Social Media – what’s the real cost?

Paper marketing

Social Media’s the ‘buzz’ phrase for marketing, after all it’s a free way to get the message out to potential customers.

Yes, we’ve all been told how Social Media can provide amazing exposure, and at no cost.  Well, before getting too carried away, you need to consider the true cost of social media and also its potential effectiveness for your business.

Building up your network
For social media to have any possible effect, you will need to build up your network of followers and likes.  This is something that you cannot just switch on instantly, you will need to allocate time every day in order to follow others, with the hope that they will follow you in return.  You need at least to give this 6 months of constant daily work to build your immediate broadcasting network before it will have any value.

An ongoing commitment – what’s required
Allocating an hour a day, each and every working day is a good place to start, ideally with no distractions.  You’ll also need to make sure you understand all aspects of the social media interfaces so you can get the best out of these platforms.  Research and possibly training is highly adviseable in the early stages to get the ball rolling.  There are many training courses you can attend to get a grip on the basics to shortcut this process – this is time well spent, unless you’re quick at grasping this type of scheme/system on your own.  If you don’t have the time to deal with this due to the operational requirements of your business, then there are plenty of companies out there that will undertake this job on your behalf.  Realistically, you need to be looking at paying an agent probably a minimum of £25+/hr for this type of work (average £40/hr), in order to ensure an hour a day is dedicated to your company’s social media, this adds up to £125/week or £500/month plus VAT (minimum).  There are problems with this arrangement though. The main issue is that whatever information comes up in your business that’s interesting enough to post on social media, has to be communicated to your agent, so there is a requirement for you to have an ongoing dialogue, otherwise how will the agent know what to put in your Facebook post or a tweet?  It’s instantly obvious that there’s a disconnect here and also a requirement on your time to relay information to the agent – not the most efficient way to use time and money as you’re having to pay an agent, but also tying up your own valuable time.  This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s an honest view of the actual cost of using these free platforms for you business.

One small business organisation I know in Devon allocate 2 to 3 hours every day for social media, which is really a massive undertaking – I always wonder if the good old telephone and a visit would be much more productive in terms of fostering relations with other businesses, which was the purpose of this business’s social media efforts.