Hidden Social Media Costs

Are You Measuring These Social Media Expenses? 

HideMany business executives would like to think that social media is free and/or believe that it just doesn’t work because calculating social media expenses can be tricky and a lot of effort. Also, if social media is free, then they don’t have the burden of calculating and attributing the costs appropriately. By not paying attention to these costs, they get hidden in other expenses.

Here are six major categories where social media expenses occur.

1. People

This includes staff and external resources involved in your social media engagement as well as other staff needed to ensure that your social media strategy is integrated across your organization.

  • Social media managers. This is the staff dedicated to engaging on social media platforms. Since social media is part of your brand, it’s a function that’s of strategic value and should be handled by an internal resource.
  • Marketing. They are necessary to ensure that your social media messaging and related interactions are integrated into the rest of your marketing.
  • Front line staff. Most commonly, this includes sales and customer service. The challenge is ensuring that they’re capable of engaging on social media and related follow up.
  • Senior executives. They are responsible for setting priorities and ensuring that social media efforts are coordinated across the enterprise. Additionally, they’re your organization’s spokespeople. As such, the public and your customers expect them to be active on social media.
  • Human resources. This is the staff that ensures that social media activity is incorporated into people’s job specifications.
  • Legal. These resources are involved in ensuring that your assets and intellectual property are protected as well as drafting social media guidelines. 

2. Content

You need to continually provide information across social media platforms. You can’t just repost information you’ve used elsewhere like a television ad. It must be tailored to each venue.

  • Create content. This is the information in terms of interactions, articles, images, videos, podcasts, presentations and more. External resources can develop these assets.
  • Adapt content for different social media platforms. One size doesn’t fit all on social media. You must adapt your content and interactions to make sense in the context of the specific social media venue. This requires tailoring your content and interactions, a cost that’s often overlooked.
  • Promote your social media presence. This involves a combination of cross marketing your social media presence as well as using social media advertising to get prospects to your social media profiles.

3. Branding

Your brand must be identifiable and consistent across social media platforms. To this end, you need a 360° social media brand.

  • Adapt branding elements to specific social media platforms. For many businesses, some of these attributes may not have existed before. Think visual cues and/or context presentation, the sounds your brand makes and the language (and dialect) your brand speaks. These may require new brand guidelines.
  • Create special brand assets for social media. Think in terms of new photographs and profiles. 

4. Search

Each piece of social media related content must be optimized to ensure that it’s findable. All of your social media communications has an impact on your search engine results (aka SERPs).

  • Requires specialized search resources to optimize each piece of social media interaction. This can be an internal or external resource since many businesses don’t specialize in the latest search nuances.
  • Use a variety of content formats. In particular, place video content on YouTube since it’s the second largest social media platform and the second largest search engine.

5. Technology

  • Support installing and using many social media platforms. Understand that business profiles aren’t necessarily the same as personal ones.
  • Assist content creators to ensure functionality. You can have the best content but it must work on each platform.  Also, needed to ensure quick load time.
  • Provide system security above other corporate needs. This applies to account and password management for third party platforms and services.

6. Analytics

Social media often entails creating a separate database to collect and assess data. For many businesses, these expenses are often rolled into departmental costs and extensions of your existing online analytics tracking.

  • Social media monitoring. Encompasses listening for brand mentions and competitive input for your brands, products and employees. Depending on your brand and corporate staff, this can be outsourced to a variety of different social media offerings but requires building the expertise to understand what’s being said about your organization. Even if your business isn’t active on social media, this is a must-have. Otherwise your firm can be hurt by an unforeseen social media attack.
  • Social media metrics. This includes tracking results of your social media engagement and their contribution to your bottom line results. For most businesses, the challenge is determining how social media contributed to your sales. An easy way to track results is to include a call-to-action and where possible to link to your product page. This works well with blog posts, social media mentions, and images. The challenge is when your potential customer isn’t quite ready to buy.


Determining the true cost of social media as separated from other aspects of your business is tricky since existing resources often handle many of these functions. Even if it’s done poorly, social media take time and time means money. Without assessing the true cost of social media, it’s difficult to determine it’s true impact on your bottom line.

What other costs would you add to this list of social media expenses and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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