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June 24th, 2008

Social Media Marketing Ain’t Always “Cheap”

Alright, so one of the weird little misconceptions I’ve been dealing with for a while now is the belief that social media marketing is, well, how do I say this? “Cheap.”

It’s an opinion often held by marketers, communicators, executives, and the like, many of whom have clicked on the pony-tailed chief’s ‘DIY’ blog and the clever, professionally underproduced video on YouTube and the messy, yet oddly functional fan page on Facebook, and because of this, have formed an opinion of what social media marketing is, how it’s done, and ultimately what it must cost.

And really, can you blame them?

These folks are simply making a calculation of value based on the tangible merit of what’s being presented to them — with very little insight, understanding or weight placed on the effort required to really bring these projects to life, let alone what it takes to keep them going and make them truly successful.

Of course, to complicate things, there’s a near endless parade of free online tools and services that are surfacing every month, each in their own way perpetuating the “man-this-stuff-is-cheap” mentality as their own hype cycles crest (cough, FriendFeed) and later crash.

Lastly, and most importantly, I think there’s a tendency in ROI conversations to over indulge in hard numbers sans consideration for all the underlying soft costs of social media projects. And by “soft costs” what I’m really getting at are the absurdly high time and attention investments that typically come with these projects and what are the unique shared scars among many a social media practitioner. If you’ve ever administered a blog or a community of sorts, you’ll know what I mean, nuff said.

Sadly, time and attention factors are often overlooked and greatly underestimated in most marketers’ understanding and appreciation of these projects.

Now, does this mean social media work can’t be done on the cheap? Nah, of course not. You go right ahead and create your corporate Blogger account and your executive’s MySpace page and that barely-discernible-but-kinda-indie looking mobile video of your company event;)

Kidding aside, just remember that free is never really free. That time’s an investment too. And that social media marketing requires a lot of it and because of this, “cheap” investments could end up costing you a bundle if you’re not clear about what you’re buying.

[This post has been cross-published to Media Guerrilla]

About the Author
Mike Manuel is the GM of Voce Connect, the social media marketing and web development arm of Voce Communications. In between managing this team and overseeing Voce's digital programs, he'll post a thought or two on mike-manuel.com and via @mmanuel on Twitter.

Filed in Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media

Add Your Comment4 Responses to “Social Media Marketing Ain’t Always “Cheap””

Marshall Kirkpatrick on June 24th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

FriendFeed is not just another hyped shiny object! It’s the next step in the evolution of the newsfeed popularized by Facebook and then adopted by everyone else. It’s feeds – one of the most basic elements of the social web! :) Just had to click through the feed to say that – but otherwise, I totally agree with your post here.

Mike Manuel on June 24th, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I hear you, Marshall, but will remain cautiously optimistic about the potential for FriendFeed. I’ll admit, it’s probably just my own survival instincts talking, b/c when I recommend a service like FF to a client, I have to stick my neck out and know it’s a worthwhile investment of time, energy and ultimately, return. I’m still on the fence about all this w/r/t FF. We’ll see…

John Assalian on June 28th, 2008 at 1:26 pm

“social media” is a very large area and the idea that someone would suggest that social media is “cheap” or “lacks value” would be like saying “marketing lacks value” or “Marketing is cheap” — you need to define what type of social media campaigns you are talking about. Social media marketing services as provided by marketing and communication agencies can’t really be cheap as the expertise required to be successful is no different then traditional marketing, or MORE expertise is required.

vignesh on July 10th, 2008 at 8:58 am

I think social media is cheap in marketing agencies.