It seems almost silly to be looking at how brands are behaving on social media these days. Shouldn’t this be old hat by now?

Sadly, it’s not. A mere 20 percent of 200 businesses questioned by Forrester Consulting in a Dell-commissioned survey said social media efforts were at the core of their marketing efforts. Frighteningly, 27 percent called their social media efforts “experimentation.”

Some of that may be due to the fact that 42 percent of the company representatives surveyed said budget was the greatest internal challenge to their efforts.

Could that be because so many companies run around saying how social media is free? How it doesn’t cost anything? How they spent nothing on marketing, yet got amazing results.

I was at a meetup in New York City recently where the fitness app owner went on and on about how he spent no money on marketing, yet went viral and got amazing results, blah blah blah.

During the Q&A, I asked how much he spent on social media and social media marketing and asked him if it was kind of disingenuous to say they spent no money on marketing, when they obviously spent money on social media. Got a blank stare. Then the explanation, “Oh, I just meant that we didn’t spend any money on traditional marketing.”

That’s not what he said, though.

I’m not going to mention the company, because he’s not even close to being the only one who pretends that social media is without cost.

Can you spend less? Is it possible to go viral and get tons of free publicity on top of what you spent? Is it possible to cut back on ad dollars, go totally social and have better results? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Does that make social media and social media marketing free?

NO.

To do it right, you need to spend money and time making sure you’re targeting the right people in the right way. You need to spend time listening. You need to interact.

Marketing is different. Marketing is community now, not just saying, “Hey, our brand is great, buy us!”

Take a look at this infographic from GetSatisfaction, which nicely details the Dell/Forrester report. Very curious to hear from both marketers and brands about how you’re shaping your social media efforts and how you use it.

Just don’t tell me it’s free, OK?

Written by Guest Post