Social Media Is NOT Free – You’re Being Penny Wise And Social Media Foolish!

Social Media Marketing is a specialty within the web, PR, direct and integrated marketing arenas. It is a professional niche that requires specific knowledge, skill and experience to make effective and efficient. If anyone tells you anything different, they are lying to you.

If you were a professional mechanic, you certainly wouldn’t skip steps, do things using free or borrowed tools, would you? If you were an attorney, would you use a free expert witness on the stand when your clients financial well being depended on it? If you were a professional athlete would you use the free limited gym in your high-end condo complex to try and save the $50 per month for the membership to the facility that has all of the things you need to maintain and improve  your body?

If you answered yes to any of the above examples, you are not a social media marketing professional, but a dabbler in the social space. If you answered no to these questions and are using free, limited versions of the professional social media tools you really need to be effective for your brand or social media agency, you are also a dabbler. What’s worse? You are being incredibly foolish.

We hear a ton of “excuses” from people every single day as I speak and consult on social media. Things like…

– We use Tweetdeck because it’s free.

– Do we have to pay for the pro Hootsuite account to use Bundle Post?

– I have not signed up because it costs $50/$100 per month.

Seriously? Let’s be real here. You need a social strategy AND a business strategy!

The right social media tools are a requirement if you are a professional. In fact, if you are doing social media marketing for your own small company and are not spending $100-$200 per month on the proper tools, you are kidding yourself and wasting a lot of time. If you are a social media agency and not spending $150 – $500 per month on the proper tools, you need to evaluate your company profitability and client results, because I suspect you have some major issues on both counts.

If a micro-targeting follow/unfollow tool like Tweetspinner can grow your clients targeted follower base 250% + faster and more effectively, why are you not spending the $22.00 per month to get 5 twitter accounts smoking?

If Hootsuite can deliver more of the social media management, collaboration, analytics and content scheduling capabilities required to make social programs effective and profitable, why are you worrying about the $5.95 per month, or $15.00/mo per collaborative user?

If SocialStage delivers a much more effective fanpage customization solution for $20.00 per month, creating single tabbed micro websites on your fanpages, in a far more professional and customizable for way less cost than outsourcing or designing in-house. What are you making a fuss about? Do it!

If BundlePost , a social content management system, can save you over 80% of your back office social media marketing time, improve all metric results of your social media marketing programs, and give you 80% more time to drive ROI and/handle more clients, why are you worrying about $100 per month? Wouldn’t you like to have the capacity for 80% more clients or improved results with LESS overhead?

What is your time worth?

The point is this… “Social Media Marketing is NOT free. Access to the social networks is.” #quote @fondalo

If you are going to proclaim to be a social media marketer, agency, consultant, strategist or are conducting social media efforts for yourself or your brand, you are either failing to make good decisions about proper tools, or you are a professional and getting professional results using tools. The proper tools make you more effective, reduce costs and time. This frees you up to sign more business, have more conversations and build more relationships. = ROI (return on investment)

Here is a perfect example of a social media agency that understands the place for tools in their business. Post: “I Was Captured on Twitter”  by @phaedrastock

Think about what you are doing to “save money” and what that decision is costing you in time, effectiveness, revenue and additional business. Chose revenue and results over pennies every time!

Update:  This evening I saw this commercial for H & R Block. You have to have the right tools. Made me laugh and connected well with today’s post, so I decided to do a little update/addition.  :-) Enjoy a little laugh.


26 thoughts on “Social Media Is NOT Free – You’re Being Penny Wise And Social Media Foolish!

  1. A lot of people, especially new businesses, tend to have the mindset of, “I’m just starting out, I can’t spend ANY money, I’ll do everything myself so it’s free.” But people don’t know everything, which is why those specific tools and professionals are there for us.

    I don’t know poo about graphic design, so I hire a professional to help me design my banners and the graphics on social networks. That’s one way that I fork out money in order to improve my presence and business.

    Another way is purchasing tools like MarketMeSuite, HootSuite and so on, things that can help me manage my business.

    We all need a little help. As as you said, social media isn’t free, access to the networks are.

    Thanks for the reminder. :)

  2. You really hit the nail on the head here Robert. Kudos for calling a spade a spade. It reminds me of my days in the automotive industry and getting tools off of the Snap-on truck.

    I remember the first time I found something I “needed” and asking the distributor how much it was. His response, “if you have to ask you can’t afford it.” That resonated with me from that day over a decade ago, and will well into the future.

    What’s the point you ask? Quite simply that if you are worried about the “cost” of a tool that will increase your effectiveness, and thus make you more money over the long-term you probably need to take a hard look at your priorities.

  3. You’re right, Robert. Social media is not free. The old adage, “time is money” didn’t become a cliche’ by chance. It became such because it’s true! Time is money and time spent on all the necessities of social media engagement, growth, branding, etc., is time you could spend elsewhere. It makes sense to figure out how much your REALLY spending on social media via time and put that money, or at least some of it, toward a system that can handle the tedious bits for you.

  4. This is a very good post!…and you tell it like it is. I think it is important to understand that there are people out there who genuinely may not be able to afford some of the high tech gagetaries out their but want to start their own business. The beauty of this is that they can start small, and feel their way round while educating themselves on what they need – because we all know that there are ALOT of tools out there but one does not need them ALL. That said, To really make a real profitable business out of social media, the money has to be spent and I agree with you completely there. Thanks for sharing this. kx

  5. Interesting that you are using a “free” blog engine with a free theme… I find that conflicting with your opening statements.

    Presumably bundlepost (I’m making a big assumption here here…) is also written in open source software which is free.

    Sometimes, free is a good option, it leaves the business ample budget to work on strategy, consulting, and content creation and other things that can’t be had for free.

    After all, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+ and many of the other networks that we are building businesses around, are also free. Your post should suggest then, that people should sign up for Ning, or setup their own non-free social network because it’s more “professional”. And that’s simply not the case. Free is good a lot of the times.

    1. LOL really Oscar? You think that’s why we are on this version of WordPress? I don’t think I am going to respond to that. I will just say, good luck and I wish you the best!

      1. No I was being honest about the post. Many people suggesting all that you’re saying up top would say that it’s better to have your own blog that you pay for and maintain, because that is “more professional” So I’m wondering how you re-conciliate the two perspectives. “Don’t use free stuff if you’re serious about your business” but at the same time, You are using free stuff. It’s a discussion… if you’re not up to discussing ideas, well then I’d even wonder the point of blogging. I thought your post was thought provoking and so I played along.

      2. Well Oscar, we had not anticipated our blog to become what it has with such a huge following and search traction. We intended on converting it to our domain also. Unfortunately, by the time we realized where we were and how deeply indexed our posts were, etc. moving it made no sense due to the organic traffic we get. As for professional? I think being named a top 10 finalist for 2012 social media blogs to watch by social media examiner speaks for itself.

        Additionally, the post never states “free stuff”. It was specifically speaking to social media. I think I have enough experience and results to speak to that industry about how to do it effectively. I have never considered myself a professional blogger or an expert on said. I am blessed that my expertise in social media has translated well into our blog which helps a ton of brands, agencies and individuals be more effective.

        More than happy to discuss ideas. But as tomorrow’s social graphic will show, I am not up to clambering with Trolls. Contrarians are fine, trolls, no thanks.

        Thank you for sharing your unique perspective.


  6. Wow, we all seem to be on the same wavelength of late. Keri over at Idea Girl Media posted about owning your own web real estate with your site/blog and I posted about DIY design not necessarily being the best bet! Great thoughts, well said!

    I can pick up a chainsaw, it doesn’t mean it’s the best idea for me to try to use it!

  7. Hey Robert. Good points but you come across really cocky, unfortunately.
    “As for professional? I think being named a top 10 finalist for 2012 social media blogs to watch by social media examiner speaks for itself.” Really?

    True, social media is NOT free – if you are doing it properly you either should hire a professional to guide you or take time to learn as much as you can – both cost money in the end. And producing content (images, videos, graphics) for social media costs as well. Here’s a tip for you: Don’t talk down to your readers. The troll comment was unnecessary. Maybe it’s time you speak to a community manager.

    1. That’s exactly what I thought. I also believe that some people want to get their feet wet in social media before they really invest. Not everyone can handle it, even with tools and professionals to help them. At least, not at first. So trying something for free before deciding to commit is a smart idea, especially if you have any doubts even using the free version.

      Being rude to readers only makes you seem petty and isn’t the kind of engagement you want. Hassan, thank you for saying something, as obviously someone needed to.

  8. I agree that this business costs money. Name one that doesn’t! lol There are lots of neat tools that I can’t wait to get my hands on. Unfortunately, as a relative newcomer who is just starting to build business, I have a very limited budget. What I am doing is investing in the tools I believe I need the most right now. As the income becomes a little more steady, I plan to re-evaluate the tools I am using, reassess which ones are necessary, whether or not I can add, or reallocate available funding for even better ones!

  9. Hi, Robert

    First time I read your blog and I’m extremely happy about this one. I think it’s also about giving your time the proper value and managing things the way they are supposed to be managed.

    The idea I got from your post is not about the value of the tools per se, but about managing one’s time efficiently and taking advantage of tools that can truly make your life easier, better and allow you to be more efficient on what you do.

    You can even mix free and paid tools. For instance, I use Google Reader to review all the blogs that I follow, and then Hootsuite (paid version) to manage all my Tweets and those of the people I am consulting for.

    As Jeanine said, as business moves along, I plan on using better tools as they become neccessary.

    In regards to “not being professional because you continue to use free tools, is not neccessary true, is it?

  10. You’re time is valuable and important. The saying “time is worth money” totally applies here. People need to get that to get that social media is not free…

  11. I feel like there is a big difference between ‘cost’ and ‘price.’ If using the right tools is going to increase your productivity and quality of work, your going to increase your ROI. Your return is much higher than the initial price so really it doesn’t ‘cost’ you anything. What does ‘cost’ is not using the right tools and spending your day struggling to get anything done. I fell into this trap BIG TIME! I felt sorry for clients who claimed they couldn’t afford my services so I compromised (thats was only my first mistake), I then ended up earning nothing for my services, was working 24/7 and could no longer afford the proper tools I knew I needed to the job. Spot the disaster? I was just starting out and incredibly naive. Thankfully, I recognized the mistake (or many) and have managed to turn my business around.

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