Ten Free Marketing Tools For Business

Ten Free Marketing Tools For Business
A quick overview to some of the best known and less well known free online marketing tools that can help a business to increase it’s profile, brand awareness and generate business.

Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a simple yet effective tool that searches the internet for any phrase, name or topic. Enter specific phrases that are related to your business such as products, brands, services or even competitors. The alerts will be e-mailed to you as regular as you like. They help pinpoint who is saying what about you and where, always handy to know.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics is another excellent free tool from Google used to measure website data. Geographic information on users, their browsers, internet connection, what pages were viewed, how long people stay on your site and a whole lot more. This data is invaluable and can provide an insight into what kind of people are viewing your site and why. Allowing you to tailor your website more towards the people that are actually visiting it.

Do you have a business blog? If not, why not? Blog’s are useful tools for customers and potential customers to develop their understanding of a company. Compared to advertising, blogs offer a more personable approach and a greater depth of knowledge of a particular area. While free to set up, the hardest part is in generating useful content. Its not a sales pitch, but a one to one conversation you are after. If someone tried the hard sell, offered uninteresting, valueless conversation how long would you stick around? Not long and I’m guessing you wouldn’t be back. There’s also countless plugin’s for blogs that can help with all manner of operations such as improving its search engine ranking and social bookmarks. Check WordPress to get started.

Google Webmaster Tools
Googles Webmaster Tools help to make websites more Google friendly, always a good thing. It can help diagnose problems with sitemaps, links, URL’s and identify what sites are linking to yours.

The rapid growth of Facebook over the last year has been impressive. Facebook want Facebook to be the first port of call for all internet users and earlier this year time spent on social network sites overtook time spent on e-mail. Facebook pages are simple to set up, easy to manage and can be useful ways of connecting with customers. The trick here is identifying ways to engage with your customers through the existing tools on the Facebook page such as photo’s, video’s and text. But remember not to contact them too often or you may see a decrease in number of fans or group members you have.

Linked In is similar to Facebook, but aimed at the business community. LinkedIn is slowly growing in popularity in Ireland and can be a good means of networking. I have heard of firms finding this avenue of communication generating more business than the more popular Facebook.

Twitter is massive in the states and not so massive over here – yet. According to this and this a few Irish tweeters are making a lot of noise and most have less than nine friends on the service. This could point to the large amounts of hype the service has received in the last six months as people dip their toes. However, just think back two years and much fewer people were on Facebook in this country and any kind of Google / Twitter tie up will only increasing the latter’s visibility. Also the micro-blogging site can help with search engine ranking and is a useful way of notifying followers of new blog posts. See my quick guide to Twitter here.

RSS Feeds
An RSS feed notifies subscribers of updates to a website. The notification goes to a feed reader, like Google Reader, so subscribers know of updates to your site. Feed’s are easy to set up through sites like Feedburner .

Sharing Widgets & Social Bookmarks
Sharing widgets such as the ‘Share This’ icon and Twitter icon posted below this increase the sharability of items posted on your website to other social media outlets. For example, clicking on Share This then, for example, the Facebook icon will post this message to your Facebook profile instantly spreading it around the internet. The service isn’t limited to Facebook just click on the icon below to see the full range of social media outlets anybody can easily post your content to.

The Internet
For easy step by step guides on all of the above, the internet is the best free resource offering handy tips and tutorials to get you started. I suggest starting here

Marketing Digest 20/04/09

Marketing Digest 20/04/09

A few links and stories from the web of the last week;

The All Blacks are looking for a social media strategy to leverage their brand amongst their world wide fanbase and I give my tuppence worth. It’s just like what I do in college everyday.

Facebook becomes the sixth most popular online property as its user base in Europe increase’s by 314%. Yes that is 314%.

Keeping with the social media theme, here’s an interesting post on how to drive traffic using social media

Did you hear what happened at Domino’s? It’s the downside of social media and brands. A Domino’s worker puts cheese up his nose and then serves it to customers. A co-worker caught it on video and stuck it on Youtube. The video has been taken down, the employees involved sacked and the Domino’s President apologises here.

Its not ‘Social Media’ its ‘Social Ideas’ a good post on how the method, as opposed to the outcome is often focused upon too much.

Only 2% of businesses using Twitter for marketing purposes

According to Microsoft research the PC screen will soon become the most viewed ‘screen’ beating TV into second place by June of 2010. PC ‘viewing’ will average 14.2 hours per week compared with TV’s 11.5. According to the research at the moment 16% of people in the 18 to 24 year old age group do not watch any live TV.

An interesting SEO (Search Engine Optomisation) glossary

Enterprise Ireland Grad Program Cut?

13/04 Enterprise Ireland Grad Program Cut? A post over at Boards.ie (see post #21) mentions the Enterprise Ireland Grad Program has been cut. It’s not the first time I have heard, or posted to the blog, about a Grad Prog that has fallen by the wayside as a result of the Irish economic problem. The EI program was for 20 marketing jobs placed with the state body in their offices abroad. Over 1500 applications were received with those numbers being whittled down to 74 for interviews held in late March. I can’t help but wonder why EI bothered to go through the motions on this, replying to 1500 people, online aptitude tests, then interviews. Surely this could of been flagged some months back and saved everybody a lot of time, hassle, effort and money? One interesting development last week was the announcement in the budget of a Graduate Placement Scheme, although exact details are a bit thin on the ground at present.

World Wide Rave: David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott was a highly entertaining speaker at the Digital Marketing World Conference last week. He’s the author of ‘World Wide Rave’ which is the concept of getting people talking about and spreading your brand through various (almost free) means. Its similar to the concept of viral marketing and he has some interesting stories concerning Harry Potter, the Grateful Dead, both of which he shares in this video. Again its taking concepts and ideas that were used on a large scale and how they can be applied on a smaller scale.

Quick Guide To Twitter

Quick Guide To Twitter
Twitter is literally everywhere, everybody is using it, talking about using it or is staunchly against the hype. I have been trying to grasp Twitter of late, the concept of knowing what people are doing every hour of the day is a bit much. But in the business world I can see its uses; for building and maintaining relationships with customers, as a means to provide customer services and for PR purposes. It is about promotion of what you or your company is doing, interacting with new and existing customers to deliver a better all round service. This makes it a useful tool to augment existing activities that are already in place. As founder Biz Stone said ‘it’s the messaging service we didn’t know we needed until after we had it’.

What is Twitter?
It’s like a stripped down Social Network. You set up a company or personal profile, personalise it (avatar, background, website or blog link), upload your contacts from an existing email address book (optional) and your done. You can ‘follow’ your contacts who are already using Twitter and they can follow you.

Messages or ‘Tweets’
When I say ‘stripped down’ I mean your profile consists of little else than whats been mentioned, and your ‘tweets’. Your messages or ‘tweets’ will be visible by your followers. Think about that. You build a large group of followers for your business that you can contact rapidly and directly for company promotions, developments, blog posts, product or service updates, on anything that your business does that is relevant to followers and potential followers. For those reasons don’t use it as an Instant Message service. Don’t forget ‘tweets’ that mention your company in a positive way can also be used as testimonials for your company or service.

Outside of Ireland Twitter is updatable by SMS. Hence why tweets are 140 characters or less, the remaining 20 characters are for the username. Although tweets are short if you wish to post a link into your message Twitter will automatically generate Tinyurl to shorten the link into a useable short one that takes up few of your characters. Its not possible to edit Tweets once posted, but you can delete them.

Build Your Network
Theres a simple ‘Find People’ option that allows you to search for people you know by name on the service. Here’s a useful Twitter search option. The hashtag symbol ‘#’ is placed before useful keywords, you can search for hashtags and follow conversations focused on that keyword. More here. Promote your profile through your website, blog, e-mail list, facebook and other promotional tools. If Twitter is for business remember to engage followers and not try the hard sell with every tweet. Some useful do’s and don’ts.

What Next?
Like many social media applications, they’re free to use, the cost comes in time and effort in maintaining and building a worthwhile network that creates value for all concerned. I sometimes find the best way to understand something is to apply it to a practical situation. So here goes;

Twitter For Customer Service

“One day I tweeted about Vodafone being crap because it didn’t have free texts and they somehow deleted my number (so I couldn’t make, receive calls etc.) and that I was moving to O2…within about 5 minutes I saw I had an @ reply from VodafoneIreland saying they would resolve it” full post here (3rd post down).

Twitter connects with people in real time situations and locations

Can a bad review kill a product?

Be careful how your brand uses Twitter

That hopefully gives you an idea of how, on a large scale, Twitter can be applied in different ways. Here’s a bunch of tools and links that may also make your Twitter experience that bit better,

Useful Tools:
Twitter Grader- Grades your Twitter account based on followers and engagement, more info here

TwitterFeed – Feed your blog to Twitter

Tweetbeep - Like google alerts for Twitter, find when people mention your keywords (like your company name), you will be notified

Twitpic - to post photo’s

Geotwitter – recent public updates displayed by location

TwitterMap – allows you to search any location on a map and find recent tweets from that area

TwitterVision – brings up tweets in real time on a map

Twitter Answers – Get answers to your questions from other Twitterer’s

Loads more tools

And more

And 100 more

More Twitter Guides:
In depth Twitter Guide

Another Twitter Guide

A Twitter webinar I have already posted to this site

Random Twitter Links
The Twitter League (of Celebrity Narcissism)

Top 16 Twitter Moments

Twitter writing contest (now closed)

Twitter as a fiction medium

And here

Unusual uses for Twitter

Weird uses for Twitter

Update April 17 2009

Tweetdeck – A Twitter browser of sorts, enabling you to Twitter from your desktop

A piece in todays Irish Times about Twitter as a music resource and two applications twisten.fm ,tinysong.com and twiturm.com

How to become a ‘Super Tweeter’ in 15 miunutes a day

Twitterpreneurship, 3rd party applications making money on Twitter piece from Business Week

A very in depth blog on the various uses of Twitter

How To Spotify The Revenue

There’s an interesting piece on new service Spotify over at On The Record. The service has been referenced in a few articles of late so it was good to get a decent handle on what the service provides. The free version is not yet available here, but when it is the service will allow free access to a library of over 8 million songs, with an ad break every 30 or so minutes, or a €10 per month premium account without the ads. It’s backed by the music industry as a means of fighting back against illegal downloaders.

I don’t envy the record industry, they’re fighting an uphill battle with only 1 in 20 music downloads done so legally. At the same time I don’t have much pity for an industry that sat back and assumed technology would not change how people listened to music. But the industry of late has backed several such projects such as Irish service Muzu TV. As the Jim Carroll piece points out its the growth of wi-fi and a Spotify mobile application that will really give the service an edge. So how can the service generate revenue?

As Biz Stone of Twitter said – it’s about building value for customers then generating revenue. While the value of Twitter is (or was) less obvious than that of Spotify, it is essential to build a large subscriber base in order to move the service into the mainstream. The ad-revenue business model is similar to that of a radio station. Except Spotify will have the demographic and geographic information of each subscriber, what music and bands they like potentially very valuable information. This increases the opportunity to deliver highly targeted advertising to listeners, something radio cannot guarantee.

The service can insert adverts at various points as a means to pay for the service. What about inserting other information? Services that users can subscribe to for free;

- An outsourced and sponsored news/weather service
- Sponsored competitions/podcasts
- A Band advert service for upcoming gigs in your area
- Exclusive content such as gigs streamed live or
- Recorded gigs available to stream anytime
- High profile artist’s debuting albums on the service would increase value of adverts, with labels backing this service, and artists increasingly looking for new ways to release music, this is a possibility

The service could end up competing with the existing radio stations, who’s key asset are their presenters. But would that be enough? The interaction afforded by text messages has increased the involvement of the listener in a lot of the daytime radio shows. In many cases, the presenter merely acts as a facilitator with a loose agenda and the listeners flesh out the content. Not Spotify, nor any other media, will be able to compete with that.

So will Spotify save the record industry? Who knows. It’s an interesting prospect offering 8 million songs for free. The service has great potential which will only become clearer over time. It’s going to take that time before the service can cross into the mainstream, which is where Spotify will need to be in order to generate the large sums of money the record industry is hoping for.

Advertising Is Dead

Advertising, as you know it, is dead.

Advertising in media is losing its effectivness. Think of the last newspaper you read, try and recall more than two advertisments. Or the last time you sat through an ad break. One current trend that I’m liking is ‘event advertising’, creating a marketing message that breaks through the clutter and gets people talking and thinking about yoru brand.

I’ve spoken about ‘event advertising’ in the past. It’s nothing new really, the earliest I can recall is the Nescafe Gold Blend adverts of the 1980′s. You know the ones, will they, won’t they and so on. The ad’s became an ‘event’ as they broke through the advertising clutter and became more than just ad’s. They were reported in the press, talked about by the public and became greater than the sum of their parts. I’ve spoken about this recently here , including last years Honda live advert featuring skydivers.

Tomorrow Honda take over an entire ad break on Channel 4, during the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. The Honda ad will only be shown once and is to support their new hybrid car and the ‘Do’er Campaign’ to get people doing more environmentally friendly deeds. Nothing new so far, but the car manufacturer also takes over all advertising space on the first 11 pages of tomorrows Guardian newspaper. The ad’s will feature information on eco friendly initiatives from Honda and tips how drivers can help the environment.

While the (financial) power of Honda allows the brand to experiment with such ways of breaking through the advertising clutter, I think it’s really time for all businesses to see how they can more effectively reach their customer. The average person is bombarded with thousands of marketing messages per day, the adopt avoidance strategies and the cost of the messages that fail are borne by the business. I picked up a local free newspaper during the week that was stuffed with ad’s. That’s their business model, I understand. But as an advertiser how cost effective is such an ad sitting beside countless other adverts?

Advertising as most people know it is dead.

So how can a smaller business take a leaf out of Honda’s book? Last week I mentioned KFC filling in potholes in the USA (then branding them). It’s a simple idea that will impact locally and generate good PR, free publicity in the media, good will in their customers and potential customers. A lot more cost effective and powerful than taking out adverts in those same media outlets that will probably report the campaign anyway.

I sometimes refer to the ‘Big Idea’, and big ideas can be small, its the effect that is big. Every firm has its own unique mix of creativity, ability and resources, which will dictate what ‘Big Ideas’ are achievable and, most importantly, effective in targeting consumers. There are ways of taking this mix and putting it into action in a way that gets your brand out there, that breaks the message through to the clutter, to the other side where customers are talking about your product or service.

What is your mix and how can it be applied to make your advertising more effective?