Which business wouldn’t like an advertising and marketing platform that reaches billions across the world without it costing a cent? A platform that is free to share and promote content and to get involved in, with the bonus of a massive locked-in audience who will also actively promote the content for the business?
Unfortunately it doesn’t exist!
Many business executives would like to believe that social media is free. And with good reason, too. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and beyond, have millions of users on a global scale. And … what could it hurt, it’s free, right?
Despite many statements to the contrary, social media is many things, but free is not one of them. The information gap on the true costs involved in a social media campaign is widening faster than the learning curve, and the concept that “social media is free” can be toxic to a business’ overall marketing strategy. This belief will only be the basis for misinformed decisions in the planning process, leading to unrealistic expectations, near impossible execution and failed goals. Many companies are attracted to social media by the seemingly low set up costs and ongoing overheads involved, but looking past this optimistic surface they find there’s a need for real investment if they want their campaign to function properly, and the time and resources of social media marketing costs invested in a campaign must be understood and evaluated in order to realize some level of return on that investment.
While it is true that most social media platforms are free to register, there are quite a few costs that will likely need to be considered in order to leverage social media effectively.
Staff and external resources involved in social media engagement as well as other staff needed to ensure that the social media strategy is integrated across the organisation including social media managers dedicated to engaging on social media platforms, marketing staff, and front line staff including sales and customer service, and legal advisors.
The continual creation of content in terms of interactions, articles, images, videos, podcasts, presentations and more, which may also be developed by external resources. Moreover the content and interactions need to be tailored to adapt for different social media platforms to make sense in the context of the specific social media venue.
The business brand must be identifiable and consistent across social media platforms. Branding elements need to be adapted to specific social media platforms and may require new brand guidelines, and the creation of special brand assets for social media in terms of new photographs and profiles.
Specialized search resources, which can be internal or external, are required to optimise each piece of social media related content and interaction to ensure that it’s findable. All of the social media communications has an impact on the search engine results.
The technology must support installing and using many social media platforms, and assist content creators to ensure functionality on each platform even to ensure quick load time. It is also important that it provides for system security, which applies to account and password management for third party platforms and services, above other corporate needs.
Understanding the impact of social media and blogging efforts adds to the cost of campaigns. Data must not only be gathered, but also analysed. The creation a separate database to collect and assess data is often necessary. Social media monitoring encompasses listening for brand mentions and competitive input for the business brands, products and employees. Social media metrics, on the other hand, includes tracking results of the business’ social media engagement and their contribution to its bottom line results.
The above are the six major categories of the costs which a business is likely to find when creating its plan, but there are certainly others that are likely to creep up. Social media investment is a risk and return decision just as everything else in business. There is no magic formula for determining the true cost of a social media campaign, as each one is different, but by taking time at the start to properly examine cost, the business will be in a far better position when it comes to calculating ROI and value.
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