How to Calculate Social Media Costs

10 Social Media Marketing Costs

Do you know what your firm’s social media marketing efforts really cost? Before you assume that social media can save you money, it’s critical to determine what you’re really paying for your social media marketing especially as budget season approaches and social media efforts expand.

While social media marketing expense sounds like an easy task to hand off to your financial team, it’s not, because many of your social media needs and related costs aren’t obvious or may have been integrated into other budget items last year. As research shows when companies gain experience and expand their social media efforts, the expenses associated with social media marketing increase.

7 Social media marketing activities

From a marketing perspective, here’s a timeline of social media activities. There are social media marketing expenses at each step of the process.

  1. Brand monitoring. Regardless of whether your firm is active on social media platforms or not, it’s critical to have brand monitoring in place to ensure that your team is on top of any changes or potential issues in your market that may affect your firm or one of your competitors. Brand monitoring also requires a crisis management plan in place to ensure that your company can react quickly to adverse events.
  2. Social media content. Most social media marketing runs on a continual stream of great content, in a variety of formats such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and YouTube, to attract participants and drive engagement.
  3. Social media promotion. Your social media marketing implementation must be promoted or you’ll find that you’re talking to yourself. This can involve third party media and creative.
  4. Social media participation. For businesses, this means having staff who are able to connect with your target audience and the public. An intern who gets Facebook isn’t capable of understanding your firm and your prospects needs.
  5. Social media conversion. After you’ve engaged with prospects via social media, you still need to convert these people to customers. This requires additional marketing.
  6. Post purchase support. After the product sale, customers may need help using your product. Here’s where experienced employees and customer service perople are required to help customers put your products together and use them correctly.
  7. Social media analytics. These tools are needed to assess your firm’s progress towards its goals.

10 Types of social media marketing expense

Once you determine where you’re incurring social media marketing related costs, you need to categorize and assess how much you’re spending.

  1. Brand monitoring. Expenses include software and tracking fees in addition to headcount to analyze and react to the results.
  2. People. Include fully loaded salary and related overhead for dedicated social media personnel. Don’t forget headcount to monitor social media, create content, respond to social media interactions, and customer service.
  3. Content. As a core driver of social media engagement, you constantly need to create new engaging social media content to support the entire purchase process. Even if this content is created internally, it can require additional editorial and copy editing support.
  4. Social media platforms. While social media networks are free for individuals, there are costs for expanded business executions. The costs can vary based on the platform and the size of your implementation.
  5. Support media. Beyond the use of internal media such as emailings, website and offline promotional materials, third party media and advertising creative to drive traffic to your social media executions may be needed.
  6. Marketing. Creative for internal media follow up, tailored landing pages and search marketing are needed to convert social media prospects to purchase from your firm.
  7. Agencies. You may use one or more marketing agencies, whether they’re specialized consultants, general advertising agencies, boutique social media marketing agencies, or content specialists. Due to the specialized nature of social media marketing, it’s not unusual to use more than one agency. But don’t overlook the cost for managing this.
  8. Technology. Since social media is a technology platform, assume you’ll need internal technology support. While these resources may not be dedicated to social media, their time will be charged to your department. Among the costs are supporting development (along with the on-going need to update your website and/or blog), software support including additional server capacity and incremental bandwidth (at least on an as-needed basis.)
  9. Analytics. While you may be able to track your social media marketing efforts with your existing web analytics, you’ll probably need some modifications to capture the additional tracking. Some organizations may require additional software and headcount.
  10. Complexity. While difficult to assess in terms of direct costs, as you add additional elements to your marketing mix, there’s more coordination and overhead needed to ensure everything works well together.

Regardless of how you assess your social media marketing costs, one thing’s for certain. These costs are real and increase as your firm gets more experienced in their use of social media.

What are your experiences in tracking social media expenses? Are there any other costs that you’d include on this list?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr

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3 Responses to How to Calculate Social Media Costs

  1. I will say, I find this to be a well though out and thorough list of cost considerations for calculating SM costs. Thanks for sharing this Heidi, and for challenging us to sort through the ‘real’ or genuine costs of SM.

  2. Lacey Wilcox says:

    Your posts are always incredibly helpful. What would you recommend as some good tools for analytics and brand monitoring for beginners or companies who are new to using social media?