We all must start somewhere. So, starting with free and affordable marketing is not wrong. Testing out the waters before diving headlong into unknown depths is nothing if not wisdom. It gives you a chance to see what all the hubbub is about.
But social media is not a place to park and set up home. There are far too many tradeoffs, and most people are woefully unaware of them.
Here’s but a partial list:
Competing for attention on social media is mostly a losing battle
Trying to get your audience to immigrate off social media to an outside destination (that has the potential to benefit you) is an uphill climb
You could get canceled, banned, or deleted in an instant for less than satisfactory reasons
Your favorite platform(s) could be gone tomorrow thanks to acquisitions, insolvency, changing trends, and so on
You don’t have control over scammers (there are scammers on every social platform exploiting your audience, leaving a bad taste in their mouths)
You don’t take seriously what you don’t pay for
You never expand beyond your comfort zone, and therefore never expand period
The question is, when will you graduate from free and affordable? When will you really invest in your marketing?
Your answer can’t be “tomorrow,” because tomorrow is not tomorrow. It’s just another today when you get there. If your answer is “tomorrow,” then, you’re firmly rooted in the land of conceptual. You don’t have a grasp on reality.
Social media followings aren’t useless. They do serve a purpose. They are notoriously difficult to monetize, but indirect opportunities that come from having a sizable following – be it speaking engagements, record contracts, sponsorship deals, or otherwise – can be lucrative.
But you’ve got to be crystal clear on the objective. Otherwise, it’s not worth the trouble. You won’t take it far enough. You will give up. You won’t post 30 times per day. You won’t take out advertising. You won’t split test creative. You won’t gather intelligence. You won’t buy courses and invest in your unfolding. If anything, you’re balking at the cost – mental, physical, emotional, financial – already.
There are no free lunches. There’s always a tradeoff for the free lunch you think you’re gaining.
The journey truly begins when there’s skin in the game. And if there is no willingness to problem solve the obtaining of resources, there is no willingness to stick with it long enough turn pro either. Those who want to make it happen always find a way, hell, or high water.
Digital marketing tools are a dime a dozen, especially nowadays…
Digital marketing, content marketing, and SEO are fast evolving fields, and the best solutions of the yesteryear aren’t always suited to battles on the new frontiers of Web3.
While this will surely be a moving target, I was recently asked, so my favorite digital marketing tools (that I currently use or used to use) are as follows:
These digital marketing tools don’t just let you syndicate and distribute your content (we’ll get to that a little later – under the heading of “Social Media Automation”). They also let you repurpose existing content in meaningful ways. For example, turning an audio podcast into a video snippet with your podcast artwork and progress bar.
Repurpose.io is the ideal solution for those who are regularly live streaming and want to turn their content into snippets and distribute it across a wide array of social networks.
You can easily take your content from YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Zoom, Google Drive, Dropbox, or your podcast and share it out on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
I primarily use Repurpose.io to distribute my podcast to YouTube, but I have also used it to create clips I share across a broader range of social platforms.
Campaigns & Funnels
So, you want to set up a multi-step landing page / sales page offer just like the pros. What tool should you use?
My campaign / funnel builder of choice is 10XPro (not to be confused with Grant Cardone, 10X Growth Conference, 10X Rule, or anything of the sort).
I built the entirety of Content Marketing Musician and all associated products and programs on 10XPro. It was fun and easy, and the customer experience is great, both on the creator and the user side.
Besides, 10XPro is versatile, whether you want to set up memberships, fan clubs, courses, members forums, or otherwise. You can even build out your own affiliate army with their software.
You need a way to measure everything you do. Sure, you can do some of this manually. But given that there are near enterprise level solutions available for free, you probably won’t need to become a spreadsheet fiend to stay on top of your metrics.
Google Analytics is free. It’s comprehensive and powerful. It’s the ideal solution for tracking your website’s traffic.
The downside? You need to be an engineer to understand how some of it works. I recently started diving deeper into the world of conversion tracking (related to analytics), and I don’t get it. But I will keep learning until I do. You’ve got to keep challenging yourself.
Collecting emails and sending campaigns needs to be at the top of your marketing totem pole. And you need the right digital marketing tools to make this happen.
There are many Email Service Providers (ESPs) out there, and they’re all quite good. In a manner of speaking, they all do the same thing too. But are they all comparable in terms of functionality and pricing? No.
My favorite solution is ConvertKit. It’s an excellent option for creators because it’s easy to use, it allows you to sell infoproducts and paid newsletters, and it’s free for up to 1,000 subscribers.
Plus, they produce some excellent content showing you how to grow your list, build your social media following, sell your art, and more.
When it comes to growing an email list, I swore by Leadpages for years. I don’t use them anymore because the basic functionality is all built into 10XPro (which obviously does a lot of other things), but that doesn’t mean I love them any less.
From setting up popups to landing pages, Leadpages gives you all the tools you need to capture your traffic and increase your email list by leaps and bounds.
Link in Bio
Who knew the “link in bio” trend would catch fire? Well, apparently those watching the creator economy movement did, because now there are several viable competitors to Linktree.
Koji is not an improvement on what’s available. As I see it, it’s a category creator.
Yes, it’s a link in bio. But it’s more than that. It’s free, it gives you access to your analytics, and you can take advantage of a variety of mini apps that let you:
Going live is a popular way of attracting an audience. But if you want to put a bit of production value behind it, you’ve got to take advantage of the right digital marketing tools.
Most content creators probably know about StreamYard by now. It’s a popular solution for live streamers of all types, whether it’s podcasters, entrepreneurs, YouTubers, or otherwise.
I made a whole $5.55 live streaming last year. That apparently wasn’t enough to keep me going with it. But whenever I’m thinking about live streaming, StreamYard is what immediately comes to mind.
I especially love the ability to multi-stream to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and other destinations.
If you’ve got a website, naturally, you want to drive as much targeted traffic to it as you possibly can. Search Engine Optimization is key to your success.
Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest is the most cost-efficient SEO solution out there, and it’s undergirded by Neil’s own desire to help entrepreneurs succeed. His main way of paying it forward is with detailed articles and videos that answer every question you can think of.
Patel’s team seems to be adding new features on a regular basis too, so Ubersuggest will only get more powerful over time, and is unlikely to increase in price.
I have personal experience with Ahrefs. I even got to contribute a few articles to their blog in the past.
Their software is admittedly awesome. Finding keywords opportunities for your website is a cinch with Ahrefs, and that means you can get results fast.
And while not astronomical, they are expensive enough to be priced out of reach for many creators and independent entrepreneurs who already have multiple SaaS subscriptions. It generally takes six to 12 months for you to see any benefit from your optimization efforts. So, $100+ per month seems kind of a steep price to pay while waiting for your efforts to pay off.
Social Media Automation
You aren’t posting everything manually, are you? That’s just silly. Of course, you do need to automate intelligently, or your posts probably won’t be seen. Here are some digital marketing tools that help.
Facebook / Instagram Creator Studio lets you schedule and manage your posts (for Facebook and Instagram) natively for free.
TweetDeck is a free tweet scheduler for Twitter that also lets you monitor engagement activity and hashtags or other interests.
Jetpack is like a Swiss Army knife for WordPress. I especially like the “Publicize” function which lets you post to social media automatically the moment a new post is published – Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and multiple Twitter destinations.
OnlyWire might be a little old school, but it’s one of those digital marketing tools that has stood the test of time. It lets you automate posting to 20+ social networks. I especially like that it connects to destinations like Blogger, Medium, and LiveJoural.
I have not used it in a while, but it is very cost effective, and I have been thinking about it again recently.
Meet Edgar (or Edgar, or whatever, I don’t care, sorry OCD people) is bar none one of the best solutions for automating your social media. You can store every post you create into a library and have Meet Edgar continually draw from it without you having to add anything new (though you will still want to keep adding periodically). It works great if you already have a big repository of content to work with.
Meet Edgar connects to Facebook Pages and Groups, Instagram Feed and Stories, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and LinkedIn Company Pages.
They do have a free trial, and their pricing seems to have come down a bit, but in my experience, you basically need the most expensive plan for it to be worthwhile.
Final Thoughts, Digital Marketing Tools
The above should be a good starting point for the average creator, independent entrepreneur, or solopreneur. You don’t necessarily need to use all of them, and you probably won’t. But depending on your focus, and which area of your career or business you’re looking to enhance right now, it would be worth looking into relevant options.
Most tools here are still modest in cost, even though those pesky enterprise solutions can look mighty sexy at times. Start humble, and in time, you’ll be able to grow into bigger shoes. And don’t forget to replace tools as needed. The best teams are always on the lookout for the next thing that might enhance their workflow.
The allure of social media and big promises of engagement, followings, and sales brought you to the giants – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and so on.
But. Even after implementing all the latest best practices and strategies, you’re still having trouble seeing what all the fuss is about. Results aren’t forthcoming, and it’s not as though any of these platforms are out to help you.
That’s where I was at as I began exploring the new horizons of the latest free speech and decentralized networks. Eventually, I came across BitClout, which is a growing decentralized network that, when properly understood, looks far more attractive than the platform it took inspiration from – Twitter.
Here I compare Twitter to BitClout and consider which is better for new users.
Google “marketing and sales strategies,” and with remarkable frequency, you will stumble on trendy twentysomething YouTubers talking about traffic. Which is neither marketing nor sales.
“Start an Instagram meme account,” they say, “it will get an insane amount of traffic!”
Right. Because people scanning trending memes love buying widgets. How ridiculous.
If you can’t connect the dots between how an Instagram meme account stimulates sales from your eCommerce store, infoproducts, coaching programs, or otherwise, all you’re doing is building a following. And a following alone doesn’t lead to positive sales ROI.
This isn’t to suggest that a following can’t positively impact your business. But just because you have a following doesn’t mean you’re making sales, and just because you’re making sales doesn’t mean you have a following.
Practicing Accurate Thinking in Your Marketing & Sales Efforts
As a champion of artistic success, I see it as my duty to steer you clear of obvious flights of fancy, of which ephemeral social media tactics is an obvious speed bump. Here I will erect a massive yield sign.
Building a following on any platform takes time and effort, plain and simple, and before committing to any initiative requiring you to achieve viral status, it would be shrewd to consider whether that’s time well invested.
There are methodologies to attracting a following that work with remarkable speed, but to suggest that it will drive sales, fame, or any other desired end is bush league level of naivete.
How can we practice accurate thinking amid the hype? And the answer isn’t elusive as wide-eyed, overexcited microwave entrepreneurs seem to think.
As applied to Instagram, we should be asking:
How does our Instagram account prepare the prospect for purchasing from us?
Does the prospect click the link in our profile? How often?
What percentage of people coming to our site from Instagram convert to customers?
Even this is rudimentary, as you’d be wise to track how many people join your email list, how many of those people convert into customers, as well as the lifetime value of every customer that purchases from you.
If we can’t offer clear, concise, accurate answers to these questions, and have no intention of tracking, we’d be better off steering clear of Instagram altogether to dedicate our precious time to building assets and utilizing proven strategies.
Discarding the Ambiguous, Embracing the Specific
Show me an entrepreneur who tracks, and I will show you an entrepreneur who enjoys results.
And tracking is not some magical superpower only the brilliant can access and leverage. It may require rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work of monitoring your stats and logging them in spreadsheets, but unless you have an especially complex operation, a well-trained virtual assistant could easily handle the daily task load, usually in 30 minutes or less.
If you deem your time precious, then ask these questions before starting any long-term project:
What am I looking to accomplish with this initiative?
Can I accept that building a following might not lead to profitable business results?
Am I willing to stick with the program for at least six to 12 months (because you’re unlikely to see results any sooner than that)?
Am I willing to do the hard work of daily, or at minimum, weekly tracking so I’m clear on how my work is leading to desired results?
Am I willing to abandon the initiative if it proves ineffective (remember – social media is addicting and brainless)?
And I will reiterate, as it is the intention of this article, that followings will not always lead to sales, sales will not always lead to followings. So, succumbing to the pressures of joining another social network is foolish when you don’t know what targets you’re trying to hit.
If you’ve been caught in the trap of the tantalizing and trendy, you would benefit from a reading of The Music Entrepreneur Code. While it was written with musicians in mind, it has also received praise from freelancers and entrepreneurs who merited the no-nonsense principles and next-step resources to retrieving true marketing value.
As noted, you can leverage followings for wanted business outcomes. But if you’re going to take advice from anyone, look for the soldiers with the arrows in their back, not the instant, bush to major league rookies. Those with arrows in their backs will have tried everything already and will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t, and that’s a far less crowded and less painful road to success.
My friend called me to announce that his TikTok profile grew from zero to 20,000 in two weeks. He invested in an expensive program to earn these results, and I congratulated him. I have no reason to think he will be unsuccessful in his continued efforts to grow his profile, drive traffic, and even create a successful business on the back of it.
But what was running through my mind as I was listening to him is what’s been drilled into me over the course of my entrepreneurial career – principles that have resonated so deeply with me that in some cases, I’ve practically forgotten how or when I initially discovered them:
If you’re going to build on rented land, make sure you have a backup plan (build your own platform and email list)
Algorithms change – success principles don’t (meaning there’s no new strategy to social media success, just new behavior based on the platform)
Own the racecourse, not the racehorse (as my coach James Schramko is famous for saying – suggesting that building your own platform is the most valuable thing you can do)
Here today, gone tomorrow (as is often the case with social media)
And so, even as I’m observing a possible success in the making, I’m wary of anything that’s gotten quickly. Because what’s gotten quickly is often lost quickly too. I don’t see my behavior changing because of my friend’s success.
Am I suggesting that you should never explore the flavor of the day? Of course not! But am I calling TikTok flavor the day? 100%! You’ll be shocked how fast it comes and goes after the fact.
That said, I spend about 20% of my time experimenting with and exploring new platforms. These days, I’m having fun on BitClout (because it’s a lot like Twitter), but does that mean I won’t be giving TikTok a try? Not at all!
Still, you want to be shrewd. You want to be calculated. You want to value opportunity for what it’s worth, not for its inflated hype value. Show me an entrepreneur that spends foolishly most of the time, and I will show you a broke social circle. Because that entrepreneur borrows mercilessly from friends and family.
There will always be overpriced social media courses. So-called Bitcoin consultants. Get-rich-quick FBA and NFT hype machines. Medium and Substack gazillionaires.
There won’t always be time, though, and opportunity cost, as I’ve said before, is real. Especially when we’re dealing with so many shills.
Who will you trust? I will leave that to you to decide, but my bets are on people who’ve dedicated themselves to becoming experts in their industry, continue to show up, and have a long-established pattern of success, even amid personal challenge and failure.
Quick reminder – you can now get The Music Entrepreneur Code – 2022 Edition, the second edition of the best-selling guide to getting paid for your passion and impacting more fans without wasting years of your life and thousands of dollars.