4 Ideas to Find New Customers Online Without Breaking the Bank

By now, you have probably read everywhere that social media is a boon for businesses. This ‘chorus’ is served on pretty much every business marketing blog out there.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good chorus. Social media IS the best platform for promotion in history because of the sheer number of users and affordability.

But this sheer number can also overwhelm small business owners, many of whom find themselves at loss as to what to do to find and reach the right customers.

Good news, I’ve got you covered with this post. You will find four ideas that work well. They just require a small investment in time every day.

Join Twitter Chats

If you follow the blog or Paper.li on Twitter, you know that we have a weekly Twitter chat. #BizHeroes has allowed us to keep in constant contact with our users, highlight our favorite small business owners, solopreneurs, and marketers, and discuss topics that are important to you.

#Bizheroes has a loyal group of attendants who come week after week to share their wisdom and ask questions. They are also there because they want to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, build solid relationships, and support our guests.

Twitter chats offer a great opportunity to ‘meet and mingle’ with people who may eventually become clients.

The success of your participation depends on your willingness to follow the rules established by moderators. A good starting point is to use Google search (e.g. “#chathashtag rules”) to find them. Here is an example for Mack Collier’s #blogchat:

Blogchat search

If your query yields no result, use Twitter search to find moderators and ask them about the rules directly. Many chats have dedicated Twitter accounts:

Blogchat twitter

As always, participants do not like self-promotion, especially when it comes from a stranger. So, get familiar with the way things work during the first couple of chats. Focus on interactions. And only introduce your products or services at an appropriate time or if the context calls for it.

Here is how you can do it without ruffling feathers. During #foodchat, a monthly conversation that brings together consumers, nutrition professionals, and influencers of food choices, the moderator asks participants to share their favorite pork-inspired dish. As it turns out, your restaurant serves that kind of scrumptious food. Tell people about it. You can even include a picture.

While chatters may not ask you about your restaurant, your dish may arouse their curiosity and lead them to follow you or click the link in your bio. If your clients have nicknamed the dish, I would suggest you mention it.

Also, consider becoming a chat guest. It’s a great way to increase the visibility of your business.  Avoid pouncing on the moderator(s) after the first chat, though. Wait for the second or third discussion.  If you have been helpful and interactive, they are likely to say yes.

Recommended resources:

  • Not too sure how to find Twitter chats? You can start with this list I compiled for my blog.
  • For a complete introduction to Twitter chats and tools, Ian Cleary’s guide is a must-read. You can also check out Kelly Hungerford’s great post. She is one of our #BizHeroes moderators.

Use Twitter Search

I mentioned Twitter Search earlier in this article. This powerful feature deserves more attention, especially since it has been redesigned.

Twitter Search uncovers relevant Twitter content around a specific keyword or hashtag. I find very useful to find user questions.

A dedicated page is created every time you launch a search. On this page, you can filter results by main categories: Top, Live, Accounts, Photos, and Videos. The next step is to click the “More options” tab to bring up additional filtering options. You can even save your search.

Twitter search results page

Do you see the “Advanced search” tab? More filters are there too!

Here is how you can use them to your advantage. Let’s imagine that you are a wedding planner, photographer, or real estate agent located in Boston. On the Additional Search page, enter “recommend things Boston”, for example, then fill the fields of your choice to refine your results.

Check the square to the left of “Question” at the bottom of the page. Then, click “Search”.

Advanced Search

Skim the “Live” section of results and see the questions that come up. Then, answer a few. Save the search and re-visit it once or twice a week to continue offering useful suggestions.

For more customer-focused results, add your job title to your query. For example: “recommend wedding photographer Boston”. The sky’s the limit!

Note that people may not respond to your Tweets at first. Actually, it may take a while. But, don’t get discouraged. After all, many people do not check their accounts every day, and you never know who is watching.

Take Advantage of Quora

Unless you work in social media like me, chances are that you may not have heard of Quora.

Quora is a question-and-answer platform for every topic imaginable. Want to know how much a blue whale weighs? And what about the best fashion blogs on the web? Members of the site will have answers for you.

Quora also includes a blogging platform that can be used to curate posts and share your and other people’s answers. And, search engines like Google index questions.

quora search results

So, how can a small business make the most of Quora? By giving the best possible answers to show off their expertise and make people curious about their work.

Before you start answering questions, take care of your profile:

  • Upload a professional picture of yourself.
  • Write a concise and keyword-rich bio. No grandiloquent words, please.
  • Choose a tagline that describes exactly your expertise or experience. You only have 60 characters…
  • Include your website in your bio and link your social media profiles to your account.

You are now ready to take advantage of Quora. Next, locate the search box at the top of your page to find great questions.

For example, if you own a Bed and Breakfast near the Yosemite National Park, enter the location as the keyword. You will see something similar to this:

Yosemite National Park Quora

These questions are the perfect springboard for you. Click on a title and pay close attention to the answers. Many tips and pictures are included. However, people may have forgotten to mention something. It could be a spot that only locals or guides know or a great story one of your guests shared with you.

That kind of information does not just make you look like an insider. It also allows you to promote your establishment in a very subtle way.

Also, remember that you can vote and comment on other people’s answers. Interacting with members is also a great way to gain traction.

The huge amount of questions and answers may quickly overwhelm you. To avoid this experience, start with one question per day until you feel comfortable handling more.

Quora is a long-term investment. Patience and consistent participation will eventually pay off.

Additional tip: From Robert Scoble to President Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher, and James Altucher, there are very big fish on the platform! Some of them are active members. They actually might look at their streams and read answers from other members.

While expecting success from that fact alone is a mistake, the quality of your answers may end up attracting the attention of an influencer. So, keep that in mind when you offer tips…

Try Facebook Ads

It’s no secret that Facebook keeps tweaking its News Feed algorithm to lower the reach of Facebook Pages’ posts and force you to pay to play.

Many business owners now use Facebook Ads to increase their visibility. And this is a good thing. Why? Because Facebook keeps releasing more tools that help businesses meet their goals.

Facebook Ads are perfect for announcements, events, and special offers, or to boost your posts. And they don’t cost much. For $5 or $10, you can have a piece of content promoted to hundreds or thousands of people over the course of a few days.

Just weigh your options carefully, though: Facebook users are allergic to irrelevant ads. The more they see them in their feeds, the more easily they tend to hide or report them as spam. And when it happens, your page runs the risk of disappearing from news feeds altogether.

The key to success here is to leverage the right tools, filters, and options. For example, you can reach your audience by location, demographics, interests, buying habits, and more. With Custom Audiences, your ads can be tailored to only be visible to your current customers. And Lookalike Audiences will make sure that the new people you reach are similar to your current customers.

Facebook advertising deserves a (long) post in itself. So, before you jump on the bandwagon, take a look at Facebook for Business’ 101 guide on Facebook Ads and AdEspresso’s excellent Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Advertising.

What’s your top tip to find new clients online? 

Is there a topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Leave your ideas in the comment section below!

Cendrine Marrouat
Paper.li Blog Staff Writer, Cendrine Marrouat is a French-born social media coach, curator, and author. She is the founder of Social Media Slant and the #smslantchat Twitter chat. Her latest e-book release, "The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It and Win", is a comprehensive guide focusing on the four pillars of audience building. Follow her on Google+.

10 thoughts on “4 Ideas to Find New Customers Online Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. I have never really taken time to check out what Twitter Chat has to offer. However, it would be cool to exploit it and see how it will help in finding new customers.

    Yes, whatever strategy that would be employed find new customer without breaking the bank is welcoming. I just hope that Twitter Chat will be effectual and result-oriented!

    I left the above comment in kingged.com as well

  2. “4 Ideas to Find New Customers Online Without Breaking the Bank” is a smart topic with smart ideas.

    Investing needs money, but in online world, there are free ways to make money and lure new customers. I coincide that one of the most effective ways is social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    Small businesses do the social media marketing and they are really progressive. Thus, large or big businesses ought to try it as soon as possible.

    Haven’t tried Twitter chat but I can see that it could lend us a hand.

    Of course Quora “a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.” and your best source of knowledge.

    All in all, amazing and very useful.

  3. Hey Cendrine,

    Although I’m on Twitter quite a bit sharing posts and replying to tweets, I never took the time to check out the Twitter Chats like Sunday also mentioned. It would be something I should put on my agenda some I communicate through my mobile phone anyways.

    I’ve used Facebook Ads a while back and they definitely help. The best source is Facebook PPC although it’s paid, but I see that the boost option has been renovated for all us to be a little more specific on who we want to target. With that said it would be to our advantage to leverage this feature if we don’t want to use PPC.

    Thanks for the share Cendrine and I hope you have a great weekend!

    I found your post on Kingged.com under the Social Media Category

  4. These are some great ways to find more customers online. I have just started using Quora and it has been bringing in a little bit of traffic, but I have not been putting much time and effort into it. I feel like when I start putting in more time, I will bring in more traffic. I also use Facebook ads and it can be a little costly for each post, but will definitely help you find more customers.

    1. The “secret” is to not pressure yourself to do too much. As I always say, if you only have 10 minutes a day, use that time wisely. 😉

      Thank you for stopping by, Lawrence.

  5. Hi Cendrine,

    You have a really interesting name. I’ve encountered it for the very first time.

    BTW – Without breaking the bank – is what arrested my attention and hopped in for a read.

    I believe that I belong to that special group of small business owner who are sometimes blown away by the sheer (perceived) complexity of engagement on various social media streams.

    Truthfully, I’d never heard about Twitter chats. A Twitter chat is something of an Enigma to me, especially if you’ve only 140 characters to chat within. It boggles my mind really. Having said this I’ve begun my journey as a lurker on Twitter chat. I’m going to listen / read for a while until I can wrap my mind around this idea.

    Direct outbound type self-promotion on any stream, without adding any value to the stream first, building relationships and in general getting accepted as a useful contributor, I think is really newbie issue.

    So much has been written about not doing this that I’m often surprised at why individuals ignore good advice and then in general get offended when ticked off.

    Loved the example of the appropriate way in which a restaurateur introduced a great pork dish they serve and the fact that a picture could also be shared at that time. While this is a plug for a restaurant, such content has been specifically asked for by the chat moderator and the restaurant plug was gently slipped in.

    I’ve begun to digest Ian Cleary’s guide to Twitter chats and tools as well. Thank you for sharing this Cendrine. TweetChat really, goodness I’m really badly behind the times. Your pretty detailed section on using Twitter search was invaluable for me.

    I’ve been using Quora and Facebook Ads for a while now. Both have given me really terrific results.

    This content has really educated me. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hey Cendrine,

    Great post and thanks for sharing! Quora has been a go-to social network for me in finding new prospects and interacting with like minded individuals. You can make alot more happen online with a huge budget, but not everyone has one at their disposal. I’d never worked too much with twitter groups and I’m going to give that a try in the upcoming week to see how it works. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Absolutely agree with you new customer is base of the company to give boost low to high Quora is of the best social network to make good brand awareness for any brand i have a question here What do you say about the twitter or linked can this work a newly launch brand?

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