With the much lower production costs made possible by the advent of the Internet, free advertising opportunities abound. The best way to advertise for free depends on the nature of the goals you are pursuing, including whether they are short-term and specific (e.g., selling a particular item) or long-term and general (e.g., promotion of services). Major avenues include classified ads, social media, and blogging.
Free Classified Ads
Free classified ads generally mean online classified ads. But don’t overlook small school, church, grocery store and other local bulletin boards and newsletters if your have a suitably local purpose.
Craigslist is the best-known of warehouse-like sites offering free online classified ads. It is well-managed and caters to almost every geographical area in the country and many major cities around the world. With a few exceptions (e.g. ads for jobs in some major cities), it is free to post in any category. Its users publish 50 million new ads a month.
Wal-Mart has tried its hand at the free-ad business with a site called oodle.com. The auction site eBay usually charges sellers just to list an ad. But there is an important exception: eBay allows you to list for free the “first five single-quantity auction-style listings to be listed on the site in a 30-day period.” Other sites hosting free ads are listed in the Google Directory.
In every ad you post, be concise, specific and detailed about what you have to offer and what you want in return. Think: “What are the benefits I can offer that will make someone want to answer my ad?”
Free Social Media
Community-building sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help you stay in touch with personal and business associates and discover new ones. Facebook is often used to keep in touch with personal friends and family, but popular Facebook pages also cater to special interests in politics or culture. LinkedIn is geared to building a network of business contacts, including current and former colleagues.
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows you to communicate frequently and briefly with persons interested in you or who share your interests. Celebrities and major news and other organizations rapidly build a large following on Twitter. But less-known participants have also gained substantial readerships by effectively gearing their “tweets” to those with particular interests.
Free Website and Blog
Many people have personal websites and blogs that focus on personal doings or political opinions. You can also devote a blog to your business specialty. Blogs are free to set up through services like Blogger, Wordpress, and LiveJournal.
If you do the following three things, you can gain a steady readership and enable users of Google and other search engines to find your blog: (1) Update the blog regularly (at least three times a week); (2) Write posts that are friendly, clear, informative and not too baldly self-promotional; (3) Promote specific blog entries to other bloggers and net denizens with shared interests by emailing them the URL of the entry and all or part of its content.
Free Word of Mouth
No advertising beats the reputation you build by being a person of good character, keeping your word, and doing your work conscientiously and well.
D.M. Brown has been a freelance writer and editor since 1982. His work has appeared in "The New Individualist," "Reason," "Oasis," "Liberty," "The Freeman," "Laissez Faire Books Review," "Objective American," "Trenton Times" and other publications. Brown graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in history.