There is an ongoing myth that social media is free. This comes up reasonably often and when we explain the costs associated with developing a social media campaign, quite often the person is shocked.
Danny Brown outlined an extreme budget for social media on his blog post – and even if it is a little dramatic, it is worth a read.
Setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page is free. You can also get a blog set up at no cost. What does cost is the strategy, an audit, ongoing engagement, content creation and measurement. It’s much less than some traditional media buys, which has been one of the benefits of PR over the years—more credibility and less cost than ads. However, I think that we need to view social media as a component of communications and there are few people still out there who think that PR is “free.” There are similar comparisons, an organization doesn’t pay a reporter for editorial coverage, but to develop a media relations strategy, create a pitch, get it out there and connect with a journalist and follow through—that takes expertise, time and effort, which costs money.
Brown’s budget is extreme, we’ve assisted clients in developing and executing social media campaigns for a lot less than his lowest estimate, but he is right. Social media needs to have budget and resources allocated to it. I blogged previously about making sure, as a client, you are ready to participate and partner with your agency. Social media is no different. Your agency might do most of the heavy lifting, but you need to be involved. When our clients actively participate, the campaign is always better and the results show the value of that approach.