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Is Social Media Marketing Really Worth the Investment?

By: Jenna Cyprus


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Social media marketing has long been used as a tool to reach a wider audience, make a bigger impact, and improve the reputation of your brand. Back in 2005, it was an entirely novel concept, used only by the most cutting-edge brands, and was the subject of mockery from mainstream marketing and advertising professionals.

By 2012, it had become the new mainstream. Almost every major brand in the world was tapping into social media marketing, and it was hailed as a perfect marketing strategy for small businesses and new startups due to its low barriers to entry.

But today, if you want to run a social media marketing campaign, you’ll need to be prepared to make an investment. Is it really worth the money?

Why Social Media Marketing Is Expensive

Social media marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. You can start a profile page for your brand on almost any mainstream social media platform for free, and you don’t have to pay a cent. You can engage with individuals, post content, and leave comments on discussion threads.

The problem with this is that there are controls in place that make it almost impossible to get visibility on your own. In other words, organic visibility on major platforms has fallen to an all-time low. There are several reasons for this, but the most obvious is that social media companies want to push businesses to use their paid advertising platform—not get a free ride from organic content.

The most effective approach today is to use a combination of paid advertising and an organic marketing strategy, capitalizing on the best of both worlds. But there’s a problem here as well; social media isn’t a free, guaranteed pathway to consumer interest and growth. If you want to be successful, you need skilled, experienced people managing your campaign and measuring your results so you can keep improving. Social media management costs money, but it’s often worth it to see results.

Is Social Media Still Relevant?

You likely already know the answer to this question. If you’re debating about whether social media marketing is a viable marketing strategy, considering the higher costs, you need only ask yourself one question: is social media still popular?

Facebook now has more than 2.7 billion monthly active users, and other platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat all have billions or hundreds of millions. People are spending hours every day on their smartphone scrolling through social media feeds, and social media has become the most commonly cited source of news in the United States.

It’s safe to say that social media is one of the biggest and most influential audience platforms in the world. There isn’t much else that comes close. Accordingly, you should have no trouble reaching the right demographics—if you’re willing to invest.

Social Media Compared to Other Strategies

Is social media really that expensive? If you look at other channels, the answer is no. Placing an ad on social media is ridiculously cheap compared to placing an ad on television or other mainstream channels. It’s also much less expensive than running other long-term online marketing campaigns.

People have begun to perceive social media as expensive because they’re comparing it to how social media used to be. It was possible, in 2006, to invest almost nothing into your social media strategy and still have it take off. The tradeoff is, there weren’t nearly as many users back then, and there weren’t nearly as many tools available to take advantage of those users or measure your effectiveness.

With the robustness and technological sophistication of modern social media platforms, it’s only natural that the costs have gone up.

The Role of ROI

When discussing costs in the world of marketing and advertising, your highest priority to consider is your return on investment (ROI). Your ROI is the amount of revenue you generate above and beyond what you initially invested. It’s the most reliable gauge you have for whether your strategy was effective, since some inexpensive strategies may return nothing, and some expensive strategies may return many times their initial expenses.

If you want to determine whether your social media strategy is really “worth” the investment, all you have to do is estimate the ROI. If you’re in the positive, the strategy is working. If the ROI is higher than your other channels, social media should be your top priority—even if it costs a bit more upfront.

The cost of managing a social media marketing strategy has risen, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer viable. Though not all businesses will benefit from social media marketing equally, most businesses can yield a positive ROI with a professionally managed social media approach.

Published: November 25, 2020

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Jenna Cyprus

Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking, and skiing with her family.

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