Having a strong social media presence and fostering an active community of followers is imperative for sustainable success. However, one does not achieve fame overnight; businesses must work hard, sponsor content, and use advertisements to accumulate followers during their first few days. From there, they stay relevant by posting quality material, hosting events, and sharing news.

SMEs and startups are full of ideas but often short on budget, which means paid content might be a luxury for you. This doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t prevail on social media without paying for it; you can still get the job done at little to no expense. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Create a necessity and a goal.

Before you create a social media account, ask yourself a few questions. Why should anyone follow my page? What will they gain from it? What’s my goal here? These are important because, once your page is up, you need followers to get your content trending. Since you can’t pay for advertisements at this juncture, you’ll have to send an email to your contact list about the page you’ve just created. You might have to ask your employees to follow your page and share it with their peers. This way, your page will be exposed to a small set of audience, who are likely to give you honest feedback and promotion. This is determinantal for how your page will grow from there.

Will you be announcing new products, features, or updates on the page? Will you be sharing blogs related to the product? Will you service queries through the page? Make a list of reasons that’ll convince your existing customers to follow you on social media.

2. Sign up as a business account.

Most popular social media channels support business accounts and provide key features and metrics that help businesses run their channel more efficiently. You can find analytics about things like post performance and page growth, which can help you see what you’re doing right and what you need to change. Business accounts also allow customers to call, email, or visit your website through your page, which is all the more reason to use it. Once you’ve found enough success with your business account, you can get yourself verified, which will enable your audience to discover you more easily.

3. Create a referral program.

Once you have an audience, it’s time to leverage them to bring in even more followers. Create a referral program that incentivizes them to share your page among their circle. Don’t use pushy or use annoying campaign tricks, as this will only lead to you losing the followers you already have. Sketch a clean, simple referral plan that doesn’t take away your current followers’ experience with your page or product. Make sure you, your current followers, and your invitees all benefit in some way.

4. Create quality content.

Whether there’s a referral program in place or not, your followers will not talk about your page unless you host quality content there. Since you’re not promoting your posts, you’re solely relying on the quality of the content and the interest of your followers to get it going. Talk about features, offers, updates, help, and news — anything that’s exciting and informative to your customers. Get them talking about it and the more they do, the more your page grows. Keep in mind that no matter what, content will always be king.

5. Use social media buttons.

If you have an active blog or a website, include social media buttons that make it easy for customers to find your page. Social media buttons are small, unobtrusive, and can blend in with your page easily — make sure to list them at the end of every article you write. This can help generate followers every time a new piece is uploaded. And don’t forget to link these pieces on your social media page, too!

6. Use relevant hashtags.

Tagging your posts is important, as these tags contribute to the algorithm that determines the rank of your posts. Whenever there’s an ongoing trend, share your opinion or news related to it, and tag it with a relevant hashtag. Non-followers who follow the hashtag will then see your posts and, hopefully, follow your page to see more. Hashtags are very effective for reaching out to a wide spectrum of people.

7. Host a contest or an event.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to host an event for your audience, with a raffle or contest that rewards the winners in some way. This reward doesn’t have to be expensive but should match the amount of work the contestants have to put into it. You can create events like webinars or Q&A sessions, or any engaging activity, and set aside a date for it. Once you announce it, start promoting it every day and generating hype. This will lead to a spike in followers leading up to the date of the event and, depending on how successful and buzz-worthy it is, this spike can be huge.

8. Use curated content.

One of the most overlooked marketing techniques is the use of curated content on your social media pages. Find content created by experts and celebrities in your industry and link them on your page, with relevant hashtags. This can give you a lot of exposure online if the author has a huge following. Using curated content also saves you the pain of writing and reviewing original content every day.

9. Engage with your audience and influential people.

Social media isn’t just about posting news, offers, and events; they are, by definition, a medium for being social. Engaging with your followers, influential bloggers, and popular brands is a powerful way to generate buzz on social media. When you sound more like a person and less like an enterprise, people will feel comfortable having a conversation with you and are more likely to trust you. Develop some meaningful, yet professional, relationships with your followers to get valuable feedback and testimonials, which can boost your social media profile even higher.

10. Use the free version of a CRM.

Some of the most successful social media business pages have one thing in common; they engage with data and not just their followers. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become popular among SMEs and have quickly become a norm for running their businesses. Among the plethora of features they provide, social integrations are one of the most useful. Try Zoho CRM’s trial version, integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, which provides you with insights and alerts about your followers that can help you handle social media pages better. If you wish to unlock the paid features, Zoho CRM also offers you irresistible, but affordable packages that are worth checking out.

As your business grows, the marketing techniques listed above will cease to be particularly effective. Investing in creating original content, sponsoring content, buying digital advertisements, and hosting bigger events will eventually become more of a necessity rather than a choice. Embrace the fact that your business is small enough to be frugal, but be prepared to go big.

Do you have anything to add to this post or an experience on social media marketing to share? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below.

This article was originally published on Medium.