Daniel Burstein

Social Media Marketing: You value (and earn ROI on) what you pay for

Free. Look inside any copywriting book or on any marketing blog, and it will tell you that “free” is one of the most powerful words in marketing. However…how often are you, as a marketer, susceptible to that magic word?

For most media we use – from PPC ads to television spots – we recognize that an investment must take place. Yet social media, with its tantalizing lack of an invoice, seems almost too good to be true. Thanks to the power of technology, you no longer have to spend money to make money!

Some say the best things in life are free…

Well, the attitude may not be that severe, but take a look at this quote from the 2011 MarketingSherpa Social Marketing Benchmark Report

“I do not look at social media marketing as something I invest in. I advertise on Facebook and consider that an online advertising expense like Google AdWords. I consider the time I spend creating, maintaining and promoting my Facebook page as “free” because I do the work myself so the costs are all soft, not cash. I know this approach isn’t really accurate and may not help me understand my costs, but it’s how I think of it for now.”

This marketer is not alone. According to the Benchmark Report’s lead author, Sergio Balegno, “On average, 15 percent of organizations think social marketing is free and wish to keep it that way. When we segment this group by primary channel, we find that B2B marketers are, by far, the least likely to believe this misconception. Social marketing is a time-consuming practice requiring significant staff commitment to execute effectively.”

…but you can keep it for the birds and the bees

As Sergio says, all of that social media buzz comes at a price. But, you may say, what is the harm in viewing soft costs as, essentially, no costs? There’s no outlay in cash, so what’s the difference?

The savvy CMO is looking for money (that’s, what he wants). Specifically, ROI. So it takes an attitude shift. From my experience, when people (and especially marketers) don’t pay anything for a product, service, or media, they don’t value it. And if they don’t value it, they don’t invest in it. And if you don’t truly invest in a tactic, you will never nail the ROI.

On the flip side, you don’t understand the true costs either. Even soft costs are costs. For example, you have the opportunity cost. A sole entrepreneur must decide whether to engage in Twitter for an hour or call some customers and see if their needs are being met. A content marketer at a major company must decide whether to invest in writing a blog post or spending some more time testing and optimizing the Web site.

In the above-referenced Social Marketing Benchmark Report, there was an interesting chart about how CMOs perceive Social Marketing ROI…

Almost half of marketers that are taking a strategic approach to social media marketing are realizing a measurable ROI.

Yet, as you look at the bottom of the chart, all too many marketers (especially those who haven’t reached the strategic phase) just look at social marketing as a freebie, not a marketing discipline.

So, in this week’s MarketingSherpa webinar (sponsored by Facebook) – Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach – I’ll be moderating an hour-long session with Todd Lebo and Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe from MECLABS and Tamara Rosenbaum from Facebook, that we hope will give you basic info to help you begin to take a strategic approach to social media marketing or give you ideas to optimize your current approach.

Oh, and did I mention? The webinar is absolutely free.

Related Resources

Free webinar, Thursday June, 9th 1-2pm EST — Intro to Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach

Study: Marketers Reporting Social Media ROI of 100, 200, Even 1,000 percent
— via Forbes

In Social Media, Your Return Represents Investment –via Fast Company

Social Media Marketing: Facebook news feed optimization

Social Media Marketing: How to optimize the customer experience to benefit from word-of-mouth advertising

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Social Networking Evangelism Community



  1. June 13th, 2011 at 15:23 | #1

    I’ll be honest and tell you that that was one of the best presentations I’ve seen regarding ROI on social media. Thank you so much for doing that. Is there a place I can download the presentation? Thanks.

  2. jparra
    June 14th, 2011 at 10:54 | #2

    Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for your feedback! We’re glad you found the webinar useful and informative. Here is the link to the video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1gBiZpZ2BY

  1. June 9th, 2011 at 03:02 | #1