Is Social Media Marketing Free?
You’re running a startup, we get it. Distractions abound in your world. It’s to be expected that some things will inevitably fall through the proverbial cracks. We’re not judging. What we would like to do is gently bring your attention to one of those things we see falling all too often and help you see why it would be a great idea to put some time into it—social media marketing.
We also get that you’re likely a bit light in the pocketbook right now. Whether you’re bootstrapping it or have finalized first-round funding, most of your available budget is already spoken for. Not to worry, there are plenty of ways to reap the benefits of social media marketing without digging into the coffer.
Did we just give away the ending? OK, the short answer to our headline question is Yes...with an asterisk. And that asterisk says “to an extent.”
But First, Some Facts About Social Media Marketing
Before we dive into free ways to do social media, we’d like to be sure you have some underlying facts. These facts are the reasons behind the “why” section that follows.
- Over 45% of the world’s population uses at least one social media channel.
No matter who makes up your target audience. No matter if you have multiple distinct audiences. Basically, it doesn’t matter—you’ll be able to reach whoever you need to on social media. Yes, platforms matter, but the bottom line is, they’re here. You just need to create a brand presence so they know you’re here too.
- 37% of those polled found purchase inspiration via social.
Not only are they here, they’re buying. Increasingly people are turning to their favorite social media channel when looking for inspiration, or to see what their friends are buying. They’re using social for research as well, so monitoring what people are saying about you can pay off big time.
- 21% are more likely to buy from a company with an active, engaging social presence.
And lastly, a growing contingent of the public has begun seeing an active social media presence as a prerequisite for brands they give their business to. Engaging with your audience on social shows them that you value their time. They’re already on these platforms, so when you show up and share interesting facts, make special offers, and generally engage with them it shows people that you’re willing to go that extra mile.
Paid vs. Organic Social Media Marketing
The dichotomy of paid vs organic is often misunderstood. Just because it’s called “Paid” doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, and just because the other one is called “Organic” doesn’t mean it’s always free. Let me explain.
Paid social media marketing
Simply put, this is any post on any social media platform that you spend any amount of money on. That Facebook update you posted this morning? Not paid. The announcement you made about an upcoming special offer that you boosted, to get it seen by a wider audience...paid.
You don’t have to spend a lot here to see a good ROI. Boosting a post extends your reach outside of your follower list. And for the use of the platforms algorithms to determine the best people to show your post to, they charge anywhere from a few pennies to many dollars. It’s up to you how much to spend and therefore how far to expand that reach.
Organic social media marketing
Opposed to those sponsored or boosted posts, organic social media is everything else you post. Every time you engage with a follower by responding to their post, or post a general company update that people like, you’re conducting social media marketing. Because everything you do that raises brand awareness is marketing. And all these posts cost is the time you’re spending composing and posting.
Social Media Marketing: The Why
OK, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about why this is so important for your startup. Basically, unless you have a huge personal contact list, you’re going to need people to find out about your new company. And the more of them that you can reach quickly, the better, right?
Key #1 to marketing a startup is to start gaining brand recognition as early as possible. You don’t have to be anywhere near ready for market for this to pay off. The more someone sees your brand, the more likely they are to remember you.
And the more engaging your social media presence, the more likely they are to follow you and get all the product/service updates you post as soon as you post them. This is where having a set of brand guidelines will come in handy, as you’ll want to be sure that no matter what platform someone discovers you on, they get the same messaging, in the same brand voice, and with the same brand personality.
Driving traffic to your website
From a purely numbers and metrics angle, your brand recognition activities on social media are driving clicks to your website. And when it comes to the next item, SEO, this is crucial. Post about your products and include a link to the product page. Then tweet links to your latest blog post. Then post an industry update that links to a pillar page about how you’re the leader in that industry.
Google loves an active social media presence. That’s really the bottom line here. You need to keep SEO in mind no matter what form of web activity you’re undertaking in the name of your new company. Google’s latest algorithm puts a heavy emphasis on what they call “domain authority.” While they aren’t known for releasing details about their algorithms, what we do know is that Google takes into account all activity under your brand name and combines it. This includes mentions on the big social platforms, mentions on authoritative sites, and content that places you as a trusted source of information on your sector.
So...is it Free, or Not?
It depends on your definition of free, and it depends on what you can “afford” in terms of time and energy. Can you conduct a full function social media marketing campaign without spending a dollar of your VC funding? Yes. Can you hire an outside agency and drop thousands on that same campaign? Yes. Which will return better results? That’s not for us to say.
What we can say is this—If you put in the time and effort to create brand accounts on the social networks your audience is using, set up some automation software to ensure that you post frequently and consistently, you can reap all the benefits of an active social media presence without dropping the big bucks.
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