The Real Cost of Social Media

When Loft Media Group came to fruition, we were struggling to decide what our price point was. With social media still seen as a relatively new medium in the marketing field, it's hard to convince people that they need it, let alone that they should pay someone to create and maintain it. With that, we got to thinking: What is the cost of social media, anyway? What would we, as a business, be willing to pay for our own services?

Before we were able to answer that question, we had to do a little soul searching. First, what does social media consist of and why do businesses need it?

Why Do I Need Social Media?

This is a broad question which should (and will) have its own dedicated blog post. In a nutshell, social media is a connector between clients and companies. Different social channels serve as different connection points, catering to a specific want or need for each person involved. Here's a breakdown:

FACEBOOK

  1. The perfect platform for visual content like videos, Boomerangs, and GIF's
  2. A heavy focus on local and national news
  3. Algorithms place emphasis on active interests and hobbies

TWITTER

  1. Shares bite-size information (under 140 characters) with others and can include pictures, videos, GIF's, links, and polls
  2. Community-based channel connecting people with similar interests and hobbies via hashtags (#) and trending topics
  3. Best for brands that want to share written content 

INSTAGRAM

  1. Intensely visual platform (what we refer to as a Pretty Party) that showcases people's interests, everyday lives, etc.
  2. Not necessarily a traffic-driver, but a way to stay relevant and scene in noisy industries
  3. Hashtags, mentions, emojis, and trending topics lead to higher engagement and increased followers

While these aren't the only social platforms available to your business, they are what we refer to as the Core-- the necessities of nearly 90% of businesses. In some instances, brands wouldn't need an Instagram because they are an accounting firm and accounting firms don't need a Pretty Party. Other times companies won't need to use Twitter because their industry doesn't force them to maintain relevance, like exterminators or plumbing services. But for you, as a member of the design industry, you will need all three to stand out. 

Breaking Down the Dollars

Now, to the main act: Why does social media cost money? And if it costs money, why can't I just do it myself?

Short answers:

Social media costs money because it takes time to study, analyze, schedule, and report. All of these actions can be tied to a dollar amount. You wouldn't draft a floor plan or order product for a client for free, would you?

You can certainly take care of your social media yourself, many designers and members of our industry do. However, social media requires a serious time commitment. You will need to create posts, create assets for those posts, schedule a time to post, physically post them, and respond to the comments, likes, and mentions that flood in. Now, how much time does that leave you to design product, specify color palettes, and interview new design clients?

Cost of Time

You know the old saying: Time is money, and money is time. As a designer, you understand that to a tee. Social media is a time-zapper, and it's easy to get lost in an Instagram blackhole, a Pinterest spiral, a Twitter spree. More often than not, these tangents aren't productive, so can you only imagine how long a productive social media tangent could be? Yowza. 

As a social media management team, we know that creating content takes time, posting content takes time, managing content takes time, and following up takes time. Which is why we attach a dollar amount to the time, to compensate for the hours it takes to finetune a media asset and respond to avid commenters. 

Cost of Creation

Coming from a background in design, we totally get the time that it takes to learn, master, and use a software or program. Between photoshopping, drawing, sketching, accounting, and emailing, you're wiped out and don't need another piece of software to learn. That's why our team has learned, mastered, and used the best platforms for social media and project management.

We've done the demos, tried the trials, and have dedicated time (and dollars) toward an efficient and secure project management software. Additionally, we use templates and tools that we have created in-house to better create content for you, from carefully crafted Instagram captions to keyword-rich blogs. Our setup fees are determined by the cost of our project management software + the time it takes to create the actual content. Pretty simple, right?

cost of analysis

Similar to you, once we've completed a project we wait and we watch and we determine if it's been helpful and efficient for our clients. You wouldn't stop talking to your client after the furniture is ordered or the drapes are hung, right? Neither do we. After we've created your posts, scheduled your content, and watched the magic happen, we come back and determine the outcome. Did it accomplish what we wanted it to? How was the reach? How can we tie this success back to dollars toward your sales? We use software and hard research for this, and sometimes it takes a pen and paper and calculator to get down to business.

At the end of the day you are paying for the proof that the targeted social campaigns, refreshed branding, and long form content earned you sales, brought in customers, and spread brand awareness.

competing for face time

Outside of creating social media posts and, well, posting them, you have to do something else, too. You have to convince everyone that your brand is one to watch. And not only watch, but engage with, follow, and ultimately purchase from. Long gone are the days of liking something for the sake of liking it. Now every like, follow, and share is monitored and analyzed. Your competition is watching what you're doing with your social feeds, your prospective customers are waiting to be impressed (or they haven't heard of you yet), and your current clients are looking for a reason to stick around.

Luckily, there are work-arounds. Facebook has algorithms, blogs have back-links, and the internet has search rankings. Competing for someone's attention is much harder than it used to be before social media, but that's not to say it's impossible. Though social media has made it more difficult to stand out, it has not rendered being interesting, useful, and timely obsolete. Our team is trained in efficiency, finding ways to make your marketing dollars work harder AND smarter, finding clients that didn't know they needed you, and showing your competition that you're a cut above the rest.

the cost of foregoing social media

We’re in the digital age, and not the beginning of it, either. We’re entering the years where it’s hard to believe that someone doesn’t have a Facebook or hasn’t researched a vendor or designer on Instagram before giving them a call. At one point, social media was a bonus, a nice-to-have not a have-to-have. Today? It’s a serious and dedicated form of marketing that has to work hand in hand with your current campaigns, ads, and branding. It reinforces your brand’s presence, shows your clients that you’re up-to-the-minute and ready to talk, and that you’re willing to reach them where they’re at: Their favorite social platform.

So while social media could cost you somewhere between $800-$3,000 per month depending on your needs, it could cost you way more to ignore it. Social media has a special rate of return when it comes to sales, new clients, brand recognition, and placement.

Many times clients (ahem, millennials) will research your brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram before they head to your website or storefront. They will vet you via comments, captions, likes, and follows. They will decide on the value you provide by the quality of your photography, catchiness of your slogans, and quickness to respond to comments and messages, both positive and negative. So before you know it, you’ve lost a handful of prospective clients because your Instagram pictures are blurry, your Facebook posting is inconsistent, and your Twitter links are broken—all of which can be avoided had you invested in outsourcing your social media presence.

There are pros and cons to every business decision, and social media is no different. Some designers and professionals are much better off handling their social presence on their own because of their strong personality, affinity for socializing, or OCD-like tendencies of commenting and posting. But for many more, it’s another business task. Like bookkeeping, scheduling appointments, cleaning the office, and paying the bills, social media management might be out of your realm of daily to-do’s, and that’s okay. Hiring help is not defeat, it’s delegation.

Thinking of outsourcing your social media? We might know a guy.