When we talk about “budgeting” for social network marketing, realize that there are actually two things that can be invested: time or money. For smaller companies, or those who are brand-new to social media in general, marketing through Facebook, Twitter, and others might be a largely “sweat equity” endeavor; they either don’t have the dollars to throw at bringing new business in through these avenues, or aren’t convinced enough of the potential benefits just yet to part with hard currency.
Of course, there’s also the other end of the spectrum: large companies, or the Internet marketing savvy, who will devote large portions of their budget to having social networking experts help them to tweak and optimize their campaigns. Usually, this involves a combination of in-house staff and outside expertise working together, with the expenses making up a healthy part of the profit and loss sheet.
Most businesses, naturally, will fall somewhere between. They’re doing most of the day-to-day work on their social networking profiles in-house, or even by the owner themselves, but might seek some guidance in setting up their accounts, crafting the right tone and message, and keeping things on track. Social network marketing is an area where expertise can help, but it’s also a field where you can do a lot of the legwork yourself.
When trying to decide how to budget your social networking dollars and time, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Always choose quality over quantity. Like search engine optimization, social network marketing is one of those areas where people often try to do too much at once – sacrificing quality to produce a high volume of online content. This is a losing approach every single time: no one wants to look at your profile, much less read your blog posts or view your videos, if they aren’t at least a little bit insightful or entertaining. Regardless of whether you are generating material in-house or hiring creative help, be sure that what you’re putting online is worth a potential customer’s attention.
Plan for the long haul. Except in rare cases, setting up your social profiles isn’t something that’s going to pay you back in a month or two. By adding content and material, as well as making new contacts, what you’re really doing is building a bigger lever. It’s not going to show up on the bottom line very much in the short term, but once your plan is well underway and working, it can create a steady flow of new business, professional contacts, and even new employees that won’t take a huge effort to keep coming in.
Increase your budget slowly. Whether it’s time or currency you are pouring in, add a little bit at a time. That way, you won’t become frustrated if the results don’t come right away. Likewise, a small but realistic plan is easier to stick to – and a whole lot more effective – than one you can’t keep up with on a busy schedule or during a tough fiscal month.
Learn to ask good questions. At some point, one of two things is bound to happen with your social network marketing: either you’ll give up without seeing a profit, or your efforts will start to be successful and you’ll look into getting outside help. Once marketers get a whiff of what’s possible with sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, they start to look for ways to optimize what they’re doing. What they usually find, however, is that it can be a pretty complicated area once you break into the competitive circles – that’s usually when they start looking for hired guns.
Unfortunately, like all new Internet disciplines, social networking has attracted its fair share of “experts” who promise a lot but don’t do much. The best way to protect yourself from these types is by knowing enough about the basics to have realistic expectations, and then asking lots and lots of good questions. If you’re satisfied with the answers, go ahead and try somebody out. But if you aren’t comfortable with them, trust your gut and move on – because social network marketing takes a long time, choosing the wrong partner usually means suffering through months of wasted time and invoices before you find the truth.