Is Social Media Marketing Free?

You're getting started; we get it. Distractions abound in your world. It's expected that some things will inevitably fall through the proverbial cracks. We're not judging. We would like to 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, to attract more social media followers.

Is Social Media Marketing Free

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." 

Why Does Social Media Matter?

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. 

No matter who makes up your target audience. No matter if you have multiple distinct audiences. It doesn't matter—you can reach anyone 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.

Not only are they here, but they're also buying. People increasingly turn to their favorite social media channels for inspiration or to see what their friends buy. They're also using social media for research, so monitoring what people say about you can pay off big time.

  • 21% are likelier 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. 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 you spend any money on. That Facebook update you posted this morning? Not paid. Your announcement about an upcoming special offer that you boosted to get it seen by a wider audience...paid. 

You don't have to spend much here to see a good ROI. Boosting a post extends your reach outside of your follower list. And for using the platform's 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 how far to expand that reach.

Organic social media marketing

Unlike sponsored or boosted posts, organic social media is everything you post. Every time you engage with a follower by responding to their post or posting 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 spend composing and posting.

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Social Media Marketing: The Why

Now that we're all on the same page let’s discuss why this is so important for your startup. Unless you have a huge personal contact list, you will need people to learn about your new company. And the more of them you can reach quickly, the better, right?

Brand recognition

Key #1 to marketing a startup is gaining brand recognition as early as possible. You don't have to be anywhere near ready for the market for this to pay off. The more someone sees your brand, the more likely they will 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 drive 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 showcasing thought leadership in that industry. 

SEO juice

Google loves an active social media presence. That's the bottom line here. You need to keep SEO in mind no matter what web activity you're undertaking in the name of your new company. Google's latest algorithm heavily emphasizes what they call "domain authority." While they aren't known for releasing details about their algorithms, we know that Google combines all activity under your brand name into account. 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. it Free or Not?

TL;DR— No.

But, the better choice depends on what you can "afford" regarding 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 and 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. 

So, it's not really free; it costs someone's effort. Invest it wisely! 😉

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Jesse hails from Seattle, WA. When he's not creating great content or staring at his laptop screen waiting for inspiration, he's probably walking in the trees somewhere in the foothills of the nearby Cascade Mountains.

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