The tools that help users create and share content socially online are mostly free. There are no hidden costs to sign-up. There's no fine print (excluding the privacy stuff).
Basically, you can put the keys in the ignition and hit the content road in no time.
When it comes to social media in business however, the word "free" doesn't necessarily mean free, a point that was made by the Ad Contrarian who wrote a post about the true cost of social media.
In the post, there's a list of 28 brands that fare pretty well in social media. They are succeeding. They have been recognized as leaders. Some have received big time accolades. Others are tying their initiatives back to business issues. Simply put, this group of brands "get it."
What they also get, or have in this case, are big marketing budgets. We're talking about brands like Starbucks, Nike, McDonald's, the NBA and Disney for example. These are massive, global brands that have marketing budgets that quite possibly exceed total revenues of other "big" companies.
So the question is, if free is free, why do the same big brands keep popping up when the social media conversation turns to success stories? Why can't small and medium sized business have the same impact on their bottom lines with the help of social media as part of their marketing mix?
The obvious answers are that it takes people to create content. It takes resources to monitor your social media program. It takes technology to create content like videos and podcasts. There is also this thing called time management and if you've ever managed a social media campaign for a brand, you know that it requires a good chunk of time to succeed. And, in most cases, social media isn't your sole responsibility — thus, some "loss" in productivity.
Small and medium-sized brands are often strapped for resources and staff while bigger brands have global teams that can handle the work load.
This is why it is so important for brands of all sizes need to think their strategy through before executing. Diving into a pool without knowing how deep or shallow it is can be dangerous. Same goes diving into social media. While free maybe be free, there are some hard and soft costs to implementing a sound, business-focused strategy that can impact your bottom line. Those soft and hard costs have to be considered throughout the span of the program.