, you will increase your exposure both personally and professionally.
Twitter: What is it?

Twitter is a site where people can post simple ideas, concepts, links to websites, promote their blogs, videos, pictures, etc. Most people have a personal Twitter profile, which again is free to create and utilize. Most people post several posts, also know as tweets, daily. These posts can be a maximum of 140 characters.

Tweets typically share simple statements that people can read and relate to. You will have a list of people who you follow. When you follow someone, you are kept up-to-date on all of their recent posts and will be able to read them as they update their site.

You will also have people who follow you — these can be people you may or may not know. The people that follow you are attracted to your posts and find value in them, so therefore, they choose to be kept in the loop whenever you post something. The more followers you have, the more exposure you gain.

A key way to gain followers is to begin following and commenting on key people's tweets — these could include people you admire in your industry, professionals you know, key clients that you have a relationship with, etc.

YouTube: What is it?

YouTube is a site where you can upload and host all of your video files. You can choose to make your videos public or private. By making your videos public, anyone out there on the Web can view them. Again, this goes back to key word searches, links to videos from your blog site or social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

YouTube allows you to see how many people have viewed your video and allows people to comment on your videos and suggest them to others. By making your videos private, you can upload some of those great home videos for you, your family and friends to see, but not the entire Internet world. YouTube is a key spot to host your video media files and share them with the world.

Step 3: Keep it scheduled

By posting blogs and promoting them regularly through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, you will create constant flows of activity to your site, increasing your credibility as a blogger and a professional and attracting new people to you. You want to post often — typically every day on sites like Twitter and Facebook, every other day or so on your blog and LinkedIn, and whenever you have new media for YouTube.

Daily posts can be short one-liners and link to websites you find helpful or informative. They can be links to articles in the news that you found interesting, famous quotes that you live by or inspirational comments by famous people. They can also be promotions for your business — they do not always have to be promotions for your blog.
How do I keep it scheduled effectively without having to be on my computer 24/7?

There are several sites out there that are free to use and allow you to do the work once while they take care of the rest. Two popular sites are www.hootsuite.com and www.socialoomph.com. These sites allow you to link your Twitter, Facebook and Linked in profiles together, type up a post (again, only 140 characters long) and then schedule a time to post them on each site.

This way, you can do multiple posts per day while you're out meeting with people, living your life and running your business. You don't have to be stuck inside at your desk to receive the benefits of marketing online.

Online marketing sounds complicated, but it comes back to some key principles: work with the people we know and build upon our relationships with them. They will listen to our message and share it with others, thus propelling us to the top.

Keep it simple; the more simple the message, the more people can understand it. The messages don't always have to be our own thoughts, we can share things that we find valuable, making us a resource for those looking for answers.

Do it often: By posting regularly, we will be in front of the public online, sharing our message, spreading our knowledge, gaining credibility and creating a following. This following will look to you as the guru and the expert and make sure everyone they know knows you too. The best part is, all of this online marketing is free — let's maximize it.