All Articles Marketing Is social media marketing more cost-effective than traditional channels?

Is social media marketing more cost-effective than traditional channels?

3 min read


This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: How would you compare the costs of social media marketing and traditional marketing channels, relative to their returns?

  • Traditional marketing is more expensive than social media marketing – 43.48%
  • It is difficult to compare the two – 41.74%
  • Social media marketing is more expensive than traditional marketing channels – 12.17%
  • They cost about the same – 2.61%

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a meeting with several executives who were debating the costs of social media marketing in comparison to traditional marketing channels. They all agreed on several significant points: There’s nothing free about social media, in spite of what many voices say, but maintaining an online presence is fairly cost-effective for most businesses. It truly is an apples to oranges comparison. Regardless of these conclusions, no one could answer which was more expensive of the two.

As someone who was a media planner for many years and who has also helped plan social media marketing programs for several years now, I must concur with the mass of SmartBrief readers that traditional marketing is more expensive. Yes, it takes time, money, manpower, experience and skill to get a social media program off the ground, but so does a campaign through traditional channels.

In the past several years, I have seen many companies spend large sums of money on their online presence, but still nothing compared to the 8- to 9-digit advertising expenditures I used to see in my media planning days for short-term campaigns whose results were extremely difficult to measure.

It all depends on the type of business, goals and how far a business wants take its efforts. And if large company budgets do not give us an accurate picture, let’s look at a small business.  As an entrepreneur, I confess that I do not have the budget to reach a global audience through traditional channels even for one hour.  But by putting some effort into social media marketing with virtually no budget, I’ve built global presence that allows me to engage with my audience and nurture relationships with worldwide clients and prospects for the lifetime of my business.  Does that answer the question?

What are your thoughts on the costs of social media marketing?