Last week I did a post about the value of incorporating an auto responder into your online business. Since then, I’ve received a number of questions from folks who are just starting out in the online marketing world, asking if there are any free auto responders, or at the very least more affordable ones. The short answer to this is ‘no.’ However, if you are just starting out and are already bogged down a little with hosting fees and other costs, there are several ways that you can start gathering leads in a cost efficient way. None of these methods are as good as an auto responder, but if you need to hold off on getting an auto responder until your business is generating enough revenue to pay for it, you may want to try these methods to ensure that people who visit your site get news about updates without having to go to your site.
A few weeks ago, I did a post on the value of Twitter, offering some tips about how to generate organic leads. Twitter does not work as well as an auto responder, but it is a cost effective substitute and does work well in concert with an auto responder. As I mentioned in my other post, you should try to look up people in your field and follow their Twitter feeds. Re-tweet and favorite their posts, and leave comments to build a rapport. Hopefully they will respond in kind, and their followers will be exposed to your updates and hopefully start following you as well. A great way to do this is to favorite, re-tweet and comment on posts made by those following leaders in your industry.
Twitter is a great service to use in concert with your auto responder because while your auto responder always connects with your subscribers, Twitter can connect with people who aren’t subscribers and in turn generates more potential leads for you. The only problem with Twitter is that even your followers might miss your posts because if they only check it a couple of times a day and they are follow a hundred people or more, your post might be bumped out of their feed before they even get a chance to see it. In that case, the auto responder works much more efficiently because it sends out e-mails that your subscribers are sure to see. Avoid marketing firms that want you to pay them for followers as you may end up with a bunch of spam followers that get you no money at all. To make your website Twitter friendly and generate followers through your site, be sure to add a tag at the end of each post inviting them to follow you on Twitter and offer a hyperlink to your Twitter page.
2: Facebook Fan Page
Creating a Facebook Fan Page can also be a great way to generate leads. Like Twitter, it allows you to not only send updates to people who follow you, but also allows those followers to ‘share’ and ‘like’ your posts, which means your posts can be exposed to people who aren’t already subscribing to your page. In this way, you can generate more leads. Setting up a Facebook Fan Page requires a little bit of time and up keep, but it is a free service. The reason I suggest a Fan Page instead of using your actual Facebook page is because your personal page is geared towards your friends and family. You do not want to cross your business life with your personal life.
Your friends and family may get annoyed if you keep sharing business posts, and your business associates may not agree with certain political or social posts that you ‘like’ or ‘share’. On a Fan Page, you can share only items related to business and avoid alienating subscribers interested in your business with personal items, and simultaneously avoid annoying friends and family with business posts. You would still want to post something from your business on your personal Facebook either once a week or once every two week to try and keep friends and family posted and generate leads, but keep this to a minimum so they don’t see your Facebook page as a commercial.
The Facebook Fan Page is a free way to keep track of and generate leads, but like Twitter, even the leads you get may not see all your posts because your posts might get pushed down their news feed before they get a chance to see it. A Facebook Fan Page is better than nothing, and works well in concert with an auto responder, but I still recommend getting the auto responder as soon as your business is generating enough revenue to afford one.
3: Instagram and Pinterest
Like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are both great social networking sites that allow you to build a list of followers for free. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, though, these sites are specifically about sharing images and videos. I’ve already written on the benefits of Pinterest, but Instagram works much in the same way. Like Twitter and Facebook, these sites help you keep in touch with followers, and also provide the possibility to get your recent posts shared with people who aren’t yet subscribers. The limit to these social networks is that they are image-based. If you are involved in fashion, or cooking, or have a photography business, these sites are great because you can share pictures of fashion, food, and photography. Likewise, if you have an Ebay Store or are an Amazon Affiliate, you can share pictures of the products you are selling, be the images of book covers or movie posters, or anything else you might be selling. If you don’t have an image friendly product, but do make videos, you may want to use Instagram instead of Pinterest. Again, because so many people use these services, your posts may be lost in your followers news feeds, in which case the auto responder is the best option as it ensures that your subscribers see your latest posts in their inbox. However, these services help to expose you to new clients that wouldn’t see your posts through your auto responder unless your subscribers to share a recent post on one of their social networking sites. Like Twitter, avoid marketing firms that offer to get you followers on Instagram as you may end up paying for spam accounts, like the literally millions of accounts that Instagram recently purged from their service.
I’m a big fan of social media and believe that is should always be incorporated with your auto responder, but I also recognize the limits of social media. There is simply an overload of information on social networking sites and it is easy to miss a post. Using the social networking sites is important because it makes it easy to share, but if you want to make sure that your subscribers see each of your updates, there is no substitute for an auto responder as it makes sure that your subscribers see your updates. Auto responders are generally very affordable, even if your business is only generating a small amount of money, and it gives you access to clients that you don’t need to spend advertising dollars on.
Whenever I have a new product, for instance, I always blast it out to my subscribers and offer them a discount. Because each of these leads is targeted with laser precision, his gives me a spike in revenue and also allows me to get feedback on the product, at which point I can improve the product with feedback and also have money to put into my advertising campaign. You simply cannot get conversions like this through social media, though social media can help. As I mentioned on my previous post, I believe Aweber is the best auto responder, which is why I chose to be an affiliate with them instead of other services.
If I have people subscribe to a service through me, I want to know that they will be happy with it and that the service will instil my subscribes with trust in me. So when you are ready to get an auto responder, go with Aweber. If you get it through me, I will help you install it on your website. If you don’t have the cash to pay for the monthly subscription (which runs around $20 a month), then try using the free services I’ve outlined here. They’ll help you build your brand and your client list until your business is generating enough revenue to make an auto responder worth your while.
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