Last month, we introduced 10 great ways small- and mid-sized businesses could use “online interaction” to generate referrals, boost sales and build their marketing lists. As if that weren’t enough, we’re back with 10 more crackerjack ideas – any of which can be implemented right away, for little to no money.

1. Add video

One way to breathe new life into your blog, newsletter or Web site – and increase the interactivity – is to post a video. Self-produced videos are all the rage right now, but for small- and mid-sized companies, they also serve a serious business purpose: They’re incredibly effective at personalizing your brand (allowing the real people behind your business to shine), which always attracts more interaction.

Forget the staid (and expensive) “corporate” video format; we’re talking raw, real and self-produced. A good example is this video blog posting from the people at My Glass Slipper.

2. Use Twitter as a lead generator

Ever considered using Twitter for one-to-one marketing? Here’s a step-by-step account of how the property managers at Rose Associates use this approach to find renters for their New York apartment buildings:

  • Step 1: Visit search.twitter.com
  • Step 2: Type “Moving to New York City” into the search box.
  • Step 3: Cull through the tweets to find people who say they’re moving to the city.
  • Step 4: Contact those people directly and pitch the available apartments.

According to the agency, about half the people contacted this way become renters (now that’s a successful marketing effort!).

3. Use traditional marketing to promote your social media

what is interactive marketing Email and direct mail have proven very effective at getting people to visit websites and social media. No need to create all-new marketing efforts; just include “learn more” and “see more” links in your regular direct-mail and email efforts:

  • “For all the details about this special offer, see our Facebook page.”
  • “To learn about all the latest Clyde Hill area listings just as soon as they’re available, follow my tweets at ….”
  • “See a virtual tour of this property on my Web site.”

4. Encourage viral distribution

Anytime someone “retweets” your tweet, “likes” your latest Facebook posting, or “forwards” one of your emails, that creates a powerful “viral” marketing effect (so-called because it just keeps spreading like a virus – when done right).

So how do you get people to forward your messages and communications to their family and friends? Just make sure your missives always include something genuinely helpful, interesting or fun. That may sound trite, but it’s based on a very powerful truth: When people find something they like, they share it with others.

5. Cross-promote your social media

Once your social-media marketing efforts start to show some success, that’s when you want to begin cross-promoting. Mention your blog in the occasional tweet; encourage your Facebook fans to write a Yelp review; make sure all your social media are listed in your LinkedIn profile.

6. Create special offers and contests

When it comes to engaging and interacting with your target market, special offers and contests work just as well in the social media world as they do with traditional marketing. Your efforts just require a slightly different twist:

  • Track the birthdays of your Facebook followers and offer them a special discount (or freebie) when their big day rolls around.
  • Offer a “loyal follower” discount to some of your Twitter followers.
  • Include a discount offer on your Yelp listing.

7. Track what’s being said about your company and industry

While you can’t control what others say about your business and industry in the social media world, you can use the feedback to improve your products and services.

  • Are clients complaining about your pricing? Maybe it’s time to check in with your competitors and see what they’re charging in this current economy.
  • Are people raving about your customer service? Gather up any positive statements and use them as customer testimonials on your website, your brochures and other marketing materials.
  • See what people are writing about your competitors, too. No sense in making the same mistakes.

Savvy businesses view social media sites as virtual focus groups, making changes to their products and services whenever the feedback says it’s time.

8. Be active on social communities

This is no place to be a wallflower. To get noticed in the social media world, you have to interact. Do some networking via online industry groups. Offer advice on the sites where your target market hangs out.

9. Follow / friend others

Once you start interacting in online communities, the next step is to start following and friending other participants. This kind of interaction breeds more interaction, which means you’ll soon be chatting and exchanging messages with others’ followers, and picking up new followers and fans of your own along the way.

While you’ll find plenty of others to interact with online, it’s the popular, outgoing people who will have the greatest effect on your marketing efforts. Experts call these people “influencers.” Just associating with these super socials can boost your online following and lead to new referrals (kind of like high school).

How do you find them? Finding influencers in the real world is a challenge; but in the social media world, it’s a snap. These are the folks who tweet, Facebook, blog and participate in social communities on a daily basis. They have hundreds of followers and are constantly interacting with others.

How do you befriend them? First, become a friend/fan/follower. Then start retweeting their tweets, “liking” their Facebook postings and linking your blog postings (all of which will attract their attention). Finally, introduce yourself and … well, try to become their online friend. It’s traditional networking, but in a social media setting.

10. Establish a presence on the peer-review sites

The peer-review sites Yelp and Citysearch have turned into powerful referral tools with thousands of followers, yet many companies can’t be bothered to even establish a presence there. Don’t be one of those companies.

Take a few minutes right now to visit both sites and see what customers are writing about your business. Create, edit or update your company profile, if necessary. Consider adding a special promotion. Politely ask some of the people in your referral network if they might be willing to post a positive review on the sites. Then check the sites monthly to see what users are saying about your business.

Sure, interactive marketing may be a bit different than what you’re used to, but it isn’t difficult. And it’s a lot less expensive. Learn it, then combine it with traditional marketing methods.

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