Think about all of the possible marketing initiatives that a company can undertake. Everything from billboards to sponsoring events to social media campaigns to television commercials. What makes social media so unique when compared to the alternatives (ok there might be a few things).
- Before you purchase a billboard which costs tens of thousands of dollars (for a short period of time) you have to research the best location to place it and then pay someone to actually put it up.
- Before you purchase a full page spread in the NY Times which costs multiple tens of thousands (or more) of dollars you need to have an entire creative team put together the content and get it published.
- Before you sponsor an event that will also cost tens of thousands of dollars (depending on the event) you have to research the best event to sponsor, decide on how you want to sponsor the event, etc.
- Do I even need to mention television commercials that costs 6 figures+ just to get them aired (think of creative/production/research costs)
Traditionally, with any type of marketing that you do that there is usually a pretty hefty cost assigned to researching, developing, launching, and then creating a campaign or a strategy. You can’t just test something out without spending a lot of money and traditional marketing campaigns cost well into the six figures (oftentimes more) when you take into account the process from A to Z. So to summarize, everything (or mostly everything) in the traditional marketing space has a large cost assigned to it.
I’m hoping you can see where social media is different. What’s the cost of creating a Google Alert or using one of the many free monitoring tools out there to listen to your consumers? What’s the cost of just going out and creating a twitter account or a facebook fan page?
I’m not going to say that the cost is free, but it’s not too far from it. Now keep in mind I’m basically talking about the cost for any company to play around with social media aka have an employee in their spare time test out the waters; this won’t cost much. Someone with an understanding of the social media tools out there that works for a company can easily handle this. Find a passionate employee at a company and let him have at it.
Well this means a few things for businesses:
- The cost to play around with social technologies on the web today is minimal which means that this is an attractive “test” environment for companies to engage in.
- The majority of the social media cost doesn’t go into an actual product or physical deliverable like it to does with traditional media. The cost goes into intellectual capital i.e. developing a strategy, figuring out a process, working to change the corporate culture within the company, etc (and yes hiring employees if needed). Most of the physical tools on the web such as twitter and facebook are in themselves free to use.
- The fact that social media is a low-cost test environment means that companies may succeed (whatever success is) without spending a lot of time/money but it also means that there is a high chance for companies to fail or to not see their expectations met. Again, this is because testing doesn’t mean investing, meaning that a lot of the strategic and research components will not be funded…yet.
- The cost to research and build a strategy is less than the cost of actually engaging in social media; several companies might see engagement as a more cost effective approach. After all, why spend money figuring out what and how you should be doing something when you can just do it and find out?
This post is really just meant to get you to think about why social media is such a unique business decision. Most people view social media as something that falls under marketing yet social media has very different characteristics that are associated with traditional marketing.
Have anything you want to add? Any ideas/thoughts on this?