The number one thing you will notice about the white hat method of marketing, is it takes time, and requires more heart than its evil step sibling, the black hatter. However, the returns are far better than any black hat cheat sheet, and a lot more fun too! So, to help you get started, we picked 5 essential white hat tactics to begin your inbound journey.

5: Social Media

Most, if not all, businesses have a Facebook and Twitter account. Problem is, many of those companies forget about them, or worse yet, only use them for ads!! With that in mind, ask yourself, “If this showed up on my personal social feed, would I click it?” If you paused before your answer, then you need to rethink your social strategy.

On the contrary, sites like ‘Buzzfeed’ have perfected the use of social media by creating catchy titles, while crafting a niche blogging market. Buzzfeed is now an industry staple which thousands of other sites emulate. Hell, even this blog, “5 Simple White Hat Methods that DO WORK!” sure sounds a lot like, “7 Times TV Made Me Cry in 2013,” doesn’t it?

In a later blog, we will go into greater detail about social strategies, but for now we’ll keep it simple. Just like an LLC is treated like a person in the eyes of the law; your social media should be treated like a person. For example: a sports bar should tweet about games that are currently going on. If a follower sends you a cleaver tweet, a retweet or a comment back should be expected.

Also, use your social media to promote each other, for instance: a wonderful blog is posted about which beers are best to drink during a cold weather game; the bar’s twitter should be sharing that with its patrons.

Simply put, if you treat company social media like YOUR PERSONAL social media, your customers and clients will respond accordingly.

4: Community Interaction

This doesn’t mean charity work, although it’s never a bad idea for businesses to volunteer time and services to worthy nonprofits. In this case, we mean finding your company’s community, and engaging them. LinkedIn does a great job of showcasing some of these communities, allowing members to post anything from questions, to blogs, to simply giving other companies props for a great idea or job well done.

Once you have found your communities online presence, begin interacting. By leaving thought out responses to posts, commenting on blogs, and interacting with others in the community. This leads to organic link building, which in turn leads to a higher google rank, and a higher likelihood of being featured on the front page of a google search!

Aside from its SEO applications, these sites can help businesses through the triumphs and mistakes of others that have come first. Sometimes you can even gain new business because others in the community might recommend your company to a prospect they cannot help themselves.

This is truly the golden rule in action, and it can be truly beneficial for any business.

3: Effective Email Marketing

Once upon a time when the internet was young, and email was still a fickle mistress! CNN would light up weekly with the headlines, “if you receive this email, then flush your inbox!” That’s right folks, it was the 90’s, and spam was everywhere. And no, not that strange hammy substance that comes in a can. We mean the spam sent from Nigerian Princes asking for credit card info, or Wachovia asking you to resubmit your social security number for “filing purposes.”

Fast-forward to the present and email has evolved quite a bit. True we still receive spam, but thanks to a variety of algorithms provided by email providers, most of it is harmlessly moved to the spam folder. Thus, companies had to change their tactics, if email was to remain a viable marketing source.

Good will towards the recipient is the most important thing to remember when crafting an email, and a simple “Unsubscribe” button goes a LONG way towards building good relationships. Some customers might even enjoy what you have to say, they just don’t want to hear about it every day. By allowing customers to adjust the frequency in which they receive mail, more good will is created. Remember customers that feel respected, are usually return customers.

However, good will means nothing if the email’s content does not sweep them off their collective feet. If an email has a newsletter, make sure it’s a damn good newsletter! Does it have a promotion? Make that promo ‘pop’! People love great content, and when that great content is delivered neatly, and on a desired schedule, then your email is no longer an ad, it’s a greeting. And people like being greeted!

2: Web Content

There’s that “content” word again! Get used to it, because it’s a common theme in inbound marketing!

Your website is THE face of your company, and is often where most first impressions are made. With that in mind, think back to the personification theme from earlier. No one walks into an interview wearing the same clothes they would have worn to the pool, it makes a bad impression! Same goes for your website.

If you have not worked on creating a strong and easily recognizable brand, then first off… FOR SHAME, and second off… get to it. Even for small business, keeping your site true to your brand is a huge part of the content creation process. If you don’t understand why your brand is SOO important, take a minute to watch this video by comedian Jon Lajoie.

Once you have properly branded the site, the next task is to make it simple to navigate. As in, a 2nd grader could navigate it! Site layouts that don’t make sense mean customers are less likely to use your services. Would you pay someone for a service if the provider can’t even make a functioning website?

Finally, build your website that celebrates your business and its philosophies. Fill it with content that drives your customers to come back; almost like your filling out a dating website… use content that drives that special someone to pick you!

1: Blogging

Of course this is number one on the list. Content marketers LOVE blogs! They create great content, drive traffic, build links, and lower the wall between company and prospect.

Here’s the downside, it’s not easy and it takes time. Writer’s block is a real thing, and for those who don’t write on a regular basis, the idea of writing something seams perilous! What if your message doesn’t come across, or worse… customers are lost because of bad writing.

First off, slow your roll, even Shakespeare’s first works received awful reviews. Seriously, look up “Titus Andronicus,” it was the Shakespearian version of “Gigli!” The point is, no one is born a great writer, as with most things, it’s learned over time.

Once that first blog post is down, the next thing is to just keep going. Pick a schedule (once a week, twice a week) and follow it to the letter!

Eventually, you might actually start liking the blogging process. From there you can add it as content for your web site, or email it as part of a news-letter. Once you’re confident enough to have it in your newsletter, begin posting it for on your field’s community blog, and ask for some feedback. Finally, share it on social media… because hey, you did well, show off a bit. You earned it!