How Much Does Social Media Marketing Cost?

We get a lot of inquiries about the cost of social media marketing services, and questions about why we charge what we do in relation to other online PR agencies. Before starting The Content Factory, Joan Barrett and I did a ton of research about professional social media marketing agencies – and quickly came to the conclusion that there was no way we were ever going to charge any of our clients that much.

Side note: in the interest of saving you some time, if you want to know how much TCF charges for social media marketing you can scroll to the bottom of this post or click here to see our full generic proposal, which also includes digital PR, web content writing and content marketing.

Mack Collier, one of the thought leaders of the professional social media marketing world and the writer of a fairly awesome blog, wrote a really interesting post about how much online PR costs businesses these days. The overall gist of his post: social media consultant rates are through the roof. Here's what the industry averages are (and no, we're not making any of these numbers up):

How Much Does Marketing With Twitter Cost?

Launching a new Twitter account, complete with setup and outsourcing content creation/consumer interaction (all 140 characters at a time), costs an average of $2,000-$4,000 per month – and that's just for Twitter. With that said, the total price range was $1,000-$7,500 per month.

What if you already have an existing Twitter account, but need some help to take it to the next level? Restructuring an existing Twitter account with "limited coaching" to achieve client goals is still going to cost you between $1,000-$2,500 per month, with some charging as much as $4,000 per month…just for Twitter! That's right, if you want Facebook, you're paying extra.

How Much Does Marketing With Facebook Cost?

If you thought the costs of marketing with Twitter were high, you might want to grab your fainting chair — Facebook marketing rates will give you a case of the vapors. To set up a new Facebook account and provide limited ongoing training to business partners, online PR agencies charge an average of $2,500-$5,000 per month, with some going as high as $9,000. Of course, this also includes status updates and interacting with customers. You know what it doesn't include, though? Strategy. 

If you're shelling out a minimum of $4,500 per month for Facebook and Twitter management, you're not getting any strategy behind the efforts. That costs extra (sort of like adding bacon, but not as tasty). Now, we'll admit that the strategy is the most important part — you've got to go into social media marketing with a game plan and a list of goals, or you'll never really get anywhere. This is the reason you don't want to outsource your company's social media management to your friend's kid who is taking a class in marketing at college. Online PR agencies know this, so they make sure to charge you for their expertise. You know, in case they're not getting enough of your money already.

How Much Does Social Media Strategy Cost?

It's easy to get fake famous on social media channels, and apparently it'll only cost you $6,800. Although it may sound impressive to have 1 million "likes" on Facebook, your charade will be exposed the second somebody checks out your page and sees that nobody ever likes, comments or shares your content. 

Creating a comprehensive strategy for social media marketing and outsourcing all work for all channels (with a minimum of two social networks) costs anywhere from $3,000-$20,000 per month, with the industry average settling between $4,000-$7,000 per month. If you want the social media agency to start the accounts from scratch and consult on a 4- to 12-month contract, you'll pay between $3,000-$15,000 per month. What do they mean by channels, minimum of two? That's just a fancy way of saying that the cost includes both Facebook and Twitter…I'm betting there's probably an upcharge if your company wants Google+, too.

If you're doing market research to figure out your customer/client's persona(s) and preferences, it's possible to legitimatize a $20,000 spend to gather the background info necessary to excecute a killer social media campaign. But otherwise, you can probably get much of the same for less money.

Also, most of the "strategy" aspect of social media carries over from client to client. For instance, the tactics we use for a B2B client in the business coaching space aren't all that different from the tactics we use for a B2B client in the cloud computing space. In both cases, we focus on using Twitter as a PR tool to reach out to journalists who cover the space, interact with them, get on their radar and prime them for when we send an actual pitch. This way, they know who the client is before we ever officially contact them on the clients behalf. 

Additionally, in both B2B cases we also use Twitter as a way to engage with thought leaders in the space – we often end up getting them to write guest content for the client's blog or quotes that we can use in a post we write ourselves. For both the business coach and the cloude service provider we also focus on interacting with current and potential clients, share client insights on industry news, etc. In fact, we use most of these same social media marketing tactics in the B2C space as well. 

Before writing the retainer check, ask yourself what you're really getting for a $20k monthly spend on strategy alone. Are you getting a unique social media marketing strategy tailor made for your business, or a slightly customized version of a tried-and-true method for achieving social media success? Chances are, it's the latter – and for good reason, because it works! But don't let yourself be charged extra for creating a wheel that's already been invented.

How Much Does an Audit of Twitter and Facebook Cost?

What if you just want an audit of your current social media strategy, with a few pointers on how to improve? Better bust out the AmEx, because it's going to cost you anywhere from $2,000-$10,000. The lower end of this spectrum seems reasonable, especially if you add in the cost of social media training and competitive analysis. The only way to justify a $10k spend is if the social media consultant actually flies out to your office and does an in-depth, in-person training over the course of several days. 

If you decide to go for an ongoing social media package at a monthly rate, do not let the agency charge you extra for an audit of your current social activity. Here's the thing: any reputable social media marketing agecy is going to audit your social channels in the process of coming up with a proposal. The work is being done anyway, and for the most part it doesn't take a whole lot of time – if you don't include competitive anlaysis, a social media audit can be done in an afternoon.  

Why Does Social Media Marketing Cost So Much?

Don't ask us, because we don't know. We've been working in this industry for years, and have represented B2B, B2C, small startups and national brands. In our experience, unless you're a national brand with a huge amount of sales it's impossible to justify these numbers. For the average startup or small business, there's very little chance you'll achieve ROI on a social campaign that costs $20,000 per month – you've really got to be doing something super special to justify the spend and generate the interest. But if your product or service is that amazing, you probably don't need to spend $20k to seed a social following. You can easily accompllish much of the same on a $5,000 budget.

It's important to note that the social media marketing rates listed above don't even include the cost of content, which means that you still have to pay for blogs, press releases, landing pages and all the other stuff that acts as fuel for driving your social media strategy. Sure, you can link to a lot of great articles on other websites, but what's the point of constantly directing your fans and followers to sites other than your own? Content comes first, and that costs even more. 

In our minds, the average price of social media marketing is downright obnoxious. What small business owner can afford such high rates? Are solid social media campaigns limited only to startups that have major investment capital to work with? Sure, companies that have the money to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on social media campaigns can afford the biggest and best in social media marketing agencies — but they can also afford the biggest and best in advertising, product placement, PR and all other types of marketing. 

Even if you can the high cost of social media marketing through a large agency, there's no guarantee that they'll actually do the work. Fun fact: many onlien marketing agencies outsource the social media management work they charge so much for to an agency like TCF, and then pocket the difference. It's called "white labeling" and it's something we do quite a bit of (especially when it comes to social media and content). That is, other agencies white label their work for us to do under their brand names – they pay us to do their work, and the client never knows about it. The client just sees the work getting done and the results being generated, so it's a win-win-win all around.

Of course, it's smarter (and more efficient) to skip the middle man and go straight to the source. And TCF is happy to be your source.

How Much Does The Content Factory Charge for Social Media Marketing?

We're not particularly secretive about our rates or how we do what we do. We've written a lot of informative posts about topics like successful trade show marketing techniques, the cost of outsourcing website content, and expensive blogging mistakes to avoid, and we'll continue to do so as long as there are SEO keywords we can incorporate into them. As a result, several of our posts rank #1 for highly competitive keywords, and our site generates around $150,000 per year in organic search traffic. We've developed an online marketing strategy that works, not just for us but for our clients as well.

Below is a list of what The Content Factory offers clients that pay between $5,000 and $8,000/month — it's an all-inclusive plan that takes a three-pronged approach to online marketing (and yes, strategy is included – you can click here to see a full rundown of ):

  1. Web content writing and content marketing
  2. PR
  3. Social media marketing

The web content writing and content marketing aspect of our social media services tends to deliver the greatest ROI over time – this blog post that you're reading right now is a very good example of content strategy and marketing in action. Currently, this post ranks #1 in the search engine results pages for a variety of search terms related to "cost of social media marketing" and "how much does social media marketing cost" – there's a good chance that you found this post via a Google search, which is and always has been the primary intention of our blogging efforts.

SEO can be a passive lead generating machine, and if you target the right keywords your website can be the #1 performer on your sales team. Investing in social media marketing without first investing in content and content strategy is pretty much guaranteed to waste your money – and we have no problem telling you that up front, because it's better that you hear it from us and in advance than after you've spent thousands of dollars without seeing many real results.

Adding PR to the mix provides an excellent source of high quality backlinks to your site, on top of the obvious benefit of increasing your company's profile and driving site traffic/interest. If you're serious about SEO, you should be serious about online PR. 

For $8,000 per month, here's a rough outline of the social media marketing, digital PR, web content writing and content marketing you can get with The Content Factory – and we're also able to negotiate a smaller package for a smaller price tag:

  • 3 blog posts a week. We'll develop a keyword strategy that targets all of the search phrases you want to rank for. From there, we'll build out an editorial calendar that systematically targets your keywords, while also offering informative, actionable and interesting content to your readers. Our content strategy is on point, and it's a lot to get into (that's a whole other post enitrely) – contact us for more details.
  • Monitoring of Twitter for related keywords, then pushing links/tweets to those talking about relevant topics. If people are tweeting about it, I'll get an alert and can tell 'em all about your company
  • Getting relevant Twitterers to follow you – We hunt you down several hundreds of followers a week, targeting users by location, number of followers, number of updates, bio keywords and tweet keywords.
  • Daily Twitter updates (an average of 7-10 per day, focusing on interacting with thought leaders, journalists, existing and potential customers, etc.)
  • Managing the Facebook page – 2-3 updates per day, with a focus on sharing content from thought leaders and complimentary, non-competing businesses.
  • Facebook ads – Facebook ad campaign management with a $250 monthly budget built into the rates (you get ads, without being paid extra for them).
  • Google+ and LinkedIn management – With daily updates
  • Custom social media graphics – At least 2 per week
  • Consistent PR – Our clients have been featured on the Today show, CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, TechCrunch, Fox Business…the list goes on and on. Not a month goes by that one of our clients doesn't get major national press coverage, and it's a huge addition to social media work.
  • One press release per quarter – We'll help you make news to make the news.
  • Helping your write articles, then pitching to major publications - One per month. Our clients have written articles that have been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, The Huffington Post and a vareity of other influential publications.
  • Contest creation/management as needed. We're big fans of contests, because they can draw all kinds of people to the site who would've never found it otherwise. Plus, they're great for website traffic.
  • Social bookmarking submissions like woah. We submit to sites that nobody thinks of, but they certainly drive traffic. We also submit links to Quora, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc.

To help make sure we're always on the same page, every month we send our clients a monthly update with the following information:

  • New Twitter followers and interesting interactions
  • New FB fans and interesting interactions
  • Google Analytics traffic reports
  • Number of blogs/articles written (with stats to match)
  • Feedback quotes from social networking sites
  • Links to media coverage we've gotten you/your company, social shares
  • Whatever other info/stats you want us to keep track of
  • Goals/milestones achieved
  • Tasks slated for the following month

So, that's what we do and how much we do it for – you can click here for a much more thorough rundown of everything that's included in our packages. In the interest of full disclosure: our rates are significantly less than the industry average, and it's entirely possible that larger online PR agencies have more contacts and resources than we currently have access to. However, we've been in the business for several years now and have made many connections of our own with major media outlets and thought leaders. We have many case studies to point to that prove we know what we're doing. When it comes to overall social media marketing value, though, we really can't be beat.

We're also ridiculously talented, extraordinarily crafty when it comes to PR and exceptionally awesome to work with — if you're a good fit for the services we offer. The truth of the matter is that some people just aren't ready to hire a professional social media marketing agency, and we have to turn some of them away. Interested in our consulting services? We'll train anyone you want on the ins and outs of social media for a one-time $1,750 fee, which includes 5 hours of training via GoTo Meeting or Skype, a strategy session and our comprehensive social media guide. Want to find out if you're a good fit? Check out the five things to ask yourself before hiring an online marketing agency, and if you think we'd make a good team contact us today!

44 Comments

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    • These are actually really reasonable rates, especially if you look at what other agencies charge. Can every small business owner afford to outsource social media marketing? No — but for many, it’s cheaper than bringing in somebody in-house. For one person to do what we do, they’d have to work a minimum of 30 hours a week (and even then, that doesn’t take into account tools like ProfNet and Vocus, which cost thousands of dollars a year).

  • Thanks for the info, the industry averages really help a lot. I work at an angel investment group and we try to find the best deals for the companies we invest in so that we feel comfortable with the investment’s direction. Sounds like you guys have a decent set-up

  • I have spent more time than I wish I had trying to understand the price points of social media marketing. The prices your team have quoted for social media and copywriting seem very reasonable.

    I don’t believe I have come across another site that is as transparent as you guys are. Being new to social media strategy, I have been scouring the Web for information resources and this definitely qualifies as such. Keep up the solid work!

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  • I just wanted to address the ‘I don’t know how a firm justifies these numbers’ issue. While obviously small and even medium sized businesses would have a hard time managing that $10,000/m fee for a social media agency, we need to remember that the cost for a small or medium sized business wouldn’t be that much either. While its true some agencies charge more just to distinguish themselves in the market, for others those charges represent real costs and mark-ups.

    Say you’re a fairly well known brand with even just two social media platforms running. You’ve got approximately 100,000 unique followers or fans, with 2% of them interacting with your brand on a regular (let’s say weekly) basis. By interacting I mean mentioning you, commenting on a post/retweeting, or sharing your content. That’s 2000 responses your team needs to be monitoring/thanking/interacting with a week. Even if 20% of those are complaints (let’s face it, people love to share their bad news), you’re monitoring and doing damage control on 208 posts a year that could hit at anytime and need to be addressed right away to avoid snowballing.

    You need a minimum of 1 person monitoring your social media at all time. Even at an entry-level pay, this would cost your company 130k per year before benefits. That in itself is over 10k a month. Then add in the cost of an experienced social media manager, graphic designer, ad campaigns, etc.

    This is where a company can save with an agency, even if they do charge what seems like an enormous amount.

    Now to you guys (TCF), I’d say the cost for service you offer sounds like a great value and I’m not trying to knock it. Especially if it’s quality writing and strategy. I just wanted to put out there a pricing explanation for people who think a social media agency is charging 10k a month for the fun of it.

    • Hey Jessica,

      Totally agreed – and obviously the story is much different for larger brands with an established base. In those cases, I think $10k per month (or more) is entirely justified, especially if you’re talking about designing and running big campaigns. But a lot of these agencies charge small businesses that much – and I’ve seen it because a few of these agencies contract the work out to us on a white-label basis. I think that charging a small business that much is borderline criminal, and most of the companies will go bankrupt before they’ll see a return on that investment.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Kari

    • Absolutely agree with you, Jessica. The truth of the matter is that many are not educated on the value of building relevant and sustainable social media community, or that these are the very real cost of providing this service.

      While charging a start-up $10K (what it costs) for this service may seem like murder, that is what it costs. Understanding their budgets, however, what start-ups can do is get training, attend workshops and do lower-end audits, and attach themselves to social media blogs that keep them on track, to try to get themselves off to a good start until they can afford to completely outsource their social media management.

      • Thanks for your comment Crystal! Often times, a consultation or training is the best choice for a small start up with a limited budget. We’ll train any business owner, intern or anyone else in house on an hourly basis. We’ve even trained quite a few people who have had no social media marketing experience, but because they were given the right tools and training, they were able to, as you say “get themselves off to a good start.”

      • Hi I am so amazed to hear all about these price quotes. I never knew that social media marketing prices were so outrageous. We are about to set up a site which will help businesses with they social media marketing and SEO and we don't want to under price our selves too much or over price either. But this idea of out sourcing is great, I did did suggested to my partners before but now I'm convinced we should do it because it's a lot of work that goes into this business, I am so happy I ran into this blog. Thanks guys, you made it so easy for me.

    • Hi Jessica,

      I think I misunderstood something.

      Did you say entry level pay for one person is $130,000? If you were paying that much, you'd have a hundred thousand resumés in your inbox.

      If it wasn't a typo, where did you get the $130,000 number? (I figured it might be a typo because you made a double math mistake in using 20% a week to arrive at 208 per year – which would be 400 a week if it's 20% of 100k and I can't figure where the 8 came from)

      In our experience, you could hire 3 people for $130,000, which would mean that each one would be dealing with just over 15 posts an hour based on your 20% math. 

       

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  • Excellent post, thanks for the very informative analysis! And an extra appreciation for the transparency in sharing your rates vs industry standards. I always found it peculiar that so many businesses that offer these services are so secretive about their rates, now I understand why!

    I think excellent points can be made for both sides of the coin – rates in the thousands are totally justified for big business, but there’s no way any one should expect a small business owner to be willing to invest that kind of money in social media. For this reason, it’s really hard to have a one price fits all mentality with social media management. On the one hand, a small business doesn’t have the following (i.e. customer comments, question, engagement) that a big business has, but at the same time, most of the small business owners have very little understanding of social media. So rather than spending time posting and encouraging fan engagement, managing a small business’ social media presence involves a much heavier level of education for the business owner. I guess the bottom line is – there’s no one right answer.

    Thanks for sharing though, this post was very helpful!

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  • The prices are really high because the industry is not regulated. Everybody does pretty much what they want.

    I usually work on a client-by-client basis and try to offer services that take the size of their wallets into account. Small businesses often can’t afford to shell thousands of dollars per month, just for Facebook or Twitter.

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    • Hi Tim,

      Can you detail what all is included for $500 per month? How many posts per day, how many social channels is included and what type of interaction and targeting is included at that price rate? 

      Simply put, $500 per month isn’t enough to pay somebody to care about what they’re doing. None of the social media marketers we work (or are in competition) with could pay an employee $500 per month for social media work and attract any kind of real SMM talent. Certainly not for multiple channels.

      Maybe your services are awesome, I really have no idea. But at that rate, I have to think that your clients get what they pay for – not much.

      Kari

      • Agreed, Kari.

        Tim, I understand wanting to put a price point that people can afford – I genuinely get that – but truly:

        1. If you are undervaluing yourself, they will too: It's not just the labor, but the intelligence, the research and the analytics that you wind up doing, inevitably, to ensure that you're building a community that won't go dormant in 3 months. When I first started, I did what you're doing, only for clients to show me that underpricing myself made it difficult for them to value my time. Even if you just post – with no strategy – that's too low.

        2. People don't value what they didn't pay for: I've seen this happen in the engineering industry in Ontario as well. Engineer companies just kept underbidding each other until they bid so low that they couldn't even cover the cost of providing engineering services. Social media has started as an undervalued service, despite the PR crises and stagnated communities that keep popping up. If we really want to help our clients, then we really have to be able to provide the service – which costs.

        3. Pricing affects significance in the minds of customers: when the client starts reviewing business plans and projections for budgeting, social media will not be effectively integrated and their PR, Communications, Marketing and even R&D, HR and Partnership prospects will suffer because social media strategy affects every business function it touches.

        Food for thought.

  • Thank you for sharing this. It's important to start educating the online populace about the real cost of providing social media services. I almost cried when someone offered me $25/month (that's correct, per month) to 'manage her Facebook page'. Once I explained that social media management to truly protect and develop your brand is a professional service, they were taken aback.

    I'd just like to say thank you, and that I'll be posting this everywhere. These were posted between 2011 and 2013: http://www.bluecloudsolutions.com/blog/social-media-cost/http://www.mackcollier.com/how-much-does-social-media-cost-in-2011/, so this update on pricing is very relevant.

    Successiory is a social media consulting firm that targets small- and medium-sized businesses that have the capital to at least invest in preparation for in-house social media management and helps them start thinking honestly about what they need to outsource later on. Here's hoping this lends support to our industry.

    Cheers, everyone! Here's to a great 2014.

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  • Word.  I couln't have said it better. I specialize in Marketing and Public Relations in the Wine Industry.

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  • Excellent Article!  Exactly what I needed and have been hunting for on Google. I finally found this so your SEO paid off. Look forward to following up with you in the future.  Could you do an article on mobile app marketing strategy too including costs as that is my current focus, (or send info my way).Thanks again for your transparency.  It shouldn't have to be this hard to get information.  Thanks….

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  • Lovely Article.. Social Media strategy must be aimed at engagement with the community of potential customer. I perhaps do not agree with the cost factors that are mentioned in the above article. 

    Faiz

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  • "Why Does Social Media Marketing Cost So Much?

    Don't ask us, because we don't know. "

    In resonse to that, it costs a lot because managers need to value their time / effort / and resources needed (like paying their team) — all that is included in the price.  ;-)

    ~Devani

  • How much would you estimate it should cost per month if a social media marketer is *just* posting to (for instance) Pinterest? I'm a sole-proprietor that designs wedding invitations and I just hired someone to help me keep up with my social media posts. However, my business doesn't make more than $25,000 per year (income, that's after expenses are taken out). So I have to start out low for now, which is why she is just starting out with 1 social media platform and only posting as many times a day as I can afford. What would a fair payment be for something like this? Thank you!!

    • Hi Teresa,

      In this instance, I’d recommend going the DIY route – unless this social media marketer is a total rock star, you’re unlikely to see ROI. And, at this stage in your business, it’s important to use social media on a personal level to help you identify trends, connect with leaders in your industry, etc. This can help you refine your tone and approach, bring about strategic parternships and ensure that you’re taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible. A part-time one-channel-only social media hire is not likely to identify these types of things on the same level you would.

      With social media, it’s not about how many posts per day you pay for and receive – it’s about achieving the overall objective of your social marketing strategy. If you’re paying per post, you’re not looking at the right metrics and are setting yourself up for failure (and probably haven’t found the right marketing partner). 

      Here’s a Guide to Marketing Your Business with Pinterest that can help get you started. Thanks for your question!

      Kari

       

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