Social Media for Local Businesses: What Are The Costs?
The costs of social media marketing for any local business are directly tied to the ROI you receive from social media marketing.
The ROI of social media for your local business can be substantial, but so can the effort and costs of properly managing your social media presence.
Whether you have a big budget or a small one, there are several options available to business owners poised to hashtag your way to social media success.
But before we examine the costs of social media marketing, let’s again review what your goals should be, or moreover which goals will deliver you the best return on investment.
4 Goals for Local Businesses Using Social Media
As we’ve outlined before, here are the primary goals & performance indicators businesses should realize when engaging in social media marketing:
- Increased new customer acquisition via referrals
- Enhanced online visibility (take up more parking spaces on the search engine results pages – SERPs)
- Improved customer loyalty
- More online reviews
For any local business owner considering – or considering abandoning – social media marketing, it’s necessary to understand that social media is a COMPLEMENTARY marketing avenue.
Meaning, social media marketing should only be undertaken AFTER you already have some of the compulsory items in place.
These mandatory items include but are not limited to:
- A modern environment & equipment.
- A kick-ass business culture – meaning you have a personality, your staff is friendly, & you’re genuinely concerned with delivering first class service, comfort, convenience & payment or financing options…etc.
- An email list of existing customers – preferably segmented into smaller more targeted lists. (recall past 6 mos, reactivations, incomplete treatment plans…etc.
- A modern, mobile-first website.
- An accurate, consistent & expansive local search citation profile. (it does no good for customers to leave you a Yelp review if you don’t even verify & optimize your Yelp business profile.
A mobile-first website + a regularly published blog + local SEO + email marketing = social media marketing success.
7 Elements of A Successful Social Media Marketing Plan
Surely by this point, you’ve been told that you need to leverage social media for your business, from your staff, vendors, suppliers, family, and most importantly, your loyal customers.
If you’re still one of those holdouts who are new to social media marketing, you probably want to bury your head in the sand every time you hear that sentiment.
For local businesses on social media, there are several key elements integral to achieving your goals, including:
- An objective
- A feasible plan
- A strategy that is attached to one of our all four aforementioned goals
- Effective tactics
- A willing team
- A budget
- A system to define & calculate ROI
OK, so now that you understand the need for an objective and a plan of action that’s easy to implement, how much is this going to cost you?
What Social Media Marketing Costs A Local Business
As with everything, there is cheap and there is high-quality, and never the two will meet.
We all know that we get what we pay for, so why would you think social media marketing for your business is any different?
Let’s take a look at the true costs of social media marketing for as a first step to defining a reasonable budget and calculating your ongoing costs.
4 Options That Determine The Cost of Social Media Marketing
1. DIY Social Media Marketing
When I needed a root canal I could’ve downed a pint of Irish whiskey & busted out the Dremel, but I value my health.
You can try to DIY social media marketing for your business, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice at best, and wasting a lot of time – which could be better spend managing your team, interacting with customers, attending CE courses, training staff, playing golf, spending time with your family, or staring blankly at the wall – at worst.
Time is still money, right?
Despite this, I talk with a lot of business owners who do choose to go the DIY route despite my best efforts to convince them otherwise.
With that in mind, if you’re the DIY type, you’re going to need some tools, here are a few of my personal favorites.
Social Media Management Tools for Local Businesses
Social media is all about sharing & publishing content that will elicit reactions, comments & shares, and your blog is the content engine.
WordPress powers 31% of the internet, a lot of local businesses with modern mobile-first websites are already enjoying the power of WordPress.
Many of the prominent web design companies build their website on WordPress – the self-hosted version – WordPress.org.
WordPress is open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.
WordPress.com is basically the lite version, where you won’t have to worry about hosting, web development or even a domain name – you already have those things.
To set up a simple blog which you can link to your practice website, all you need to do is signup with WordPress.com, choose a theme, and start writing.
You can sign up with WordPress.com for free, or if you want additional customization options you can choose from 3 additional levels of service – for $4, $8, & $25 per month.
You should aim to publish a blog post at least every month, every week would be better.
Hootsuite® is a social media management platform that we use daily to manage our clients’ social media marketing, and in the interest of full disclosure, we are an affiliate marketing partner with Hootsuite – which means if you sign up for their service via one of our links, we will earn a small commission.
Hootsuite has a free trial option that lets you take the software for a spin. You can then play around with scheduling your posts & publishing content to your chosen social media channels.
The Pro version costs $19 a month to manage up to ten social profiles & one user.
For that relatively minor cost, you can effectively manage your social media marketing – at least from a posting & scheduling perspective.
Crello® & Canva® are two of my personal favorites for creating captivating images & graphics to use on your social media profiles.
Social media is all about imagery & video, these image design and creation tools will save you time and money.
They both have pre-formatted options, but you can get creative with what they give you – and can give you a ton of ideas.
And at the grand total cost of 100% free, you don’t have to worry about hiring a graphic designer or having staff pull double duty creating images when they should be answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and dealing with customers.
Video is one of the most highly engaging forms of social media marketing, for any local business.
Camtasia® is a software suite, created and published by TechSmith, for creating videos and presentations directly via screencast, or via a direct recording plug-in to Microsoft PowerPoint.
People tend to consume and share videos more than any other content.
While videos don’t have to cost an arm & a leg to produce, Camtasia® will run you about $250 for the software license, $274 if you include SnagIt® – their screen capture software.
We are also an affiliate marketing partner with Techsmith – creators of Camtasia & SnagIt – which means if you sign up for their service via one of our links, we will earn a small commission.
There are plenty of DIY video creation platforms out there too, but Camtasia gives you more of a professional video editing package – you just need to shoot the videos, add some audio, edit, then publish to your YouTube channel.
Or, bust out your mobile phone and start filming some customer testimonials, virtual tours, or other video content.
That’ll be 100% free, well you already pay for the service but you know what I mean.
Everyone knows that Constant Contact®has been a leading expert in email marketing for over 20 years.
Their modern, mobile-optimized templates and drag-and-drop editor make it easy to create, customize, and send emails that engage your customers on every device. No coding or stress necessary.
Because email marketing closes the social media & customer communications loop.
Constant Contact offers a free 60 day risk-free trial to test out their platform – no credit card required.
If you stay on their service, the cost will depend on how many contacts you have on your mailing list(s), but in general for a local business with $2500+ or so customer records, you can expect to pay about $65 per month.
With MailChimp®, you also get world-class email marketing, and in addition you get a lot more options with their email marketing automation platform.
From retargeting ads on Google, Facebook Ads, autoresponders and more you can create the perfect automation for any situation.
Provide educational resources to get customers, share blog updates from your RSS feed, so your customers never miss a post, remind people about upcoming appointments or events, and reward customers who remain loyal, refer & review your business.
Or, build your own custom automations with triggers and send times that meet the unique needs of your business.
You can setup & use your MailChimp account absolutely free – up to 2,000 contacts. Subscription plans go up form there depending on how many contacts you have – and how often you send mailings.
We’re also channel partners with both Constant Contact & Mailchimp, so if you do sign up with either of them from clicking on one of the links here in this blog post, we could earn a small commission.
The Costs of Social Media Marketing for the DIY Local Business Owner
So if you do the math so far, you can estimate a monthly budget of $19 plus the $55 or so for email marketing, plus a couple-few hundred dollars of one-time fees for the video software to get your DIY social media marketing off the ground.
That minimal investment could get your DIY social media marketing plan in motion.
Or, for the uber cost-conscious, you can do video from your phone and choose Mailchimp for email and you’re looking at a grand total of $19 per month to manage your social media marketing.
But will your efforts produce results? How about ROI?
And don’t forget to factor in the time to learn the platforms, and the time to actually produce, schedule, & publish the content to your social media profiles.
2. Hire A Freelancer
The next option for business owners looking to up their social media marketing game is to use a freelancer.
On average a freelance social media consultant will probably cost you anywhere from $25-50 an hour.
You can look for one on sites like Elance, Freelancer, Upwork, or Fiverr.
Effective social media marketing usually requires daily posting, which when taking into account the time to create or write the content, find & curate other people’s content to share, and design imagery to go along with your content, you can bank on that adding up to at least 4-6 hours per week.
So say your freelancer works for just an hour a day, 5 days a week, that adds up to $125 per week, $500 per month, & $6,000 a year.
Which really isn’t too expensive, if they provide you with a killer return on investment that is.
Freelancers can be flexible, work remotely, and cost less than employing a social media marketing professional in your business.
But do you really want to manage a freelancer – who could be in another country – to handle your social media marketing?
By the way, our Social 360™ service – which does all the content creation, promotion, optimization & publishing for you – starts at $379 per month.
3. Pawn Off Your Social Media Marketing On An Existing Employee
We hear this one a lot, “we just have the front desk do our social media.”
That’s great, and it won’t cost you anything additional – out of pocket at least – but it could cost you in terms of lost productivity, customer attrition, and lost new customer acquisition opportunities.
Instead of handling customers, answering the phone & scheduling appointments, do you really want to take your front desk away from doing those things to make Facebook posts?
- Does your front desk staff have a marketing background?
- Are they well-versed in the best practices of social media marketing?
- Do they really have the time to spend managing your social media presence – from content creation to social media advertising?
If so, maybe it’s worth it for you to have the front desk pull double duty.
Or maybe you’re business is killing it and you can afford to hire another part-time or full-time employee to tackle the tasks.
That would run you anywhere from $25-$35 an hour in my estimation, at the very bottom end. For a Marketing Director, you can bank on shelling out $50,000-$80,000 a year.
And remember, we get what we pay for in this world, and quality doesn’t necessarily jibe with low cost.
4. Sign Up With A Social Media Marketing Company
Again options abound, but to best serve your social media marketing objectives, choosing a service that works for real-world results should be your primary concern – not cost.
The costs to enlist the help of a social media marketing company vary greatly, from a few hundred bucks a month to a few thousand a month, depending on the level of service.
- Will they be writing a blog for you?
- Will that blog post include SEO?
- Do they create videos?
- How many social media properties do they manage?
- Are there different levels of service?
- What results can you expect?
- What KPIs (key performance indicators) do they use to define success?
When considering a professional social media marketing company for your business you’ll need some due diligence to get answers to those questions.
Don’t make the mistake of chasing vanity metrics – likes, reach, impressions…etc. – over things like the number of conversions, referrals, reviews, rankings, phone calls, new website visitors, appointment requests…etc.
Those would be your KPIs – key performance indicators.
To help you determine which service is the best fit you’ll need to research the potential marketing partners, talk to other business owners, gauge which service best fits your needs, and determine how much time you – or your staff – will need to devote to communicating with your chosen social media marketing company – if any.
Which Social Media Marketing Option Is Best For Local Businesses?
Well, I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you do all your social media marketing yourself, or have the front desk do it for you.
And I wouldn’t say that using a freelancer, or your wife’s second cousin’s niece are viable options either.
The decision on which social media marketing option is best for your local business ultimately depends on your priorities, budget & goals.
DIY & pawning off the responsibility on an existing employee are the most inexpensive options in terms of out of pocket expense, just don’t forget to calculate the time & productivity factors.
Hiring a freelancer will cost you about the same as using a professional social media marketing company, and you’d need to babysit the freelancer a hell of a lot more than a company with an established service.
On top of the cost, you’d also be spending time communicating with the freelancer, managing their efforts, and processing payments.
If you want real results like increased customer referrals, improved loyalty and more reviews from happy customers, a professional social media marketing company is your best bet.
And yes, I am 100% biased.