Social media is fast becoming more than just a part of the marketing and PR mix for many businesses. Companies are realizing they need to integrate social engagement into employee relations, hiring, customer service, risk management and product development. This means hiring social media savvy people in many roles across the organization, or putting a dedicated social media team in place to manage the integration. Social media is often touted as being free — but in truth, while many of the tools such as Facebook and Twitter are free, social media is time and labor intensive. The cost of devising and implementing a successful social media strategy that gets results is anything but free. Social Ally (www.social-ally.com), a new social media support service led by Sally Falkow and Chris Abraham, has released figures that show what social media can actually cost. To plan and effectively implement a social media strategy you would require the services of a social media strategist. Most social media strategy consultants charge between $100 and $300 an hour. If you were to hire one full time, you would probably have to pay between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. A community manager will cost you between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. "These figures make outsourcing some of the social media support activities an attractive proposition," said Falkow in a news release. "Engagement and conversation has to be done by people in the company. That’s what social media is all about — conversations between the people in a company and their stakeholders. But engagement is the tip of the social media iceberg: 75% of the work is in the research, monitoring and content creation — and that can be outsourced."
Successful engagement across the organization means you have to train your staff. An in-house social media manual and online training course would be around $10,000 and hiring a trainer for on-site workshops will cost you anywhere from $1500 – $10,000 a day, depending on who you hire. Your dashboard and monitoring tools will be another $30,000-$80,000 a year. Technology costs — blogs, mini sites, video equipment, custom Facebook tabs and apps, online newsroom and mobile apps — could be anywhere from as little as $5,000 to as much as $100,000.
Take it all into account and you could be looking at a quarter of a million dollars a year! Yes, many successful programs have been done for much less, but when you are calculating ROI it’s wise to look at the big picture and include all the hidden time and labor costs, so you get the real cost of investment and you can see the actual return.
Social Ally is a group of experienced social media experts with a team of designers, developers, writers, researchers and analysts who are well versed in social media support activities. Sally Falkow, named PR Trainer of the Year for her social media and Digital PR classes, was one of the first Digital PR and social media evangelists in the U.S. She started her Digital PR consultancy in 2000. Chris Abraham, listed as the #3 social media influencer in the U.S. in 2011, has been active in this field even longer. The outsource team is headed up by Jamella Santos who has been operating outsourcing operations for many years and has the process and project management systems down cold.