The importance of integrating social media into an organisation's communication and marketing mix is no longer possible to ignore. But what are the costs?

The main cost of social media is time so the question really should be ‘how much time should your organisation spend on social media?’ Knowing how much your time is worth is essential in determining a social media budget.

What are some of the daily social media tasks that need time? 
Your organisation’s ‘Top 10 Daily Social Media Tasks’ will depend on your social media aims but there are a number of tasks in common for everyone, such as:

  • Social media content planning and scheduling – thinking ahead of what you want to promote and why
  • Social media monitoring – checking what your clients and competitors are talking about
  • Targeted engagement – creating opportunities for new leads and important contacts
  • Attracting relevant followers – making sure the right people are following you
  • Social media analytics and ROI reporting – keeping track of what’s working and what’s not is crucial to evaluating and updating your social media strategy

Depending on an organisation’s size and its communication goals, these tasks can take anything from an average of a couple of hours per day to an entire full time social media team – and that’s where the costs come in.

Who should be taking care of your organisation’s social media?
The short answer is – everyone. When businesses first started using social media the responsibility was usually dumped on the person already in charge of communications – or on a young intern who seemed ‘tech savvy’ enough. For any organisation serious about its communications, this is no longer an option. Social media can no longer be seen just as an optional ‘add-on’ but is now recognised as a key element of any communications strategy – which involves everyone in an organisation.
Many organisations choose to have a separate social media strategy, but a good strategy has to be aligned the organisation’s overall communication strategy goals. This is an important first step.

Twitter and Facebook are free so why spend money on social media? What are the costs of social media management?
Daily social media management does not have to be expensive, and there are several free or low cost social media management tools such as Hootsuite or SocialBro that can help to ease daily tasks. However, knowing which tools to use and how to use those tools most effectively does require relevant knowledge or social media training. Knowing whether to focus more on Twitter and invest in promoted tweets or deciding to launch a company Facebook page are strategic steps.

Social media platforms and tools are constantly changing. Keeping up with the latest developments can be a full time job in itself. Employing a qualified and experienced full time in-house social media executive is becoming increasingly expensive and is not an option for many small to medium organisations. The alternatives are social media training for employees, or outsourcing.

Both have specific benefits. Social media training is not just about teaching people how to tweet but helping a company to understand what social media can be used for and how they can help their communications colleagues on a daily basis. Independent social media audits can provide an objective evaluation of a company’s social media platforms and provide specific recommendations for improvement. Comprehensive audits start from as little as £750 and will tell you what you are doing right as well as how to improve.

Outsourcing social media monitoring means that you only receive the most relevant updates and don’t miss any important messages which could potentially result in a communications crisis.
Agencies can provide original content ideas to help with social media planning and share their expertise and best practices.

Social media is not going away. Any organisation not taking it seriously or using it just as another platform to post its company press releases, is hugely missing out. Investing a little time on a social media strategy can have a huge impact. Time costs money but the potential benefits far outweigh the costs. By focusing on target stakeholder groups, strategic social media can help to build brand awareness, attract new business or investment, raise awareness about an important cause or campaign or help with reputation management. Whether you have a marketing and communications budget of £100 or £100 000 – these are things worth investing in.

Natalia Marczewska is PLMR’s Digital Executive, responsible for developing and managing social media and digital communication strategies as well as the daily running, expansion and evaluation of online communities, both for PLMR and its clients.

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