How much should you pay for social media help and implementation?

Social media management is a hot topic. There are a lot of people who believe that hiring an outside consultant to do their social media is a bad idea – the person who does it must be in house (or for small business owners, do it themselves) because why trust someone else with your brand?  The other side of the coin is those who believe that hiring someone who can do something better than they can is a sign of a good business manager and hiring a full-time employee is impractical for social media.

First, for those who don’t believe in hiring an outside social media manager, I understand your struggle. It is terrifying to think about turning over the promotion of your business to an outside consultant. You want to control an employee yourself, make sure that it is being watched over, or you want to do it yourself so you can protect all aspects of the messaging. However, you have a lot to be doing in running a business, and unless your business is social media, it’s unlikely you will have the time to learn all the tools and how to use them to the best of your ability. And, if you look to hire a full-time employee, you have to get them trained, managed and it will cost significantly more. Hiring an outside consultant who is willing to put in the time and energy to work with your business and learn about your market and brand is a great opportunity for your brand to achieve success.

Assuming that all companies now understand they need someone from the outside (even if they decide to implement the strategy themselves), let’s look at the two types of situations we most commonly see:

  1. Company A: They understand the value of social media marketing, but have no idea where to start, how to build a strategy or the desire to manage it themselves. This type of company is usually mid-size and works with consultants in other areas of their business as well. They prefer to find the best person for the job, but doesn’t want a huge in office staff to manage themselves. This company will want to see what is going on, but will be mostly hands off in the social sphere.
  2. Company B: They know that social media is necessary for their business, but not sure why or how. However, they want to understand it, learn how to implement it and be self sufficient in their marketing. This is usually the smaller businesses OR the businesses who want to hire a full-time person who will manage all online marketing (often wrapped in with the website and email marketing). This company will be hands on, but definitely needs guidance and support.

Company A needs a social media consultant who can implement the strategy, and should be paying a flat monthly rate for predetermined management and meetings. Company B needs a social media strategy created by a consultant they can use themselves and should be paying hourly for time that the strategist is working with them on development, or needs the budget for a full-time person.

Earlier this year, we talked about what you should be looking for in a social media strategist to find the right person (whether it is for just the strategy or the implementation as well). These questions will help you determine the right person for the job, which can take time and be frustrating, but is where you should start. Once you know how to find the right person, what should you plan on paying for their work?

First, these prices are based on an individual or small consultancy, and not on “agency” pricing. For those who are wondering what I mean by “agency”, these are the companies who work with the top of the top, the strategy behind the fortune 500 companies and as for their pricing, just multiply each of the numbers below by 10…you might be close. “Agencies” are a unique world, and have earned their stripes. If you can afford one, they are incredible…but for the rest of us, there are the small businesses and consultants like myself who are still stellar, but without the big name behind us. If you fit the “I can’t afford an agency criteria”, here’s what you should expect.

  1. Company A: They should expect a minimum of 15-25 hours of initial work for research, strategy and branding of the different social sites. This is used to plan out the campaigns that will be used, the type of content and the plan for escalation (should issues arise). This is extremely important time for the strategist to get to know your company and feel comfortable taking on your social media. An average rate for this is $100/hour. Then, your consultant will move onto the monthly management. This is going to depend on which tools the strategist is using (twitter, facebook, youtube, blogging, geo-location, etc) which should have been determined in the strategy planning depending on what makes the most sense for your brand. Also, you need to take into account what the consultant is using for management. If you need larger scale analytics, you will pay more if the consultant needs to use radian6 vs just hootsuite and google analytics. Again, this will be determined both by budget and in the initial planning. Overall cost: Initially: $1500-$2500, Monthly: $1200-$10,000 (totally dependent on what is being managed & at what level).
  2. Company B: If you hire someone full-time, expect a salary to be in the $70-$75k range for someone at a  lower level (3+ years of experience) or $110-$130k for a management level (5+ years experience). This person should be able to also make website updates (and be familiar with coding & design), be a strong writer, understand customer service and be comfortable with all existing social platforms and understand how to monitor and work with new ones as they come in. They should also be able to plan a strategy, that they implement, plan online and in person events and know how to network. If you are looking to manage it yourself, you will want a consultant to come in and do your initial strategy training at approx $100/hour (as described above), plus 10 hours of training on how to use all the social tools that will be implemented. In addition, you will want to plan another couple hours a month as you start implementing the strategy and participating in social media to ask questions and get more help. Overall cost: Fulltime: $70-$130k, Doing it yourself: $2500-$3500 (don’t forget to also add in the cost of time spent for you to do it yourself too.

What are your thoughts on the cost for social media management?




Category: Social Media
  • Anonymous

    Great article, thanks for taking the time to write it.

    Do both of these scenarios assume that the business has nailed down their target market and just need you to come in and handle the Social Media side of their strategy?   They seem to.
    I’m curious about the management level person in scenario B.  They seem like a person with a really broad background and probably pretty hard to find.  Do you think it might be better for a small company to hire multiple people that are more specialized rather than trying to find a single super-genius?

    • Kirsten Wright

      Actually, no. The social media strategist that comes in would also be helping to define the target market and how to reach them online (That was what was outlined in the other post). And, that’s why they price point is so high in scenario B… there aren’t a lot of people who could do it all, but those who can would be worth it.

  • Dillonadvisory

    I agree with Aaron Eden’s comments below.  “Nailing down the target market” is important, but also how to reach the target market is important and can be very tricky.  In addition, I agree that it would be hard to find one person who does all of the job requirements well.  An outside consulting team would probably be more cost-efficient and effective. 

  • Dave Cole

    Here’s my $0.02…

    First, social media is an extension of a firm’s marketing activities. In that regard, social media should not define the marketing strategy, rather it should compliment it. Since the conversion rate & genuine ROI of a social media campaign is difficult to measure, it places an extraordinary amount of downward pressure on the price / value that a social media manager can extract. A modern day online marketer / consultant can provide a clear cost / benefit analysis. A social media-ist cannot. What’s a tweet worth? What’s a facebook friend worth? There’s no clear cost equation, so the social media manager can’t command a price premium.

    Secondly, social media management suffers from the same downward price competition as many “creative” positions. Many people want to do them. They require few if any specific skills, and the product is far more art than science. Since many people want to do the job, and the barrier to entry to become a “social media expert” is not high, a consultant / employee has very little ability to create what Seth Godin describes in Linchpin as indispensability.

    When I was in college, my first degree program was industrial design. I wanted to be a car designer. The problem is, a lot of other people want to be car designers too. It’s cool. It’s got a certain cache about it. That means that the average car designer really tops out in the $100-150k salary range, because if you get too “expensive”, someone else will do the same job for less. Same goes for fashion designers, architects, writers, etc. Sure, the top 1% makes 500x more than the “average,” but those people are essentially celebrities. Social media marketing management suffers from that same challenge, perhaps even more so because it’s such a new field and there is no certification or accrediting process to “become” one.

    For these reasons (and I’m certain many more), I think these price / values are really not in line with reality. There’s too much downward pricing variables crushing out anything at these rates. Fools will pay them, sure, but fools will pay foolish amounts of money on anything.

    I’d say an “entry level” social media manager could command $40-45k/annual in SoCal, and perhaps an experienced marketer could command $60-75k. Let’s not forget, this is a recession. Highly skilled, technically proficient developers are making mid-career rates around $100-130 (



    • Kirsten Wright

      Dave –  That is actually one of the key reasons I explained that this person is a social media strategist/consultant, not just someone who sends tweets. A good strategist CAN place a value on a tweet, a fan and a connection (trust me, I do it on a daily basis). It is all in how you are measuring things. If you can translate social media clicks (or clicks resulting from posts on social media channels) to actual sales, therein lies the value. You are correct that someone who just “tweets” can’t command much, but someone who has an understanding of marketing and strategy who can implement it online can.

  • Thubten Comerford

    Rather than challenging Dave’s interesting points of view, I will agree that the numbers presented by Kirsten are right on. Social media management is not done in a vacuum. Ideally it is integrated into a crystal clear overall marketing strategy and complements what’s already being done.

    When I discuss pricing with clients we look at what it would cost for them to learn to manage their own social media, both in time and in opportunity cost. Hiring someone full time is usually not an option (which is why they’re talking with us). Most entrepreneurs are already overwhelmed with figuring out their own business, and don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to learning an entire new universe.

    The tradeoff is really simple: 1) spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours learning how to do your own social media, and then limp through a sub-standard performance, putting your brand at risk, vs. 2) hire someone who has invested those hours learning how to get results on the platforms your customers are using.

    If you as the business owner have the time and energy to invest, then do it yourself. I wish you luck. If you decide to revisit hiring a professional, I will gladly take your call.

  • Info

    Great article, and some wonderful baseline info for a client that I am proposing services to.  One question is what would your definition of monthly management be?  Thanks