How much does your social media cost?

By Matt Brown,

How many businesses use social media platforms as part of their marketing for the wrong reasons? There is no doubt that social media extends the toolkit that the business owner and marketing person have at their disposal to communicate messages to existing and potential customers. But over the years I have observed that the marketing tool selection decision is often based on perceived cost rather than measured return-on-investment (ROI).

I saw this in the late 90's, when email marketing came along and businesses said, "Great. We can now send our newsletters and direct mail out by email and save postage and mailing costs".

However, nothing is free! The right compelling message still needs to be crafted and it has to reach the right audience at the right time. It is possible to create very powerful, measurable marketing using email, but lower distribution costs should not be confused with a high return. Money spent still has to be compared versus the money returned.

It's interesting that one of the largest online businesses, Google, invests considerable sums in very sophisticated, personalised direct mail by post and you can bet they are measuring the return they get and that the investment will be paying back many times the amount spent.

So what has this got to do with what social media is costing you?

I am assuming you have:

  • Identified your target audience segments;
  • Worked out your unique points of difference (your unique selling proposition, or USP);
  • Crafted the key messages you wish to convey which will articulate your USP to your audiences?

These are the fundamentals you need to work out for your business before considering which marketing tools to use. But having decided that social media is a tool that you wish to include to reach existing and potential customers, you might also wish to consider:

  1. Are you measuring the return you are getting for the time and money you are investing? You cannot spend ‘likes’ or ‘follows’, so these are not worthy of measurement. You have to attribute cash amount spent, versus cash amount returned and find a practical way to measure this.
  2. Manage the social media activities and posting yourself, or delegate? There are advantages to you running your own campaign, writing and posting yourself, as nobody will know the business better than the owner and/or marketing manager. The real insight gained by engaging with your audience is also valuable, and it will add the desirable human element to the interaction too. This does have to be balanced though with the cost of time spent on other higher-level activities within the business.
  3. Delegate your social media (internally within the business or externally to an agency)?
    If you decide to delegate, do the people creating the content have:
    a.    The product/service knowledge;
    b.    The ability to articulate this in writing;
    c.    The customer facing skills;
    d.    The time to engage with existing and potential customers on a regular and consistent basis?

To finish up, here is my social media sanity check list:

  1. Measure the cost versus the return. All marketing tools should be accountable. If you can’t find a way to measure it, then use another marketing tool that you can.
  2. Social media can be a serious time destroyer. If you are handling it personally, at least stick a clock on it.
  3. Post wisely. Remember that social media is public. People seem to trip up on this regularly as they forget that once an inappropriate comment or post is made, it’s public and permanent.
  4. Don’t tweet twoddle! Keep posts and messages on topic and relevant to your overall business goals.
  5. Don’t use a specific marketing tool because “everyone else is using it”. You will be surprised how many people won’t be using it and it is important to think differently and not follow the herd.

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