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Is social media marketing worth what it’s costing you?

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Sue Painter |
Social media marketing
Media   Social media marketing is probably a much bigger expense to you than you realize

In the past week or so I’ve had about a dozen people in the online world want to talk about the increasing amounts of time they’re putting into social media marketing.


I feel it myself – managing my social marketing has come to take a larger portion of my business’s budget along with more of my time and team members’ time.

I’m not so sure it’s worth it. It’s very easy to discount your time and the money you spend for social media graphics and posting tools. But it’s important to keep your eyes on these costs and have a sense of whether marketing on social is worth it for your business.

So here’s how it’s gone for me – I used to use a few free or inexpensive tools to manage posting content on social media. And in terms of social platforms, I’ve used Facebook primarily.

But I’ve cycled through Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more. I flirted with some of the trendy things back in time – Periscope (which everyone thought would be the hot new thing), and Blab (remember that one?) Then of course, there’s things like Snapchat (not for me), and Instagram, where I am putting a good deal of effort lately.

Here’s what I’m seeing as major changes in social media marketing that affect your business and your bottom line.

Social posting tools have come and gone, and many of them have seen their capabilities chopped in half by the social platforms.

Generally, your social media accounts don’t like you using posting tools to plan and post ahead of time.

They are vested in you being “real time” all the time. Just let me say, if you’ve got enough time to spend in real time, every day, on various social media channels, you don’t have a going business.

Facebook has enabled scheduled posting for your page and your groups right on their own platform, so it’s dumb to use an outside tool and get less reach than you will get with using their own prescheduling features.

You can’t pre-schedule a single thing on your own personal profile on FB anymore, even within Facebook itself.

While some people really like that, others of us who would like to keep a presence on our personal profiles once a day or so while we are out of pocket find their new policy restrictive and annoying.

New tools come and go, and they are getting pricier. What used to be free or maybe $10 a month now is about $30 a month.

And many tools are more expensive than that. But while some of them have cool features, they all focus in a certain way.

If you made of list of what you really need for support from these tools, you’d find yourself buying access to multiple tools – and some of them are upwards of $100 a month or more.

For me, I can’t possibly product all the graphics that match my content by myself, I’m not a graphic designer and there’s not enough hours in the day.

So this year I’ve added a part time graphics person who uses Canva to produce graphics to the content and quotes that I give her – so I’m still doing the content part, she’s just making it pretty. Still, that’s a part time team member and my own time in training her and creating keyword rich content, too.

When I decided to really beef up Instagram this year, it was clear I had to have help. In order to gain followers who are truly interested in what you have to say, you have to constantly like their content and chat with them.

To build on IG that often means 700 or 800 “likes” a day. So now I have a second new part time team member who helps me with getting that done – but only after I provide the hashtags and people to follow – so I’m still putting in a ton of time and making sure that things are in my voice.

I’m creating all the content for Instagram, even though I have some help in scheduling posts and in creating graphics to my content.

And, whenever I get a spare moment I of course am commenting and liking on ALL the social media platforms I use. If I’m honest with myself, I’m easily spending double the time I used to spend on social platforms. And there’s an opportunity cost to doing that, for sure!

So this year the time and the money I’m throwing at social media marketing has gone from maybe $50 a month to over $300 a month, plus a huge investment of my time.

Will it pay off? That’s an open question. Given that the “rules” on various social platforms change almost daily, what I think is a good strategy might not pan out at all. Sometimes, I really think I’m wasting time and money.

So here’s what I recommend for you:

- Keep track of what you are spending in time and money and team time (which is money).

For everything you do, there’s an opportunity cost for what you are NOT doing. You can’t do it all, so it has to count. That means watching your operating costs and not letting the time suck and the money spent get out of hand.

- Track where your customers (sales) come from. Track it like a hound dog. ALWAYS pay attention.

If you are getting more referrals from word of mouth and from speaking than anything else, feel free to chop out some of your social marketing time and costs. But to make this decision, you need to know where your customers come from. Always, always pay attention to this. Keep a list!

- Pick no more than 2 social platforms to work with and put blinders on the others for a while, until you see that these two are actually paying off.

- Don’t spend time on social media chatting up the folks who do what you do – use it to find new centers of influence and collaborations for yourself that can be win-wins for you and the person you are reaching out to. In other words, be strategic.

- Repurpose your content diligently. Because reach on social platforms is decreasing (unless you are Joanna Gaines) it’s really doubtful that people will see what you are posting and think, “Oh, she just posted that yesterday over on Facebook, and here I’m seeing it again on Instagram.”

Like, who cares? If it’s good content, people will like seeing it, and

epetition can help you with top of mind awareness. Make sure that your content on social drives traffic to your website and at least now and then has a call to action.

I am absolutely the queen of repurposing. I have trained my 2 team members who help me with this how to slice, dice, and bake solid content at least 8 different ways.

If you want to know more about that, stay tuned, and give me a heads up – I’ll do some training on it for you.

Bottom line – social media marketing is probably a much bigger expense to you than you realize.

Make sure you aren’t glossing over what it’s costing you, and as best you can (it’s impossible to measure cleanly) see if you are getting a return on your investment. Keep your business hat on and don’t let what you are spending on social media marketing get out of hand.

BIOGRAPHY Sue Painter is a consultant to small business owners throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Known for her quick insight, strong skills as a marketing strategist, and wisdom, Ms. Painter most loves to work with small business owners who are looking for new strategies to increase their visibility and sales.

Painter's books, articles, and blog posts have been published world-wide.


Contact the Op-Ed editor Ted Blackwater at tedblackwater@poandpo.com


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