Hidden Costs of Social Media, Part 2

The Hidden Costs of Social Media and Content MarketingWelcome to part two of our “Hidden Costs of Social Media” series. Take a moment to read Part 1 before diving into the information below.

Cost of Managing

As I mentioned in the first installment, setting up / claiming social media profiles and posting information to them is “Free”. But to do it right, there are real, concrete costs for everyday activities that you need to account for up front. Otherwise, you WILL be shocked to find the impact it has to your bottom line.

Manhours

The first, and most obvious, cost from executing on social media is via your or your employees precious time. Let’s say it takes 15 hours per week to execute on a social media program. For a mid-level marketing rep who makes only $20 / hour, you would be sinking $300 per week into the program. On an annualized basis, that translates into an additional $15,600 you would need to account for to support the program.

Long-term commitment

In today’s “I want it now” environment, patience and commitment are qualities that cannot be ignored. Too many times, we hear of companies that dive head first into social media and blogging, only to become disillusioned after a few weeks with little or no progress. This stuff takes time, so if you don’t have the budget or wherewithal to commit for the long term, spend your time and money elsewhere.

Outside Support

Before long, your social media activities will grow beyond the capacity you have on your team. The options then are to cease growing the program, add new staff, or bring in an outside vendor to help execute. Vendors can range in cost from $50 – $150 / hour, so this is not a small undertaking. The benefit of an outside vendor is that you get to pull in specialized expertise, rather than hoping your own staff can do it “well enough”.

Executive Reviews

Unless you are part of a very small startup that lets marketing run itself, the top executives in the company will need to review your social media goals and metrics to gauge progress. This adds overhead pre-launch and along the way, because it takes time to formulate, structure, present, adjust according to feedback, and earn final approval.

Opportunity Cost

For every hour you spend driving one activity, that is an hour you do not spend elsewhere. Social media needs to be one of many priorities you balance when building out your marketing plan for the year. Be sure you understand how you justify social media among your marketing mix first. That way, you know the tradeoffs you are making up front, and will prioritize social programs accordingly.

Cost of Analyzing Success Metrics

Management time and effort is not the only place where there are hidden costs. Analysis itself can come with complications and expenditures.

Social Media Management Platforms

When you get serious about social media, you will immediately realize the value of having advanced metrics and management functionality. There is a growing list of social media management platforms on the market, and each option has its own pros and cons. When you are ready to invest in something that helps your team improve performance and efficiency, take a look at one of the market leaders such as SpredFast, Shoutlet, or Radian6, among others.

Tying into Web Analytics

No matter whether you use Google Analytics or pay for a more premium package such as the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite (a.k.a. Omniture) or CoreMetrics, you will need to tie your analytics into your social media management platform and/or CRM system. This is the only way to know which visits originated where, and which visits turned into paying customers. Integrating all of these systems will require your team’s time and effort, or vendor support. Both of those come with associated costs.

Getting Attribution Right

Social media massively inflates the list of sources from which your traffic and leads originate. To get a true view of what efforts are driving the most ROI, it requires more sophisticated Attribution Models that can assign a portion of ROI value to each touchpoint, whether that be social media, SEO, email marketing, or SEM. This is no small task, but to really understand how social fits into your overall business, it’s a must-have.

The Cost of Screwing Up

There are costs for not engaging in social media as well as for managing it when you decide to jump in. But it also comes with some risk – the potential negative impact of online gaffs.

Lost Customers

The most obvious cost of screwing up online is that customers may choose to take their business elsewhere. I’ve heard horror stories about social media managers accidentally complaining about a work task or customer, and accidentally posting it to company profiles for all to see. Very few customers will stick around if they get the impression that you do not value their business.

Remediation for Social Media Gaffs

Lost customers are not the end of the world, but scarring your own reputation can have serious long-term implications. When you screw up, it is crucial to accept responsibility and do everything in your power to make it right. This can come with hefty costs or hours of effort to straighten out. Examples abound of companies that suffered through this issue. Let me know if you want examples and I’ll dig some up to share.

Summary

Social media is not free. There are costs associated with not doing it, managing it, analyzing performance, and cleaning up if things get messy. Go into it with your eyes open and a realistic view of what it takes, and you will quickly find that the costs are more than justified by the opportunities you will enjoy once you get in the game.