Social Media isn’t Free

Willy is free.  But social media aint.

Willy is free. But social media ain't.

You can “Free Willy.”

Sometimes you can wrangle a free lunch.

Wired‘s controversial editor Chris Anderson even started giving away free copies of his book “Free” (after he sold a lot of them first).

But here is one thing that is not for free.  Social media.

Oh, you can start a Twitter or Facebook account for free.  You can post videos to YouTube at no cost.  You can sign up for FriendFeed and MySpace for nothing.  You can create a blog on WordPress or Blogger for zero cost.

But social media isn’t free.

It takes an investment of time and resources.  It takes creativity and energy.  Because without an investment of these things: social media isn’t going to do much for you.

Social media isn’t a plug-in or a box to check.  It takes effort.

Take a Facebook page for your company or organization.  Starting the page takes minutes because at the end of the day Facebook is a platform.  But like any platform – you need to populate it with content.  Now you can use your Facebook page to re-post press releases and news tidbits, but you aren’t going to attract much of a following.

Followers and fans are interested in the nitty-gritty.  The inside scoop.  Insights that they can’t get elsewhere.  They want compelling content – videos, photographs, articles, essays, etc.  They want solutions and answers to problems.  They want a strong point of view.  They also want to be entertained.

If you use your Facebook page to provide this type of content and then interact and engage with your followers – asking for feedback, responding to praise and criticism, soliciting ideas, and providing sneak peeks or giveaways – then you have created a thriving community.  Content that will help drive sales and build awareness and reputation.

Your blank canvass now has paint on it.

But that kind of effort isn’t free.  So stop thinking about social media as a box to check off – and start to think about it as a cornerstone of a communications plan.

7 Responses to “Social Media isn’t Free”

  1. So true. It’s easy to give FB and Twitter less than 100 percent attention because they are free. From a business point of view, there’s no urgency to justify an investment. There’s no investment. I wonder what would happen if those sites required me (a newspaper) to pay a subscription fee. (Interesting…..I won’t go there!)

  2. That’s an interesting observation Mike. Would your commitment to maintaining those social media channels increase if you were paying a fee to use them? The answer would have to be: Probably.

  3. A good one here! I strongly agree. Advertisors get into social media thinking it is another ad space that they can buy into with money, but they fail to realise that social media isn’t about buying space. It’s about making a presense.

  4. Hi Drama Queen:
    I’d argue that it isn’t only about making a presence (and building awareness), but starting and engaging in a dialog. Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff has a great posting on his blog about how he asks clients if they know their customers:

    “Marketer: Women with a child under 4. [Or “People with assets of at least $1 million.” Or some such.]

    Josh: No, I really mean “Who are your best customers?” What are their names?

    Marketer: [No response.]”

    The full link:

  5. good post, I agree- Social Media is free advertising for whatever it is you have to sell, but it does take work. I have been trying to use social media to market my stuff for a long time now and it does help to have good content.

  6. Hi gfnell3,
    Couldn’t agree more. Ultimately people get onto social media because they want to get updates from people that matter to them. That is why I personally feel that advertisers need to present themselves as an individual, a typical social media user, that involves with its customer’s activity. If they are able to do so, engagement is bound to occur. Btw, Josh Bernoff’s article was an interesting one.


  1. Social Media: NOT Sold In Stores | Branching Out: The Maples DMG Blog - October 8, 2009

    […] would think the availability of “free” social media tools would be an attraction to organizations.  Instead, it has caused an unusual […]

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