No, Social Media is not free

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No, Social Media is not free

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Signing up for Social Media may be free. But for a business, there are costs, sometimes big.

Here is a summary of a recent conversation with a local business owner:

Me: What was the last thing you posted on social media?
Him: I just came up with something random because we hadn’t posted for ages.
Me: Do you get much return from social media?
Him: Not really, as far as I know.
Me: Why do you bother?
Him: Well, it’s free!

There’s the problem, right there! He assumed it was free because they didn’t pay for the account and they can freely post whatever and whenever they like. It wasn’t part of their go-to-market process.

The freebie trap

Astute business folk know that nothing comes for free, so why do so many of these astute folk fall into this freebie trap? The fact is that they have become the product of the social media platforms which is the quid pro quo of free social media accounts.

Further, a poor use of a social media platforms by a business promotes the social media platforms – not the business. Whereas businesses who make good use of social media see a return, and it can be big.

It’s time for a change – of mindset

The first thing to realise is that social media for business needs time, effort, resources and (importantly) a plan – just like every other marketing channel.

The next thing to realise is that you ought to be spending money on that channel. After all, you wouldn’t expect to get TV advertising for free, so why so from other channels? And if you are going to spend money – you need to plan on how you are going to spend the money. I repeat: a plan.


Before you invest in a new fork-lift truck for your business, you consider what it will have to do and how. It might be helpful if you think about social media in the same way by defining exactly what “functionality” you want from your investment. There are many, many ways to use business social media. You could use it to build trust, credibility and leadership. Or to support and expand the reach of other marketing initiatives or events. Or to add value somewhere else. Or all of those and more.

Interestingly, if you are using it to build leadership but you never post anything of value – this might be having the exact opposite effect.

Think through how social media is to be used for your business and make it integral to the planning of that activity. And remember to set metrics so you can measure its effectiveness (such as how many sales enquiries do you want from a promotion?).

This has a secondary benefits: If someone comes up with a crazy idea – you can bounce the idea against your strategy and metrics. In other words, its a good way to assess crazy ideas – adopting those that will add value and vice versa for those that won’t.

Where is the cost?

You may find that the costs arise from:

  • Employing a social media executive, or a part-timer, to manage the social media channel
  • An agency who can add expertise you don’t have in the business
  • Producing content, such as imagery, blog, white papers and other value-add material
  • Buying into software tools to help automate your activity. But remember this is not a get-out – tools also needs time and attention
  • Advertising on Google or Facebook, as part of the plan. In fact, you will probably need to spend some budget on platform advertising to gain reach


If you want to extract business value from social media, it will cost in money, time, content or tools (or all of them), so budget for that. Set out the required “functionality” for the channel and incorporate that channel in your go-to-market planning.

Lastly, even consider ditching some of the channels that you cannot afford (or have time) to run properly.

If you have found these thoughts interesting and think we could add value to your social media planning or other aspects of your marketing, contact us here.