It’s no secret that social media isn’t free. There’s been much discussion about looking past surface indicators like free-of-charge accounts and unlimited data usage to look at the heart of the matter: success in social media takes tools, personnel resources, and time.

The complexities don’t end at evaluating the sticker price of those three components. If your company truly wants to draw a hard line between activity and results, you need to look at these subsets too.

social media costs
What does social media cost your business?

Social media tool sets

  • Are you using the right tools for the job? Tweetdeck is pretty mainstream and your in-house team may be comfortable with it from their own personal use. But if they’re also managing a community on Facebook, there may be some loss of efficiency switching between the two. This approach also presents potential “time sucks” in that it’s easy for an administrator to get drawn into their own tweet stream or news stream, inadvertently squandering valuable time (even errant minutes add up). An alternative approach might be to use or (which auto-optimizes tweets to maximize exposure to followers) or Argyle Social (which allows for updates for multiple platforms and provides performance analytics).  The wrong tools may cost you additional administration time or weaken your reach.

Personnel to manage social media

  • Fact is, if responsibilities like social media strategy and management aren’t a specific part of a job description, they won’t be given the attention necessary for proper planning and thoughtful execution and analysis. Anytime work is added to someone’s plate without an accompanying outline of expectations, metrics, and deliverables, it’ll eventually fall into the camp of fuzzy marketing stuff your company tried and abandoned (this is a big reason why our clients called Creative Concepts in the first place because we can support the daily social media action items).
  • As demonstrated with the recent Chrysler debacle, having the wrong person run point on your company’s social media accounts can spell disaster. But don’t forget your responsibility in the matter: equip team members with brand standards guidelines, run mock scenario drills, and closely supervise messaging until you’re confident that good judgment will prevail.

Social media time and attention

  • Maintaining a real presence means someone’s covering the metaphorical social media phones almost 24/7.  Whether your team rotates through scheduled time slots or just a couple of people are “always on,” you have to consistently show up for the party in order to gain followers and earn trust. Never let a tweet go unanswered.
  • Time-to-payoff is one of those factors management needs to consider heavily before jumping into the social media waters. Determining milestones to evaluate success metrics is an important part of plotting a strategy. Make sure your organization sets the program up for success with probable, realistic goals steeped in research.

What other elements would you add under the big umbrellas of Tools, Personnel, and Time? What are some other costs of social media?