Dear Manager, Social Media is Not Free

In the past 3 months, I have had numerous conversations with a couple of social media managers and just ‘normal’ folks trying to achieve one or two results with social media. It’s been funny, really. First, these calls often reveal to me that many people still haven’t gotten a hang of this social media wave and that there are too many myths and misconceptions about the social web.

First and most frequent subject of discussion is the link between result and the means to the end. It usually starts with “…we need to get xyz through Twitter, where do we start from”, or “we just want to increase talkability on social media”. Some even say “we have an event next month, and we want to create awareness about it, so people can register”, some others then say, “we just launched our blog and want to get 70,000 views per day…”. Several others.

After giving several suggestion and alternative routes to the means, I then move to the part that scare most away – money. So, let’s talk about it here.

While creating social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook etc.) may be free, generating big kick-ass results is not necessarily free. Delete necessary. It’s actually not free. So, the first myth you need to get off your head is that social media is actually free in its entirety. Next is to get the bug on your boss or client.

While managers are beginning to realize the importance of social media to their business, many are still not making enough provisions for it in their budget. Typically, they just ask a random staff who’s fairly good with internet stuffs to create their profile and start posting stuffs. Then, they follow that up by setting an unrealistic goal and baseless KPIs to measure performance. This is where I get phone calls. After two months of ‘posting everything’, target is not achieved. The accidental social media manager then becomes discouraged, overwhelmed and frustrated – “but I am doing everything”.

His boss wants to be on every blog, every Google search page, everyone’s Facebook timelines like Jumia, Konga and several other examples of ‘successful’ ad campaigns. They want to generate buzz on Twitter like Osun State did for Opon Imo (the tablet recently launched) and the likes. As great as this intentions are, bosses and clients often forget one thing. Money.

My response is simple. Get your boss to support you with a decent budget to drive the results he desires. For every ad you see on a blog, someone is paying the bill. Google is not a charity organization. Facebook is a public company with shareholders waiting for dividends and bonuses; then institutional investors expecting a heavy ROI at the end of the year. The only way they can achieve that is by charging you a premium (ad revenue) for the wider reach you desire.

In some cases, you need to pay local influencers and opinion leaders to help drive your agenda on social media. These guys have put in huge efforts (perhaps, when you were busy arguing whether Facebook and Twitter are here to stay or not) to build their following. So, you expect them to talk about your business (that earns you profit. Not them) all day without receiving something in exchange? You’ve got to be kidding. Maybe if it’s a social initiative.

I’ve not even talked about the advanced tools you may need to pay for at some point. All these and many more all prove that social media is not free.

Here’s the bottom-line, when next your boss or client (for agencies) gives you that ‘big target’, ask him to put his money where his “heart” is. Simple. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that can be done without money, but for those who desire to generate the impact the big brands are generating, you’ve got to be good at spending. Period!

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