The True Cost of Social Media for Businesses

I recently came across a great post and set of stats from Chris Abraham on Google+. The article “True Costs of “Free” Social Media Marketing Costs Make Outsourcing a Viable Option: Social Ally Research Shows That Effective Use Of Social — Including Monitoring, Research and Content Creation — Can Cost Up To $300,000 Per Year” lists research and statistics that I find to be pretty accurate, depending on what size business you have. I have worked in the  social media / tech / online media field as a business owner & service provider since 2006 and have worked with $7m – $10m+ companies. Chris’ suggested price ranges are on target. From the article, expect to pay:

  • Around $10,000 : An in-house social media manual and online training course
  • $1,500 to $10,000 a day : Hiring a trainer for on-site workshops
  • $5,000 to $100,000 : Technology costs such as blogs, mini sites, video equipment, custom Facebook tabs and apps, online newsroom and mobile apps

Of course a company with under $1m in revenue or just a handful of employees need to “DIY Social Media”, but it’s stil not *free*. I have found that smaller companies actually need more help getting ‘out there’ in social channels but have much less resources to get it done. Larger companies usually have a better defined sales, marketing, and service funnel that can more easily be adapted to incorporate social media. Smaller companies (myself included) generally fall into the category of “doing everything, all the time, by all possible people”.

The issue for me? “Knowledge is knowledge” and because a company doesn’t have the resources to pay doesn’t mean the knowledge is worth less and can be deeply discounted. When I charge $7,500 to one company for a day of training & materials and then get asked by another to provide the same training & materials for $300 it’s tough. The small company shops elsewhere and ‘get what they paid for’ for their money and it’s usually not great. I want to help, really I do – and on very rare occasions I take on the work at a nominal fee. The small company makes out for a steal, I am left scrambling to make up revenue, and my other clients feel ripped off. There has to be a better way.

The reality of it is that small business owners are left to fend for themselves (the DIY part), but still need guidance and solid resources to educate themselves from. The worst part? The business owners can’t afford the _time_ either of themselves or a key employee to dedicate. The idea of “DIY” learning what they need to know – let alone spend an hour or so a day, every day, in practical use of social media communication – is nearly impossible.

The solution? First, business owners need to realize they need to find time to learn, strategize, and deploy a social media plan. Women business owners (in my experience – this is not always the case) have less free time due to family obligations. The average American watches an average of 34 hours of television a week - that’s the first thing to go! (For the record I do not watch ANY television, I work no less than 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, so there really isn’t any time.) Once you find that extra hour or more a day, business owners need to read, research and retool themselves. Books, conferences, offline/online training, membership sites, and “watch & learn” from other companies online. All this while trying to maintain and grow your core business.

As a small business owner, where do you go to educate yourself to promote your business within social media? What things are time-sucks for you and what is actually successful for you? Do you hire consultants or outsource help? Do you feel you are making progress or slipping behind?

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous /

    Thank you for this post! This is exactly the problem that I have run into. I’ve been trying to help some small businesses with their social media needs but in the end they don’t want to pay for it. One in particular agreed that they needed the services but when I was honest about how much time it was taking me to do what they wanted, they said it wasn’t economical. For a while, I was under billing to help them out and they were getting away with a steal. This has been the main reason why I haven’t been able to make it work.

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