As an online marketer, I get asked for a lot of advice. When it comes to promoting what you do, the advice I most often give to other online marketers is to get featured on big social media fan pages of companies or other experts in your area of expertise.
That sounds simple enough, but you'll have to work a little harder than dropping an introductory email to the leading fan page in your industry, asking if they'd be interested in featuring you on their page. While that notion works out great for you, what's in it for them? Instead, focus on what you can do to provide unique and genuine value to a particular company that will make it worth their time to promote you on their page(s).
In other words, what can you offer that company's in terms of content for a blog post or podcast that they don't already have going for them? Think about what you're offering to that company and ask yourself, "How does my featured post on Company X's Facebook fan page benefit them?"
The first thing you need to do is understand Company X; do your research and find out what they do, who their audience is, and their mission and objectives, so that the offer you make has some tangible benefit to them.
In addition to figuring out what you bring to the table, it's important to research the company's social media presence and context. Start by finding a fan pages that have both the audience size and volume that's right for you. Getting featured once on a fan page with 2,000 fans probably isn't going to gain that much attention or traction. Instead, think about which companies have a large enough audience that has the potential to generate likes, replies, and traction.
Again, make sure your content fits with or complements the site and/or company you approach. Remember to provide value to them and align with their cause. That is, frame your pitch so it shows that you understand the company's needs and that you're offering content that will satisfy those needs - be specific.
With the key concept on hand and a target fan page selected, turn your focus to the following three points:
1. Write about a company and/or their experts
Do take the initiative here and interview one of Company X's experts, if this is a relevant option. Post it on your site and then ask to be featured on their fan page. Don't go to Company X and ask, "If I blog about an interview with one of your experts, will you feature it on your fan page?"
This approach provides helpful momentum when you approach a company, so that you demonstrate your willingness to give something valuable, in return for being featured on their page. Point out that you've already written an interview with one of their experts, and use it to get your foot farther in the door by offering to interview more of their experts and provide more content, thereby providing an ongoing win-win opportunity for both sides.
Showing that you're willing to go the extra mile for Company X not only shows respect for that organization but also that you're willing to prove yourself with some bold effort. If your first blog post is well-written (and follow basic web content writing guidelines), then odds are Company X will take you up on your offer to write more content for them.
2. Contribute on associated web sites
If a company has related sites, such as a YouTube channel or sister website, offer to contribute with video, audio, or additional writing content (find out what types of content the company offers and what engages their audience). Now that you've been featured on Company X's fan page, make sure that Company X knows that you're going to work to promote that post, and that your post will point traffic toward their website. Use the promotion work you do as leverage to ask Company X to promote and share that post as well. Phrase it simply i.e. "Thanks for the opportunity. I'm really excited about the post and I'm plugging it in on all my social media outlets to get the word out. Are you posting it on your fan pages?"
Note that the time to make that request is after your post has been written and posted, not before. Give that value first, then remind Company X that you're happy to provide more posts, be they podcasts, videos or blogs, and that you'd appreciate it if they promote what you've written on their Facebook fan pages and other social media outlets. If Company X likes what you write, they're very likely to promote the post when you ask and to take you up on your offer to write more.
You're essentially writing for free here, but think of the deal as a you-scratch-my-back, I'll-scratch-your-back proposition. Sell your passion over promotion. Yes, you may be providing Company X with free content and promoting and driving traffic to their site, but you are also being featured on their fan pages, which is likely raising your profile and your visibility in your area of expertise.
3. Develop an exchange of mutual trades (articles, email, social media, etc.)
Now that you've been featured on someone's fan page, take advantage of the opportunity to offer up more value. For example, say Company X is offering a webinar that you've watched and written about. The best way to approach Company X is to remind them of your enthusiasm for the topic and your previous contributions in that area. Then point out that you've promoted their webinar via blog posts, email, and your social media channels.
Show that your content is in line with Company X's cause and that you understand and want to help them reach their goals. This is a good, strategic time to suggest that Company X is more than welcome to feature your blog posts about their webinar on their social media fan pages, and that you'd be happy to share your email list with them in return. Again, you'll need to do the groundwork ahead of time and offer up a bit more, but payment comes in the form of potential additional exposure on Company X's social media fan pages.
Think Long-Term Relationship
While all three of these steps will help put you on Company X's radar, the ultimate goal is continuous involvement with a company. If Company X likes your first few articles, come up with a plan to make weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly contributions (depending on their publication cycle), so that you are continuously featured on their website. Ask only for Facebook and Twitter mentions in return. Most people, assuming they like and respect your work, will take you up on the opportunity.
Building long-term relationships with companies and site experts allows for a greater return on your investment (ROI) of time. Once you're "in", with regular content contributions or even a column, keep track of the traffic that is generated by your contributions to Company X. Watch the links and the clicks that come in from Company X and make sure the ROI is there for you and your website.
Remember, the goal isn't to be able to brag to your friends and family that Company X is featuring you on their fan page. The ultimate goal is to use your content for Company X in order to generate solid, continuous traffic to your website, whether you're writing about a company, for them, or promoting their content through your own social media fan pages.