One of the hardest things for a small business deciding whether to invest in social media, is actually figuring out the size of budget that you need to give yourself a good shot at success. Of course, as a business owner or manager, you'd love to be generating client leads from social media... or driving paying customers to your website... or attracting future hires to apply for openings at your business. But at what cost?
If I think of the most common reasons that small businesses fail on social media, it invariably comes down to having underestimated what it takes to be successful. Business owners sometimes mistakenly believe that results can be generated simply by putting staff to work on their social strategy when those team members have the odd spare hour each week. That might be enough to make your business look active on social media, but it's far from enough to actually do everything that's needed to bring in real business results. So read on if you are looking to get tangible business results from social media rather than just having a token presence.
Now I have a lot of fun each year conducting social media seminars for small business owners. During these sessions, we work through everything that's needed to be successful on social media - in terms of perfecting your social media strategy, tactics and day-to-day workflows. During these sessions I’ll invariably ask business owners to estimate how much time and resource they think would be needed to do all the things we've identified as being essential to their success during the course of the seminar. It's something that I also find myself discussing on our paid social media consultations.
You’re probably wondering what their consensus view typically is? Having spent a day immersed in understanding what their business needs to do to succeed, these owners and managers typically conclude that a social media expert working at least 50% part-time in their business is essential for success. Or failing that, a full-time member of staff who does not have the same degree of social media expertise would be needed. That's quite a substantial investment for a small business to make - and a commitment that often comes as an eye-opener to those who’d assumed results could be generated with far less effort. I’d go as far as to say that failing to appreciate that this is the scale of investment needed is one of the single biggest reasons that small businesses fail to get tangible business results from social media.
This is course is only the beginning. The person charged with implementing your social media strategy is going to need paid subscriptions to some key social media tools in order to be effective. They’ll probably also need some budget to run social media promotions and experiments. None of these things tend to be factored in when small businesses are deciding whether or not to embark on a drive to get results from social media.
So to help you in determining whether you are ready to invest in social media, I would start by thinking about your budget. If you genuinely cannot find $15,000 to $20,000 per year to invest in having a strong social media presence, then it is simply not realistic to expect that your foray into social media will bring your SME significant business results. To be clear, that's likely to be the cost of working with external experts or agencies specialising in social media. If you want to develop and implement your strategy in-house, the chances are that the cost will be greater still. Think how much it costs per annum to employ even one person part-time and you can easily see that this would be the case. That's why for many small businesses, going down the route of partnering with an external agency is often the most cost-effective way of launching your social media presence and starting to generate business results from social media.
Of course, businesses can often find budget if ROI can be proven for a particular investment. This is certainly also true of social media - and once you have started to generate business results, it may well be possible to justify a far higher spend given the results that you are seeing. Unfortunately, in our experience, many small businesses never reach the stage of generating compelling results from social media, because they have simply not invested enough at the outset to ever give themselves a realistic chance of success.
I hope that this overview will allow you to assess whether your business is really ready to invest in social media just yet. If the levels of spend detailed here are really more than your business can currently stretch to, my advice would be to rethink whether you will invest in social media at all at this time.
Results on social media often scale significantly, meaning that the more you do on social media, the more you will see your results rocket. But correspondingly that also means that if you only invest a fraction of what’s needed to generate results on social media, the results you are likely to see will most probably be extremely disappointing and will make you question whether social media works at all in your particular niche market. The reality is likely to be that with more substantial investment a serious return could have been achieved, but you’ve sabotaged your efforts from the outset by failing to invest significantly enough. Hopefully these insights have given you the information you need to fight for the budget that's required - or to have the courage to pull the plug on what would've been a half-hearted foray into social media. Good luck.
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