Getting the Most out of Paid and Free Advertising

Reports of the death of advertising are an exaggeration, to sort of quote Mark Twain. It may feel like marketing is all about social media these days, but in fact traditional advertising still comprises almost two-thirds of marketing budgets.

Social media is ostensibly ‘free’ advertising. But instead of paying the cheque to the ‘platform’ (in ad land that’s the newspaper, Radio or TV company), the cost is the staff hours needed to prepare content and manage interactions.  And if you think there’s no longer room for traditional advertising – remember that is precisely how the social media platforms make their money!

Where does that leave you as a small business? Should you pay directly or indirectly for your marketing communications? Or do you need a strategy that includes both? Here is a quick overview of paid for and ‘free’ advertising to help you think it through.

Paid Advertising

In terms of speed and instant reach, nothing can compare to established media advertising avenues. Whether looking at a TV spot, radio, newspapers, billboards, advertisements before films, or any other of the wide range of options, there are a few inescapable elements which must first be addressed.

The first of these is suitability, both in terms of location and timing. Even the best advertisement in the world will fall upon deaf ears if not delivered to a primed audience, and this is something that you and your business need to keep in mind. Either through market research or your own personal investigation, considerable work needs to be performed to track down when and where you can hit the most of your target audience.

This ties into the second element which needs to be factored in, that of cost. Traditional methods of advertisement can be costly, especially if you’re looking for the most popular locations and time-slots. These are on top of the fees for developing the advertisement itself, which can be significant depending on the medium.

Because of this, you need to be confident of your ROI (return on investment) before seriously considering a major advertising push. That said, if you have performed the proper research, it can be possible to qualify for business loans to help cover the initial expense. There are a variety of choices here, for different sized businesses and repayment schedules, all of which can give the helping hand needed if properly utilised – make sure you find the solution best adapted to your repayment capabilities.

‘Free’ Advertising

Love it or hate it, there is no denying that social media is an indispensable tool in modern business advertising. While there are paid options on this front, there are also a lot of ways to use those platforms to engage with potential customers for free. Whether considering Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or any combination of these and different systems, engagement is always the key. Focus first on the platforms where your customers hang-out or go to for the information they need.

What counts as engagement for each specific business, however, can vary wildly. That depends on your brand image and what works for your customer base. The key is to keep testing and adapting to what works. For a business with a more casual focus, humour and memes can operate as a fantastic backbone for supporting more serious posts. For those business looking to exude a no-nonsense demeanour, simple updates on day-to-day operations, as well as detailed looks at completed products/services can be the biggest draw.

There are many social media pages today that are followed by those who have little actual engagement in what the page offers directly, and this is another aspect to consider. Each new viewer will make social media systems more likely to show pages to others, so in this way, finding a balance between drawing attention and remaining relevant to the business is important.

There are, unfortunately, no “one size fits all” approaches to any business advertising methods. But there is no question that traditional advertising is likely to be much more powerful if it is amplified with online conversations.

The only way to truly raise the odds of success is to understand not just yourself and your audience, but also what your audience sees in you. Whether you’re looking for paid advertising for instant recognition, playing the long game with free social media, or combining the two to magnify impact, understanding these relationships, and leveraging them correctly, will make all the difference in the world.