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.

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. If there's a guy around who knows what people are charging, it's him — and holy hell do those people ask for a crapload of money! 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. No joke.

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 this work to your friend who once took a class in marketing at a local community 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?

Creating a "comprehensive" strategy for social media marketing and outsourcing all work for all channels (with a minimum of two) costs anywhere from $3,000-$20,000 per month, with the industry average settling between $4,000-$7,000 per month. If you want them 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 Foursquare, too.

How Much Does an Audit of Twitter and Facebook Cost?

What if you just want an audit of your current 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.

Why Does Social Media Marketing Cost So Much?

Don't ask us, because we don't know. These rates 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 social media marketing accounts. 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 fees? What medium business owner could? Sure, companies who like to light their money on fire can justify that sort of cost — but what about everyone else? Everyone else is who we like to focus on (our competitors can keep their $20k per month rates…they probably come with a whole lot more harassment from angry clients than we'd be willing to tolerate).

Here's what we do know: many of these online PR agencies outsource the work anyway — we've ended up with some of it, and it's recently become a steady source of business for us.

How Much Does TCF 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 posts about how to write your own website content, free online PR tools and social media marketing tips, and we'll continue to do so as long as there are SEO keywords we can incorporate into them. 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 PR. There's a healthy mix of superior content writing, traditional PR methods and social media marketing (and it's uber effective for our clients). Free strategy included with every order!

The 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.

As a result, some of of our blog posts are the most popular landing pages on our site – and ContentFac.com gets almost $100,000 per year in passive lead generation via organic search traffic. This does not include advertising on search engines, which we don't really need to do because our blog and content marketing process does most of the heavy lifting for us. 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.

These are the types of services you can expect from us. We're also able to negotiate a smaller package for a smaller price tag:

  • 3 blog postings a week (SEO enhanced, if you want). We can set up Google Alerts and RSS feeds to check for news related to your industry, so there'll never be a shortage of things to blog/tweet about. 
  • 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.
  • Tons of Twitter updates (we average about 7-10 per day for our clients)
  • Managing the Facebook fan page, Facebook ad campaign management
  • Google+ and LinkedIn management
  • Custom Social Media Graphics
  • SEO keyword research
  • Submission to social bookmarking sites
  • Monitoring resources like HARO and ProfNet for PR opportunities (see below)
  • Writing press releases as needed
  • Article writing/pitching as needed
  • 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.

One really cool thing that we have access to is something called ProfNet, which is run by the people at PR Newswire. It's basically a network that puts national journalists in touch with business owners for news articles, and I've had a lot of success getting PR opportunities through the site. It costs around $2k/year for a membership, if you wanted to pay for it on your own.

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

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

So, that's what we do and how much we do it for. 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 people like us, and if you think we'd make a good team shoot us an e-mail!

31 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.”

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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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