As a part-time entrepreneur looking for ways to market various things, from mobile telephones to clocking-in systems, I am always seeking new and cost-effective ways to get my message out there. There are many ways of doing from simple advertising in a local newspaper, online classifieds, auction sites etc and these are usually cost-effective methods of selling physical goods.
Selling services, such as web-design, or an affiliate program is more difficult. My particular niche recently is even more difficult than most as I have decided that selling bespoke Twitter backgrounds is a great idea. And it is a great idea but how do you let people know about it?
The first way of course is to use Twitter itself. It's free to post messages but it has limited reach. I have just over three thousand followers on Twitters and unless they all retweet my message and all of their followers retweet my message it isn't going to get very far. But of course it is worth doing and very often if you add "Please RT" at the end then twenty to thirty people usually do.
There is obviously then Facebook. I have something like 150 friends on there and again telling them that I design bespoke Twitter backgrounds has got me one or two jobs. So again, it is worth it.
There are then online classifieds. Some of them cost and are quite expensive but I found one call Yap Yap OK where it's free to post classifieds and they even post a link to your entry on Twitter automatically. This is a British site so whether it will work for people from other countries or not, I couldn't say but it is certainly worth a try and if you're in the UK then definitely worth using. (There are a number of other classifieds sites but they don't look as good and don't post to Twitter as far as I know).
And that was all I could find in the way of free advertising. One could set up a website of course with all of its attendant costs but you would need to be sure that there is a sufficient market for your product before spending money on a domain name and hosting. It was something I decided against doing because I couldn't justify the costs based on income.
And then there is paid advertising. I looked at various sites including banner advertising like Google AdWords and Adbrite along with Twitter advertising sites such as MyLikes and RevTwt. The costs of these I found to be staggering and because they work on a cost per click model, the potential for click fraud was enormous (they tell it isn't but it is in the advertising network's interest to tell you that your ad receives clicks!). I did try a couple of these CPC at a total cost of around £50 but got nothing out of them.
I then saw an interesting tweet from someone who I was following that said something along the lines of "send your advertising to over 2 million for $5". That sounded like a good deal to me so I clicked the link and duly paid $5 (it worked out at £3.46 from my Paypal account). The site is Retweetomatic and they offered a great service whereby they wrote my tweet for me and sent it out to 15 social networks & 30 RSS aggregators all for just $5. On Twitter, they used "RT @pawilliams1" which actually got me some more followers but more importantly got me some sales of bespoke Twitter backgrounds including one for an internet TV channel.
Every time that I want to advertise my service now I use these methods and the most I spend in a month is $5. As I charge $25 for a bespoke Twitter background and I do one or two a week, you can see that I am in profit. If you're selling a service on the internet then you don't need a massive budget. You can use social media such as Twitter and Facebook, free classifieds such as Yap Yap OK and a low-cost message broadcasting service like Retweetomatic.
Update On Jul 06, 2010: I just realised that the link for Retweetomatic doesn't go anywhere useful, which isn't any help to you if you want to use it. The link http://www.retweetomatic.co.cc