Social Media

3 Ways to Save Money in Social Media (And Still Thrive)

Brad Smith
October 26, 2011

Social media will take over your life if you let it.

Everyday there is a new update you need to know about, a new social network that everyone’s talking about, and a new trend that’s changing how you reach customers.

But if you can carve out some time to stop, reflect and strategize on your current activities, then there are some ways you can quickly cut the fat, save some money, and still get better results in the long run.

You just need to know where to look…

So here are 3 easy ways to save money — and still thrive — in social media.

1. Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything

In 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the people.

This was a pattern that kept popping up again and again after he initially realized that 20% of pea pods in his garden were responsible for 80% of the peas.

Since then, the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) has been applied to many other circumstances to identify which 20% of efforts or investments yield 80% of the return.

The 80/20 rule can almost always be applied to your existing marketing campaigns or channels. And you should take it a step further and apply it to your social media use.

So take a step back, think about how you use social media, and where the bulk of returns or results are impacting your business.

Then to get out-sized results, you need to invest more resources into fewer channels. Most times that means you should actually scale back and do less.

Focus and discipline are key.

It’s easy to find your results — Google Analytics will tell you where the most traffic, leads or sales are coming from.

But how do you measure the inputs? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to in social media, so that’s not worth tracking.

Instead, you have to spend a ton of time (or your team collectively invests most of their time).

So how much is that time worth?

You can use Toggl to manually track your time on tasks, projects or campaigns. Or you can use RescueTime to automatically run in the background and track your time for you.

Now come up with your theoretical hourly rate by dividing your (or your team’s) salary, multiply it against the time invested in each channel, and compare it to your results.

Identify which are under-performing, and then think about how you can reallocate those resources into the winning channels.

Because you only have so many hours in a day. You can make them more efficient (like step #2 below), but you can’t add more. So if you want better results, then most times you’re going to have to prioritize and cut your losses on the under-performing activities.

2. Create Systems & Processes to Manage Campaigns (Not One-Off Activities)

Social media gurus love to hail one-to-one engagement.

Which is good, because the future of online commerce, SEO, and social media is through personalization.

But if you want to grow your business (and not just your Klout score), then you have to think about scale.

Stop thinking tactically, like “how can I get more Facebook fans”. And start thinking in systems and processes that will bring more scale to your marketing.

For example…

Marketing 101 says that current and past customers are worth more (and easier to retain) than acquiring new customers. But too many of us forget — or neglect — to follow up because… [enter common excuses here].

So how can you systemize business follow up?

You can start by creating a Post Purchase Cycle:

  1. Incentivize a “Next Action” Upon Receipt of Purchase: Give the customer an incentive to take some specific action in social media on their receipt of purchase (whether that’s an email or actual, physical receipt)
  2. Make the Action or Sharing “Frictionless”: Make it insanely easy to take that action. For example, if you want them to tweet something about your company, then use Click To Tweet to pre-populate a message — then all they have to do is click and hit Send.
  3. Proactively Monitor & Respond: Use simple, inexpensive software (like Hootsuite) to create a specific list for these messages. You can monitor and react in real-time to each person who tweets your desired message.
  4. Combine Automated Lifecycle Emails: If someone doesn’t take your desired action, then use lifecycle emails to automatically follow-up with reminders or increased incentives until you get what you want.

Now you can measure each step, identify what’s working (and what’s not), and then systemically improve.

You don’t need expensive software or a huge budget for something like this. You just need some creativity, strong personnel to execute, and discipline to follow through.

Which brings us to our last point.

3. Invest More Resources into Fewer People

At the New Media Expo (formerly Blogworld) in January, there was a Keynote Address by Ford which showed examples of past campaigns that featured celebrities like Ryan Seacrest.

That’s a great gig if you can get it.

But most companies don’t have a social media budget allocated for American Idols. And most also can’t afford million-dollar software to measure vague, un-actionable metrics like “share of voice”.

Which is fine — you don’t need either to succeed. However social media isn’t free either (contrary to popular belief).

So investing in excellent people (employees, contractors and vendors) and creativity will always give you the best ROI in the long run.

But this is more difficult than it sounds.

Because your social media employees need to have many opposing qualities like:

  • Impeccable writing and communication skills to interface with customers through text in real-time
  • Empathy to be the critical link between customers, Customer Service and Operations
  • Discipline to learn on the fly and stay on top of an industry that’s evolving 24/7
  • Creativity to consistently produce results (with a small budget and little help)
  • And quantitative skills to hypothesis, test, experiment, measure, deduce, and iterate — quickly

These people are hard to find.

So just like #1 above, you should invest more money into a few people who can actually embody all these qualities. Then work to get other departments to provide support to make sure they will succeed. And create systems and processes to help manage the ever growing workload.

Pay them what they’re worth, and recognize that social media is much more than just community management.

It’s the critical first touch most prospects will have with your brand. It can either pull them in with interest and intrigue. Or scare them away to another competitor or alternative.

The counter-intuitive key to actually saving time and money in the long run is to invest more resources into fewer areas — so you can receive out-sized results.

Because most companies don’t have the time or money to compete — and dominate — every single platform and network.

But if you can identify the top ones, create systems and processes to help manage them, and then put good people in charge, then your marketing ROI will take care of itself.