Cheap Cheats for Starting Up on a Budget

I recently began a new small business that will rely heavily on free marketing. I don’t have a huge advertising budget or unlimited marketing resources, thus several of the ways in which I am working to grow the company is via social media, email, and word-of-mouth marketing. All three of these resources are free, except for the electronic elbow grease it takes to take advantage of them.


These strategies are applicable to any online endeavor you may be trying to grow: course web site, project web site, etc.


I’m still learning how I can leverage these and other resources even more than I am now, but here are a few tricks I have learned throughout the past month. Many of these have to do with Twitter, Facebook, and blog posts.

  • Shorten your links. It’s no secret that you should shorten URL addresses to save characters. In fact, services like Twitter will easily do this for you. But if you are interested in tracking clicks from pages on your website, use shortened URLs via Google Shortener in the hyperlink on your post. In other words, instead of linking the text/hyperlink directly to the URL, link it to a shortened URL (created via Google Shortener) and you easily track clicks for free. I would also suggest using Google Shortener for your Tweets as well — it’s much easier to see, and you can track all of your click-throughs in one place (unless there is a way to do this in Twitter that I’m missing? Suggestions welcome)!
  • Schedule your posts. You may find yourself with a chunk of time in which to generate new content for your Twitter or Facebook feeds, but don’t want to clump your posts all at once. Use free services like HootSuite to schedule your posts when you may not be near a computer. I also keep my posts saved in a Word document, so that I can easily cut/paste them if I want to re-schedule them for another day.
  • Say thank you. When you get a new follower on Twitter, reply to them and literally just say thank you! When someone comments on your Faceboook post, reply or say thanks! The extra post(s) will only increase your exposure and potentially grow your network even faster.
  • Select their Twitter handle for your blog post title. When naming blog posts that relate to other people/programs/companies, use their Twitter handle in the title of your post. Then, if you Tweet your post, their handle will show up in the text and you’ll automatically be seen by all of their followers.
  • Sync yourself. Don’t really sync, but certainly feel free to use your personal Twitter or Facebook account to share or RT your company (class, program, etc.) posts. Some people might feel like this is unnecessary, but I have no shame in using my personal accounts to support my company accounts.
  • Set up Google alerts. Whether it’s for your company or program name, or simply for content related to it, Google alerts are an easy way to scour the interwebs (or, rather NOT have to do any scouring) for content that you might consider posting about. See the first bullet for how to take advantage of multiple ideas all at once!
  • Send emails. Lots of them. Need to connect with people in your field? Use email. It’s free (and with the rising costs at USPS, it’s even more worth it)! Be sure to be brief and include links (shortened URLs!) to the pages where you have more information.

[NOTE: One thing that I do believe is worth some seed money is branding/photography/graphic design. The above strategies will only help if, when someone visits your site/profile, they feel like it is quality!]

Have your own suggestion for “cheap cheats” when starting up on a budget? Leave your idea in the comments section!

Mark Schindler

Mark Schindler

Assistant Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Mercersburg Academy

Mark is an assistant director of admission and financial aid at Mercersburg Academy, as well as the head coach of the boys’ varsity lacrosse team. He is also the founder of Nexus Lacrosse ( / @NexusLacrosse /, a series of summer programs and consulting designed to help youth lacrosse players prepare for varsity-level competition. He graduated from St. Paul’s (MD) in 2000 and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and three varsity letters in lacrosse from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Before starting his teaching career, Mark worked for a small educational marketing and publications firm in Baltimore before moving to Newport News, Virginia, in 2006 to teach and coach at Hampton Roads Academy. There he taught AP psychology, forensic science, and biology, and coached varsity lacrosse and JV soccer and basketball. While living in VA, Mark earned an M.Ed. in educational leadership from William & Mary. He currently lives on campus at Mercersburg with his wife Abby and daughter Liddy.