The quick answer to this, and the one that most marketers like to give you, is that social media is FREE! Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but I have always heard that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. In this case, it is and isn't true.
It's true because claiming your social media pages and handles is free. Just log onto the desired site, put in your general information, choose a name that hasn't already been claimed, and there you go! You're up and running on social media without spending a dime. The truth is that is the easy part. Now, you'll have to find time to update your profiles to keep them relevant as anything changes with your business. You'll also have to put together content to share with your audience on a regular basis so they don't lose interest. On top of content you need to make yourself available to respond to comment, questions and concerns. Failing to do this is one of the fastest ways to turn your fans into foes. The power of responding to your audience is amazing. A quick comment or acknowledgement can turn a mildly interested audience member into a loyal fan. Not responding, especially to a complaint or concern, is a fast way to turn that audience member into a very vocal negative review. An unhappy customer will talk about their issues on social media as well as telling on average 7 friends and family members about their negative experience.
Another challenge that will cost you, in the very least, time is that social media is constantly growing, changing and adapting. New platforms are regularly making appearances and if you want to be as successful as possible, you'll need to keep up with at least a few of them. You may have heard of Snapchat and Periscope but have you heard of Wanleo, Kik, Shots or Hyper? No? You're not alone. These platforms are new and are still trying to find their foothold in people's lives. Maybe they'll skyrocket like Instagram, or maybe they'll crash and burn like Friendster (the forefather to Myspace and Facebook). Instagram came on the scene and took the world by storm gathering more active users faster than any other platform had before it. It is now one of the heavy hitters. So, it's important to at least keep an eye out for what people, especially in your industry, are talking about. Some of these new platforms may be a secret weapon to your success.
So, you haven't spent any MONEY yet, but by the time your social media platforms are productively connecting with your audience, you will have spent hours and hours developing them. Then, maintaining your platforms takes most small businesses an average of 8-10 hours per week to develop content, post to profiles and respond. So, if time is money, social media isn't REALLY free.