No Ad Budget? Here’s How Marketers Grow Their Audience on Facebook for Free

Here’s how dozens of marketers use Facebook groups, visual content, videos, and more to grow their audience on Facebook without spending on advertising.

Avatar Dann Albright on July 19, 2018 • 8 minute read

Organic social media marketing has been facing an uphill battle.

With algorithm changes, increasing competition, and an emphasis on keeping users from leaving their platforms, social networks have made it harder for brands to reach people organically.

Just take a look at some of these stats about the declining shares in social media.

Paid Facebook marketing is an effective way to reach your audience–but not every organization has the resources to advertise. So marketers are coming up with creative ways to increase their reach on Facebook for free.

We wanted to find out what was working in the real marketing world, so we asked 20 marketers how they market on Facebook for free. Here’s what we found.

Editor’s note: if you try any of these strategies, or come up with your own, be sure to track your engagement with this free Facebook template. It’ll populate your data in seconds.

Take Advantage of Groups

One of the most common suggestions we heard was to take advantage of Facebook groups. There were two distinct camps, though.

Create Your Own Groups

After seeing a decline in social traffic, Campaign Creators made a Facebook group for professionals in the field of inbound marketing. According to marketing manager Tammy Duggan-Herd, the group let clients of the agency connect, ask questions, and share useful information.

One of the most effective uses of the group, however, was the Ask Me Anything (AMA)-style live videos. By featuring credible, innovative speakers, Campaign Creators increased their membership by 47% in three months.

(It’s also worth noting that Campaign Creators used other social networks, like LinkedIn, and their email list to promote these AMAs.)

IMPACT‘s VP of marketing, Kathleen Booth, shared a similar strategy. With over 2,700 members in the agency’s IMPACT Elite group, the company has an effective vehicle for interacting with customers.

Live broadcasts with thought leaders, posts about company culture, and member-driven discussions keep members engaged. In fact, about 65% of the group members actively participate.

And in case you’re not sure about the continued scalability of this tactic, Booth reports 25 to 50 requests to join every day.

Why is this method so effective? Adam McIntyre, co-founder of BrandPacks, put it this way: “Facebook groups offer brands a quick and easy way to create private clubs of like-minded people and slowly build rapport with customers without selling to them.”

Join Relevant Groups

Other survey respondents recommended joining already existing groups where your audience is hanging out.

Janet Perry from Napa Needlepoint shares her email class offerings in needlepoint groups, and gets 5–10% of her signups from these groups. She’s careful to point out that you need to respect the groups’ rules on marketing posts, though.

Jess Perna, an author of adult coloring books, shares his creations in Facebook groups to raise awareness of his product. And when people post their coloring results, he compliments them on their work . . . which leads them to buy more books!

Share Great Content

Whether you decide to take advantage of groups or not, you’ll still need to have content worth posting. “Although it’s tempting to create content that is self-promotional,” says Amy Bishop of Cultivative Marketing, “the key is to create content that is helpful, funny, or entertaining and then work your brand into it naturally.”

Cultivative uses a variety of content, from video and ebooks to infographics and quizzes.

Luke Severn, marketing program manager at Kaufer DMC, also emphasized content variety. His agency used “images, quotes, videos, interesting articles, events, contests, trending hashtags, and featured products” for a particular client and found great success.

Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to create a huge amount of original content to get people to engage with you on Facebook.

Tim Jones, founding partner of Eternal Works, shared his results. In 30 days of sharing 2 blog posts and 5–7 relevant third-party articles per week, Eternal Works saw a 117% increase in traffic and a 600% increase in contacts generated for their targeted vertical.

Those are big numbers. And since there’s a good chance you’re blogging already, that’s not much extra work.

Get Visual

Visual content was especially popular among our respondents. Jenna Black, owner of The Bookcase and Barber speakeasy, reshares photos from customers. These photos provide a double hit of marketing; not only do they establish social proof, but people are likely to engage with photos of themselves, further driving visibility.

Sathyanarayana, founder of Growth Hack University, broke his posting strategy down for us: he tries to schedule 8–10 posts each day, with 40–50% images, 10–15% videos, and text posts or articles for the rest.

The images, he says, should be super informative, relevant to your audience, and shareable. Going viral is still a worthy goal when it comes to getting free marketing on Facebook.

SEO Hacker‘s editor-in-chief Sean Si echoed the idea of going viral. His agency goes for viral images and videos, as well as helpful infographics and contests when they look for views on Facebook.

And when you have images and videos to share, you should present them in interesting ways. Keri Jaehnig, founder of Idea Girl Media, is a big fan of Facebook Stories. This content format is perfect for presenting images and videos in a manner that stands out.

And the best part? “Because Stories sit at the top of the mobile screen, it’s easy to rise above the ‘noise’ on Facebook!”

Broadcast Live Video

Among different types of content, video stood out to many of the marketers we talked to. Quite a few mentioned live video specifically. We already saw how well the AMA-style live videos worked, so we were curious as to how other marketers used Facebook Live.

Jonathan Aufray, CEO of Growth Hackers, finds that this company gets better reach when using Facebook Live than they do when they rely on link or image posts.

(In fact, he recommends trying out new Facebook features as they get released. Other marketers have had success with Live video, so why not try whatever Facebook puts out next? It’s likely to stand out.)

Marcel Odiagbe, head of marketing at Hodisol Limited, also used Facebook Live to attract viewers. As a young company, Hodisol created a Facebook event and used live videos to talk about the event. They complemented these videos with unique content.

With 64 registrations for the event, Odiagbe and his team attributed much of their success to their Facebook Live videos and subsequent reposting of that video content.

Host Events

It wasn’t just live video that Odiagbe and his team relied on to generate buzz. It was the Facebook event itself. And other marketers mentioned similar ideas.

UNINCORPORATED account manager Robert Johns has used the strategy to great effect; his agency has used Facebook events “to promote everything from concerts to online webinars.” He pointed out their value as a simple landing page as well as a social space for attendees to interact and form community.

Ryan Short, creative director at CivicBrand, also recommends having other people add your organization as a co-host on their events. This strategy has worked for their city district clients, whose Facebook pages are now central sources for all of the events in their area.

This might be easier for communities like city districts, but you can put it into action for your business, as well. Partner with other groups to co-host events. Join local business groups to make connections. Offer to help manage the Facebook event as a co-host. There are all sorts of ways you can team up with other organizations to get the word out about your events.

Boost Your Posts for Free

Paid promotion on Facebook is an effective strategy for getting your posts in front of more people. But there are free ways that you can get a similar effect.

Emma Voss, social media associate at Organik SEO, mentioned Preferred Audience Selection: “By using this feature, users with interests related to those we’ve selected in the post are more likely see the post in their News Feed.”

There’s no guarantee that using this strategy will get your post more views, but it’s a free tool. Why not take advantage?

A few other marketers recommended an even more direct approach. “I’ve urged our audience to manually turn on their notifications from our brand,” says Auston Troyer, growth marketer at Proof. Why does such a simple strategy work? “[y]our most loyal customers really do want to see your content on Facebook.”

United Chrono‘s manager, Michael Wirtzel, uses a similar strategy: his company gets in touch with customers via direct message. Along with building a personal relationship with customers, this also allows the company to request that customers share their favorite products with their friends.

And don’t forget that you don’t boost posts on your own page!

Rich Ramos, CMO at HealthJoy, points out that you can pin your best posts or great PR articles to the top of your page. Whenever anyone visits your Facebook page, they’ll see it first. It’s a great way to show people your best posts right away.

Free Facebook Marketing Is Possible

Paid promotion has become more and more important in social media marketing—and it’s still a very effective way to reach your audience. Facebook ads, in fact, are quite a bit cheaper than Google ads, and most marketers think they get better engagement, too.

But there are still lots of ways you can market on Facebook for free. It just takes a bit of ingenuity and a knowledge of the platform’s tools. Features like groups, live video, and events—combined with great content that people want—can boost your reach and engagement.

As always, we recommend experimenting to see what works and monitoring the effects. Your audience might respond to something surprising!

Have you used Facebook for free marketing? What worked? What didn’t? Share your experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from them.

About the author
Dann Albright Dann is a freelance writer who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. With an emphasis on organic traffic and conversion, he takes big ideas and turns them into highly practical content that keeps readers hooked.
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