Business marketers already know the value of social media in connecting with desired audiences. However, there is a lack of information to guide marketers on how to measure the true costs of a social media program—or as I like to refer to it, the "I" in social media "ROI." For business owners, understanding the commitment necessary in terms of time and resources is the first step toward appropriately budgeting for a successful social media program.
Here are the three main cost components to a social media campaign, as well as how to determine the investment necessary for each:
1. Content/first impression costs. If you’re not delivering an engaging, two-way experience for your intended audience, you will lose the opportunity to engage them again. Before launching a Facebook page, you need to assess the time necessary for a healthy level of engagement. This means a minimum of one to two hours per day spent on developing and posting to your Facebook page, which translates to about 20 percent of a staffer’s time—probably in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $14,000 annually. That’s just for placing content.
2. Fan acquisition costs. Successful Facebook pages have typically made an investment in fan acquisition. But how many fans do you need? There are no hard-and-fast rules about how many fans spell success. Having in-house marketing staff devoted to attracting fans requires direct and indirect costs. Outsourcing the work may be more cost-effective. Just remember that fan numbers alone do not guarantee a return.
3. Monitoring-and-measuring costs. Collecting metrics and performing analysis add to the total cost of a social media campaign. Third-party companies charge $500 to $1,000 a month for metrics. Facebook provides metrics, too; the key is knowing what to follow. The most valuable interactions to monitor are those that require an individual to click or type—choosing "like," writing comments, and following links associated with your post. If you employ a third party, make sure you get easily understandable reports, training, and trend information as part of the package.
Every social media program is different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for allocating time, money, and resources. However, it’s important that you set measurable goals as to what success looks like. Numbers, feedback, and results matter, so make sure you are consistently tracking not only the time you are spending, but what ROI derives from your efforts.
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