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Social media for small businesses – If Facebook is free, why does my company have to pay for social media?

When I speak to owners of small and medium sized businesses about social media, they often say something like: “Finally, after years of paying through the nose for my marketing – advertising, printing, design agencies – etc, along come Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc and they are actually free.

 Now I’m being told I should pay to get other people to do it for me? Am I being taken for a ride?”

Be your own social media guru?

Plenty of businesses start off doing their own book-keeping or payroll because, with a small turnover and few staff, it’s fairly simple and it too is ‘free’! Yet most successful businesses eventually pay a book-keeper or an accountant. Why? Not only does it eventually become more cost-effective but making a mistake can cause major problems. Social media is no different. Done well it can be a very effective marketing tool, but done badly it can actually damage your business. And what does ‘free’ mean? In business, where there is an allocation of time there is a cost. True, there is no payment required to set up these accounts, but it takes time. Deciding what to write about, uploading video or adding your logo, creating great offers – these also require a time commitment and that time might be more profitably spent on other areas of business when you really are the expert. For most small businesses, marketing – let alone social media – is the thing that always gets put off. If it’s done at all, it’s done after a hard days work or pushed to the weekend. But social media is about regular updating and rapid response. Customers simply won’t wait until you can summon up the energy. Posting stuff and responding to your customer’s ‘conversation’ when you are tired or irritated could be a recipe for disaster.

Follow me, please

There’s so much to think about when you begin using social media. Consider perhaps the most important aspect: how do I attract Facebook ‘likes’ or Twitter ‘followers’? There is no magic bullet, no button to press. As with all marketing it takes planning, scheduling, actioning and responding if it doesn’t go as planned. If you feel confident you can do that – and have the time to do it – then you are likely to make a success of your social media activities. But if you are not sure, then you may need professional help. Of course, few business people would complain if they were charged £1 for this advice, or £1 an hour or even £1 a tweet. Perhaps the argument then is not about having to pay, but how much to pay. This has to be a sound commercial decision based on Return on Investment [ROI]. It’s complicated by the fact that social media is often about brand awareness as much as sales, but most companies offering to provide help will give some indication of the likely return for your spend.

Choosing the right partner

Social media needs to part of an overall marketing mix. It’s not about stopping spending on promoting your business. You may decide to spend less on printing brochures and flyers because social media is more responsive, can be updated quickly and better targeted but the print budget shouldn’t be ditched – use it to get professional help setting up and developing your strategy to target new customers Finally, business people are often confused about which companies to go to. There are usually three types for offer social marketing services

  • PR agencies,
  • Marketing Communications/Design Agencies and
  • Web design  and development companies.

Checking out their websites will give you a feel for the ‘type’ of clients they represent – in terms of sectors and size etc – and what their core skills are. Do they have clients that ‘look’ like your business? If so, find out about what they have actually achieved for those companies. Ask for a proposal and be clear what is included, at what cost and for what period of time. Asking for advice is genuinely ‘free’ and could lead to your business gaining loyal customers, an outstanding reputation and new sales via social media. Opace Technology Solutions are a successful Web Design Birmingham company who specialise in delivering internet marketing services to clients, including social media marketing design, consultancy and support to help them on their journey to success.


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