Many business have included already elements of social network marketing such as a Facebook Fan page or a Twitter account on their general marketing strategy. Since many social media platforms can be used for free this has created the myth that social media marketing has no costs and doesn't need a major budget. Maybe a few dollars a month for a subscription to SocialOomph? Nothing is more far away from the truth. Implementing a Social Media plan may not have a direct cost like an ad campaign on the newspaper, but will affect the company bottom line anyway.

Not all business costs are about money

Social Media platforms are generally free, and there's a myriad of free or almost free tools to manage multiple social accounts at once. However, managing a social media marketing campaign takes time and dedication and this can affect a small business dramatically due to the lack of resources. Most small business don't have the luxury of hiring somebody just to manage the social accounts, so the role ends up in the lap of the marketing department, or even Helpdesk. Or even worse, the Twitter account will remain silent, the blog will have a new post every three weeks and the Facebook page will be forgotten because nobody has time to manage it.

Before opening a new business consider if you can afford the time to market it, and if you have the skills required to use social media effectively.

Social media is meaningless if it's not authentic

Social media marketing is all about engaging with your audience in a virtual face to face conversation. It's all about creating new content and talking about it with your potential customers, or sharing useful links with your audience just because they are part of your company social network. This means somebody has to sit there and man the ship, answer those Twitter mentions and comment on your blog guests' questions. But it cannot be scripted. If you are after quick money making ideas, using Social Media can actually distract you from your work instead of helping you sell more. 

It is no longer possible to just send back a form email, the interaction needs to be real and in answer to the other party. Otherwise, people will feel ignored or decide that they cannot be bothered to talk with a robot, and your social media plan will fail. Creating a social media marketing plan just because everybody else is doing it doesn't work.

Social Media Marketing Needs Resources

While it's difficult to quantify its the exact ROI,  the benefits of using social media for marketing are clear. It will help your company brand, and reinforce your other marketing initiatives. It will also help you deflect potential PR issues before they become a full grown problem, and increase the chances that conversations on the web about you are positive. But to accomplish all of this, your social media marketing strategy needs to be genuine. You cannot just ask anybody to throw a few Tweets every so often. You need to invest in either a social media marketing consultancy or a member of staff who "gets it" and truly enjoys talking with your clients.

By giving somebody responsibility of your social media efforts you are in effect giving social media a monetary cost, since that person won't be available to fulfil other roles. But even if it's just your time that is spent interacting with your potential clients make sure you are aware of the cost of social media, and take it as the serious investment it is.