Larry BraunerSocial media critics are quick to point out that social media marketing isn’t really free.

Using social media requires a considerable time investment, typically by people whose time is quite valuable. Once time is factored into the cost of using social media — as it ought to be — not only isn’t it free to use, it’s expensive to use.

The High Cost of Using Digital Media

High Cost of Social MediaTo say that I’m enthusiastic about using  social media for branding, building a web presence, and online social networking would be an understatement. Yet, I do not contest the critics’ claims that social media is expensive. It is costly, and so are website development and search engine optimization.

Nevertheless, if executed properly according to a sound digital media plan, website development, search engine optimization and social media will be worth more than their cost in the long run.

The High Cost of Using Traditional Media

Buy traditional media and you’ll pay to reach your audience. You’ll invest time to develop your ad campaign and than pay for the price of the media on top of that. The more select your audience, the larger your audience, and the more frequently you intend to reach them, the more you’ll have to pay.

Your Giant Interactive Billboard

Last May I wrote The Long Tail and Social Media. The simple idea is that your website and social media content have value to you long after you’ve put them online. Search engines and social media channels provide you with constant exposure 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, like a giant billboard on a super highway.  Your billboard, however, is interactive and could be worth a fortune to you.

Primary and Secondary Target Audience

Your primary target audience consists of your potential customers or people who care very much about your cause. Your secondary target audience is everybody else who appreciates your content or uses your website. They can spread your message or click through your ads.

The way traditional advertising is priced, it probably won’t be feasible to reach out to your secondary audience. The return on investment would be too small. However, digital media, which has little or no incremental cost, enables you to cast a wide net and reach both your primary and secondary target audiences.

Digital Media Replacing Traditional Media

So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

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17 Responses to “The Admittedly High Cost of Social Media”

  1. tlmaurer on April 11th, 2010 11:12 pm

    Just goes to show how important it is to ‘plan’ for your social media activity and schedule time to ‘invest’ in your marketing efforts. Social media can become what someone referred to as a ‘huge time suck’ if you don’t keep your eye on the clock. It’s way too easy to get carried away between one site and another and another and another…..

  2. Paul Segreto on April 11th, 2010 11:35 pm

    Great article, Larry. Yes, many never take time into consideration when it comes to social media. Usually in developing a social media strategy for franchise organizations, when I come to the question of resources, and specifically about the time necessary to execute the plan, it’s like I’m working with deer who are blinded by headlights. Then, when we discuss who will back up the primary person managing their social media, for vacations, sick days, etc, again, total blindness. And, it really makes me chuckle when we discuss weekends and evenings! Keep it coming, Larry. Love the articles, the great information and our connection!

  3. Morgan Mandel on April 12th, 2010 12:33 am

    I still buy business cards and bookmarks, etc, and put them out at book signings. I don’t do a lot of book signings, though, since they’re more dependent on weather than connecting online. The weather only plays a factor online if it interferes with my connection.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Pam Perry on April 12th, 2010 12:52 am

    This was the real deal! Being a publicist, now social media PR expert - I love this! Thanks Larry! YOU bring it! This is what I will share to all my clients, you said: So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

  5. John Garcia on April 12th, 2010 1:36 am

    Great post, Larry. The critics point of marketing through social media isn’t really free is a fair one since “time is money” and social media marketing does require time. I also think the technology of the internet and sites like Facebook Fan pages and Twitter allow corporate giants to be more “personable”, i.e. Best Buy’s Twitter @Twelpforce. Great blog Larry. Kudos.

  6. Pamela Egan on April 12th, 2010 2:25 am

    I think the trick to pursuing a social media strategy without overdoing it is to set strict limits on how much time will be spent each day per site, and actually adhere to these self-imposed limits.

    It is all-too-easy to become sidetracked and lose track of time while engaging one’s favorite social media community. This is what must be avoided in order for the promotional strategy to bear fruit.

  7. Dawn Pigoni on April 12th, 2010 8:39 am

    This article really makes a great point, while social media does cost money (via your time or the time you pay for) your potential to reach further than your direct target market is greater.

    Not to mention the fact that more and more people are tuning out the traditional advertising marketing. When was the last time you actually read a flier that came in the mail. How many emails do you actually open. Probably ones from a name you recognize and choose to receive. Making an initial connection via social media can go a long way.


  8. Robert Rogers, Esq. on April 12th, 2010 8:44 am

    The real key is returning value for the use of social media… For example, instead of having an anti-Facebook for employees, give them responsibilities for when they get on Facebook to promote the business. Turn a potential time-waster into marketing for the business.

  9. April Gregory on April 12th, 2010 9:52 am

    Great read! (very straight to the point and I love that) Thanks Larry.

  10. Stocks on Wall Street on April 12th, 2010 3:20 pm

    Agree completely I feel Social Media is a waste of time, do it for pleasure or not as all. The traffic will come from strong quality content instead.

  11. Gail P Smith on April 13th, 2010 2:18 pm

    Great post Larry. Something I deal with frequently.

  12. Larry Brauner on April 13th, 2010 7:41 pm

    @tlmaurer Good point. Even done right it can be very time consuming.

    @Paul Thanks! I too am happy we’ve met.

    @Pam Thank you!

    @John Right. In the end it’s a judgment call.

    @Pamela That’s for sure. Social media can be both fun and addictive.

    @April Thank you.

    @James (Stocks on Wall Street) Think you missed my point. Social media done right in accordance with a digital media plan is more than worth the time.

    @Gail As they say, some people just don’t get it. LOL

  13. Social Media Marketing Is NOT Free on June 30th, 2010 9:46 pm

    […] corporate world recognizes the cost of social media marketing and is overwhelmed with ROI concerns. Small business owners, on the other hand, tend to remain […]

  14. Libby Hardegree on May 4th, 2011 6:43 pm

    We have entered a weird world where no money, yet time, is the coin that operates the advertising engines. I think we are all still learning how to appear to give away the store, yet generate a successful business income. Big and little starting up firms are still needing to learn this newer, elegant approach to marketing to an audience while appearing relaxed, casual, but professional.

  15. Roy on May 4th, 2011 8:20 pm

    As a former management accountant, used to dealing marketing managers, the use of social media is one area where I would have been very concerned about costs getting out of control, and being able to measure ROI accurately. The problem now is most people expect to see Twitter and Facebook everywhere, so some limited investment can be justified for credibility purposes.

  16. Larry Brauner on May 4th, 2011 8:20 pm

    Yet time is worth something. Some value their time more than others.

  17. Travelling Jim on May 15th, 2011 10:50 pm

    I completely agree that traditional media is becoming almost obsolete even. Our own guide is downloaded instead of published.

    About social media though, it can cost less and needs less time if one already knows what to do and where to go.

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