For a small business, it is always hard to set aside a budget for marketing. There are constantly bills to pay and things to repair. This can make funding another channel such as social media, an afterthought. It doesn’t have to be this way though. There are many ways you can do local social media marketing on a budget.
As someone who teaches social media to local businesses, one thing that I consistently notice is that most local businesses struggle with getting started and staying on budget.
I have come up with twenty ways to help your local business use social media marketing on a budget while still getting results - all without spending a lot of money.
20 Ways to do local social media marketing on a budget
1. Create a Facebook group
One overlooked feature on Facebook are Facebook Groups.
Unlike Facebook Pages, which can get very large in size and have a lot of inactive users, Facebook Groups tend to be smaller and have a more active group of users.
This can be a big advantage (and good use of your time) if you’re doing local social media marketing on a budget.
Not only are groups free to create, but you use groups to create a small community of customers to address questions that come up.
Groups also tend to have more conversations going on because you’re interacting as yourself and not as your business.
While there is nothing wrong with using social media marketing as a business, engaging as yourself, this lets customers get to know you better and can help to build stronger relationships with them.
One other thing that is great about group is that it doesn’t matter what type of business you run. Anyone can create a group.
If you’re a restaurant owner, here are some helpful ideas on how you might use Facebook Groups.
Dentists can create a local group with the intention of educating people in the area about proper hygiene habits and have their staff help answer questions.
As you can see, groups can be very practical and a great use of your time when doing social media marketing on a budget.
2. Try to aim for niche social media platforms
Niche social media platforms often get overlooked. But, sometimes they can be more relevant than for instance, Facebook that has 1.71 billion monthly active users.
One example would be a social network for expats called InterNations. They gather people who are not that familiar with the local life in their area.
Within InterNations, they have groups such as “Gourmet Group.” Their aim is to bring together expats interested in trying local restaurants.
Because they are a niche platform and they have a specific type of user, you can expect that their users are more active on the site compared to using one of the more well-known social media channels.
3. Create Infographics yourself
They offer a number of customizable templates that make it easy for you as a small business to create infographics for your social media channels or to use in your blog posts in just minutes.
4. Run contests
One way that you can do local social media marketing on a budget is to utilize contests.
Contests are one of the best ways to engage your audience because if your contest appeals to your audience, they will be more likely to share it on their own social media channels. As a result, this can help you quickly reach a lot more people than you normally might get.
Remember, if you are running contests, some platforms have different rules on how you can run a contest. Here is an example of the rules for running contests on Facebook.
If you decide to reward your audience, which you should, make sure you also give away something that is relevant to the audience that would be entering your contest.
Should you need to create a contest, I recommend using Shortstack. They offer free and paid plans and make it easy to put together a contest that you can publish to your Facebook Page as well as on your blog or website.
5. Make use of hashtags
A powerful way to get your content into other conversations is to utilize hashtags in your social media updates. For example, say you’re sharing a pieces of content for small business owners.
By including a hashtag such as #SmallBiz in your messaging, this can help you get your content inserted into a larger conversation instead of relying just on your audience to see it and share it.
6. Make sure you are posting at best times
Although nowadays we are all connected to the Internet wherever we go, not every part of the day is an ideal time to be sharing updates about your local business.
In order to find out the best posting times, you can experiment with different posting times - sharing an update in the morning and again in the evening to see which one generates the higher engagement.
Alternatively, you can use Buffer’s free optimal scheduling tool to see when your audience is engaged throughout the day.
Once you’ve found a schedule that works, stick to it so that your audience gets conditioned to when you share content.
Use the Buffer Scheduling Tool
7. Schedule the posts
As a local business owner, you can’t always be available to post your social media content. Fortunately, there are tools such as Hootsuite that you can use to schedule your social media posts. Another one of my favorites is IFTTT, which you can use to schedule and save posts with a single action.
8. Share your content in other groups
Another budget-friendly way for local social media marketing is to share your content in groups.
Maybe you’ve joined a Facebook Group or you’re a member of a LinkedIn Group? Both of these are fantastic places to consider sharing your content.
By joining groups and participating, not only can you share your content, but you can also make new connections with other group members.
When sharing content in other groups, be sure you read the group description. Some groups only let you promote your own content on certain days of the week.
If you want to build strong relationships, vary the content that you share. Rather than share just your content, if someone else has a great piece of content, be sure to tell others about it as well.
Get Facebook Group training
9. Use Pinterest to be found
Another powerful way that you can do local social media marketing on a budget is to take advantage of free exposure on Google.
For example, if you have a Pinterest account for your business, you’ll want to make sure you have the “search privacy” option in your Pinterest settings menu turned off.
If you have search privacy turned on, this will hide your profile from search engines like Google and won’t allow you to capitalize on Pinterest users who want to follow your boards.
10. Make photos and videos with your phone
We live in a time where stock photos simply don’t look authentic anymore and they are easily glossed over by readers. Fortunately, there are many budget-friendly apps that you can use to create photos and videos right on your mobile device.
What’s great about these apps is that you can create something in a few minutes to use on your social media channels, blog or website.
The best thing of all is that they are practically free (most run just a couple of dollars).
Here are some of my favorite apps for creating photos and videos on my mobile device.
Although it takes a lot of time, engaging with your audience is one of the best ways to keep your social media presence at a high level. There will always be inquiries, positive feedbacks, negative feedbacks and you must answer these in a timely manner and resolve what needs to be resolved.
12. Use only relevant social media channels
One of the biggest mistakes most businesses make when trying to do local social media marketing on a budget is to be on every social network.
If you’re a small business, chances are you don’t have a social media manager and you’re doing everything yourself.
This can make it difficult to move forward and to see success on your channels.
It just depends on the industry that you’re in and where your audience is at.
13. Facilitate user-generated content
Do you struggle with finding time to create new content?
Most business owners do.
One way that you can quickly create content is to leverage others. For example, say you want to write an article on the best social media management tools.
Instead of doing all of the research yourself and then writing the article, what you can do instead is reach out to your peers and ask them to contribute a tool that you can include in a post.
By using user-generated content, not only can you create fresh content for your site, you can also network with others in your respective field.
Most of the time, if you give someone enough time and be specific on your requirements that you’re looking for, they will happily contribute.
Pro Tip: Once a blog post that features other contributors goes live, be sure to notify them via email and also by tagging them on the respective social media channel where you are connected. Don't forget to include a link to the article as well as a personal note.
14. Connect with influencers
When it comes to social media, influencers are valuable people that you want to be connected with. The speed of growth when an influencer mentions your business can be enormous.
For example, say you have 5,000 followers and an influencer retweets it to their account with 25,000 followers. You now have the potential to reach 30,000 people with a single retweet.
When working with influencers, be sure you approach the right people and offer them something that might appeal to their audience.
15. Use share for share to accelerate growth
Once you have established yourself, you can offer a share for a share (s4s) to influencers. The way this would work is you could both agree to share each others content. This would help both influencers increase their shares and help grow grow your audience and it costs you both nothing.
To make it easy for your readers as well as your influencers to share your content, I recommend adding the Social Warfare plugin to your site.
It takes about five minutes to setup and makes it easy to add social sharing to your content.
Here is a short video on how it works.
16. Test different images
All of us respond differently to images. Therefore, it’s hard to tell what will work the best for your tribe. The best way to determine which types of images work the best is to create different variations.
Experiment with different wording and post types to see which one works the best. Remember, you also want to stay true to your brand as well. This means using your colors and font.
It is also important to note that people are very visual. If you are consistent with your branding, people will begin to recognize your content when they are growing their Facebook news feed and so forth.
Some examples of companies with consistent branding are Starbucks and Coca-Cola.
17. Network with other influencers in-person
Not all of your social media work has to be online. In fact, some of the most effective ways to get shares from other influencers is to connect with them offline. For example, attend conferences and approach others that are in your industry.
Another way that you can network is to create your own meetup. For example, I run my own group where I meet with local business owners in my area once a week.
18. Use Google Analytics to extract the Data
If you’re looking to do local social media marketing on a budget, another tool you absolutely need to be using is Google Analytics.
With Google Analytics, you can add a tracking code to your site. This let’s you see how many people are visiting your site, which blog posts they are reading, and most importantly, let’s you see which of your social networks are referring the most traffic to your site.
Not only is Google Analytics a free analytics tool, but it can give you valuable insight about your site so that you can make adjustments based on the information you learn about where your audience is coming from.
Sign-up for Google Analytics
19. Retarget with Facebook Ads
What is great about this feature is that instead of starting off with a cold audience, you start off with a warm one because you know they have visited your website before. This makes them more likely to become a customer.
Setup a Facebook Pixel
20. Repurpose old posts
It doesn’t matter if you have already used a certain photo or graphic on your social media channels. As long as it is still relevant and it was not shared too recently, you can still use re-use it.
If you’re sharing it on Facebook, you would want to share it every few months - I recommend every three months. For Twitter, you can repost it on a weekly basis if you choose to. This is because most tweets on Twitter aren’t seen the first time that they are shared. A tool that I personally use to help with scheduling is Post Planner.
Try Post Planner
Over to you
As you can see social media marketing doesn’t always require having a large budget to work with.
The important thing is to be willing to put a lot of effort into this. If done right, it will always bring a high return on investment for your business.
Do you have questions about any of the tools or tactics mentioned on doing local social media marketing on a budget?