The 5 Most Dangerous Mistakes You’re Making With “Free Marketing” – And What To Do About Them

Here Are The Top Five Reasons People Fail To Get Free Internet Marketing Results — And How To Make Sure YOU Avoid Every One Of These Deadly Common Mistakes

We all want big Internet marketing results without paying for them. Don’t you want…

  • Facebook likes, comments and shares– without buying Facebook Ads?
  • Google traffic– without buying Google Ads?
  • Twitter replies and retweets– without buying Twitter Ads?
  • Quality leads and actual sales– from free traffic?

The good news is there are proven ways to get free marketing results and you can start today.

What follows are the five biggest mistakes I’ve made trying to get free marketing results, and how you can avoid each and every one of them.

What’s in this post?

  • You can read the whole blog post… and that’s where the links to other resources are.
  • There’s a summary chart at the bottom of the blog post.
  • I made a video going through the chart if you’d rather listen than read, and that’s right here:



Ever had to wait on someone for something so you could finish your work? It sucks. It’s so much easier when you can do it all yourself.

We can get a lot done SOLO. That works for a while, and will take you a ways.

But there’s a limit to how far we can go by ourselves.

No one is an island. And no company is either.

Partner up.

  • Write guest posts for free. This gets you traffic and lends you credibility that begins to create trust.
  • Write ebooks for pay. Propose an ebook idea to someone at a company that outsources some of their content marketing. More and more companies do that, every day.
  • Interview people for your podcast or blog post or your own lead gen ebook.

Those activities will grow your business in ways you’ll never predict.

It’s not just freelancers who make the DOING IT ALONE mistake…

I also made this mistake when I was a marketer in a bigger company. We were focused only on OUR website or blog. We interacted only with people in OUR company. We weren’t looking for partnerships or peers or mentors. As a result, we were an ISLAND that people didn’t KNOW or CARE about.

Marketers at larger companies can neglect partnership and miss out on new exposure and opportunities because we think we don’t need it, or it will be too complicated to get approval for it. True, it’s easier to get approval if it’s the kind of thing you already do, or other companies already do.

So, encourage employees to apply to speak at conferences. Put on webinars. You just need to partner with event planners and subject matter experts to make that happen. These may not be 100% free, but they’re close to it, and relative to advertising costs for large companies, might as well be free.

Non-profits and charities have raise money with Twitter and Kickstarter campaigns. In 2008, along with a number of other influencers, I helped Epic Change promote their first Tweetsgiving (which raised $10,000 to build a school in Africa).

Amanda Palmer raised $1.1 million and did a cool TED talk about asking with vulnerability. Check it out.

Asking for stuff will get you shares, retweets and MONEY.

Do it.



AllFacebook-Expo-2013My accountant recently reviewed where our business came from over the last three years. It was mostly from networking and conferences. A handful of key people have each referred us more than $10,000 of business. One person, in 2013, indirectly got us more than $100,000 in business.

When I met these people, I didn’t know which ones were going to be so valuable to our business.

Meeting people and getting to know them has turned into speaking gigs, working on big brands like Dramamine and Chloraseptic, writing ebooks for Marketo and Microsoft and others. Those came directly or indirectly from meeting with real people in real life– not just blogging or emailing people.

For example:

I met Derrick Wheeler at Pubcon, a conference I was speaking at (but not being paid). We both had a weird Zoolander sense of humor, so at the techno club event, we had a dance-off. He thinks he won. I think I won. But that doesn’t matter. We became friends, and a few years later, Derrick asked me to keynote the social media day at a Microsoft SEO Conference. It was a real speaking gig where I got paid and they paid for airfare, hotel and expenses. It led to connecting with another guy in their Partner Hosting Network, which led to a ton of other work, more connections and more companies to work for. That whole string of connections and work, already worth nearly $50,000 still hasn’t ended. All from just being a goofball at an event.

In email marketing they say the money is in your list. That’s true. And on a larger scale, the money is in your network.

Who do you know? Who knows you?

Reach out and connect, and it will pay off for you.

I phone with interesting people to see if we can help each other. I trade consulting with a PR expert. Recently, I got into my first mastermind group (these are groups that get together to share and help each other move forward). It’s already helped me (and in fact led to me writing this post). All of these have helped me improve my business and marketing, and some have led to paid work.

Grow your network and nurture it weekly. It can take years, but it pays off big.

MISTAKE #3. Self-Centered Posting


dumbpeople everyehereIt can take us years to understand that…

What our AUDIENCE AND CUSTOMERS like and share with other people is often NOT THE SAME as what WE want to write and post about.

“My audience is dumb,” we sometimes think. Oh really? Then how come we aren’t getting bigger results?

Or “This thing we’re posting is really important!” Oh really? Then why aren’t more people interacting with it?

“The boss said we had to post this. But no one interacts with it, so it hurts our Facebook visibility and our relationships with our prospects.” I hear you. I’ve been there.

Everybody at times thinks, “My boss doesn’t get it.” How can we overcome that? Make sure when you report on which social posts and blog posts and videos WORKED that the boss understands what the success METRIC is, and how those “important posts” performed compared to the others.

Show the boss (in private where you’re not making their ideas look dumb to everyone) what the top performers and bottom performers look like. What do the BEST performers have in common? What do the WORST ones have in common? Write it down. Keep track.

In most cases, this will decrease how often they ask you to do posts. It might even help your boss come up with better post ideas!

Study the titles of posts that get a lot of shares with BuzzSumo, a search engine for super-shared content. I did that for this post- looking to see how many mistakes are in the most shared “mistakes” posts. It looked like five was best. I originally had three, but as I wrote I found one more and realized the first two needed to be divided anyway, so I had five!

Doing the ebook on Contagious Content for Marketo helped me discover the six things you should do for more Facebook and the four things you should never do– and those lessons work for tweets and blog post and video ideas too.

If you haven’t used graph search to see what your fans (or fans of the biggest page in your niche) like, do that. You’ll get a much better idea who they are than you have right now.

MISTAKE #4. Website Neglect


email pop up testsThere were years where I wrote my best blog posts on other people’s sites.

That’s ok (and I recommend some of that), but it doesn’t make the cash register ring as fast as a really amazing post on your own site.

I was almost exclusively contributing to building authority for OTHER people’s sites instead of my own!

I wrote hundreds of posts for years on Blogger blogs. That was smart when it gave me the #1 Google ranking for “AdWords Consultant”. But it also kept me from getting the amazing results people get from installing WordPress on their own domain.

I’ve had probably four main websites in the last 15 years- but I neglected them.

  • I didn’t blog regularly.
  • I didn’t improve my branding enough.
  • I didn’t hire a real designing or branding person to take it to the next level.
  • I didn’t install really good WordPress plugins to more quickly ramp up my email lists and social shares.

I finally really changed that about two months ago.

Here’s what I’ve done to ramp up my free traffic, social interaction, leads and business opportunities:

  • I merged my two websites into one (and did all that good 301 redirect stuff to keep my search engine authority).
  • I moved to a better WordPress theme and redid my graphics.
  • I hired a branding person (doesn’t really fit into this article- but the point is I am investing in my own brand).
  • I added plugins like Pippity, vCita Contact and KingSumo headlines to boost my emails, my leads and the virality of my blog post titles. These aren’t free but there are free alternatives.
    • Pippity allows me to split-test email pop-ups; and that has helped me get 300% more email sign ups than I would have with the worst design. My worst email pop-up only got 1.9% of visitors to opt in. My best one gets 8.6% of people to opt in. you only get a certain amount of traffic every week- get as many email addresses as you can out of that. Pippity isn’t free- so if you want a free one, check out opt-in revolution or pop-up alley.
    • vCita Contact is good for freelancers who want people to be able to contact them or schedule appointments. Many WordPress themes have a contact page template you can use. If yours doesn’t, then for a free alternative, check out Contact Form 7.
    • KingSumo’s Headlines allows me to write 3-5 headlines for each blog post, and it tests which ones people click on the most, then it settles on the best one for the long-term. Since titles are the biggest determining factor in whether people click, share or retweet, you should be investing good time into headline writing and testing. This will multiply all of your traffic, leads and sales. There don’t appear to be any up-to-date free headline testing WordPress plugins, but you can change your blog post title weekly and manually check to see which worked best.

MISTAKE #5. Shy Posting


Do you ever worry that you’re posting too much?

Turns out, we could post a heck of a lot more than most of us think. And more posting means more traffic, leads, sales… so posting too little is a big missed opportunity.

The fact is, most people aren’t seeing most of our social posts.

Here are the FACTS:

  • The research shows that most Facebook posts get most of their interaction within 30 minutes.
  • Facebook admits that only 16% of your fans see your posts.
  • Few people have studied what percentage of their Twitter followers are looking at their streams when you tweet any one tweet- but it’s likely less than 11%, because that’s roughly the MOST of your followers who are active on Twitter during any one hour.
  • The most interacted with Twitter profiles tweet 20-25 times a day.

So we shouldn’t be afraid of overwhelming our friends and fans and followers. They aren’t seeing most of our stuff!

One of the first Facebook pages I studied, before writing The Like Economy, was They were getting real ecommerce profits from Facebook in 2011. And at that time everyone recommended posting once a day, max. Superherostuff was posting eight times a day. Four interaction posts and four sales posts. And they doubled their revenue just from their first year going onto Facebook. I always hold them up as an example of being willing to break the rules and see what works. It’s hard to argue with profits, especially when such a small percentage of Facebook pages are profitable.

The facts above mean:

  • We could Facebook post every hour. And if people around the world are your audience, that could be 24 hours a day. That’s 24 Facebook posts a day.
  • We can tweet at least 20-25 times a day.
  • Let’s say you post the same things to Facebook and Twitter- that’s roughly 20 times seven days = 140 pieces of content.

Now that’s a lot of content. Most of us can only create a few new original pieces of blog content a week, if that! And creating a GOOD post once a day on Facebook is hard enough, right?

So how could we possibly post 140 times a week???

Curation, my friend.

Curating means using tools like BuzzsumoBufferPostPlanner and Rignite to find and post other people’s content.

But won’t that send traffic to other websites, not ours? Yes- but there are ways to get something out of it. With PostPlanner, you can set up a sharebar that shows your info at the top of the page, above whatever you’ve shared.

Even if you’re not curating- you have great content on your site or blog- are you continuing to tweet and Facebook about it, or did you only do that once? If the content is still good, keep posting about it so more people can see it! Every good blog post needs a social post campaign scheduled ahead. Rignite is great for this- here are some of my results.


If I had only posted about those once, I would have missed at least 95% of those clicks you see above.

The free option for FINDING posts is Buzzsumo. For SCHEDULING posts it’s HootSuite. Once you find all the content you want to share, you can manually schedule it all ahead of time. But this is time consuming. I think there’s a real trade off here- $10 a month to Buffer is worth it, in my opinion, for the extra exposure, clicks and time savings on what I’d have to do to find all that content and set it up to post repeatedly.

Here’s a summary graphic!


Facebookize: 7 Ways REALLY Adapting To Facebook Will Revolutionize Your Organization

Most companies have not fully adapted to Facebook. That’s one reason why it frustrates them so much. But also, they miss out on a lot of benefits. What can Facebook marketing teach you about more effective marketing, sales and product and service creation? A lot!

The Promise of This Post: I guarantee you that if you are thorough with the Facebookize process I describe below:

  • It will dramatically improve your Facebook marketing results (I’ve seen it triple post interactions and website clicks)
  • It will revolutionize how you think about your customers.
  • It will lead to improved ideas for products, services and marketing.
  • It will filter down to customer service and strengthen your customer loyalty.

I’ve been teaching my Facebookize process to companies for more than a year. It’s a fundamental part of how we help our clients get better results.

The Problem With Facebook: Facebook, like any marketing channel, is different. People use it differently than Twitter or LinkedIn or Email or TV. The specific goals and tactics that work best on Facebook are different.

The targeting and tactics we use may be completely new to your company. You may not yet have a complete enough picture of (or data) your customers to succeed with Facebook marketing.


The Opportunity For Your Whole Business: What have to do just to get visibility on Facebook (like getting post interactions) are also powerful adaptations that help you get more results across all marketing platforms.

Why? Because if you can get likes or shares, now you know how to get an emotional response to your marketing.

People buy emotionally, so the value of learning this goes beyond Facebook.

Here’s the 7-Step Facebookize process:

1. What does your company sell?

2. Who buys it?

3. What’s unique about them?

4. What’s their lifestyle?

5. What else do these people like?

6. What dreams are you empowering?

7. Put all of that into images and copy.

Download a free PDF of the Facebookize Worksheet.

Let’s get into it.

1. What Do You Sell?

This should be the easiest one for you to answer- especially if you’ve already thought about this in terms of search engine keywords (via the Keyword Search tool in your Google Advertising account or by using a service such as SEMRush). You know what your category is and that people want it. You know what words they use to describe it.

If not, you may need a more basic article or my forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle.

2. Who Buys From You? Using Demographics and Psychographics to Understand Your Customer


 Demographics for GoodReads from Quantcast

Who are your customers? Your perception may already be accurate if you spend a lot of time talking to them and that information been passed throughout your organization. Sometimes companies’ sales departments have a deeper understanding of the customers and prospects than marketing. Over time, your organization should understand and focus on what signals a good or bad customer (this is a big part of designing a content marketing system). You may or may not be able to flex to accommodate all the types of people who inquire of your brand.

Who is and is not a good customer for you? The most basic and traditional marketing terms for answering this are demographics: age, gender, location. If you don’t have demographics for your website, consider adding Quantcast’s tag and get specific data from them.

Psychological tools help us try to understand who the customer is from a personal and emotional standpoint.

mbtiAn example is the Meyer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which distinguishes extroversion vs introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. It’s a fascinating system- but the problem is that there are 16 different types- are you going to have 16 different websites or Facebook pages? The question is how to apply it practically. And how do you get your customers to take the test? Also, some of the 16 types are more common than others. Are you going to compare to the population baseline to figure out which types your customers are and aren’t? The complexities are overwhelming.

There are more obvious applications of the MBTI though. There’s a good chance that if you’re marketing to IT professionals, they’re more dominant in thinking than feeling. No offense!

Personas are another approach. This means you create several fictional customer personas. You name them, put a face to them, and you keep them in mind when marketing. It sounds completely reasonable, but it’s important that your personas come from your customer data or experiences your organization has had with customers. Another criticism is that you can become irrationally attached to the personas you’ve created so much that you ignore real customer interactions. And of course, if your internal team doesn’t believe the personas are accurate, acceptance hampers utility.

If you don’t like any of these approaches, just hang on until we get to #5!

3. What’s Unique About Your Customers?

It’s more profitable to reach only people likely to buy. That’s one reason many brands don’t use mass media like radio and TV (apart from the cost!).

Now Facebook advertising offers a way to reach that size of audience but with better targeting (and much more affordably). If you’re not sure about this, read Why Every Business Should Spend At Least $1 on Facebook Ads A Day.

You can target potential customers with Facebook ads with demographics AND psychographics. You can’t use the MBTI to target them, but you may be able to use aspects of your personas (and hopefully they’re accurate). Facebook ads offer tons more targeting options including workplace, job titles, consumer behavior, educational level and college attended.


How are your customers different from other companies’ customers?

But do you know these things about your customers?

This is where Facebook requires us to go back and get new market research. How do we do that? We can, to a degree do it in Facebook itself.

Before we do that, we have to ask if your Facebook fan page is representative of your customer base? It may not be if you’ve bought fake fans or used other tactics to get a bunch of prospects you’re not sure will buy from you. Or your fanbase may be representative of your customer base if you had a strong email list and sent those people to your Facebook fan page to like it.

If your fans are representative of your customers, then you can use the Facebook ad interface to first target your fans, then subtarget it and watch how the numbers change. This will help you find out what is predominant among your customers.


Let’s say you have 10,000 fans. You can select male and see how many are male. You can select age ranges to see what ages they are. You can select categories like “parents” to see how many are parents. Get it? Write down what you find.


Now ask yourself, does what we know about our customers match this? Sometimes it doesn’t because the fans aren’t representative of your customers- but other times it’s because you had the wrong idea about your customers and didn’t realize it!

Now, back to the uniqueness of your customers- when you target potential customers with Facebook ads, you don’t want to spend money on bad prospects. So using the most unique targets is best.

Just an example: As you’ll see in #5, you may find that your customers prefer country music over rap- well, then, targeting people who like country music is going to get you more customers.

4. What’s Their Lifestyle?

There are tons of subcultures in every country. The best way to find this information is via graph search- so let’s move to #5!

5. What Else Do Your Customers Like on Facebook? Diving into Graph Search

We have to think about what our customers like on Facebook- and not just that they’ve liked our FB pages, but that they like other pages and interests.

Your customers will have other likes in common that they don’t have in common with the customers of another company- kind of a revolutionary concept- but before Facebook we never had access to this kind of information. Is your customer more of a Mac or a PC? Are they a CNN or Fox News watcher? Are they more into country music or something else?

You will certainly have variety across your customers- and you don’t want to alienate any of them- but you may find some powerful synergistic likes you can use in Facebook ad targeting and for post ideas.

Facebook lets you search for some really cool things.

They have all this data from what they call the Open Graph. That’s really just a way to visualize how all the people are connected to their friends and what they and their friends like. In a way, we are all in different tribes based on what we like. But we all have overlapping likes. And what’s funny is that often the people we are friends with only share two or three major likes with us. A lot of people like very particular things that they never really share in community with others.


Graph search is a cool way to learn about your audience or your target market- you know, the people who you want to pay for what you offer.

Try this out- think of one of your favorite Facebook pages- and if you can’t think of one, let’s try CNN or Fox News.

Go to the facebook search box and type in “Pages liked by people who like” and then add the Facebook page.

It will return a whole bunch of other things that fans of that thing like.

For example, let’s compare what the Fox News fans like with what the CNN fans like.

  • Fox News fans like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, CNN, George Strait, Jesus Christ, Brad Paisley, The Bible, Macy’s, The Hangover, Disney, Zac Brown Band, Jesus Loves You, Jeff Dunham, Blake Shelton, Mark Wahlberg – so country music is a pretty unique thing- and the Republican candidates aren’t a surprise.
  • CNN fans like App Center, Bill Gates, Facebook Security, Michael Phelps, Twitter, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Google, Facebook Studio, Steve Jobs, Snowboarding, Funny or Die, Breaking Bad, The Official Grumpy Cat- a lot more technology and comedy high in the list.
  • They both like The New York Times, BBC News, Barack Obama, Upworthy, George Takei, CNN, Fox News,, Target, Facebook, YouTube, NFL, ESPN, History Network, Photography, Will Ferrell, National Geographic, Camping, Subway, Music, Moody Blues, Cars (movie), Johnny Cash – these are things we can consider to be pretty popular with a lot of Americans on Facebook.

favpageswalmartInteresting, isn’t it?

What if we looked at what Apple fans like vs. what Microsoft fans like? Or cat people vs. dog people?

There’s a lot to be learned about your potential audience.

Here are a few guidelines to get the best results:

  • Graph search results aren’t returned in any special order. We can assume it’s by popularity.
  • Create a new Facebook account with no friends or likes, and you’ll get more objective search results. Otherwise, you’re more likely to see things that you and your friends like
  • It’s always best to compare two or three things at once so that you can find the things all three audiences like, and remove those. The ones that don’t overlap will teach you more about your audience.

You can search for other things with graph search. Here are some example searches, with a few example results (there are tons more results for each of these):

  • Interests liked by fans of George Takei – Burning Man is an interesting result
  • Pages liked by people who work at Walmart – lots of country music!
  • Interests liked by people who work at Sony – Star Wars & Soul Music??? Weird!
  • Pages liked by people who majored in Accounting – Cairo, Egypt? Weird.
  • Pages liked by people who majored in Accounting and live in United States – The Moody Blues, Fox New & Journey?
  • Pages liked by people who are my age (I’m 40) – Dave Ramsey & Lifehacker are some interesting results
  • Pages liked by people who are over 40 years old – Def Leppard & Journey!
  • Pages liked by people who are under 40 years old – Tough Mudder & Daily Show
  • Pages liked by people who are married – Tough Mudder & Gardening
  • Pages liked by people who are single – Tosh.0 and GoPro
  • Pages liked by people who have been to Lincoln Memorial – Maya Angelou & Oprah Winfrey
  • Pages liked by people who have been to Empire State Building – Moscow, Russia & Daily Show
  • Pages liked by people who were born in Dayton, Ohio (that’s me!) – Kevin Hart & Tyler Perry
  • Pages liked by people who live in Charleston, South Carolina (also me) – Trina & Gucci Mane

Don’t forget to narrow your search. In any search results, look to the right and you’ll see you can narrow the results with a variety of factors.

6. What Dreams Are You Empowering?

Here’s something I’ve been teaching since 2011.

Most marketers & sales people learn early on to talk about benefits rather than features. Benefits are how it will improve the buyer’s daily life- these have greater emotional impact. Features can be technical and have less impact.

But how boring would 50 Facebook posts about your product’s benefits be?

The kinds of posts that work better are inspirational and aspirational.

So we want to talk about your customers’ dreams: the bigger goals in their life or career.

What are the dreams they’re trying to fulfill with your product?

Example #1 – iPhone

  • FEATURE: “The iPhone can run some apps simultaneously.”
  • BENEFIT: “You can listen to music while responding to emails.”
  • DREAM: “Be productive and have great quality of life no matter where you are- even in a noisy airport.”

Example #2 – InfiniGraph

  • FEATURE: “InfiniGraph offers data, charts and content aggregation for social content marketing. You can put a widget hub on your own site.”
  • BENEFIT: “Surface your successful older content to increase its ROI.”
  • DREAM: “I want to be more profitable with my time and outsourcing so that I have more money and time for vacations.”

Example #3 – Brian Carter Group (two of our services)

  • FEATURE: “We offer Facebook ad creation and optimization.”
  • BENEFIT: “We’ll lower your ad costs and increase your ROI.”
  • DREAM: “We’ll rocket you past the competition so that you can stop worrying about competitors and start being a leading company in your niche.”

7. Put All of that into Images and Copy

Now, how can you create images and copy for Facebook posts and ads?

Exemplify your audience’s identity, concepts and dreams.

The two analogies I use for this are cheerleading and coaching.

You can cheer lead for their values, beliefs and likes:


You can coach them to inspire them to reach their dreams:


Give it a shot, and let me know what your results are like!

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Stats from all of 2013, but these trends are holding.

Top Social Media Data Anaylis Reveals How Influential Women Have Become


Data reviews by Alex Hillsberg | See our Twitter

Business Building Live Interview with Jay Baer

In this second episode of my series interviewing entrepreneurs, I am very excited to present Jay Baer. You probably have heard of him. He’s super smart and does everything with the highest quality and taste. Jay started five multi-million dollar businesses from scratch. He’s an acclaimed keynote speaker, entrepreneur, technology investor, social media and digital marketing consultant and author. He’s consulted for 29 of the Fortune 500. Author of two best-selling business books. Named one of America’s top 3 social media consultants. Runs the world’s #1 content marketing blog. Has given speeches to hundreds of organizations, including the US State Department and the US Olympic Committee.

Learn how Jay grew his business and what principles guide him today.