Because there is no cost to start a social media page people often (wrongly) assume that social media is free. But just as everything in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch in social media.
And while there are no direct costs associated with creating a Facebook page or Twitter account, there are huge costs in terms of time and energy.
This time and energy cannot be recovered once it is put toward social media, meaning the opportunity cost of social media is the "all the time and effort you could have devoted to other business tasks".
Being Social Is Time Consuming
It’s no secret that social media is insanely labour intensive. Between building a complete social strategy, making consistent updates across multiple social networks, and appropriately measuring the results of your efforts, we’re talking about hours upon hours of focused work.
While there are tools constantly being developed that aim to lessen the labour, the very nature of what it means to be social requires a lot of human input.
And here’s the real kicker: You cannot halfway do social media, because the social world doesn’t sleep. Which means your business never sleeps. As Jay Baer, author of The NOW Revolution, has said:
“The future of business is not in measured, scrutinized responses or carefully planned initiatives. Business will soon be about near-instantaneous response; about making the best decisions you can with the extremely limited information you have; about every customer being a reporter, and every reporter being a customer; about winning and losing customers in real time, every second of every day; and about a monumental increase in the availability of commentary about our companies. Business will be always on, always changing, always moving.”
Being Social Requires Strategy
Tossing out updates, tweets, and blog posts with your eyes closed in the hopes that a few hit the bullseye will leave you disappointed. It’s not enough to say, “We’re going to update Facebook twice a day with things we find interesting. Hopefully our fans find it interesting too!”
As with all marketing, your social media campaigns need strategic planning in the form of long term and short term goals.
There’s more to a social media strategy than finding cool content and sharing it. You need to do the following at minimum.
Determine your target audience and which social networks they hang around the most. Focus your efforts on those networks.
Lay out the long term objectives. Getting more email subscribers? Improving the community on your Facebook page? Boosting web traffic? Providing more product information to consumers? Meeting a sales goal?
Your short term goals should be a function of your long term objectives. For example, if you’re trying to gain more email subscribers, you’ll need to offer an incentive in the form of high-quality, free content such as an eBook or mini-training program.
Set benchmarks. How do you know if the results of your campaign are good unless you have a benchmark to compare them to? Set an internal standard or compare the before-and-after effects of your campaign.
Measure, measure, measure. The ROI of social media…that elusive number marketers have been chasing since the inception of social media. Tracking your Facebook fan and Twitter follower counts is nice, but it doesn’t tell much of the story. Instead, you should track the effectiveness of specific social actions in relation to the goals you set in steps two and three.
Being Social Requires Advertising Budget
Just as every business—small, medium, or large—should have a social strategy, every strategy should be backed by a social media budget.
Budgeting helps you ensure you’ll have the funds to achieve your goals, whether that’s promoting a new business or driving sales on a new product. Plus, without an accurate social media marketing budget, it’s impossible to know the true ROI of your work.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all social media budget. Every company has different resources and different priorities. But whether you’re working with a shoestring or cushy budget, these are the key components your should figure into your calculations.
- How much should I spend on social media? As a general rule of thumb most organisations spend about 5% to 15% of yearly revenue on marketing. Of the total marketing budget, the average firm allocates approximately 45% to online marketing (and this percentage is growing fast!)
- Is it necessary to define the target audience? One of the biggest mistakes that budding personal brands make is trying to appeal to everyone. Keep in mind, not everyone is your potential customer! If you do not determine your target audience, you'll end up wasting a considerable amount of money to get out to people who are not even your desired audience.
- What social networks should I focus on? Knowing your potential customer/audience is crucial when choosing a social network. Rather than wasting your time or resources to be active on all social networks, you need to know which ones your target audience use.
- Which social media platforms are best for advertising? A captivating aspect concerning social media advertising is that there is virtually no limit to your ability to scale. It can help you reach thousands of people without having to wait for them to search for your keywords or read your blogs. But rather than throw your money at all platforms I'd suggest you start with choosing from among the most popular platforms, at that point once you have beneficial frameworks running, you can look at allocating a percentage of your budget toward more experimental campaigns.
- Can creativity impact cost & return on investment? Restrain yourself from constant selling with newspaper-style “Purchase, Purchase, Purchase” promotions. The majority of the social networks want you to make money, but not at the expense of user enjoyment. Innovative, top-notch advertising efforts connect with audiences better, gain organic momentum, and are more likely to get comments, likes, and shares. Start being creative on social media!
- Should the budget be spent on video or static image advertising? Lots of marketers use social media, but many of them aren’t allocating the advertising budget wisely. A business is likely to make a more significant impact and drive more engagement with a video advertisement.
- How much to budget for each activity involved in social media advertising? If in case you believe that 'ad spend' is the only cost involved in social media marketing, you are presumably wrong! It is just the piece of the expense. While designing a budget you have to think artistically and broad-mindedly so that you don't miss out on any aspect! Whether you hire a social media agency or you handle the work in-house, you need to save your budget for forming the strategy, creation and production of the ads, writing the copy, measuring the performance and managing the complete process.
Social is no longer just about conversation and content; it’s now an established channel for customer acquisition, remarketing and engaging existing fans/customers to support retention programs. It may be relatively immature compared to search and email marketing but it’s a channel in which most ecommerce teams are ramping up investment (people and tools). And just like you pay for an advert in a newspaper or for Google Ads, there is a cost to doing business on social media.