According to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report released by socialmediaexaminer.com (a leading social media researcher and blog), 27 percent of businesses outsourced social media responsibilities last year. The report also highlighted the increasing effectiveness of social media in building customer loyalty, gaining market intelligence and driving sales in both the B2C and B2B sectors.  What it didn’t report, however, is how much social media management does or should cost to outsource.

Social_MediaThe fact is, there is no standard.  Agencies and consultants charge anywhere from $15 to $250 per hour, and project fees range enormously.  As a business executive or manager, how do you know what’s reasonable?

It helps to remember what you’re actually paying for: expertise, research, strategy and (often) writing.  If you expect your social media to actually benefit your business, you need someone who can study your market and category, gain a deep understanding of your audiences, develop personas and create professional, relevant, engaging content—not just once, but week in and week out. That can take a lot of time. It’s not much different than paying a consultant to do research and develop a marketing plan or advertising campaign strategy.

Of course, the size and type of your business is a factor as well. If you are a B2B organization, your strategy and content will require more sophistication (thus, time and expertise) than a small retail business or storefront that drives sales through product and price promotions. If you’re a hospital or other healthcare provider, the nature of your business requires serious intelligence, strategy and industry knowledge to avoid problems such as HIPAA violations. So, the more complex your business is, the more time and expertise your social media will require.

Returning to the original question, how much should you expect to pay?  According to Second Wind, which produces an annual survey reporting rates charged by small to medium-sized marketing, digital and social media agencies, the hourly rate for social media services ranges from $96 to $146 per hour, with the average rate at $121 per hour.  The Social Media Marketing Industry Report showed that businesses spending six or more hours per week on their social media marketing are seeing the best results, and 37 percent of businesses are spending 11 to 40-plus hours a week on it. 

So if you’re outsourcing your social media, it’s not unreasonable to pay monthly retainers of $2,500 to $4,000 or more, depending on the size of your business and sophistication of your category, plus a one-time fee for initial research and set-up that could be double the monthly retainer. The key to getting your money’s worth is tracking the analytics and ROI.  But that’s a topic for another blog.

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