The Price of Social Media. It’s Not Free.

I know what you are thinking.  I can use Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for free.  I can set up a page, profile, or account, and it will not cost me one penny.

That is very true.  Accounts on almost all of the major social networks are completely free to set-up.  They will never ask for a credit card or a PayPal account.  They ask for nothing but information in return.

Wait.  That is not entirely true.  They do ask for something.  They ask for time.  Time to fill out your profile.  Time to create that page.  Time to post interesting information and updates.  Time to respond to your family, friends, and clients.  Oh, and did I mention the time to find all those great articles that you are sharing on Twitter and Facebook?

They ask us to spend our time.  But that’s free, right?

Or is it?

Social media accounts may be free to start, but there are many actual and hidden costs to establishing a presence within social media.  It’s important to know what some of these will be, before you or your brand begin.

Actual Costs

Within your company, who is responsible for your social media?  Or are you the social media department?  Either way, the hours you spend on social media is time taken away from other aspects of your company, whether it be speaking with new clients or ordering goods to sell.

And, as all of the literature suggests, you should have a landing page within Facebook, as it increases engagement considerably, and this may be the last time your “fans” directly visit your page.  Not only do the applications to use cost money, ranging from $5 to $30  per month, but what about the time it takes to create the landing page.  And the learning curve?  If you’ve never done it before, it could take hours just to figure out how to create the landing page.  Then you need to create it.

If you are creating these Facebook pages yourself, then you are not tending to any other aspects of your business.  Your time is money.

If you have someone within the company handling this, what is their hourly rate?  Their time is certainly money.  Either way, setting up your accounts will take time, which relates to an hourly rate.

Now that you’ve set up these accounts, do you just sit back?  If you build it, will they come?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  You need to tend to these accounts.  You need to find great articles to share.  You need to engage with your clients and customers.  The time you’ll invest will vary from a few minutes per day to hours per week, depending on your social strategy.  (You do have one, don’t you?  After all, Saying You are on Facebook Does Not a Social Strategy Make.)

Hidden Cost

Now that you are active on social media, you are beginning to realize that you will also need to utilize their advertising engines, something you hadn’t thought of before, while thinking this would all be “free”.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer their own brand of advertising, whether it be ads or sponsored stories, to bring your message to your specific customer.  And all of these ads cost money, whether it be per impression or per click, they will all cost, and you will need to set a budget for these ads, that very well may be above and beyond your standard advertising budget.

So, in the end, is it worth the cost?  That is only something you, as the business owner, can decide.  I would only ask, “Can you afford not to?”

What other costs to social media have you found?  Share with me.

Author:

Craig E. Yaris is the owner of EsquireTech Solutions, which helps small business get found on the social web, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, he can both teach you the effective use of any social network or act as your social media manager, enabling you to reach your clients where they are and when they want to hear from you.  He can teach your organization the social media best practices that can help you use the tools of today to cost-effectively increase your bottom line.  EsquireTech Solutions brings the social web to your business.  Visit EsquireTech Solutions or call 516-495-9107.

Sources:

Facebook Free?  Hardly

Social Media Isn’t Always Free, Especially if Brands Want to Succeed

Why Social Media Isn’t Really Free Marketing

Why Social Media Marketing Isn’t Really Free (video)

Picture courtesy of Digital Buzz http://digitalbuzz.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Infographic-The-Real-Cost-Of-Social-Media.png

About Craig Yaris

Craig E. Yaris is the owner of EsquireTech Solutions, which helps small business get found on the social web, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, he can both teach you the effective use of any social network or act as your social media manager, enabling you to reach your clients where they are and when they want to hear from you. He can teach your organization the social media best practices that can help you use the tools of today to cost-effectively increase your bottom line. EsquireTech Solutions brings the social web to your business. Visit EsquireTech Solutions or call 516-495-9107 .

Comments

  1. Thanks for the comment, Mike! I agree, we can all see those that aren’t investing the time.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mike! I agree, we can all see those that aren’t investing the time.

  3. If a business wants to set the bar in Social Media or keep up I think they realize the ‘time’ that is invested… Free is going through the motions and we can all see the going through the motions social media..

  4. If a business wants to set the bar in Social Media or keep up I think they realize the ‘time’ that is invested… Free is going through the motions and we can all see the going through the motions social media..

  5. I agree, Derrik. Companies need to start realizing that there is, in fact, a cost to social media.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  6. I agree, Derrik. Companies need to start realizing that there is, in fact, a cost to social media.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  7. You’re spot on… and have highlighted something that continues to be a major discussion point in the industry. If only we all could be paid like lawyers to legally represent businesses on social media platforms!

  8. You’re spot on… and have highlighted something that continues to be a major discussion point in the industry. If only we all could be paid like lawyers to legally represent businesses on social media platforms!

  9. Time is money…

  10. Great article!

  11. we are giving away our most precious thing: time
    never looked at it that way, thanks

    • I don’t consider it “giving away our time”. We just forget that all the time we spend should be factored into a budget, somehow.

      Thanks for your comment!

  12. Great article. Points out something that is often forgotten. However, there is really nothing new in this principle. Look at IT costs in general. A problem that only became visible due to Open Source software. Above and beyond the cost for licences, especially small business owners have to spend a lot of time to maintain their hardware and software. Or someone it hired, or contracted.

    However, this is not really different to having an accountant or a lawyer. Or even going to the supermarket instead of growing your own produce. If you grow your own vegetable in your bakcyard, it is not free either, it costs water, fertilizer, and time.

    • You are absolutely correct in your description. But we all expect those things to cost money. There are no attorneys, accountants, or stores that advertise their items as free. The social networks do, and that is where I think we forget how “time is money”.

      Thanks for the comment.

  13. Wow, so true. What are we giving up in time for social media? Thank you for sharing, good stuff.

  14. It’s like they say – time is money and if you aren’t factoring in the opportunity cost involved in what you do, you aren’t getting an accurate picture of hard and soft expenses. Nicely done!

  15. Grace Alexander says:

    As a person who used Facebook casually before creating a business page, how do you suggest using Facebook for business when you are unlucky enough to have a personal account (since Facebook doesn’t allow business accounts anymore)? I’m stubborn enough to not want to sanitize my profile and stop using Facebook as my social network!

  16. Wow, I hadn’t thought about it that in depth

    Sharon
    http://sharon-moms-madhouse.com/

  17. All true! Thank the good Lord or else people like me would be out of work! Ha ha! Great post. I’ll share and reblog! Kim 🙂

  18. It is also an exchange, e.g. the trading of information or answers by each side, which costs some effort in putting together.

  19. Nice summary – re infographics.

  20. I think companies can let social media hog resources ike staff time. You have to set priorities and it shouldn’t jump the queue.

  21. I think companies can let social media hog resources ike staff time. You have to set priorities and it shouldn’t jump the queue.

  22. Before I read your article about social media not being free, I was having such a good time using it. Now it’s not to say that I thought I was the perfect social media-ite, or media socialite (that sounds better). I did at least pride myself in some degree of social media savvy.
    But after reading your article, I feel absolutely awful. I do not have a social strategy per se, unless one considers having as many facebook pages as domain names (last count around 30 of the latter but actually a few less of the former).
    I was working on Welcome Pages and was quite proud of my creation until I read that what I had constructed would disappear in a few days. What a downer. I have learned some neat ‘skills’ including how to advertise for ‘free’, so to speak.
    But whatever level of expertise I thought I had reached, I now feel totally inept as a media socialite. I just have one question, how much do you charge for your services?

    • I guess we have to remember that the old saying, “The one with the most pages wins” isn’t true! I would keep doing what you are doing, if it works for you. That, I believe, is the end result!

      Thanks for the comment, Alison!

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