How to get people to advertise your stuff, for free

While everyone else is rolling their own social media sites and wringing their hands about how to monetize them, why not use them to get some free advertising?

Here’s how: give away your professionally-produced photos and videos, and maybe even some slick audio files. Invite people to use them in their social media creations.

Imagine a guy named Bill, who just came back from a wild vacation in Las Vegas. Bill wants to build a hilarious recap of his misadventures, so he can post them on his Facebook or MySpace profile where all of his friends see it can leave a comment. Obviously, Bill’s gonna build a Widget, so first he uploads his vacation photos to Flickr and then browses over to to build a slideshow Widget.

Pretty cool, but not cool enough. Ever played around with iPhoto? You can add background music to your slideshows, via iTunes. Music is fresh. You know what’s cooler? If Bill snaps a few nice “atmosphere” photos of the surf, the landscape from the plane, or the city skyline, he can intersperse them with all those stand-and-smile pics to create a narrative.

But what if Bill forgot to take those atmosphere photos? What if he sucks at photography? Why doesn’t Nevada’s tourism board offer him a bunch of glamorous city shots to use in your slideshow? Then, when people ooh and ahh over his beautiful slideshow, they’ll be thinking “man, I gotta go to Vegas.” Disney World should do this. Professional sports leagues should do this. In fact, every pro sports league should also offer a “Jumbotron” Widget on Slide. Whatever company owns the distribution rights to Swingers should give away a clip of “Vegas baby! Vegas!”

During my interactive agency days, I pitched an airline on this concept, and they just nodded. This was in 2001, before social media was a big deal (though Mac iPhoto projects were not). They still haven’t done anything with this idea (and they didn’t sign the agency), so I’m offering it up to every airline and travel site out there: after I get back from my trip, I should receive an email from you that reads “Didja enjoy your trip to the Grand Canyon? Gonna build a slideshow? Check out these free aerial photos of the Canyon – they’re yours to use. Free. Thanks for flying with us!”

On the low end, the photos could be watermarked. Better yet, repaint the city skyline billboards with ads for your service, or show a plane from your fleet in the photo. Every movie in the world reuses that stock photo of the plane landing at the airport (or better yet, the plane that flies overhead, with the camera following it). Why not offer that clip, with your plane? I’ll use the clip as the opener for my awesome slideshow, and you get free product placement in my story of a great trip. Free advertising, free endorsement, no cost beyond the initial creative. Throw in some music and photos, and you’ve given me a great packet of free assets for my social media creation, all pointed at your brand.

Slide’s sales team should also pitch this idea, if they aren’t yet – sponsored photo packs that users can add to their slideshows. Eyespot is doing this with video today, and as free editing tools and personal Widgets become more popular, it’s a good time to reevaluate editorial content as stock for social media remixes.


  1. This is an interesting idea. I will check out your blog more often. I’m linking to you now–so you should see a bump on your Technorati Authority rating.

    I still have no idea who you are, but you look interesting, so I plan on meeting you anyhow.

    You also appear to live in Brooklyn. I live here:

    Let me know if you’re nearby.


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