Getting the public’s attention is crucial for small businesses hoping to stand out, but traditional means of making an impression may be too expensive for a startup company. Large businesses can afford to buy television, radio, and print ads, but these aren’t usually feasible options for the independent pizzeria on the corner.

Luckily, small businesses have more options than ever when it comes to innovative, affordable ways to use public relations to generate sales. While the internet is a keystone of many budget PR initiatives, even the most tech averse business owner can devise campaigns to get more customers in the door.Tweet This Here are several ideas to help create the buzz your small business deserves.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give small businesses an unprecedented opportunity to build public interest in their goods or services. It isn’t enough to create a page for your business and leave it to fend for itself; many businesses post on a daily basis in order to announce new products, sales, or events.

Your first task is to get customers to follow your company’s social media accounts. You can put your Twitter handle on napkins and receipts, or offer a small discount when people “like” your pages.

The beauty of social media is that outreach is instantaneous. This enables businesses to piggyback off of local events or pop-culture trends. For example, a restaurant owner could offer a discount on entrees to celebrate the local high school football team’s winning season. Rather than waiting for your ad to appear in the next day’s paper, you could tweet about it immediately after the final touchdown.

Since you can see who follows your page, you’ll also have a good idea of the demographic each of your social network profiles are targeting. That way you can make announcements where you think they’ll generate the most interest.

Remember to interact with your followers. Maintaining a credible social media presence is one of the smartest moves any small business owner can make. Reward people with useful content about your products, exclusive discounts, and speedy responses to their questions, compliments, and yes, even their complaints. If they are dedicated enough to follow you on social media, you should take the time to interact with them.

Take Up a Cause

Many consumers appreciate it when small businesses take part in their communities. Find a local charity or cause that aligns with your company’s mission, and get involved. You can show your support in various ways, from making a donation to volunteering your time. In addition to the good works you do, you’ll be getting your business in front of potential customers. Unless your company has strong political leanings, it may be best to pick a cause that most people can get behind. You don’t want to court controversy when your intention is to generate positive attention.

Sponsor or Create an Event

Raise your business’s profile by hosting an event that potential customers are likely to enjoy. Sponsoring concerts, sports tournaments, and meet-and-greets with notable players in your industry are all great ways to connect with new people. If you run a restaurant, offer to provide catering at a discount for a social club in your area. Take time to research what kinds of events or organizations attract your customers so that you can try to get the best return on your investment.

Hold a Contest

People love winning things, and there’s nothing like a spirit of friendly competition to get the public to engage with your business. You can create contests for a wide variety of things: naming a new product, designing a logo, or deciding on dishes to add to your menu. Make the prizes enticing enough to attract plenty of participants, but don’t blow your whole marketing budget. The opportunity to be heard and to show off their creative skills is often enough to attract plenty of contestants. Remember that certain contest and prize laws may apply.

Take an Unconventional Approach

Your customers are bombarded by media all day, whether on the internet, TV, or radio. That means you have a lot of competition for their attention. For this reason, you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box to make sure your message breaks through the background noise. Let your imagination run wild. Offer discounted desserts to celebrate your dog’s birthday (and make sure to post pictures of him online). Let a class of first graders choose your new appetizer. Hold a contest to find a model for your ads. The more unique the idea, the more likely it is to differentiate you from the competition. As always, if you question whether an idea may have legal implications, discuss it with an attorney.

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Photo Credit: dennisakino11, Twenty20