How to Create Your Social Marketing Budget

Chapter 1


As a marketing channel, social media enables marketers to directly engage with their audience on an intimate level, strengthening the relationship between brands and customers. Social media extends the reach of your messages to a global audience, making it a highly valuable investment.

This guide will serve as a starting point in creating your 2018 social media marketing budgets. You will learn:

  • How to set social marketing goals that are specific to your business needs
  • Which types of content best support your marketing strategies and drive results
  • How to choose the correct social channels to invest in
  • How to create a social marketing budget that aligns with—and supports—your business objectives
  • How to measure the success of your social campaigns with social analytics solutions

Budgeting can be scary, yes. With this guide, you will be able to tackle the challenges of creating a social marketing budget, and make 2018 your best year on social.

Chapter 2

The Impact of Social Marketing

Social marketers are tasked with proving the value of social media marketing and its impact on revenue.

However, the 2018 Sprout Social Index shows that measuring ROI is still the top challenge for social marketers.

While social analytics solutions have made this process easier, there may still be hesitations from high-level decision makers to fully invest in social media.

However, there are now more than 3 billion active social media users around the globe, according to the Digital in 2017 Global Overview report from We Are Social. For marketers this means that social media provides an opportunity for businesses to connect with 40 percent of the world population.

The report also claimed that 1 million new active social media users are added every day, so the potential to expand brand reach is greater than ever going into 2018.

But social media isn’t just a tool to reach a larger audience—it also serves as a catalyst for many organizational functions, from customer relationship management to public relations. The diverse capabilities of social media to perform these various business functions fuels the need for increased investment.

Customer Relationship Management

A significant benefit of having a social media program is the ability to strengthen customer-brand relationships. Real-time online connections allow businesses to interact with customers in a way that builds rapport and trust.

In turn, stronger relationships impact sales, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation.

Market Research

Social media provides the perfect platform for market research and customer insight. Businesses are able to profile their target audiences more accurately and adapt their marketing strategies to align with audience lifestyles and consumer behaviors.

Product Marketing

Launching and promoting a new product or service is made easier through social media, which amplifies marketing messages and can direct consumers to more information— like a company website— where they hopefully make a purchase.

Competitive Analysis

Social media, as a public networking system, enables competitors to track each other’s campaigns and marketing efforts to enhance their own business strategies and gain a competitive advantage.

Public Relations

Corporate news is often amplified on social media, but businesses who are active on social can negate the effects of bad news by being able to respond in real time, through various social networks.

Using social media listening, you can track your potential impressions over a specific time period and notice any trends in the number of impressions your posts receive. With social media analytics, you can track the growth of your audience and determine the number of new followers for each of your social profiles.

Chapter 3

Choosing Your Social Goals

Everything done from a budgeting perspective must start with your business goals.

Social media, with all of its capabilities, provides opportunities for marketers to make real business impact. Consider why your business has a social presence and the business goals you hope to impact and achieve through social media. Setting these goals will help you determine the necessary budget for your 2018 social marketing strategies. Here are several examples of business objectives you may prioritize and the metrics you can measure to showcase the return on your social media investment.

1. Improving Brand Awareness

According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, 80% of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social.

With the growing number of people adopting social media, and integrating social into their daily activities, marketers are relying heavily on social media to increase brand awareness.

If increasing brand awareness is your objective, your social strategy is to expose your target audience to your brand content. Your social activity to support this strategy consists of organic posts (owned), an influencer or employee advocacy program (earned), and promotions/boosts (paid). Your budget should be spent in three ways:

Understanding Your Target Audience

Before you can reach your target audience, you need to know who they are, how they behave, and what they care about. You likely have more persona segments and opportunity for brand expansion on social than you know about now.

To build strong campaigns—especially if you are putting paid behind them—you need to outline a budget for quantitative data about the conversations people are having around key topics, themes, and events relevant to your brand. This will enable you to structure the most effective campaigns possible. You don’t want to just reach anyone. You want to reach your likely buyer, and speak directly to that person.

Building and Supporting an Influencer and/or Employee Advocacy Program

Set aside the budget you need to support an influencer program, whether that means outlining budget for product sends, events, compensation, or measurement software.

It’s important to note that, according to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, social marketers are seeing employee advocacy as a cost-effective, scalable alternative to influencer marketing more and more, with 71% of social marketers using employees as influencers or advocates today or wanting to in the future. This shift reflects consumer tastes: 61% of consumers said they would be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend vs. 36% for influencers/celebrities.

Paid Efforts

Paid Efforts: This is your social ad spend on the networks where your particular audience is most active (which you have figured out by, you know, listening to them).

2. Generating Demand

If you are focused on your social audience in the consideration phase, you are focused on generating demand for your brand and/or product offering. These are people who know about your brand, but who you want to “go to the next level with,” provoking them to learn more.

If generating demand is your objective, your social strategy is to drive engagement of your target audience with your brand content. Your social activity to support this strategy consists of organic posts (owned), interactions (earned), and boosted posts/targeted ads (paid). Your budget should be spent in three ways:

Get your social analytics on lock

Make sure you have the breadth and depth of cross-channel social analytics you need to optimize campaigns and measure success, especially as your key success metrics during this phase are in the engagement category.

Invest in Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories is the perfect tool for the consideration phase, since most people viewing your Instagram Stories (unless they find your content in the Explore tab) have chosen to follow you already. Invest in the production tools (which are often inexpensive), human resources, and time you need to build out a robust Instagram Stories strategy.

Targeted Ads

Set aside budget for ads which target specific segments of people who already follow your brand, to nudge them down the funnel towards the conversion phase.

3. Driving Conversions

If you are trying to move your target audience to brand offers, you are focused on the conversion phase. Your social activity to support this strategy consists of posts structured around CTA’s (owned), shared links and posts (earned), and targeted ads structured around CTA’s like “Buy Now” and “Download Now” (paid). Your budget should be spent in three ways:

Mobile web optimization

Most people access their social apps from their mobile phones. Make sure wherever you are directing social users is optimized for mobile to create the best experience possible and increase the likelihood of purchase/download/whatever your desired behavior outcome is.

Conversion-based social ads

Make sure your ads are well-targeted and optimized for conversions.

Retargeting with dynamic product ads

Dynamic product ads let you target customers who have visited your website and browsed products but left before completing the purchase. This is a high-conversion audience, and you should definitely try to reach them in the conversion/decision-making phase.

4. Delighting Customers

Keep your customers returning for relevant, quality content and deeper interactions with your brand. The most savvy businesses know that social media provides the perfect platform to keep customers engaged, even past the point of purchase.

Building strong relationships with your audience on social can improve customer retention and turn your current customers into repeat customers. According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, social is one of the first channels consumers head to when they have a question or an issue. In fact, 45% of consumers have done this. Social is a unique channel in that the same individual or team is often expected to wear the customer service hat, in addition to the marketer’s hat. This makes the social media manager the biggest expert at understanding their brand’s audience in the entire marketing organization.

Determining the business goals you want to achieve is your first step in building a budget for your social media marketing strategy. During the planning and creation process, you should tailor your social content to continually support those objectives. Your social activity to support this strategy consists of customer interactions (owned), responses (earned), and ads targeted at customers (paid). Your budget should be spent in three ways:

Customer support staff and strategy

According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, more than half of social marketers say they need a bigger team to make the most customer service impact.

Invest in a listening solution

Know what audience pain points are re: relevant topics and competitors, so you can accommodate.

Buy customer-targeted ads on your most active social networks

Target specifically using your audience list and keep the brand affinity (and, eventually advocacy, going.)

5. Inspiring Advocacy

If you are trying to inspire brand evangelism, you are focused on the advocacy phase. Your social activity to support this strategy consists of organic posts (owned), outreach to influencers (earned), and boosted influencer posts (paid). Your budget should be spent in three ways:

Incentivize referrals

Build a referral program that spans social, email, and web to get current audiences to spread the love.

Invest in influencer marketing

Identify the influencers who resonate with your market, go after them, and be prepared to pay for these partnerships.

Employee advocacy and software

Employee advocacy is the new influencer marketing. Social marketers in 2018 see the value in employee advocacy as a cost-effective, scalable alternative to influencer marketing. According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, 71% of social marketers use employees as influencers or advocates today or want to in the future, while only 19% of marketers surveyed had the budget for an influencer program. This shift reflects consumer tastes: 61% of consumers said they would be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend vs. 36% for influencers/celebrities.

6. Analyzing the Competition

Your brand and its competitors have similar ideal customer personas, and social media provides an effective way to analyze your competitor’s most-engaged content types and social channels.

This insight can be used to create social campaigns that implement successful elements of your competitor’s strategies or that fill in any gaps in their messaging. Here are a few questions to consider as you analyze your competitor’s social marketing efforts.

  • Which marketing channels are my competitors using and are they successful in those channels?
  • What are my competitors talking about and are those topics leading to high audience engagement?
  • Are there areas within our social strategy where we are outperforming our competitors?

Using Simply Measured Social Analytics, you can directly compare your efforts to one or more of your competitors. You can identify days when your competitors experienced peak engagement and can dive deeper into what content was shared on those days so to gain insight into the type of content that resonates most with your target audiences.

Chapter 4

Why Your Website Matters

Your website is the hub of all information related to your business, its products and offerings, and company culture. A poorly functioning– or uninformative—website can actually drive customers away, making it extremely important that you invest in optimizing your website.

How will optimizing your website help you budget for your social marketing strategies? Glad you asked. 80% of marketers say social media has helped increased traffic to their website, according to Business 2 Community. Using social media as a way to direct your audience to your website for more information, or even to make a purchase, is a widely understood marketing concept. Your audience will leave your website, however, if it is under-designed.

Dr. Elizabeth Silence performed a study asking participants to analyze websites and found that 94% of respondents would leave a website if they were uncomfortable with the way it looked. So essentially what you produce and share on social could go to waste if when people make it to your website, are quickly discouraged and decide to leave.

It is not enough to just have a creatively designed and functionable website— it must also be optimized for mobile. comScore found that 80% of social media time is spent on a mobile device. Additionally, Hosting Facts reports that mobile traffic is responsible for 52.21 percent of all internet traffic, which includes visits to your company website. Mobile optimization, and responsive web design, should be on your radar as you budget for 2018. While not directly a social marketing spend, a well-designed and mobile accessible website is a vital aspect toward ensuring your social efforts are as effective as possible.

Chapter 5

Selecting Your Content Types

Custom GIFs

GIFs are a great type of content to boost engagement and tell a story, while adding some visual diversity to your social feeds. According to Reuters, more than 84% of communication in 2018 will be visual and GIFs—a very visual medium—provides marketers a great opportunity to add more visual content into their social strategies. GIF viewers via Giphy watch more than 2 million hours of GIFs per day, and GIFs are seen by more than 100 million daily active users.

Production Cost

Luckily, there are a ton of free tools that make creating custom GIFs easy and entertaining. If anyone within your marketing team is savvy in Adobe Photoshop, this software can also be used as a GIF production machine. However, if you are looking for something a little less inclined for the technically in-tune, here are some resources to consider

  • Giphy
  • GifBin
  • GifMaker
  • EzGif
  • MakeAGif
  • ImgFlip
  • Phhhoto
  • Giphy Cam
  • Popkey
  • Reaction Gifs
  • GifGrabber
  • Recordit


By 2019, video content will be the driving factor behind 85% of search traffic in the US, according to Cisco. Video on social is not just a latest trend, but is the future of social marketing. Brands who have not yet invested in video will quickly lose the attention of customers who crave engaging and entertaining video content. A survey from HubSpot found that 55% of people consume video content thoroughly, meaning a high-quality video has the potential to not only attract an audience, but keep them engaged. If you’re not quite convinced of the power of video, here are a few statistics to put things into perspective.

  • 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers. (HubSpot)
  • Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users. (Vidyard)
  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers prefer video under 60 seconds. (Animoto)
  • 51.9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. (Adobe)

Production Costs

We live in the video era. Investing in professional video (and disseminating that video in creative, measurable ways) is crucial if you want to grow your digital impact in the coming year.

Outsourced video production runs from $5,000 to upwards of $10,000 per asset for a basic video. Advanced videos with an “advertising look and feel” will range anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000. This might seem like a lot, but you can also chop up the “pillar video” in several pieces and use across your various digital channels in creative ways.

The other option is to hire an in-house videographer. This person should know how to conceptualize, capture, and edit footage from concept to completion. Look at the average videographer salary in your area and see if this is the right avenue for your brand. The benefit here is that you will have a more robust and consistent video program, and will get more bang for your buck in the long run.


Live video on social is a key component to growing your social presence, digital presence, and business in the coming year. Brands across the spectrum, from IBM to Buzzfeed, are investing in Facebook Live, Snapchat (now Snap), Instagram Stories, and other live broadcasting channels.

According to Livestream, 80% of people would rather watch a live video than read a company blog and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. There are multiple social networks now providing opportunities for anyone to stream live, including:

Production Costs

When it comes to live video, you need to invest in a high-quality ‘smartphone’ to record and create professional quality videos. You can also use the integrated webcam on your laptop or an external webcam using your desktop computer.

For professional quality, there are a number of 4K cameras on the market and depending on your needs, you’ll need to decide which camera type is most appropriate for your live production. Some popular types of 4K cameras are:


It is said that people only remember about 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information after three days, according to a study by Changing Works.

For marketers, this means that visual content will perform better on social as your audience is more likely to remember information with visuals than just information alone. In an analysis of over 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images. If your brand uses social media to promote content from your blog, be sure to include striking visuals that catch attention and are relevant to the information you are sharing.

For two of the largest social networks, images impact engagement and interactions at much higher rates than posts without visuals. Here are a few statistics highlighting why the use of visuals is so important in your social media strategy.

Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images. (Buffer) Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images. (BuzzSumo) Organic Facebook engagement is highest on posts with videos (13.9%) and photos (13.7%). (LocoWise).

Production Costs

Production of photos can be relatively inexpensive, depending on your business needs. Many smartphones now have high-resolution sensors (12 megapixels or more) to produce sharp cropped or enlarged prints. Your photo content can still have a high level of appeal, so long as someone on your marketing team carries their smartphone to the office. However, if you’re wanting even higher-quality photos, you can invest in professional-level cameras. Here are Consumer Report’s best phones for photography in 2017.

User-Generated Content

One of the most effective methods of social media marketing is relatively inexpensive. It just requires a little heavy lifting on your part. That method is user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is an effective way to boost sales and engagement while generating traffic and virality for your business. In fact, studies have shown that consumers trust UGC 50 percent more than they trust other media. And it’s easy to see why–after all. It’s one of the easiest ways to social proof your messaging and increase conversions.

Production Costs

Marketers are excited about user generated content because it is an inexpensive way to reach and engage more consumers. With just a little elbow grease, and minimal cost to your brand, UGC content can be an effective social media strategy. This type of audience engagement can also benefit your brand by increasing the amount of social proof for your products and services, making your brand seem more natural and authentic.

Selecting Your Social Channels

As you select the social channels that will best present your brand and all it has to offer, consider the type of content you want to produce, as some networks are more suitable for specific types of content. Use this chart to determine which social network is right for you.

Paid Advertising on the Networks

The organic content you share on social has a tremendous impact on SEO and the community-building process around your network. Organic reach is dwindling with the amount of noise circulating the social space, however, meaning that the best social marketing campaigns are now supplementing their organic content with paid advertising. As you start budgeting for 2018, consider whether or not paid social will benefit your business. Let’s dive into the difference between organic and paid social and how you can boost your organic efforts with a paid social strategy

Organic Social Using free tools provided by the social networks to share posts, respond to customers, and interact with your social community.

Paid Social

Paying to display adverts (text, image, video, carousel etc.) or sponsored messages to a specific group of social network users based on user profile.

Chapter 6

Setting Your Social Budget Strategy

For your most effective social strategy, you need to consider research, buyer persona profiles, editorial calendars, branding profile and strategy, a publishing schedule, a commenting and messaging response plan, as well as goals and identifiers for determining the success of the strategy. The strategy should be reviewed and refreshed if needed at least quarterly so that you can continually optimize your efforts and adjust your budget as needed. Social marketers should expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for a complete social media strategy. The breakdown of your budget should include:

Content Creation

The first step for any brand is to post and be active on social media. Consider the costs to produce your content and budget accordingly.

Audience Growth

In order to get your posts seen, you must grow your fanbase on social media. You may need to allocate a portion of your budget to drive growth in this particular area.


To get the most out of your social marketing efforts, you need to advertise, as mentioned earlier. This enables you to not only reach a larger audience, but an audience that perfectly fits your ideal customer profile.


If you are looking to outsource your social media marketing, expect to pay between $1,500/mo and $15,000/mo for social media management. Large social marketing agencies will often have strategists, graphic designers, content writers, website developers, search specialists, account managers—and more— collaborating on social marketing projects for their clients.

Chapter 8

Measuring Your Social Success

If you’re thinking about moving forward with a social analytics solution, you should be asking these questions of yourself and other members of your organization:

Defining Conversions and Value

  • Which conversions matter to your business?
  • Which attribution model and method is right for you?
  • Which financial values should you be placing on the conversions you care about?

Learning About Your Audience

  • Do you have various audiences or one target audience?
  • Which content appeals to your audience/audiences?
  • What does the customer journey look like for your business?

Understanding the Greater Landscape

  • Do you understand all customer touch points, beyond social (i.e. web, display, email)?
  • How can you relay the value of social attribution to the rest of your marketing organization?

Chapter 9

Use Social Analytics to Determine Allocation of Funds

The answers to all the above questions is individual, and can be determined by applying the last critical element of your digital marketing budget: social media monitoring tools.

The best versions of this software tell you everything you need to know:

  • What your audience is thinking and feeling
  • Which content they find relevant and engaging
  • Which channels they frequent
  • What competitors are up to – and how consumers feel about all of it
  • Where there are gaps in your customer service strategy
  • Whether your brand logo is being misappropriated
  • Whether a potential crisis is brewing on social media

Chapter 10


Although advocating for funds to support your social marketing strategies can be difficult, this guide provided you with the information you need to start putting together a robust budget for 2018.

Your budgeting journey will not be complete without first determining your post frequency (how much content is being produced and shared) or how you will disseminate and schedule your content. The upcoming year provides an opportunity to revisit your current social strategy and create a budget that integrates new technology, new network capabilities, and a diverse array of social content.

Chapter 11

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