Is Social Media Free?
Friday, 17 August 2012 07:36
Is Social Media Free?
Why pay for print when you can market on Facebook and other social media outlets for nothing? This is the question that was recently debated after P&G’s CEO appeared to say that impressions on Facebook and Google are free. This comment appeared alongside the announcement that P&G would lay off 1,600 non-manufacturing employees, including those in marketing, as it places more emphasis on digital channels (like the “free” Facebook impressions).
This comment created an explosion in the marketing world. After all, P&G spends huge amounts on traditional advertising.
Social media advertising is not free. Consumers don’t show up on companies’ Facebook and Google+ pages by accident. They are driven there by traditional media, such as direct mail, television, radio, billboards, posters, and magazine and newspaper advertising. Social media, especially with the number of outlets and the volumes of traffic managed by major brands, also needs to be monitored by real people who require real salaries. In other words, social media costs real money.
Still, traditional media done right can create the kind of brand recognition and affinity that will draw people to your social media sites. It can also enable the environment for the occasional viral sensation like P&G’s Old Spice Guy, which generated 40 million of these “free” impressions.
But the key words are “occasional” and “exception.” Consider these three comments:
- “[This] sounds like a misunderstanding of the relationship between earned and paid media, and the strategy behind how they work together. There is a message—then there is the amplification of reach for that message.”
- “This gets into a question of whether the commercial would have gone viral without first being socialized via TV. I would argue it wouldn't have.”
- “The cost of servicing and creating [social media] experiences are incredibly expensive at the client and at the agency. And the media to support those experiences such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube in the social environments may look relatively more efficient right now [but are] expensive to manage and execute.”
So when you hear about the social media sensations and the “free” marketing on social media sites, try not to get distracted. They aren’t free. Nor are they the norm. Active participation in social media may open the door for those occasional off-the-charts successes, but most would not exist without the support of traditional media.