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I’m opening this blog with a bold statement: social media isn’t free. There are lots of people out there who think it is; people who think that they can build a following of loyal, engaged brand fans without a budget. Sadly, those days are over – if they ever even existed in the first place.

Our collective spend on social network advertising is set to soar to $24 billion this year, according to eMarketer. That’s a 33.5 per cent increase on 2014’s figure. By 2017, it’s expected that we’ll be spending $36 billion on social network advertising globally – accounting for 16 per cent of total worldwide expenditure on adverts.

That’s an astronomical sum for a medium that was once widely considered to be free.

True, there’s no fee associated with starting a profile. There is no cost to sending tweets or updating a Facebook page. There is no invoice due for payment after fans join your brand pages. It’s easy to see why some businesses don’t associate social with a budget – but by not allocating some spend to their social networking activity, they could be doing themselves a disservice.

Facebook is a prime example of how savvy networks have become. Posts from brand pages that aren’t accompanied by advertising spend are seen by ever-declining audience numbers. The average reach per post for these brands is falling and, with it, the potential for achieving a high impact social campaign. A small budget per month can pay dividends by ensuring that all your effort isn’t wasted and that your posts are seen by the people you’re trying to reach.

Of course, that’s not to say that great things cannot be achieved without an advertising budget. It’s just much harder; a far, far slower burn; and you need to be prepared that it may never come to fruition.

For brands and businesses that are serious about social, proper consideration needs to be given to setting aside a budget for social media advertising. It’s significantly cheaper than traditional advertising and the return is more measurable, more easily evaluated and, ultimately, clearer to see.

What do you think? Let’s chat.



Joanna Drake