By Susan Carol

social-mediaIn a recent PR Society Meeting in Fredericksburg I was asked to address the MYTH that social media marketing is free.

It’s only free if you have plenty of time to volunteer to your company, and you are a writer, designer, photographer, videographer, web developer and you have at least several hours per day that you can devote to developing and managing social media content because it needs daily attention and considerable pre-planning to have a strategy that is worth implementing.

It can actually be counter-productive or even damaging to your reputation to turn your social media management over to an intern who knows little about your business, or an amateur who has had no training in social media marketing and starts just posting without consideration to your brand, your reputation, your mission, and your marketing goals.

National content management firms are charging in the range of $4,000-$7,000 per month to manage digital PR and social media for small businesses and in the next 5 years social media marketing costs are expected to represent more than 20 percent of marketing budgets according to a Duke School Business survey done a couple of years ago. Locally, you may be able to get some assistance in the $400 to $1,500 range if you are a small business or non-profit.

Best practices in social media marketing include the following costs:
• Social media advertising
• Posting strategy development
• Content creation for daily posting to multiple platforms will take time and should be developed to be relevant and have some calls to action to be effective
• Video and photography that’s engaging and high quality
• Tools to measure results will be needed
• Basic listening programs for example, will cost at a min. $300 per month
• Training for others in the organization to participate in social media sharing

Either you are going to have to buy into an automation platform and these can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand per month or manually create landing pages and embed campaign tracking codes for Google analytics if you want to integrate your social media contests and campaigns to capture information and know who is coming from where and what is converting to leads.

With a low level of investment you may be able to create a low level of awareness, but if you want more than that, be prepared to establish a reasonable budget and do some professional planning. Let us help you!