Marketing on a (Nonexistent) Budget

Since I started freelancing, I’ve been asked several variations of the same question: how do I enhance my online presence?

Well, besides checking out my services and how I can help (sorry, had to), the other suggestion I generally make is to market, market, market. Marketing yourself is essential for getting seen (and remembered) online.

And while I would love to work with everyone who’s asked me about this, I also understand that not everyone’s trying to build a business, brand, or product following online. Most people who fall in this category are looking to accomplish two key goals: 1) learn a few basic tricks that will help expand their personal following, and 2) do it for free.

If that describes you, you’ve come to the right place! I have worked almost exclusively with nonprofit organizations, meaning I’ve learned how to pinch pennies and market on a tight (and sometimes nonexistent) budget. I’m excited to share some of the tips I’ve learned along the way, so let’s get started!

How to Market on a (Nonexistent) Budget

  1. Hashtag, you’re it:

    I get it. Including hashtags at the end of posts looks clunky, distracting, and like an obvious marketing ploy. Not to mention hashtags integrated within a post #like #this harkens back to when we all first discovered what a hashtag was. But hey, we still use them for a reason- THEY WORK. But to avoid the unattractive list of tags at the end of your captions, try a hashtag cloud. Create a list of hashtags that are relevant to your style, brand, vibe, etc. and save it as a note on your phone. Every time you post, copy and paste in your pre-drafted hashtag cloud as a comment underneath the post. This way, your content will show up in relevant hashtag searches without ruining the aesthetic of your carefully crafted post. Hashtag clouds are ideal for Instagram, but they can be easily adapted for other platforms (if you’d like to know how, feel free to ask in a comment below!)

  2. Where you lead, I will follow (-for-follow):

    A great way to get noticed is to notice others! Follow accounts similar to your interests and tastes and oftentimes, these users will follow back. This can also lead to their followers noticing you too. Not only will you grow your audience, but you’ll also be able to track how other accounts within your interest groups are marketing and posting, which is an excellent way to stay on top of the trends within particular groups.

  3. I really really really really really really like you: 

    LIKE. EVERYTHING. Similarly to the follow-for-follow tactic above, like-for-like is a simple way to gain traction. Likes are free, so pull an Oprah and give them to everyone. YOU GET A LIKE, YOU GET A LIKE, EVERYBODY GETS A LIIIIIIIIIIIIKE! The users you follow and favorite might check out your account, follow you, and maybe even give you some love back!

  4. You’re like, really pretty: 

    Post high-quality content. You don’t need to invest in a fancy camera; most smartphones these days have impressive camera quality. Make sure it’s clear, make sure the lighting is adequate, make sure the focal point of the image is actually properly featured. Download a few editing apps (my favorites are A Color Story and VSCO) and use them sparingly and carefully.

  5. Grab a protractor, find your angle: 

    What sets you apart? What will draw your audience to you? How will you fit yourself into your interest or branding group while still being distinct? Do some introspection, find your angle, cherish it, and then let everyone know.

These tips are obviously not the end-all, be-all of social media marketing, but they have certainly worked for me, both personally and professionally. And, best of all, THEY’RE FREE, so go try them out and let me know what worked best for you!


8 Replies to “Marketing on a (Nonexistent) Budget”

  1. Brenda, I saw this posting over on Laura Christianson’s Blogging Bistro. I’d like to clarify the first tip. You have a list of hashtags that you always post as the 1st comment to a posting? And then as a comment, they are picked up by people searching for those hashtags? How do you decide what to use? Can you do an entire post that elaborates on this practice? I’m intrigued.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Damon! Thanks for your question; hashtag clouds can seem a little complicated at first glance, so I’m happy to clarify.

      To answer your first two questions: yes and yes. Post your list of hashtags, or your hashtag cloud, as a comment once you have published your post. This comment is linked to your post, so any hashtags included in the comments will link to the post.
      So yes, if someone searches for a specific hashtag that you have included in your cloud, they will be able to find your post.
      In regards to your third question: you should decide what hashtags to include in your cloud based on what tags are relevant to your brand, topic, or content. So, for example, if you’ve posted an image of a camera and are posting about photography, relevant hashtags to include in your cloud might be #photography #camera #photographer #pictures #photograph, etc.

      I hope this helps! Writing a post explaining this in further detail is a great idea; thank you for the suggestion!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post, I hope you found it helpful! 🙂


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