The days of gaining a sky-high organic reach on social media without spending a dime may be gone—but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on social just because you don’t have a huge ad budget.
In fact, there are still plenty of tactics—all free, may we add—that a brand can and should be using to promote themselves on social. After all, in the era of the connected consumer, neglecting your social presence is never a good idea.
1. Flesh out your profiles.
While this may seem like an obvious first step, there are plenty of brands that neglect to completely fill out their social profiles—and many more that don’t take full advantage of the options available.
On Facebook, for example, your “About” section should be entirely filled out, with a phone number, email, website, and social profiles as applicable. If you’ve got a physical location with hours, you’ll want to make sure those are listed, along with your address.
The “Our Story” section lets you describe your brand in paragraph format, so you can actually tell your brand’s story.
On Instagram, the use of emojis and hashtags can make your profile much more eye-catching. Check out the way graphic design tool Canva uses them to highlight what they do:
The use of the computer and phone emojis are subtle and fit the brand’s sleek, stylish look, while the inclusion of their branded hashtag, #canvalove, lets followers know exactly how to tag their photos.
2. Cross-promote posts.
Putting together your monthly social media calendar takes a significant amount of time, so you want to be sure you’re getting the most mileage out of every post.
Cross-promoting posts across channels can be an excellent way to widen your reach, as well as see how your content performs on different platforms.
With just some slight tweaking, your Facebook posts can also populate your LinkedIn feed, and your Instagram posts can double as tweets.
Another smart form of cross-promotion is to list your other social media accounts in your profile. This reminds your followers that you’re active on various channels, and can help build your following across platforms.
3. Engage with your followers.
One of the easiest—and most important—methods of promoting your brand on social media is to remember to always engage with your followers.
When a fan posts a question or comment, make sure to reply and thank them for reaching out. Take a look at this example from Nike:
Naturally, it’s just as important to respond when someone posts a complaint. Handling a complaint warmly and smoothly is some of the best brand promotion you can practice, and will help raise your followers’ loyalty to your brand.
After all, connected consumers crave authenticity from the companies they patronize. They want to see your company standing by its values.
4. Engage in brand storytelling.
You may know that bombarding your followers with promotional posts won’t get you much of anywhere—but what should you be sharing instead?
Curated content that adds value for your customers is one part of that equation.
The larger proportion, however, is brand storytelling posts: posts and content that illustrate your values, share behind-the-scenes stories of your company, or show customers what your service or product feels like.
For example, a travel company might post video highlights from one of their recent experiences, or a clothing designer could share the sketches that took a design from conception to creation).
The important thing is that you showcase what sets your company apart.
5. Run giveaways and promotions.
While giveaways and promotions aren’t technically free, considering the cost of whatever product or prize you’re offering, they can be entirely free to promote and a generally low-cost way to organically increase your reach.
One of the best methods to use when you’re offering a social promotion or contest is to ask followers to tag others in order to enter. This way, you’re getting your brand’s message out to a wider audience and, hopefully, gaining new followers and customers throughout the contest’s run.
6. Build influencer partnerships.
The connected consumer doesn’t trust advertisements.
Instead, they want real testimonials from real people—which is where influencers come in.
Just like with a giveaway, there will be some sort of cost in terms of a product or service, as you’ll naturally have to share that with the influencer in order to build any sort of partnership. The ROI here, however, can be extremely high, provided you carefully choose the influencers whom you reach out to, to make sure they speak to the customer demographic you want to reach.
7. Take advantage of user-generated content (UGC).
User-generated content, or UGC, can be a goldmine for your brand.
What is UGC? It’s any content that’s generated by your users, or followers—any social media posts that your brand is tagged in, tweets or replies that mention your brand, even content that resonates with your brand values.
So how do you encourage your users to create this content? All you have to do is ask: put a sentence in your profile asking followers to share their images or experiences with your brand, and create a branded hashtag that they can use.
Here’s a great example from home furnishings website Wayfair:
Wayfair encourages users to post pictures of Wayfair products in their own homes using the hashtag #wayfairathome, and users have responded in droves: there are more than 19,000 posts with that hashtag alone.
Another great way to drive UGC creation is to incorporate it into a contest or giveaway, as mentioned earlier. For example, you could ask users to enter a contest for a giftcard or free product by posting a picture of themselves with your brand on Instagram, using your branded hashtag, and tagging a friend.
Then, not only do you have a wealth of UGC to share on your own channels, but you’ve also encouraged followers to share your social channels with their own networks.
8. Place your social icons prominently on your website.
One fast, effective way promote your brand via social for free is simply to make it easy for people to follow you.
Are your social icons highly visible on your website? Are you displaying them prominently, or hiding them on the bottom of the page?
You also want to make sure you’re displaying the icons you actually want people to click on. If your Facebook page has been relatively neglected for the past year, there’s not much reason to urge people to click over to it. Instead, you’ll want to place the focus on the profiles you do keep up, whether that’s Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.
9. Repurpose content.
If you’re not repurposing your content, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to promote your brand for free.
Blog posts, webinars, whitepapers, videos, images—these all take significant amounts of time to create, and you want to get the most mileage out of them that you can.
One of the best ways to do that is to share them across your social channels. In addition to your initial share, however, you can take bits and pieces and turn them into quote cards for Instagram, excerpts for Facebook, or tweets for Twitter.
Another great tactic is to pull out data or stats from reports or blog posts and turn them into graphics. If you have several pieces of data that are related, you can create a full infographic with them. These do especially well on Twitter.1
10. Use hashtags and tagging wisely.
Hashtags are vital if you want people to find your content organically.
By including a trending hashtag in one of your Twitter posts, for example, you can get your content in front of way more people (just be sure that you actually have something to say about the topic. It never pays to hop onto a trend just because it’s trending).
But hashtags don’t have to be trending to be powerful. Including branded hashtags in your profile’s “About” section lets your followers know there’s a conversation going on about your brand and gives them a way to join in.
Tagging (which refers to using the @ symbol and another person’s or brand’s handle, so that they’re notified and see your post) also helps get your post in front of other audiences. Tagging influencers you have a relationship with will encourage them to share your posts, and help to further strengthen that relationship.
Despite the movement of social media platforms toward a pay-to-play format, there are still effective ways you can promote your brand on social for free. For more on how to use social media to your advantage, read our post “Digital and Social Media Marketing: What’s Next for 2019.”