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. 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 ):
- Web content writing and content marketing
- 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
- Reddit Advertising – A mixture of posting, commenting, and generally being active in the community (or specific communities of your choosing). Reddit marketing is flexible, and heavily dependent on what your business does.
- 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 you 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!