Is Social Media Really Free?

One of the biggest misnomers in social media, and attempting to market to communities in social media, is that it’s entirely free. This notion comes from the “free” price tag that goes along with signing up for accounts on sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t cost you one cent from your bank account to open a basic account on these sites.

There are costs involved when you are considering entering into the social media space; the kind of costs that you don’t immediately pull out of your wallet to pay for. Since these costs are not immediate, the illusion that marketing efforts in social media cost less becomes even greater for companies looking for cheaper solutions to reaching their audiences.

Your Employees’ Time is Valuable

What a lot of companies neglect to figure into the larger picture is how much it costs them in time and resources of employees, tools and equipment. While it may be free to sign up for the account, the real cost comes with your employees maintaining those accounts and keeping them active in the social communities. Just creating the profiles and leaving them there doesn’t mean you are automatically going to gain a foothold in a social media community.

It takes time and serious effort to engage and truly interact with a community, and in order to do that you first have to figure out which communities you need to be active in. That takes a lot of resources to start with, doing the due diligence of intense research. From there you formulate your strategy, again another tax on your employees’ time. Then its figuring out just how much of their time needs to be spent engaging and interacting with the community.

While Tools Can Be Free, They Could End Up Costing You In The End

From a tools perspective you need to both monitor and measure. While some tools might be free, such as Google Analytics and Google Alerts, there still is a cost of your employees’ time. Also, the free tools do have a limit of scope and you might find out later that its costing you much more by not having invested in the more expensive tools.

Monitoring tools like Radian6, Meltwater and TrackUR can give you better insight into monitoring your brand and related terms, but at a cost. Measuring tools like ClearSaleing and CoreMetrics can help you gauge how your efforts are affecting your bottom line in finer detail than most free tools.

So when you are hearing all the hype about Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and how these wonderful “Free” tools are helping companies reach new people every day, stop and take a step back away from the hype. Ask yourself, “How many man hours did it take that team to attain that success with the social media site?” and “How much time went into research and planning?”. Ask yourself, “How are they measuring success?”. Then ask yourself the final question, “Is it really free?”.

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