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The Social Media Billing Gap

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So my earlier post on the social media services gap kicked up some discussion, and as always, that’s a good thing, right, but I purposely left something out of that post that’s worth touching on now, even if consensus is still lacking — that’s billing.

Specifically, what sort of fee structure should consulting firms that “get it” (yeah, sorry, I said it) attach to social media services? To social media “specialists?” It’s a really sticky tricky question and so far, of those peers I’ve spoken with about this, there seem to be two camps of thought:

Change nothing. If social media strategies and tactics are tightly wrapped into an overall comms program (as they increasingly should be), then change nothing. Each member of the account team should be involved in both MSM and SM planning and tactics, and as such, there’s no need to change billing rates or fees based on the activities performed.

Change everything. Social media projects rely heavily on tactics, and their successful implementation requires a level of tactical expertise that’s not common among junior staff (that typically bill less hourly). As a result, trying to apply legacy billing models to new media services means senior staff are billing more per hour on tactical activities. Or put another way, they’re billing clients ~$175+/hour for doing Technorati searches. Okay, an exaggeration, but you get the point, existing billing models have a few flaws.

So, a billing gap basically exist between these two extremes. I have to think there’s a middle ground here, somewhere, right, that gives consulting teams the flexibility to make their margins AND gives clients the ability to map their needs to fair hourly rates, but again it’s a little tricky. The pains of industry transition strike again. But honestly, this gap aside, it all still ultimately comes down to results. A team needs to execute and deliver based on the promises made and the budget it’s working from, regardless of the media or audiences it’s chartered with reaching. More on this to come….

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Mike Manuel is the founder of the award winning Media Guerrilla blog. Media Guerrilla is an insiders take on the practice of technology public relations with a focus on the issues, tactics and trends that are specific to the tech industry.

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The Social Media Billing Gap
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