Social Media Marketing Campaign Costs

How Much Do Social Media Marketing Programs Cost?

Questions about cost frequently (and obviously) arise in our conversations with prospective clients. Social media is an evolving medium and the costs of doing business are constantly in flux as a result. And budgets are budgets.

We first wrote about the cost of social media marketing campaigns in October 2007, which is ancient history in the social media business. So we’re long overdue for an update.

But First, A Meta-Question

Any social media marketing process should actually begin with a simple, often overlooked, question: “Can I achieve my goals through social media marketing?”

We sometimes begin our client relationships with small strategy engagements to help them explore and answer that question. Social media is amazingly powerful, but it isn’t all things to all people. As such, we sometimes advise our clients to allocate their budget elsewhere.

As Always, It Depends

Assuming that social media is the right channel to achieve your business goals, the next step for evaluating social media marketing programs entails a few important questions:

What Audience Am I Trying To Reach?

Are you building an audience from scratch? Have you already aggregated your target audience on a social platform? Are you targeting the mass market or a niche market? Starting from zero and building a mass market audience takes lots of time and money, whereas hyper-targeting a specific niche may be more effective and less expensive.

What Are My Goals?

You’ve ideally determined that you can achieve your desired outcome through social media, but now you need to sharpen your perspective. Many prospective clients want to grow their social media audience — which is a perfectly appropriate goal and a fairly straightforward project. However, more specific goals — like driving revenue or building a platform through user-generated content / advocacy — will take more time…and, yes, more money.

What Is My Budget?

We’ve built end-to-end social media programs that achieved important client goals for a total cost of less than $25,000. We’ve also built incredibly successful social media programs with a total budget much, much, much greater than $25,000. As always, it depends on the client, their goals, the audience they’re hoping to reach, and their budget constraints.

Paid, Owned, and/or Earned?

Now that you’ve got a general strategy, goals, and a budget, you might next wonder where and how to allocate your money.

A simple way to think about your social media marketing program investments are to bucket them as paid, owned, or earned media investments. Paid media is more or less advertising. Owned media is content that you develop and own going forward. Earned media is the amplification that comes from your audience sharing your content or talking about your brand.

Paid media is quickest and easiest — but not always most effective — way to spend money on social media marketing. That said, many marketers conflate social media advertising with social media marketing. As a result, social media marketing programs are sometimes simply big ad spends on social media sites, which is becoming increasingly expensive and ineffective as a stand-alone strategy.

We typically advocate and design social media marketing programs that leverage owned marketing assets like content, community, and technology and then make use of paid marketing to seed and/or accelerate the program. Earned media becomes the output and provides the organic distribution and amplification engine that makes social media marketing so magical.

An example budget breakdown for this type of program might be 80% devoted to owned media strategy, development, and build (including creative, technology development, etc.) and 20% set aside as a paid media kickstarter.

Low, Mid, High Options

I’ve outlined a few generic social media marketing programs at varying costs in an effort to clarify how different social media strategies and tactics can map to different budgets. Note that these are programs/campaigns that have a beginning and end, not ongoing community management or strategy development.

$25k Budget Concepts

A simple social amplification app to drive audience growth and brand impressions. Or, a small influencer marketing program to generate organic search traction and community engagement.

$75k Budget Concepts

A sweepstakes contest, including social amplification and registration components. Includes contest rules and out-of-pocket for modest contest prizes. Sweepstakes can drive audience growth, brand engagement, and cross-channel CRM outcomes.

$150k+ Budget Concepts

A global, multi-stage contest with a paid media budget and influencer marketing program to drive participation. Brands with this type of budget flexibility may also choose to involve a strategic brand spokesperson and/or experience marketing components. Large programs like this generally map to larger brand programs and are rarely focused exclusively on social media.

Once Again, It Depends

Social media programs can cost $20,000 or $2,000,000. Your mileage will obviously vary depending on your overall marketing budget, the audience you’re looking to reach, and the goals you’re looking to achieve.

Give us a call if we can be helpful.

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2 Comments
  • Jason Gillard
    Posted at 14:41h, 06 August

    Great article Eric!
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  • Irritated
    Posted at 15:07h, 21 February

    Three words and no contribution to this blog, but you gave yourself a nice plug. NICE!

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