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In the midst of a vicious presidential debate, America was feeling pretty pessimistic.

We didn’t know it yet, but we were desperate for a break from the venomous attacks. We needed some positivity.

That’s when Ken Bone came riding in on his red sweater.

For nothing more than asking a very informed question about energy policy and looking like a young, clean-cut Saint Nicholas, Ken Bone became America’s sweetheart– for about a week.

Although Kenny’s star burnt out quickly, that didn’t stop brands from clamoring over his endorsement. Uber shelled out cash for a thumbs up from Ken mere days after the debate.

You can’t really blame brands for being tempted ride Ken’s wave. He was gaining tens of thousands of followers a day– one of his tweets will collect a baffling number of impressions.

Paying for influential people to give your business a stamp of approval is nothing new– brands want a chance to reach that person’s audience.

However, in the world of social media, there are plenty of low cost opportunities to gain access to a new social audience.

Social influencers and average joes alike have followers that you can gain access to. You just have to approach them the right way.

Make friends, be friendly

Plenty of people are eager to engage on social media, and many of them live right around the block.

So be a friendly presence, especially to people in your community.

Search topics on Twitter and Facebook and narrow the search to people in your area. You’ll find users with all kinds of followings­– from the YouTube star with 100,000 followers to the neighborhood dad with 10 followers.

Your first goal should be to acknowledge someone for a great post or tweet. If someone appreciates you reaching out, start a conversation. Then repeat that process.

If you continue to start conversations, you’ll start showing up in newsfeeds you’ve never been in.

People appreciate friendly figures on social media, and that includes brands. So start engaging.

Just remember that authenticity is the key. Don’t barge into a conversation if you don’t have something good to say. People hate that.

User-Generated Content

One of the best ways to get people’s attention on social media is to let your customers do the work for you.

Your brand should encourage customers to take photos or videos of themselves using your product or service. When they post that content, it allows you to reach their social audience in the form of an endorsement (assuming it’s positive).

Reposting user-generated content is a great way to reach that audience a second time. Be sure to tag the person that originally posted it. Odds are they’ll share or react to it, and a portion of their followers will be notified when they do.

How do you get customers to post photos and videos? Often times it takes some incentive. A contest is a great way to collect user-generated content.

Another, less exciting way is to be patient. And when someone does take a picture that puts your business in a positive light, respond with gratitude as quickly as you can. Your customers may be encouraged to post if they know they’ll be instantly acknowledged.

Find a guest blogger

There are tons of freelance bloggers out there. Sure, some blog twice and then their site becomes a ghost town, but many keep at it and earn a solid following.

If your business has a blog, consider outsourcing an article or two to a freelance writer.

The benefits are twofold. First, it’s hard to keep a blog populated with fresh ideas. A guest blogger offers a fresh perspective that your audience may find interesting.

And, secondly, rest assured that your guest blogger will share the blog with their follower-base. This opens up an opportunity to drive an entirely new audience to your website.

And now the important part: How much does it cost to bring on a guest blogger?

Well, it depends on their following. An extremely influential guest blogger may not be the cost-effective solution you’re looking for. If they have hundreds of thousands of followers, then they definitely deserve a big payday for their content.

But bloggers with smaller, more modest followings are much more affordable. They’ll likely take into account that they’ll reach new people through your audience. It’s a win-win.

Decide how much you’re willing to spend and start reaching out. You likely won’t have to look long.