Time and money are two of the biggest constraints facing most small and mid-sized businesses in today’s economy.
The former is fixed although we can learn to be more efficient in our use of it.
The latter is a constant too especially when you either have only a limited amount of it or there are conflicting demands for its use.
This article will focus on money and how by not spending any or spending small sums judiciously you can still have an effective social media program,
I’ll be talking about free or near-free social media apps and related tools, and why you should use them especially if you’re a cash strapped small or mid-sized business.
Let’s start with a few definitions.
First, free, this one’s easy.
Nothing. Nada. What you see is what you get and you don’t have to pay for it. Too good to be true, right? Hold that thought we’ll come back to it.
This one’s almost as simple.
A service is offered for a small sum. Now, what’s a small sum will vary by person. But, if you’re watching your bottom line regularly like a hawk as I do then it’s not a lot.
Sometimes near-free is a charge for additional features on a free service like Hootsuite or it’s a low cost entry fee for a service.
I don’t include free trials (i.e., 30 days free before starting to pay) because I’m only looking at those social media apps or tools which can be used regularly without incurring any or only a small cost.
Let’s go back to that earlier question, “Is free good?”
You’ve probably heard that old saying a million times that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
At the risk of seeming to contradict myself, free can be good and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Social media app providers who offer free services generally make their revenues in several different ways.
They can ear money from ads, offer premium services, or selling products or services. The free component permits them to build a large base of followers that they can leverage for future gain. (And profit from their potential IPOs.) Facebook seems to have figured out how to do this while Twitter is still struggling.
I’ll serve myself up as an example.
I use several free tools in my business. A few examples are LinkedIn, Hootsuite, and Evernote. I’m very satisfied with all of them. All have near-free services which I’m evaluating presently and may adopt later. (More about this in future articles.)
What should you do?
As I note in the first step of my approach for developing a social media program, you need to start with your organization’s goals and objectives.
From here, you need to determine which free or near-free tools are best suited to help you achieve these.
Next, what’s your budget? What can you afford?
Should you rely only on free tools or can you afford some near-free ones if they’re appropriate?
How will you measure success?
Free or low cost solutions are no guarantee of success. What will you metrics be?
Once you’ve identified what tools to use, how will you validate whether or not they’re appropriate for your needs?
App forums and user groups are a good source of feedback.
Look at how others are using the tools, in particular, if they’re doing something similar to what you’ll be doing.
Approach the tool providers themselves, They can be a good source of input. (Which always needs to be verified!)
Most importantly, consider what you give up when you go with free and near-free tools.
For example, while there are a couple of good free blogging services available, you can only have a unique domain name if you pay for it. Is it worth the money, can you live without it?
Or, these blogging services limit what you can do with e-commerce. If monetarization of your social media footprint is part of your business plan then you need to consider this.
Also, apps like LinkedIn will drop free features and include them in their premium option. Watch out for this practice. How would you react?
To summarize, free and near-free social media apps and tools are a cost effective way to start a social media program.
Just remember to check what you’re getting, what you’re getting, and will you need an exit strategy in the future when your business begins to grow and volumes take off!
That’s it for now!
In the meantime, thank you for following and reading my blog!
I look forward to any and all comments that you may have. I will reply to any comments made to this blog post as promptly as I can.
I work with social media for a living and if I can be of any assistance to either you or your organization, please feel free to call on me. Our initial discussion will be of no charge to you.
I can also be reached at email@example.com.
My Twitter handle is @conpsweeney.