Social Media Is No Longer Free

The cost of social media


For years, one of the greatest draws of social media was a “free” way for brands to promote their products and services. With Facebook leading the way to a pay-to-pay model and the fact that every social platform has advertising options, the days of free social media are long over.

Surprisingly, that may not be a bad thing for many brands. While a large majority of brands are using social media at this point, that doesn’t mean that social media has been fully integrated into the brand strategy. Less than 50% of companies have someone dedicated to content marketing and 5 out 6 customer inquiries are going unanswered.

Perhaps if companies are forced to put a little skin in the game with social advertising, it will give execs a wakeup call and force them to readdress their willy nilly approach to social media.

Social media has never been free

Let’s be frank. Even if you go back five years before all the ads and apps were available, social media has never been free. Sure it’s never cost anything to post a status on Facebook or pin a photo on Pinterest, but how much did it cost to produce that content?

No matter how simple your social media efforts are, it takes time and money to support social media campaigns. Depending how sophisticated your campaigns are, your expenses could include:

    • Community Management
    • Content Development – employee’s time or outside agency
    • Monitoring & Engagement Tools
    • CRM Integration
    • Contests – prizes, apps to manage, legal input on rules
    • Branding & visual design expenses
    • Custom apps
    • Video development

Ads may bring social media out of its silo

So despite that fact that your social media efforts have likely claimed some space in the budget, chances are it’s not fully integrated into your company. I’ve seen a number of companies that struggle to:

    • Maintain a consistent social media presence.
    • Make the regular promotion/marketing schedule sync with the social media calendar.
    • Respond to comments, thus losing the chance to connect with brand advocates or resolve client issues.
    • Bring the community feedback to company decision makers in order to improve products or services.
    • Utilize metrics, thus it’s anyone’s guess what is working and what isn’t.

If you’re wondering how paying for social media ads change anything, let me explain.

Making the decision to invest in social advertising is making a commitment. If your company dedicates a good hunk of money that is a statement that social media is important.

Since it would be silly to throw money at a random post, the decision to invest in social advertising should come with a new level of commitment to your overall social efforts. This means keeping people engaged once you’ve attracted them through ads AND being prepared to manage the response (both on social media and on things like order fulfillment).

In short making social media an integrated, important part of the company.

And despite the emphasis on the new term “return on engagement,” social advertising will also come with the expectation of ROI.

Enter big data

Though you can gain quite a bit of information about your community though your basic social insights, the amount of data out there for social advertisers is truly staggering.


While Twitter’s ad platform has been focused on re-marketing options this year, we’re now seeing Google work on “pre-targeting.” The idea of using data to predict a trend before it happens, and then having your content marketing ready and waiting.


Social media advertising is getting more sophisticated every day, and so too are the insights that can be gleaned from it. Whether you choose to have a complex plan or keep things simple, one thing is for certain: social media has grown own up and it can’t sit in isolation any more.

Nicole Krug is a marketing strategy consultant specializing in digital brand management, social media, web development and email marketing. Since founding Social Light in 2009, she has helped clients hone their digital marketing strategies to bring more exposure to their brands and boost their bottom lines.

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