Social marketing cost vs time
Many businesses, including "mom and pop shops" want to use this new thing called social marketing, but don't know where to start. This article will focus on the Social Media side of the issue. While the details are different with SEO or Search Engine Optimization, the general concept is still the same- great results can happen but expect to either pay thousands of dollars on a campaign or so much time that you can't get your core business done. However, even if it isn't your main push, it needs to be addressed to some degree.
You can hire an employee to handle marketing but when you are small that isn't very likely.
You can hire a company to monitor various social media sites (Twitter, FaceBook, or LinkedIn being the top three) and to post to them whenever you have any new content on one to put it on another. So you just post a small piece on FaceBook and they will make sure it gets to Twitter and LinkedIn.
You can hire a freelance copywriter to write press releases announcing changes to your store, new promotions, etc. This should be done very carefully with a lot of planning since one press release can cost several hundred dollars.
You can also try to save money by doing it yourself. The formula is simple: 1) setup accounts and fan pages at the three major sites mentioned above, 2) post regularly to each one, 3) participate in conversations at those sites answering peoples questions. Step 1 is easy, 3 is a little harder, and 2 is very difficult. The time it takes to do those steps is time taken from a business that is putting food on your table. With discipline it can be done, but eventually you will have to choose to put your time into something that might make you money sometime in the future or something that will make you money tomorrow.
A good sounding approach is something I read 30 years ago in a marketing book. They said to put aside one day a week for marketing. They were talking about making follow-up calls and putting fliers out on the streets. What I've found is that much of the time I was on a dead-line and not finishing a project ASAP meant a dissatisfied customer, potential loss of future projects, and a definite loss of the money for this project. Maybe I don't have the discipline, but I wasn't able to muster a "come rain or shine" attitude in those situations. So sales leads slipped, posts didn't get done, conversations on social media were left hanging, and soon after I finished the project I was without money again.
The answer I am finding right now is animating postings. I use something called Hoot Suite. Hoot Suite started allowing you to schedule posts to twitter ahead of time, reducing your time posting them and not having to go every single day. Now Hoot Suite allows you to post to several different social media sites including the three main ones listed above. For free you are allowed to post to 5 different accounts and after that you pay $5 per month. That means I can post to Twitter, LinkedIn, my Facebook wall, and 2 additional fanpages. I'm working on using this to increase the number of members in a Toastmaster club and what I learn I will use here at RDKsoftware.
So many people on the Internet are exaggerating the return for most businesses (make $$$ of business with less than $100 per month) and the real story is much more sober (it takes more money than most small businesses have or so much time they can't attend to their business). However, social marketing is a reality today and needs to be attended to- that means both SEO and social media. The good news is that with animation you can make it easier to use.