How many people do you know? Chances are, it’s more than you think. Your circle of close friends may not be as large as it was in high school or college, but your immediate social network is likely large enough to help your digital marketing efforts, especially if you are just getting started launching a business or product. Let’s face it – early on, money is usually tight, and marketing expenses often are some of the first to go when working on a limited budget. Friends and family networks can be a powerful marketing tool, with little to no spend required. Let’s take a look at a few tips that you can easily implement, starting today.

Be Specific

It may sound like common sense, but when you enlist friends and family to help you, be specific in what you’re asking for. Remember that they are not as close to your work as you are, so take the time to explain the details to them. For example, if you are seeking feedback on whether your website shopping cart flow is intuitive, make sure to direct them to shop, place and item in the cart, and complete the check out flow. If you are asking them to help you promote a new product, be sure to give them all the details: Who should they tell? What is the call to action that they need to share? Who is your target market? What are the selling points or value propositions for your product? And so on. Don’t cut corners on the details. Over-communication will help you get the information or data you are after. In some cases, you only get one shot, so make it count by doing it right the first time.

Friends of Friends

Friends and family members are wonderful resources. Chances are, most of the people closest to you will be happy to help test, promote, and so on. But, don’t stop there. Your friends and family network extends beyond just a few dozen people. Think about it: you probably have at least a few hundred friends, followers, and colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You might even have several thousand when you combine those lists! But, those hundreds of people have social networks of their own, adding hundreds or thousands of additional secondary connections. Sometimes, these “friends of friends” are even more valuable, as they are not as emotionally invested in your personal relationship, but are still close enough to you to be happy to help. As you compile your list of early testers, beta users, and marketers that aren’t on your payroll, consider friends of friends as well as your family and social networks. In most cases, you’ll have plenty of resources to help.

Offer Something

In most cases, your friends and family – and their friends and family – are happy to help you by donating a little bit of time and effort to your cause. But, don’t be stingy. Offer them something in return. This can be a free item, a discount, access to a closed beta, or something else that is valuable and motivating, as well as shows your appreciation for their help. Also, people like the VIP treatment, so giving these initial testers or marketers something in return is like giving them a virtual backstage pass. It can spark an added passion in their efforts, which could pay off tenfold for you down the road. Have you ever seen the old Popeye cartoons? Remember when he eats his canned spinach just in time to save Olive Oil? Give your network that spinach. Not literally of course. Unless you are in the spinach business.

Also, remember the help they gave you, and make yourself available should they request your help sometime down the road.

Ask for Feedback

Lastly, never hesitate to ask for feedback on your product or business. If you are tapping your social network to test a product or function within your website or business, then their feedback is the obvious deliverable. But, it doesn’t stop there. Feedback from friends and family is valuable at any time, especially from those that will be open and honest. We all have outspoken and critical people in our networks, and while their style may be annoying at times, it is usually valuable in these situations. Remember not to take criticism or negative feedback personally. This is often easier said than done, but if you enter the situation knowing that some people close to you may have critical comments on your work, it is usually easier to swallow. Also, not every bit of feedback is applicable, so it’s okay if you don’t implement everything you hear. However, if you notice a pattern or similar feedback from multiple people, then that’s something worth taking a closer look at.

In summary, your friends and family – and their social networks – can be valuable resources in helping you launch or market your work. Leverage them, but do it well and effectively. A little bit of help can go a long way.

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