In the past, we have discussed the strategy of giving away items such as e-books and other products to attract visitors.  That strategy seems easy enough for an established web site to get their visitors’ mouths watering, but there is a real Catch-22 for upstart web sites.

If you don’t have any visitors already, how do you attract visitors to your giveaways?

This question would lead one to believe that giveaways are a poor strategy for upstart E-Commerce web sites.  Actually, that is not necessarily the case.  In fact, giving away free items can still act as your web site’s launching pad, as it gives visitors a reason to check back, stick around and browse your other items.

Even so, we still have the problem of getting people to find your free stuff.   The following are three strategies you can use to spread the word about your free stuff quickly and without requiring you to stand on a street corner and beg people to take your items.

1. Message Boards

In the world of internet marketing, message boards are one of the most underrated and effective tools available.  Popular message boards allow a quicker and easier way than even blogs for you to get your voice heard and become an authority on a subject.  Message board contributors tend to stick together once they find a message board that they like, and some of the internet’s most popular message boards have thousands of regular contributors.  In addition to these contributors, many message boards have “lurkers” who simply read message boards to learn and develop opinions.  While overtly advertising your products is against the service agreements of many message boards, most message boards do allow you to put a link and information in the “signature” of each post.  At worst, you should be able to attract a few message board readers to your website to sneak a peak.  At best, one of those readers will spread the word to their friends and the rest of the message board about your free stuff.

2. Blogs

Not only can you develop visitors and authority through the use of your own blog, but you can also develop traffic by using other blogs.  By no means am I suggesting that you should spam other blogs.  There is an appropriate way of indirectly pushing your products on the comments portion of blog posts without spamming.  Personally, I can’t even count the number of times that I have found cool, new products or leads on services during specific internet searches as a result of blog discussions.  The vast majority of blog comments are indexed in the search engines, and if your product or service contributes positively to the discussion, blogs provide you another chance to get the word out about your free service or product.  Just remember, there is a big difference between spamming the message boards to market your product and mentioning your web site or giveaway in context to help readers.  Be sure that you are doing the latter! 

3. Social Networking

With the number of Web 2.0 web sites growing with each passing day, there are new opportunities for you to spread the word about your web site and products.  Social networking web sites include everything from Facebook and MySpace to Digg and del.icio.us.  Social networking web sites that show what is popular in a public forum, in particular web sites similar to Digg and del.icio.us, give you an especially great way to attract visitors quickly if your free stuff is useful.  In particular, if your product is of a technical nature, it is likely that many of your users are utilizing social networking web sites.  If you have the time and resources to promote to social web sites, you might as well promote to every social bookmarking web site that you can find in order to attract the most possible visits to your web site and freebies.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the strategies mentioned above will be nice starting points to promote your free stuff.  Having giveaways on your web site can be a nice marketing move to get your web site going.  Just think of how many stores drop their prices on the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday, in order to get people into the store.  This way of thinking, if developed properly, is an effective E-Commerce strategy that can spread the word about your product even more quickly through the World Wide Web. 

Good luck in all of your online free giveaway endeavors!

Seth Trachtman is a Web Marketing Account Manager for The Net Impact Web Design St. Louis.

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