Social Media Isn’t Free

Just like everything else in life, social media isn’t free, far from it.  Free is the lure that got most of us started in social media and the fact that it was new and shiny didn’t hurt either.

Free Applications: The Gateway Drug
We are all lured into participation in social media by the idea of free, but though the apps are free, being active in social media isn’t. Lets do a quick break down a some realistic costs for being active in social media today. For many people free works, but for many others free leads to the need to “upgrade” both hardware and software.

So what does it really cost to have a blog, share videos and photos, be active on networks like Facebook and Twitter?

The Breakdown:

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer: $500 – 5,000
  • Camera: $50-$2000
  • Smart Phone: $50 – $400
  • Cellular Data and SMS plan: $20-$60 per month
  • Video Camera: $80 – $5,000
  • Photo and Video Editing Software: $200 – $3,000
  • Bags, cases, tripods, and accessories: $50 – $500

Software Related Expenses:

Blog: Price Tag = Entry Level – Free (blogger,,, etc.) Mid Level – Paid $5-$15 per month (not selfhosted: Typepad, Squarespace, etc) and Top level – Hosting ($5 to $100 per month)  Design work or premium themes ($50 – $30,000 in fees)

Paid Media Sharing Web Applications:

Flickr: $20 per year
Vimeo: $60 per year

So if you take the low end of all of my cost esimates from this post you are looking at a cost of $1,325 to equip yourself in the first year with the entry level equipment and services needed to be an active online participant and this does not include the time investment that goes with that price tag.

Are you ready to make the investment is takes to equip yourself?

What other costs did I forget? Anybody think I am offbase with this post?

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5 Responses to “Social Media Isn’t Free”

  1. I Guess Social Media Isn’t Free: :D

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. I’m not sure how good this breakdown is when you figure that things like smart phones/computers/cameras are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. I’ll grant you hosting and maybe software costs, but even those aren’t necessary to “blog, share videos and photos, be active on networks like Facebook and Twitter”.

    If you’re a “high end” tech user then those things are “necessary” whether you’re active in Social Media or not. I’d say divide the cost between the things you’d use those for.

    So yes, Social Media isn’t free, but it’s not as pricey as you’re proposing it is.

  3. First let me say I love this site. hadn’t been here before but will spend some time today and in the future hanging out.

    Regarding your post, I am going to disagree with you just a bit. Let me go through the list:

    Camera isn’t needed if you have a phone and vice versa. Additionally I would argue you don’t need a smart phone to be engaged. It helps but isn’t mandatory.

    Computers, they are free on campus, in the library and, if you work it right, used ones can be found for free on the internet through a variety of means.

    Video camera, again, not really mandatory. My favorite blogs haven’t ever posted video. Nice to have but not necessary to carry content.

    Photo and editing software are free (see my article on Free software every PR Student should have and available for anyone’s basic need. Additionally, most software comes with a camera/video camera if you purchase one.

    Storage for video/photos doesn’t have to cost so long as you maintain your limits.

    Now, all that said, I love having a high end computer (well, it was when I got it two years ago) and love my flip hd, Canon SLR, etc. But even with those tools my sm weapon of choice is my keyboard.

    Regarding social media, content is still king.

    Thanks again for all your posts. Good stuff to say the least!

  4. What this post illustrates is that social media (web 2.0) is only open to those who have the means to participate.

    If you don’t have a computer, you can’t participate. If don’t have a smart phone, your participation is limited.

    I live in a rural state, some who live here might be dealing with dial-up modems, or lack of free resources (libraries, etc.) within their area.

    Those of us who are able to choose to participate in social media are lucky indeed.

  5. Lanna, Bill, and Scott,

    Thanks a lot for your comments! This was the type of discussion I was hoping that this post would start.

    Scott – I agree with you that many people all ready have some of this tech, but regardless they still had to fork over the money for it. To my bigger point yes you don’t need all of these things, but the more you participate and use social media the more “hooked” you get. As a result your spending for new tech and software goes up.

    Bill – Well said and thank you for your kind words, but the problem with you pricing is that again you are putting limit on your participation level which most folks will eventually want to go beyond.

    Lanna – As someone who grew up in a rural area. I agree with your response. We are all very lucky indeed

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