5 Alternatives to Paid Advertising That Save Money

Todd Kunsman

Marketing Team Lead

12 minute read

How many of your employees are already on social?

Paid advertising is everywhere, and today, with the internet and social platforms, you can’t escape sponsored content and display ads.

In fact, as of 2021, the average person was estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every. single. day. 😮

And digital advertising is probably never going away — at least anytime soon — and it can still play an important role in your marketing strategy. 

But there are also many challenges to paid advertising, which are often recognized (and ignored) by leadership. By this I mean, the answer to the ad problems is typically to shovel more money to ineffective ads to stay competitive.  

Below, we’ll take a look at the world of paid advertising today and the alternatives to paid ads you can consider. 


Pros and Cons of Paid Ads

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that my colleagues and I recognize the value of paid advertising. 

We run them at EveryoneSocial, and ads are key to distributing great content to people we know would benefit from both it and our product.

Our Head of Paid Ads even wrote an insightful post about optimizing and saving money on paid ads.

But ads aren’t your only option and there are some good alternatives to paid advertising that can empower marketing, sales, and hiring.

I don’t want to spend much time here, so here’s a brief list of some paid advertising pros and cons. 



  • Easily distribute content, product, and brand story to target demographics
  • Various targeting options to better reach desired audiences
  • Flexibility of campaigns, targeting, content, testing, etc. 


  • Rising costs of paid social and paid search
  • More competition to stand out, which further drives up costs
  • Consumers tune out ads because they’re accustomed to avoiding them
  • Ad blocking increased. In the United States alone, it increased from 15% to 30% since 2014. 
  • Only 8% of people think ads they see online are always relevant.

The problems with most ad campaigns is they follow outdated formats, they have little creativity or educational value, their targeting is wrong, or their goal is simply to collect an email address. 

There certainly is an optimization problem in the ad world, but that only gets you so far. 


Alternatives to Paid Ads

Whether you have a tight budget or just want to pair your ads with other options to save money and still generate ROI, there are a few paid ad alternatives worth exploring.

Here are some that we not only do ourselves, but also recommend to other organizations. 


1. Email marketing campaigns 

Although email has been around for what feels like an eternity, it’s still a powerful marketing channel. It’s also a great alternative to paid advertising, especially if you’re on a tight budget. 

Email marketing is relatively low-cost, but it can generate some serious ROI if you set your email campaigns up for success. The other cool thing about email is that you can easily automate things, which is useful if you have a small marketing team. 

But your company can do all sorts of email campaigns, including the following:

  • Giveaways
  • Newsletters
  • Automated Drip Campaigns
  • Product announcements 
  • Sales/Discounts 
  • Events 

The biggest hurdle in email marketing is building your database. But once you start, you’ll be able to generate awareness, convert leads, and retain customers with ease. 


2. Affiliate marketing program

A great way to spread the word about your product or service is through an affiliate marketing program. 

This essentially lets other people tell potential customers about your product. In return, they get a percentage of any sales or other completed actions.

The main advantage here is that the only cost to your company is when someone converts via your affiliates by making a sale or filling out a form for a quote, for example.

Since you pay affiliates only for conversions, you don’t have to pay for ads that generate clicks or awareness.

It’s a lucrative business model.

Need some data? Check out these affiliate marketing statistics

  • Advertisers generate between 15% and 30% of all sales from affiliate programs.
  • More than 80% of brands have affiliate programs.
  • America is the biggest player in the affiliate industry with a 39% share.

3. Employee influencer program

Ah, now we get to one of my favorite paid advertising alternatives: an employee influencer program!

You might also call it employee advocacy or social selling or by another term entirely. 

This is the process and strategy of encouraging and motivating employees to be the authentic voices of your brand. Essentially, you enable them to create and share content on social media, exposing their personal networks to your company and its products in an organic way.

Employees have an average of 1,000 social connections, so here’s how that reach breaks down if your company has the following:

  • 50 Employees = 50,000+ additional reach
  • 100 Employees = 100,000 additional reach
  • 500 Employees = 500,000 additional reach 

Note: On average, an employee influencer program involving 1,000 active participants can generate $1,900,000 in advertising value.

And this doesn’t include the network effect.

The network effect is what occurs when the people in your employees’ followers’ networks end up seeing your employees’ content in their feed, too. Hello, exponential reach.

Seriously, check out these brands that have experienced success by making it a part of their go-to market strategy. 

And using an advocacy platform like Everyonesocial to centralize everything makes it very easy to maintain and scale. Plus, it’s a fraction of the cost of paid ads. 


4. Podcasting 

Another alternative to paid advertising to consider is podcasting. This involves a bit more work and time to start scaling, but you can get started with very little money. 

And podcasting is huge! Just take a look at these podcasting stats

  • In 2022, 51% of the population has listened to a podcast and roughly 78% are familiar with the medium.
  • Over one-third (104 million) of Americans listen to podcasts regularly.
  • Each week, more Americans listen to podcasts than have Netflix accounts.

People love listening to podcasts, making them a great way to attract and reach your desired audiences. 

You can distribute podcast content easily through major platforms like Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and Google at no cost to you. Plus, episodes can be repurposed on social media, in blogs, on your website, into video channels like Youtube, and more. 

The chief challenge is the same one you face with content creation and SEO: It takes time for people to discover you. Luckily, by taking advantage of distribution channels, your podcast can really take off. 

Look at Refine Labs, it built its multimillion dollar business from podcasting, live videos, and social media. No ads. No SEO. 👏


5. Live webinar series 

Similar to podcasting, your live webinar series can be an easy and cost-effective way to attract revenue to your business. But, like podcasting, it takes steady growth to get people to register and consistently attend your webinars.

However, if you have amazing content, provide access to top subject matter experts, and foster solid discussions, a consistent live video series can have huge ROI on your marketing and sales efforts.

Plus, a regular webinar provides you with additional video content that you can clip and promote on social media, in emails, or in blog content.

You can even extract the conversation and turn it into a podcast episode for another distribution channel. Boom! 

Most of what this entails is strategy, planning, and time. But the costs are very low and can have compounding ROI.

Want to see how it’s done? Check out our monthly live webinar series, and please make sure to register if you’re interested in seeing more! 


What You Should Do Today

So what should you do? 

First, it’s definitely important to take a deep dive into your paid search and paid social strategies. Look at how you can best optimize and create better messaging that drives attention to your ad campaigns. 

Generally, the solution shouldn’t be throwing more and more money at your ads just to keep up with the competition or the rising costs of ad platforms. 

Nor should you completely stop paid ads altogether — unless you need to because of a strict budget.

From there, the winning combo is doing all the above solutions.

This can (and typically does) enhance results for your ads, too, by building better remarketing lists and creating more brand touchpoints so that when someone sees an ad, they’ll be more receptive to it. 

If you had to choose one to start, we are naturally biased towards employee influencer programs. But for good reason: they work and they generate serious ROI. 

Seriously, look at this chart of the average costs for paid ads compared with using EveryoneSocial. You can read more about this here.  

Costs of ads and EveryoneSocial.

Interested? Schedule a demo with our team or you can sign-up for FREE to give the platform a spin.

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