Get on the social media bus…but get real, Part 2

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In this second part of my quick look at social media, I pose the question, “What does an effective social media program look like in dollars and cents?” (In the first part of the post, I took a look at how b-to-b marketers can use social media effectively.) Your costs depend upon what level you invest to accomplish these various purposes. Like anything else, it depends on the size of your business, what you specifically want to accomplish and the particular strategy you devise for achieving those goals.

That said, it isn't cheap. According to Focus, which created an infograph on The Real Cost of Social Media, the estimated cost of a full-blown social media campaign for one year is $210,600. Are you surprised? Actually, considering staff costs, outsourcing fees, and advertising and monitoring tools, the estimate seems conservative to me.  
Depending on the strategy, I can easily see a need for the following investments:

  1. A chief content officer
  2. A social media editorial manager
  3. A social media community manager.
  4. A dedicated, specialized agency to help with AR/PR/social community monitoring.
  5. A social media analytics/ops. resource to leverage the tools to monitor and coordinate social interactions.
  6. A social media partner community manager.
  7. An SEO agency to optimize social media content.
  8. Budget for unique content creation (videos, ad units, blogs, webinars).
  9. Marketing funds to co-sponsor blogs and partner activities.
  10. Development costs (YouTube pages, blogs, microsites, Facebook pages).
  11. Advertisement/promotion fees (e.g., YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook).

These are only the foundational expenses—resources, such as subject matter experts throughout your organization need to be engaged and consulted. It may sound like overkill, but think of it this way: how unreasonable is this investment really, when your brand—and the trust that you've built with customers, analysts and partners—can be under viral assault at any moment? Think of the opportunities social media creates to turn these potentially damaging situations around. Always remember, your customers and the marketplace are talking about you whether you're listening or not. Make a choice, and stick with it

Before worthwhile interactions can happen, you need to decide which social channels match your business objectives. Where are the important bus stops? Where do your current and future customers hang out and talk online? To optimize your resources, you might consider prioritizing the channels where you want the strongest presence and assign owners to those channels.

Create and share content that people value 

Your social team members should focus on creating ongoing dialogues to generate awareness and interest throughout the social media funnel. Buyers tend to trust and respond well to content from their peers more than from other sources, so it's important that you share content that's not overly self-serving. Sharing peer content in every stage of the funnel can help increase trust in your company. Don't focus on pushing your own product/service. Instead, highlight what's happening in your industry and with your customers (think thought leadership). Peddling your own product or service comes toward the end of the funnel—conversations need to happen first. By structuring your social media interactions this way, you may also be generating inquiries that can then be nurtured and/or scored to determine if they should be passed along to the sales team.

The bottom line 

I've just scratched the surface on social media best practices in this post, but I hope you can see how half-hearted, poorly funded attempts just won't cut it. If you want to ride the social media bus, you're going to have to pay for your transport. A bus pass costs more than pocket change, but if you don't invest in your journey, you'll likely get kicked off and be left behind.

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