“Social Media Is Free: Social Media Marketing Is Not” – AdWeek
Social media has led a change, unlike anything we’ve seen before. Within a few years, it has become so powerful that it can influence elections, help fight crime and even help save lives. It’s the most powerful communication tool there’s ever been, and many businesses have been quick to cash in on the marketing power of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. The question is, what should social media cost?
Some businesses have used social media to revolutionise their business, where others are struggling to get even a bit of engagement. So what are these companies doing differently?
Unfortunately, the distinction between simply ‘using’ social media (which IS free), and carrying out successful social media marketing (which is not) is consistently overlooked.
This article will look at this distinction in greater detail. We will look at what a business should reasonably look to pay to both manage their social media marketing effectively, and the costs associated with advertising on social media networks. In short, we will aim to give you an accurate idea of what social media should cost for your business.
What Should Social Media Management Cost?
There’s a number of reasons why businesses need someone who’s dedicated to their social media. While it might seem easy to just click ‘Post’, a lack of research on who you’re targeting and the purpose of your social media presence (are you using your account to build your brand or try to sell a product?) can lead to a poor return on investment. Without a set strategy in place, businesses suffer from a lack of consistency, and you might not reach the customers you’re really after.
So what should social media cost, from a management perspective? Let’s consider the tasks first. To build an effective social media account, you’ll need to have someone researching your audience and what they’re interested in. They’ll also need to write posts and create graphics and videos – after all, no one likes a bland online presence. Then once the content is created, they’ll need to manage the social media advertising and ensure the post is reaching the right people at the right time.
Based on the tasks outlined above, there are also a number of skills you’ll need to look for in a social media manager. This will ensure you get the maximum value from your social accounts and that your social media budget is being used efficiently. Along with an understanding of audience development, SEO and the latest trends, your social media manager will also need a good grasp of community management – social media is increasingly a platform for customers to chat to brands and share feedback, so helpful and prompt responses are vital.
When we are assessing the cost of social media, we also need to consider the cost of the tools we use. Tools like HootSuite and Buffer, which allow businesses to schedule posts across a number of platforms, are reasonably priced and considered the norm for social media management. To get a clean look to your content, Adobe can help to create professional-looking graphics – a subscription to both Photoshop and Illustrator costs anything from £50 a month. You may also then have specialist tools for posting to Instagram, and managing your social media advertising. All in, you should expect to pay anything from £50 to £200 per month to have the right tools at your disposal.
What’s the cost of in-house social media management?
Once you’ve got your head around the necessary skills, tools and estimated social media cost, it’s time to take on the debate of in-house vs agency. First, let’s look at what you should expect to pay for social media management, in-house:
Keeping your social media in-house has some benefits. You can react quickly to trending topics or specific questions from your customers, and you have full control of what’s posted and when. In terms of cost though, there’s plenty to think about. Many companies make the mistake of assuming that they don’t need to hire someone specifically for social media management. Business owners will often choose to manage it themselves. This almost always means that it’s done very inconsistently (they have a business to run!) and isn’t given the thought and planning that’s required to get results. Another common mistake is that business owners will pass it on to another team member without the adequate time, resources or skills to handle the task effectively. Perhaps it’s your PA, of the person who manages your accounts? In either case, it’s likely to go to the bottom of their to-do list, and they will only do what’s necessary to ‘tick the box’.
To make the most of the opportunities presented by digital advertising, you need someone in place who understands how the different platforms work and has the time to develop brilliant, shareable content and bring it to the audience you’re looking for. For an in-house social media manager, the national average salary sits at around £28,500. You’ll also need to consider the additional costs of hiring: finding office space, payroll, training and potential maternity pay – which can be much more than you think.
What about outsourced social media management? What does that cost?
Do you use an accountancy firm to manage your accounts? We do. It works really well.
Many businesses outsource their social media management in exactly the same way – and for many of the same reasons. It saves time on training new employees, meaning you can focus on driving your business forward instead. You can also cut down on your overall social media cost by outsourcing, given that an agency can have a number of people working on your adverts and campaigns, rather than a single person. This helps to guarantee expertise across all areas: with platforms ranging from Twitter to YouTube to Pinterest, finding one person who’ll have a grasp of the tone and best practice for each site is unlikely.
An agency should be able to take care of your social media strategy (including post frequency, keyword research etc), brand consistency across your channels, social customer service (responding to questions from your users or engaging in conversations) and content marketing. Since the online perception of your business is in their hands, it’s important to take the time to choose a reputable company who you trust to do a good job.
Any social media agency will also have access to a full toolkit of applications and software. For example, the tools we use to manage our client’s social media accounts cost in excess of £1000/month – but they are worth every penny. By using an agency, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of these tools without the price tag!
The final and most important benefit of outsourcing a social media agency is that you aren’t just getting the skillset of one person. You’d get access to a graphic design team, writers, editors, proofreaders, social media strategists and paid advertising experts. The chances of finding someone with all these skills in one employable package is very slim and, even if you did, the salary they would command would be far more than you’d ever pay a social media agency.
External social media management costs can be expected to be anything from £50-£2,000 a month.
Note: We have monthly management packages from just £99/month. You can build your own package and get an instant quote by using our interactive package builder.
With the range of skillsets it offers, the relatively low cost and low commitment (you can cancel at any time) – outsourced social media management is becoming a very popular choice for businesses of all sizes.
What Does Social Media Advertising Cost?
The truth is that social media marketing has moved on from simply posting an occasional tweet now and then. If you’re looking to gain real value from social media in 2018 – whether that’s converting leads or building a bigger customer base – it’s vital to set aside some budget in order to see results from social media advertising.
Social media advertising is like other forms of online pay per click (PPC) advertising, but it is run by the social networks themselves. If you’ve ever clicked on a post on Facebook that was labelled as ‘sponsored’, you’ve clicked on a social media advertising ad.
Unfortunately, without accepting that social media cost is a key part of a modern business strategy, you won’t reach the audience you’re looking for and all your well-written content will go to waste.
So why is that?
The decline of organic reach
“How many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page.”
When social media first took off – in around 2006 – that number of people was relatively high, meaning that companies could reach their customers simply by hitting ‘publish‘.
However, if you’ve posted to Facebook recently, the chances of people viewing your posts has decreased dramatically. Studies found that organic reach dropped 42% between January and May 2016, and for business or fan pages with more than half a million likes, as few as 2% of their followers will see their posts on a newsfeed.
The reason for this is pretty simple – there’s too much content being published on social media, which makes visibility in someone’s newsfeed increasingly competitive. If a user is following, say, sixteen different clothing brands, they can’t all appear in that user’s newsfeed since there’d be no room for other posts.
organic reach dropped 42% between January and May 2016
Secondly, social media sites are increasingly focused on trying to show users the content that’s most relevant to them, and a business page someone ‘liked’ four years ago might not be deemed relevant by Facebook’s algorithms.
This is where paid social media advertising comes in.
Why does social media cost money?
Since businesses can no longer guarantee that their posts will appear in customers’ news feeds through organic reach, paid social media advertising has become the norm. With the mass of content on the internet, paid spend on social media advertising is the best way to ensure your posts are seen by the right people.
And while organic reach was easy on the purse, paid advertising offers businesses significantly more opportunities when it comes to targeting. Facebook – and by default, Instagram – is one of the most targeted forms of advertising, with businesses able to define their customer base by age, interests, behaviour and location. LinkedIn is similar, allowing businesses to segment by things like location, company, job title and gender.
Once you’ve found the audience you want to target, paid social media allows you even more flexibility: different adverts (with a varied format, like text, image or video) can be targeted to each different demographic, which means your potential customers are far more likely to find your ad relevant to them.
Calculating the Full Cost of Social Media Marketing
So, how should you calculate the full cost of an effective social media marketing campaign for your business? Let’s look at the two possible options:
In-House Social Media Management
In this case, you need to use the following social media cost calculation:
(Social Media Manager Salary / 12) + (Cost of social media tools) + (Monthly social media advertising spend) = Total monthly cost
Estimated Total: £1500 – £4000/month
Outsourced Social Media Management
Here’s the social media cost calculation:
(monthly social media management fee) + (monthly social media advertising management fee) + (monthly social media advertising spend) = Total monthly cost
Estimated Total: £200 – £4000/month
Each option has it’s own pros and cons. Which one is right for you is likely to depend on many different factors. However, for business owners wanting to see value from social media, the key point to emphasise is that social media marketing is never free. Whether it’s human resources, management fees of social media advertising fees, there are always costs if you want to do it well. The major positive of this, however, is that the results can be fantastic!
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you with your social media management, please take a look at our range of social media management services and use our package builder to generate a live, bespoke quote for your business.