Social Media Marketing: Is It Better to Invest Time or Money?
In the grand scheme of business marketing, social media is still just a kid– not even 10 years old. (Facebook “fan pages” first came out in 2007). So, I can understand why some business owners might still be on the fence about really using it.
For anyone who has ever dabbled with social media marketing, you know it’s not as easy as it looks. When you start from scratch and the followers are just barely trickling in you might find yourself discouraged or even desperate, which urges many people to ask, “Can I buy my way in?”
Social media is arguably the most powerful and accessible marketing tool at your disposal, and you can harness it with the right investment.
Is it Better to Invest Your Time or Money?
One of the best things about social media marketing is that, on the basic level, it’s free. The only investment you need to make is your time. But how much time?
There are also a number of paid options to help you grow more quickly, but it’s important to know the boundaries and pitfalls of buying your following.
Putting In The Time
By spending an hour a day posting updates and gaining followers little by little, you could probably establish an authoritative social presence in a year or two, maybe longer depending on your industry. You can get there faster by investing more time.
It might not seem like it at first, but creating a content-integrated social media strategy and implementing that plan on a select few networks could easily be a full time job. You’ve got to optimize your content for each network, understand your audience and their social behavior, stay up-to-date on trending topics and interact with other users as much as possible.
In going this route, the following you end up with will be the most loyal and engaged of any approach. You just have to have patience and positivity.
The Organic Struggle
You’re likely to get stuck in a rut, or an “engagement drought,” when you’re slugging it out in the free lane. When that happens, take that as your cue to shake it up and try something new. There are a ton of clever tactics that you can use to expand your social community, but like I said, it’s going to take some time.
Dollars and Sense
If you don’t have the time to invest in your social media presence, you can still reach your goals if you have the budget. Almost every social network offers paid advertising options, allowing you to reach more people, gain more followers, and even drive more website traffic and conversions right away.
You can also use these advertising platforms to reach a targeted audience. On Facebook, for example, you can set up an ad that invites users within your ideal customer demographics to like your Facebook page. If you owned a hair salon, you could target women of a certain age living within a certain distance of your salon, and build a following of qualified potential customers who are more likely to engage with your content.
In most cases you can cap your spending and enable other helpful settings that make these paid options incredibly easy to use.
Another way you can use your budget to save time is by investing in social media marketing tools. There are more and more tools sprouting up every day that can help you schedule posts, find influencers, automate interactions and analyze your progress. Platforms and apps like Hootsuite, Buffer, Followerwonk, and Simply Measured (among many, many others) all provide super-helpful tools and offer some basic services for free.
The downside to solely using these tools and network ads to build your following is being disconnected from your fans. It’s best to be active on the networks themselves so that you don’t miss anything or leave your followers hanging.
Have some shame in your game
The problem with third-party tools is when we get into the very muddy waters of buying followers. Even if you’re just getting started with social media, you’ve probably already been invited to “buy 5,000 followers for $5,” or something like that. There are a gazzilion accounts and “services” that will promise you a huge following overnight, either by using thousands of fake accounts or employing an aggressive follower churn method.
Read more: 4 Reasons Why You Should Not Buy Followers
What’s more important than your number of followers is the level of engagement they have with your content and the business-related goals they’re helping you achieve.
My Combination Recommendation
The best way to build an engaged following at any decent rate–and to maintain that captivating social media presence– is to mix a little money in with your time. I recommend primarily investing your labor hours into carrying out an active and authentic social strategy. Have conversations, build relationships, and make it fun.
The time to use paid options is when you’re starting from scratch, when you’re stuck in a rut, or when you want to promote something special. Use ads to make sure your first few hundred followers are people who will be interested in your content. Pay to promote your website when you’re in a traffic drought. Boost a post when you really need to get the word out.
The point is to have a social media presence that is less smoke and mirrors and more trust and substance.