In order to successfully promote your brand and engage your customers you don’t need big budgets and fancy agencies. In the 21st century the Internet has revolutionised the way consumers are sold to, and buying practices- whether for goods or services- are seldom dictated from maverick managers like Mad Men, but from laymen. Modern day habits are formed from grassroots level, meaning you’ve got to master how to get people talking about you, and then to you. Not many companies successfully utilise social media- it’s probably the greatest untapped resource; its powers and reach are so misunderstood. It isn’t enough to set up a Twitter account and occasionally link to your company website- social media is much more than that.

The trick to using social media well is to provide value. Twitter is like a cocktail party: you don’t wade in yelling loudly about yourself until everyone thinks you’re the most popular. Doing that in public would put people right off- and it does online, too. Like at a drinks party, Twitter only works well if you listen, and if you provide interesting and useful information that gets shared through re-tweets and replies. Start a foray into the land of the blue bird by searching for the terms relating to your business, and see what people are saying about them. For example, if you sell used cars, understanding that people are Tweeting about their terrible experience or feeling ripped off is a great opportunity not to say “Should’ve gone with us!” but to simply empathise. You won’t get an immediate return of your efforts, but you will seem like a brand who understands. That’s important in building relationships.

Then, share links to interesting stories and articles that might be relevant to your users. Comment on them; ask people what they think. Start to follow people who respond to your updates, and begin to engage them on a more regular basis. Social media has a “ripple effect”- from one good connection many others will be made. It’s hard work, but it pays off when people become familiar with who you are. Facebook is great for competitions and longer information pieces, and easy for people to hit “like” and signal to their network that they approve of you- Twitter needs verbalized responses to have the same effect, and not everybody engages in social media that way.

The best people to sell your product are the people who use it, and if you’re smart the ones who truly believe in you are the ones you’ll look after. Make sure to publicly acknowledge the followers who RT you, and share their wisdom too- it encourages loyalty. Offer them discounts and prizes to talk about your brand, and create a core following of a thousand or so people who will ultimately become your brand ambassadors and sell your business for you.

It’s tough – but it’s worth it. Especially because it’s free.

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