HOW TO: Earn Some Inexpensive Online Exposure for Your Small Business

So you’ve started a business. You’ve incorporated, you’ve set up a great website and/or blog, and your social media strategy is in place.

Now, if only you could get the word out. Sometimes you need to do more than rub two tweets together to generate a little buzz. If you’ve exhausted your personal social networks, the next step is to reach out to the online media world and get some exposure.

If you’re just starting out, you may not have the capital for a water cooler, let alone a full-time PR agency. But there are a few ways to get your biz covered in the right online circles if you’re willing to put in some time and effort. We spoke to some PR pros to find out how to tap into the online media and get your biz a little exposure without breaking the bank.

Answer Public Media Queries

Bloggers and reporters are always hunting for interesting stories, products and companies to cover and discuss with their audiences. For news outlets and blogs that foster very niche coverage, it’s not always easy to find sources.

That’s where media query services like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) come in. It’s a place where media pitches are sought out, which isn’t always the case elsewhere.

“Reporters’ queries are aggregated, categorized and distributed via e-mail to subscribers several times a day,” said Leyl Master Black of Spark PR. “When you find a relevant query, send the reporter a brief ‘pitch’ saying that you saw their query and explaining why you’re a good resource for their story. Make sure to respond as soon as you see the query so you don’t miss the reporter’s deadline!”

Take time away from “cold pitches” via e-mail, and focus it on those reporters who are requesting information for their stories. The value proposition here is a no-brainer.

Make Your Business Blog SEO Friendly

You’re probably already aware that business blogging, if done well, can be a huge asset for a small company. It’s a better showcase of your expertise than a simple “About Us” page and has the added benefit of boosting your brand higher in search results that are relevant to your business. After all, people generally don’t search for “Joe’s Plumbing Supply Shop.” They search for “how to fix a leaky faucet.”

“Blogs can be a very effective low/no cost vehicle if you make sure the posts are on trend, useful and findable,” said Kari Moe Straley, principal at Linked Communications. “Use your blog to comment on bigger ’searchable’ trends so that you can get found by reporters and bloggers. This works really well for ‘day two’ stories.

“For example,” Straley added, “today a story about the future of Digg() was covered on the front page of The New York Times biz section. Tomorrow, bloggers and reporters will be looking for ways to expand on this story. A blog post with a well thought and insightful opinion, and perhaps some data could be useful for bloggers/reporters looking for a quick source.”

Straley notes that a strong and search-optimized title is key, along with spending a little time in the comments sections of fellow bloggers where you can add to the discussion and share links to your posts around relevant key words.

“Comment regularly on relevant articles,” Black adds. “This is a great way to join the industry conversation, get your name in front of key reporters and your target audience.”

All of these efforts, if done regularly, will start to build a stronger rank for your business blog around relevant search terms and eventually drive customers and reporters to your site in an organic way.

Low-Cost Press Release Services

PRweb Image

The press release is still a go-to method for getting the word out, but using an established service doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

“While PRNewswire, Businesswire and other services offer very wide distribution of your press release, these can be quite pricey,” said Black. “If you’re just looking to get your news ‘out there’ and picked up by the search engines, it makes more sense to use a lower-cost distribution service such as PRWeb, which lets you distribute a press release for as little as $80 and also enables search engine optimization of your release.”

This approach gets your business and product names out on the web in places other than your own website or blog. It’s not a plan for viral domination, but a baseline for search strategy and an inexpensive way to get your content in front of eyes that are seeking it out.

Need to get your release looking sharp before sending it out into the wild blue ether? Check out PitchEngine and PressLift for services that can help you build great-looking, multimedia-rich and socially sharable press releases in a snap.

Contribute to Relevant Publications

If your business blog doesn’t yet have the reach to help drive sales, think about contributing to one that does.

Many mid-to-large blogs and media sites accept guest writer contributions that are focused in a particular coverage area. If you’re a fan of an industry site, why not contribute content to the discussion in exchange for a promotional byline?

“Once you’ve found a publication to target, send a short e-mail to the editor outlining what your article will cover and the key takeaways for readers,” said Black. “Note that these articles cannot be a sales pitch for your company — they should provide tips, fresh insights on the industry or macro-level trends.”

If a site with reach pops up in a potential customer’s search query and your business website is linked in your byline, that’s direct and targeted traffic that only costs you a single investment of time.

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Tom Retterbush

Posted By:  Tom Retterbush 

You can stay up to date on the latest Internet trends by subscribing to my tomretterbush's posterous Social Media Experiment, but if you really want to stay on top of social networking, check out my AssEtEbooks.com Social Media Blog, where you'll find all the news, tips, tricks, articles and ebooks you'll need. And while you're at it, you'll want to check out the many FREE and cheap Ebooks I offer on just about any and every subject you can possibly think of, at AssEtEbooks.com. Oh, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @assetebooks

More Startup Resources:

How to Find Money to Start a Business

The Best and Quickest Way to Start a Successful Website Or Blog

New Economy Superstar and The New Rules of PR, by David Meerman Scott, Author of World Wide Rave, both as FREE ebook downloads, with no sign-up, log-in or obligations, at AssEtEbooks.com

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October 18, 2010

How a Changing Internet will Change the World

If you think about it, the first “Internet” looked nothing like it does today. In fact, it was created as a specialized network architecture for the purposes of national defense and security. It goes without saying that, since then, the Internet has had an impact on creativity, global business and economic growth that surpasses even the wildest expectations of the innovators who created it. But if you ask me, we still haven’t even scratched the surface.

The next revolution of the Internet is not going to be built on manual input of information by 500 million or a billion users. Rather, there is much greater potential in connecting computers to sensors so that valuable new information can be created automatically without human data entry. Much like the early days of the Internet (which was purpose-built to help maintain our collective safety and connectivity), the next generation of sensor networks can monitor our environment and deliver relevant information –- automatically.

Most of us have only recently become aware of sensors from swinging Wii tennis rackets, or switching our smartphones from landscape to portrait mode. What you may not realize, however, is that sensors are being created that are a a thousand times more sensitive than this and can be harnessed to have an incredible global impact.

I see sensors tackling our world’s largest issues: safety, security and sustainability.

How Sensors can Measure the World

A simple way to think about this concept is to compare it to a passive RFID tag, which is used to track objects (everything ranging from a clothing product to the progression of a food chain) and provides real-time information about the status and movement of that object. The problem is that this is relatively static information, as location is only updated when a tag passes near a reader and the system typically requires a significant amount of manual data input to augment location and to set the stage for future worthwhile findings.

A wireless sensor network brings much more awareness as the information can be available at any time. The sensor tag is capable of not just telling us where an object is, but information about its environment and how it is behaving. Take, for example, a food production chain. A network of biochemical sensors can understand where and how food is being produced and stored by “smelling” it. Then, the sensors can tell if the food is contaminated and being handled safely and automatically relay that information to a human manager so that the necessary precautions can be taken before a contaminant can spread.

The same applies in our personal lives. If interconnected motion and heat sensor devices were spread out around your home, a computer system could understand when you leave a room, and would, for example, know when to turn off the lights automatically and unobtrusively. Just think: A compact fluorescent light bulb may use 75% less energy than a traditional light bulb, but a light bulb that is turned off altogether uses 100% less.

The reason this is possible is because of the very Internet that is allowing you to read this post. The Internet provides the backbone to move information and make decisions. It’s up to us to harness that network for the greater good. Quite simply, we need the Internet to become better at adjusting and adapting dynamically to serve our needs. We have the tools -– the problem is that our computers are blind, deaf and numb to the world around us. We need to give them senses.

How to Get There

How are we going to do it? Well, we need a system in place that captures the pulse of our surrounding environment. In an ideal world, we will have incredibly small sensor technology (smaller than a pin) spread out all over the world. We will have sensors attached to suspension bridges to monitor structural flaws, lying alongside highways to measure traffic flow and road conditions, or in our homes and offices to watch how we are using our spaces. With billions, perhaps even trillions of sensors, we can begin to understand not just how the world is behaving, but how we are affecting it.

Of course, there are many relevant security and privacy challenges that follow from this vision, but I believe they can and will be solved. In the end, our goal isn’t to know more about individuals, but rather to know more about the actions going on around us. For example, on the highway, we don’t need sensors to know who is driving where and when; but, we do want to know when a vehicle in front of you slams on the brakes so that people in danger are alerted and can respond immediately.

It is imperative that we solve the privacy and security issues because sensor networks are one of the principal ways we can use technology to address some of our most pressing global challenges like disease, pollution and climate change. Yet, that technology can also have simpler and more immediate applications, like social networks. By understanding how our surroundings are changing in real-time, there is the potential for social networks to adapt to us more quickly. This can take the form of driving directions updating in real time based on traffic conditions. Or, for example, it could mean you receive restaurant recommendations that cross-reference your friends’ recommendations with data about where you’ve eaten recently and which seafood is freshest in your area.

Achieving this network of information is no easy task. Many have tried and failed to date. My company is working on a solution called CeNSE, which stands for “Central Nervous System of the Earth,” and we’re already deploying these sensors in real-world applications.

By giving the Internet a sense of awareness, we can begin to have a broad impact on our planet in areas like global climate change, intelligent infrastructures (buildings, bridges, etc.), and even everyday consumer behavior. And, this is all coming sooner than you may think. I can sense it.

Written By: Pete Hartwell

Tom Retterbush

Posted By:  Tom Retterbush 

You can stay up to date on the latest Internet trends by subscribing to my tomretterbush's posterous Social Media Experiment, but if you really want to stay on top of social networking, check out my AssEtEbooks.com Social Media Blog, where you'll find all the news, tips, tricks, articles and ebooks you'll need. And while you're at it, you'll want to check out the many FREE and cheap Ebooks I offer on just about any and every subject you can possibly think of, at AssEtEbooks.com. Oh, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @assetebooks

More Business Resources

How to Find Money to Start a Business

The Best and Quickest Way to Start a Successful Website Or Blog

New Economy Superstar and The New Rules of PR, by David Meerman Scott, Author of World Wide Rave, both as FREE ebook downloads, with no sign-up, log-in or obligations, at AssEtEbooks.com

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