Free Is The New Broke: Why Free Media Rocks, But May Not Be Enough

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Free Is The New Broke Why Free Media Rocks But May Not Be Enough

If you’re like most business owners, you struggle with getting traffic and sales. You may also be perpetually frustrated by the lack of reach and engagement you get on social media (especially Facebook!).

It’s ESPECIALLY frustrating when you’re told again and again how amazing Instagram/email marketing/SEO/etc. is, but yet it’s just not working for YOU.

It’s during times like this that many business owners give up on using certain marketing channels. They assume those channels doesn’t “work”, that they’re not using them right, or that they’re not the right channels for their business or audience.

However, this can be a huge mistake!

These “free” marketing platforms (email, social media, SEO, etc.) can be amazing, but sometimes you may need to invest a little money to really get things moving.

This post will explain the difference between free and paid marketing channels, and show you exactly how to use the two together to drive awesome results!

Free vs. paid channels

You’re likely already using a number of free marketing channels to promote your business. These are channels where you can promote your business without paying an outside source.

These channels are sometimes differentiated into “owned” and “earned” media.

Owned media

Owned media are all the channels you have direct control over…most notably posting and sharing on your blog and social media, and emailing your list.

 Sharing your content on social media is an example of using owned media

These channels are the best place for most business owners to start, as they’re free to use (if you’re not counting your time!), and can be the most effective way of building community and driving traffic.

Specific examples of owned media include:

  1. Having a Facebook page or business-related group
  2. Posting regularly to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  3. Sending out an email newsletter
  4. Marketing your business using Facebook Live, YouTube or Periscope
  5. Writing blog posts that drive traffic to your site
  6. Posting in other people’s communities (Facebook groups, forums, etc.)
  7. Writing and promoting content (ebooks, downloadable guides, etc.)

While these are all excellent and highly-effective strategies, many business owners come to a place where they hit a wall.

Maybe they start to notice that traffic to their site is dwindling, or that their Facebook posts aren’t getting seen by their fans, or that fewer people are downloading their free content.

This is where other forms of media come in!

Earned media

Earned media is just what it sounds like – you have to earn it! It’s also sometimes called “word of mouth” marketing or viral marketing. You don’t own or control these types of media; and for this very reason, people tend to trust them more than owned or paid strategies. In fact, a whopping 84% of Americans say they trust earned media more than any other form of advertising!

Getting mentioned on a “best of” list can be amazing free marketing!

Some examples of earned media include:

  1. Getting mentioned in a newspaper, magazine, on TV or on another website (especially a popular online news outlet)
  2. Positive online reviews and ratings
  3. Getting your content shared on social media
  4. First page Google rankings can be a form of earned media

While there’s not much you can do to directly get earned media, there are a few ways you can increase your chances: regularly post amazing content that reporters and bloggers can use as a resource; respond to media queries on site like HARO (Help A Reporter); encourage happy customers to leave online reviews for your business; and optimize your content using key SEO strategies.

Paid media

 Free media is obviously ideal, but it may not always be enough. Using paid media can help extend the reach of your free content, getting it more views and shares.

Google AdWords is an example of paying to get first page rankings

In other words, paid media doesn’t replace free methods, it ENHANCES them. The most common paid media channels include:

  1. Social media ads. These could include sponsored posts, promoted pins or tweets, LinkedIn ads, etc.
  2. Paying for ads on other sites in your niche
  3. Using Google AdWords to get your site showing up on page one of the search engines
  4. Paying influencers to promote your stuff
  5. Sponsoring an event or a piece of content

How do I know it’s time to use paid marketing??

This is the question, isn’t it?

It can be really confusing knowing when to just let your content run its natural course, and when to pay to boost its reach.

One of the best strategies I’ve seen to answer this question is Jay Baer’s “STIR” approach.

I often reference it when I talk about paying to promote content. While it refers specifically to Facebook posts, the same concept can be applied when answering the general question, “How do I know it’s time to pay to promote my stuff?”.

Follow these four simple guidelines to know exactly when it’s time to invest in paid options!

S – Shelf-Life

Will the post still be relevant 4 days from now?

When you’re paying to promote something, you want to be sure it’s still going to be interesting/relevant/applicable a few days from now.

Chances are, you’ll want to continue to promote it for at least a week (often for much longer than this). So make sure whatever you’re promoting is something you can continue to promote for a while! (e.g., no time-sensitive stuff).

T – Time

Has it been 6 hours+ since you originally posted it?

There are a couple of reasons you want to wait before you pay to promote a piece of content.

First, you want to give it some time to get as much reach as it can organically. Why pay for promotion when you’re bound to get some for FREE?

Second, you want to give it time so you can see how well it performs with your audience. This is super important, because you don’t want to be paying to promote something that no one actually wants to read or see!

I – Impact

Does it contain a strong call to action?

Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – pay to promote content, unless you have a crystal-clear goal for that content! Whatever page, social media post or blog post you’re promoting should contain a clear call to action (CTA) that moves visitors into your marketing funnel.

Some examples for your CTA: “Sign up for our list”; “Download our free guide”; “Get a 20% discount for buying now”, etc.

I also HIGHLY recommend creating a dedicated landing page to use for your paid marketing. For instance, if your goal is to get people to sign up for your list, send them to a landing page that explains the benefits of being on your list, that includes testimonials from happy subscribers, and that gives them an easy way to sign up.

For more on this, check out my post 7-Steps To A Highly-Converting Opt-In Page.

R – Results

Is the post already getting lots of traction?

Again, you want to make sure your post is already doing well organically. This is a great indication that it’s hitting its mark with your audience…meaning you can feel confident paying to get even more views!

Final thoughts

If you’re regularly creating and promoting excellent content, much of your success will happen naturally and for free. However, sometimes it will be worth your while to pay to get your amazing content in front of the right people. This is when paid media options – like Google Ads and sponsored social media posts – can take your marketing to the next level!

Do you use paid marketing to boost the reach of your free content? Which paid methods do you find work best for you? Share below!















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Hashim Nisar
Hashim Nisar
6 years ago

Greeting! Thanks for this sharing this amazing article.

Murtaza Shahid
Murtaza Shahid
6 years ago

Hey! Thanks for the great post. Bookmarked.

Pro Mill
Pro Mill
3 years ago

Such an amazing content. Thanks for sharing

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