It’s that time of year when we’re expected to make our predictions for 2014. If you expect revelations about the newest, “bestest” social network to jump on, you’ll be disappointed. Social media marketing is entering its mature years. And that will come at a cost – in 2014, if you want social media marketing it will cost so much more. Yes social media costs are going up.
More than any other field social media marketing is expected to be free or cost very little. It may have worked for a while, although from what we see, anyone who took the cheap route didn’t get much in return.
Common sense tells us that anything that takes time isn’t and shouldn’t be free or cheap. And anything that takes time and brings back returns will cost even more.
I predict in 2014 social media costs will rise. Digital marketing costs will rise. Not just the outsourcing costs, but also internal staffing costs.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. More social media jobs are available
Job demand in this field continues to be fairly high, but job availability increased dramatically this year. According to a LinkedIn and OfferPop Infographic, in 2013 social media jobs postings went up by 1,300 percent as compared to 2010. To hire and retain the best we all have to offer a little more. That will increase overhead for service providers. And you should certainly expect more of your candidates will receive competing offers.
2. Expertise is going up
A few years ago we had to train employees in the craft of social media. Now there quite a few candidates with 5+ years of experience in the field and 10+ years of experience in digital marketing. The digital marketing space is maturing and with that so are the skills and associated salaries. This expertise is way beyond your average intern. Expect this field maturity to increase social media costs.
3. We’ve gone beyond just “tweeting” from the hip
We had a lead that tried to convince us that we won’t need to talk at all for us to conduct their social marketing… and get results. And thus we shouldn’t charge for anything else but the time it would take to post on social networks. And guess what, we tried it as a test. It doesn’t work.
We can’t read minds yet so we’ll have to talk to you. But I have two better reasons as to why you should expect more planning and communication time to be included in the cost of work:
1. Social media works best when fully integrated into your marketing and sales. It’s not an isolated field. It’s not something to put on auto-pilot and it’s definitely not a perfectly new field that can stand on its own. Social media marketing IS marketing. It should be planned and executed alongside your other marketing, sales and communication efforts. And that requires people to talk to each other, and requires extra planning and extra TLC. All that time costs money, but your combined marketing efforts will pay off in the long term.
2. You will want to talk to us. In 8 out of 10 cases our clients get very involved in what happens on their social networks. Why? Because social networks are high touch and highly visible. It’s hard to not react to what you see on Facebook, especially when the content is meant to trigger a reaction.
So more than in any other field we get numerous emails from clients in the off hours and weekends. That’s when most people spend time on social networks. That’s when most ideas come up. We don’t mind it. But each one of those emails takes time and often it takes evening and weekend time before we can determine if it’s something that can wait until business hours or not. That off-hours time is the most expensive time.
4. Systems costs will go up
As server space demand increases systems costs will go up. At some point they’ll come back again, but we’re not there yet.
To put things into perspective, Snapchat handles about 400MM snaps every day and Facebook approximately 350MM picture uploads every day. That’s an immense data load. For the social media systems that have to parse and often archive the data the expense is on par with the data load. As the data load increases so will costs.
5. Big expectations will cost big
One of the most frustrating parts of my job is that I have to read stories in the media which tout social marketing as a miracle maker. I will never forget the stories about the Discovery Channel getting on Facebook and their “fast” and massive gain of fans. I sure hope they gained a million fans fast, they are THE Discovery Channel! They own media! That’s not news-worthy. That’s not the miracle of social media. It’s the miracle of the Discovery Channel!
But the magic-wand effect (which I had to face in the early days of email marketing too) stuck. The dream of average-Joe’s YouTube video is compelling. Unfortunately a majority of viral videos became so due to ad spend.
We are often challenged to innovate and create big campaigns like this John Lewis Christmas 2013 campaign. So we did the math – the campaign cost $11MM and the video got 8MM views on YouTube. That’s an investment of $88 per view.
Sure, the value extended beyond the number of views. They also got 150K Twitter mentions and 70K Facebook interactions. And lots of press.
Is it worth it? Yes, if you have the budget. But most of us don’t have that kind of budget to spend on just one singular campaign. So we need to temper our expectations.
A $20K budget a year, by the benchmark set by John Lewis, would deliver 227 YouTube views and 15 twitter mentions.
We can do quite a bit more than that with a $20K budget. We can double traffic to your website, we can double your social media following. But unless you are John Lewis, with a John Lewis budget don’t expect the numbers their campaign got. And be smart about reading the numbers. You may only have to spend $2 per view.
And that’s what you’ll see in 2014 – higher social media costs. Which doesn’t mean worse outcomes. It may in fact mean the kick in the pants you need to stop adorning your business with cheap trinkets. I appreciate scrappy. But there’s a difference between scrappy and cheap. 2014 may be the year for you to act like the business leader of the million or 100 million, or billion dollar company you want to build.