No matter which industry you work in, you want to ensure that your investments are cost-effective. In a marketing department, that inevitably raises questions like, is the social media advertising you’re doing enough? How much are you really spending between all of your tech stack subscriptions? Have our campaigns been worth the investment? These are all worthwhile questions to consider. Having a social media budget outlined will help you definitively answer them.

This guide is meant to help businesses both large and small. No matter the size of your company or wallet, budgeting is still the same at its core. Once you start tracking these numbers, you’ll find it easier to analyze the effectiveness of your current strategy and decide when to test new ones.

There are many components that could fill up your social media budget and we’ll go over each one. Skip to the sections via the links below:

Why have a social media budget?

First and foremost, having a budget is the number one resource marketers say they need to achieve their goals for social. Backed by a budget, social marketers can explore more content formats, expand advertising to new platforms and invest in social tactics that hook consumers.

The latest Sprout Social Index™ confirmed that supporting overall business goals and measuring ROI remain two of marketers’ greatest challenges

Marketers' Greatest Challenges: Identifying and reaching our audience, measuring ROI and supporting overall business goals

If you’re not able to accurately measure social media ROI, then you’ll have a harder time justifying future investments. This applies to whether you want to invest in new software or make a business case to the C-suite for bringing on a new social media marketer.

Budgeting helps you keep track of your costs, which then figures into your ROI calculations and ability to make a case for increasing investments in social.

So how do you get started? First, decide on how you want to track your budget. It can be with a manual spreadsheet that you fill out at the beginning of the year, budgeting software or a shared document you build on as you accrue expenses.

Next, you’ll want to consider how you actually want to manage the budget.

  • Traditional budget: This is where you start with a sum of money and then allocate amounts to each category. Once a category is depleted, you can’t move other funds into it.
  • Flexible budget: This is where category depletion can be fulfilled by another category. Did one run out of money and another category has extra to spare? Move it over.
  • Zero budget: This is when you start every category with zero at the beginning of each budget planning cycle. You increase the amounts per category, justifying the cost every time.

There are many ways to manage a marketing budget. Some teams even take a lump sum and deduct as you operate. This isn’t advisable if you have multiple components to track because it makes it more difficult to see how well your budget performs over time.

Goals are your budget’s foundation

You won’t know how to allocate your budget until you know your social media goals. For example, if you’re hoping for more brand exposure, you might invest more heavily into paid awareness campaigns and less into a software upgrade.

Marketers' Primary Goals for 2021: Increase brand awareness, increase community engagement, grow our audience, increase web traffic, drive sales

To help you drive your goal setting, refer to your previous year’s goals and budget allocations. Did you meet them? Which strategies were successful? Did you have budget leftover or were you stretched thin? Do you want to increase resources to drive new strategies or expand previous ones?

Once you decide on goals, the next step is to consider all the different components that factor into a budget. Every element we list may not make sense for an organization’s budgeting process, so use what is most relevant for your business and objectives.

Employees and training

Social marketers are multifaceted. They often handle copywriting, data analysis, strategy, creative development and more. To excel on social—and keep your marketers from burning out—businesses of all sizes should invest in recruiting, hiring and retaining social marketers.

If you find that social growth is stalling, you’re missing engagement opportunities or you don’t have the bandwidth to collaborate with other parts of your business, it’s time to expand your social media department. If you can, consider adding specialized roles to your team. In a perfect world, the dream social team might look like this.

dream state social team org chart

If you need help thinking through how to evolve and expand your social team within your marketing organization structure, check out this guide with four org chart models to consider.

Part of your marketing budget might include this team’s payroll and administration expenses. This may already be calculated into the company’s bottom line. If this is the case, you can ignore the payroll part. For a small business, having anyone dedicated to marketing is an investment. You want to make sure that you’ve included their payroll amounts and any salary increases or bonuses.

Social media is constantly changing. Keeping a pulse on industry trends and any new network features demands time to learn. Whether you are considering a new creative format like Instagram Reels or a new platform like TikTok, social marketers need the ability to explore, evaluate and decide how to fit these into their strategy.

No matter how big your team is, training will always be part of your budget. If you don’t learn or adjust to new features, you risk falling behind your competitors.

Content creation and production

Social media has accelerated business competition in the last few years, but developing creative, informative content helps brands stand out in a crowded landscape. Consistently publishing and investing in content, especially visual content, are also imperative for achieving social goals.

Types of content marketers say are most valuable for social goals: Video, images, text-based posts, Stories and live video

Whether you produce content all in-house or you outsource, it takes money, time and lots of planning. On average, video production costs between $880 and $1200, but given that video is the top content format for achieving social goals, it’s a format you should definitely include in your strategy.

Brands publish an average of 11 posts per day across social channels, but depending on which industry your business is in, content publishing demands vary.

If your content strategy requires a higher volume of daily posts, your budget in this area might be much larger in proportion to a brand that posts only several times a week.

One way to alleviate costs is to build a user-generated content strategy. You’ll have plenty of content to choose from and still be able to fulfill your posting goals. Another idea is to repurpose your existing content across multiple channels and media types. Could you edit a video to make a GIF? Or turn quotes from an article into a graphic?

This leads us to post-production—all that editing, audio and graphic design work still take time and money. Don’t let your content fall flat because you forgot to budget in the post-production necessary to edit and refine it to meet your brand’s quality standards. Finally, if you are going a paid content route, you’ll need to include that content creation here or in the general advertising budget.

Software and subscriptions

Plenty of social teams use resources that come with recurring monthly or annual costs. They include subscriptions to social media management and analytics tools or customer support and email platforms.

Relying on native social networks to manage all the moving parts of your social strategy can hinder your progress. Social media tools and software enhance efficiency, empower creativity and generate data that benefits your whole business. Some of our favorites, which range in price, include:

Sprout Social’s suite of tools helps social teams master content curation, publishing, community engagement and analytics. For an added boost, brands can add Sprout’s Premium Analytics and Listening solutions to their plan. These add-ons provide even deeper functionality to ensure you have all the data you need to measure ROI, share of voice in your industry, rising social trends and more.

Whatever keeps your social marketing run smoothly should be included in this area of your budget. If you are considering changes or new software trials this year, you may want to include some padding here.

If you’re not quite sure when is the right time to upgrade your social media management software, check out this article where we walk through the telltale signs and considerations to think through before committing to a tool.

Advertising

Advertising is another big-budget area for social, and for good reason—59% of consumers say social media ads are an influential information source on purchasing decisions. For companies executing multichannel campaigns, you’ll need to decide how much to allocate for each channel.

If Facebook is your biggest channel, it would make sense for you to devote more money there. The average Facebook ad cost per click hovers around the $1 mark but fluctuates based on industry.

Average Facebook CPC = $1.04

If you want to build up your audience more on Instagram, then Instagram ads would be the way to go. Thankfully, you can manage both Instagram and Facebook ads from one location or even have the same ad served on both channels.

If you’re just starting out with social media advertising, we advise learning the basics first and experimenting with different platforms, targeting options and content approaches. Testing strategies does take time and money, so you’ll want to factor that into your advertising budget.

Between product collaborations, the booming creator economy and influencer marketing campaigns, brand partnerships are everywhere on social media. They’re effective at increasing your brand presence and getting new customers into the virtual door, but they do cost money to implement, especially depending on the reach of your partner.

A celebrity will inevitably be more expensive than a microinfluencer, so it’s important to do your research so you choose the right partner for your brand and reap the greatest ROI.

While you’re cementing your contract with brand partners, make sure to incorporate a mutually agreed-upon social reporting plan so both parties can track how well the partnership performs.

Analyze everything

In the end, a budget helps you organize your team and your strategy. For larger companies, a budget (and analytics to rationalize it) are critical to advocate for more money. Social media budgets aren’t limited to only the personnel who run your accounts or the time it takes to assemble posts. Budgets also include the software you use, content creation and production, advertising, training and paid partnerships.

Budgeting isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Was that campaign actually worth the time and money you put in or was it a sinkhole? Could you have spent less on advertising but had the same outcome? These types of questions can be answered as long as you’re continually tracking social metrics and reevaluating your budget.

Between content performance, hashtag analytics, ad spend and team productivity reports, Sprout Social tracks the data you need to inform the budget considerations above.

With Sprout’s Premium Analytics, social marketers can create custom reports that pull the most important data points into a single source of truth that you can share with stakeholders. Once you have it all laid out, it’s much easier to determine your ROI and identify potential adjustments.

Whether you need a bigger budget, analytics tools or a new team member, you’ll probably need to build a business case to secure executive buy-in. Download this free template to build a compelling foundation for your proposal.

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