The Costs of Social Media: When it’s No Longer Free

A big part of why I worked in consumer behavior research after graduating with my marketing degree is because I truly enjoy learning about how people make decisions and develop an opinion of a brand. During my corporate career years, I gained a deep and solid understanding of how to think like an outsider when viewing your own brand and products.

As business owners, we can’t expect our customers (and potential customers) to know as much about our businesses as we do. What might seem obvious and well-stated to us internally may be missed or misunderstood by our customers. We know where to find what we are looking for on our websites or in our stores because we designed them. We chose where they go, and we are the ones who put them there.

But the reality is this: what we think are the biggest selling points of our products and services, aren’t necessarily the same features and functionalities that are valued by our customers.

Our customers’ impressions of – and expectations for – our businesses are their personal starting lines. How we deliver on their expectations is how we cause a shift in their opinions of us.

The social media world has set a pretty high bar with regards to what it costs to use the tools and to be successful:


The platforms are free.

The management tools are free.

The image creation tools are free, too.

And what do consumers do when their high expectations of a business and its products or services are unexpectedly squashed?

Their opinions of that company shift to the negative.

I’ve seen this type of shift occur a lot in the past year or so as Facebook has become a “pay to play” platform, and more and more of the coolest and most handy features of social media and graphics tools are becoming more and more difficult to get for nothing.

I 100% understand the frustration. I’m a small business owner myself, and I know that there just isn’t the extra cash to sign up for paid subscriptions for all the cool services out there. Users of all these free platforms and tools have come to count on these platforms and tools to do their jobs and to do them well.

And now there’s a cost associated with achieving those same results.

But even with my frustration, I try to be realistic. I know that we simply need to make the best of the current situation, and also consider if and how to modify our current online marketing strategy to accommodate these changes. Plus, in comparison to other costs of doing business, social media is still one heck of a deal.

That is why we, as Eli Rose, have added a few paid services to our business in the past 6 months. We’ve talked to our clients about paid ads for their most used social media profiles, too, and suggested implementing other marketing techniques like a newsletter.

The social landscape of today is different than that of even mid-2013. And will surely be different a year from now as well. This is why the new question about social media has really become, “What should you be paying for?

So, let’s hear it! What are you willing to pay for to make your social media efforts better for you?


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