The true cost of Social Media Marketing

Nothing in the world of digital marketing comes for free. It would be nice if it did, but unfortunately, things just aren’t that simple. There’s a cost associated with everything, and a huge part of digital marketing is balancing that cost against the revenue it could generate in the long run.

Social Media Marketing can sometimes seem like a cheap option. The accounts are all free, and posting can just be part of someone’s job, right? That’s certainly the attitude many companies have. But when you think like that, it’s easy to miss the true cost of Social Media Marketing.

The true cost: regular posting

Anyone who has mastered the basics of Social Media Marketing will know that you have to post regularly to have any chance of success. If you don’t, your competitors will get in front of your audience first, and algorithms will push you further and further down people’s feeds.

You could be forgiven for thinking that regular posting is easy. It’s just a little update or an image, right? That attitude is going to get you nowhere. This kind of thinking treats your Social Media Marketing as an afterthought, when really, it’s an essential part of your arsenal. Posting regularly isn’t going to be cheap, but it is going to be worth it.

Hidden cost: market research. To post regularly, you’ve got to post things your audience cares about. That means, you’ve got to understand your audience. You could certainly pay out for a market research company to step in and help, but you don’t have to. Instead, dedicate time and money to analysing your audience’s behaviour and their engagement, and speak to your customer service team. This will help you understand your audience’s needs, their triggers, and what they want from you, so that you can deliver.

Hidden cost: quality content. Simple text content just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need images, graphics, videos and so on. All of those things take time and money to produce, whether you’re doing them in-house, or getting them from a third-party. You simply cannot scrimp on this – it’s the make or break of your social media efforts.

The true cost: user generated content

Another social media technique that’s often suggested is user generated content. If you’ve got an engaged audience, why not let them do some of the hard work for you? Re-posting content, asking for comments, polls and Q&As, and even competitions, are just a few of the ways that we’re advised to use UGC.

But is it as simple as that? Of course not. Nothing in digital marketing is that simple. There are costs associated with UGC too, and they aren’t all financial.

Hidden cost: managing UGC. No matter which approach you take with UGC, someone is going to have to take ownership of it. That could be monitoring hashtags and mentions to find things that are worth re-posting. It could be creating content from the results of a poll. Or it could be managing comments to make sure they don’t descend into chaos.

Because that’s the scary part of social media. What can start as a positive outpouring of love, can quickly become a nightmare. You’ve got to be prepared to reply to complaints and handle them, or to quash any arguments before they get out of hand. If you’re going down the UGC route, make sure you have the resources to manage it properly.

Hidden cost: unfavourable consequences. Sure, sometimes UGC is simple and innocent. You re-post something, you get some great engagement, you boost your community. Great. But sometimes things go wrong. It’s easy to fall foul of UGC. What if you re-post content from an individual who has some off-brand attitudes or connections? What if you accidentally share personal details such as usernames and handles?

These scenarios put fear into a marketer’s heart. They are the stuff of PR nightmares and can undo years of hard work in a flash. The cost of getting UGC wrong is too high to even think about. But you’ve got to know how bad it can get, because there’s nothing like a cautionary tale to make you do it right in the first place.

The true cost: influencer marketing

With the rise of social media, came the rise of influencers. So it’s no surprise that now is the time of influencer marketing. If there’s someone out there who ties into your brand values, and has a massive audience of their own, why wouldn’t you want to capitalise on that? And the beauty of social media is that there are influencers in every single niche.

To get influencer marketing right, you’ve got to have a proper strategy. This approach can have fantastic ROI, if you put the right structures and goals in place. But you also have to be wary of the true cost of influencer marketing.

Hidden cost: finding the right influencer. There are so many influencers these days. Even if your niche seems a little obscure, you’re still likely to find more influencers than you need. So you’ve got to make the right choices. Don’t be put off by showy numbers. Just last month an influencer with 2 million followers couldn’t even sell 36 t-shirts. This game is about quality, not quantity. An influencer with a few thousand engaged followers is going to be so much more valuable than someone with millions of casual followers.

You’ve also got to be sure that the person you collaborate with is reliable. If you’re contracting someone to post about your brand, you want them to come through and do it. You’ll be able to tell how professional and dedicated someone is by the way they communicate with you. If you don’t get the right responses and respect from an influencer, walk away from the situation. Better that you take longer to secure the right partnership, than jumping in too fast with someone who isn’t the right fit for your brand and your goals.

The bottom line

Have you spotted the theme? If you want to kill it with Social Media Marketing, you need to do your research. You can’t just come into this game half-cocked and expect it to pay off. Know your audience, know your brand, know your platform, and then keep doing more research. Digital marketing is a constant learning curve, so never stop educating yourself.

The other side of that research, is time. Good Social Media Marketing takes time, and time is money. Anyone who thinks social media can just be tacked onto someone else’s job, needs to have a think about what they really want out of their social media efforts. To do this right, you’ve got to respect it, and give it the resources it requires.

When you keep paying attention, keep learning, and dedicate time to Social Media Marketing, the true cost doesn’t matter, because you make your money back in spades. With strong Social Media Marketing marvellous things can happen. It’s down to you.