No matter which industry you work in, you want to ensure your investments are cost-effective. In marketing, that inevitably raises questions like: is your social media advertising enough? How much are you really spending on your tech stack? Are campaigns worth the investment? These are all worthwhile questions to consider; having a social media budget outlined will help you definitively answer them.

Whether your company and wallet are big or small, budgeting is at the core of any social media planning. Once you start tracking your spend, you’ll find it easier to analyze the effectiveness of your strategy.

There are many components that make up your social media budget:

But first, why have a social media budget?

According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index™, justifying the business value of social media isn’t as difficult as it was a few years ago. But even if getting approval for a budget for social media marketing isn’t a challenge, knowing why and how you need one can help you make your case, and help you maximize it.

Bar chart depicting how social media teams' biggest challenges have evolved from 2019 through 2022

Increase your impact

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.

Track spending in uncertain economic conditions

Between today’s shifting economy and high in-feed competition, having a budget for your social performance has never been more important. And today’s shifting economy makes setting—and justifying—a social media budget even more crucial.

Recession fears have put pressure on advertisers to spend less and achieve more. Keeping track of how much you spend every month reduces risk by cutting costs that come from overspending. And incorporating existing and needed spend into a formal budget secures crucial spending dollars.

Prove your ROI and justify your budget

The latest Sprout Social Index™ confirmed that proving ROI remains one of marketers’ greatest challenges. 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. If you can’t accurately measure social media ROI, justifying future investments—from investing in new software to making a business case for increasing your social media headcount—will be harder.

So how do you get started? First, decide how you want to track your budget: with a manual spreadsheet you fill out at the start of the year? Budgeting software? A shared document you build on?

Next, consider how you 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.

What should a budget for social media marketing include?

Now that you know why, you’re ready to dive into how to budget for social media marketing. Let’s break down some of the factors you need to consider as you do so.

Use goals as your 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 software upgrades.

Consider some of the top goals marketers have when working with creators—a priority you may want to include in your budget. Generating more engagement, reaching new audiences, strengthening your social community and driving revenue are the top four goals marketers have in this type of collaboration.

Chart shows marketers' primary goals when working with creators

To help you drive your goal setting, refer to your previous year’s goals and budget allocations. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did you meet those goals?
  • Which strategies were successful?
  • Did you have budget left over 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.

Chart showing anticipated social media team headcount growth over the next two years, by organization size

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. And you’re not alone—social media marketers rank bandwidth as one of their number one challenges this year, according to the Sprout Social Index™. And with 88% of marketers expecting to hire a new team member over the next two years, marketing teams are feeling the crunch.

If you can, consider adding specialized roles to your team. In a perfect world, the dream social team might look like this:

A graphic depicting the dream state social media organization chart

If you need help thinking through how to evolve your social team, 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, which 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: make sure you’ve included their payroll amounts and any salary increases or bonuses.

Social media is constantly changing. Keeping a pulse on industry trends and new platform features demands time. Whether you are considering a new creative format like Instagram Reels or a newer 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, but developing creative, informative content helps brands stand out in a crowded landscape. Consistently publishing and investing in content—especially short-form video—is imperative for achieving social goals.

A graph that reads "The most engaging types of in-feed social content." The most popular content type is short-form video, with 66%. The results are from the 2022 Sprout Social Index™.

Whether you produce content in-house or you outsource, it takes money, time and lots of planning. On average, video production costs between $880 and $1200 but can vary by location. But given that video is the top content format for achieving social goals, you should definitely include it in your strategy. And don’t forget post-production—editing, audio and graphic design work also takes time and money. Don’t let your content fall flat because you forgot to budget in crucial post-production effort.

Finally, if you are going a paid content route, you’ll need to include that content creation here or in the general advertising budget.

Brands publish an average of 11 posts per day across social channels, but the number can vary depending on industry. If your content strategy requires a higher volume of daily posts, your budget in this area might be much larger than that of a brand that posts a few times a week.

One way to alleviate costs is to build a user-generated content strategy to supplement some of your content calendar while also building brand loyalty. Another idea is to repurpose your existing content across multiple channels and media types. Can you edit a video into a GIF? Or turn article quotes into graphics?

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 enhance efficiency, empower creativity and generate data that benefits your whole business. Some of our favorites, which range in price, include:

A screenshot of a New Post window in Sprout Social's publishing tool. The image shows a video being directly uploaded in Sprout Social preparing to be published on YouTube.

Whatever keeps your social marketing running smoothly should be included in this area of your budget. If you are considering changes or new software in the coming year, consider including some padding here.

If you’re not sure when to upgrade your enterprise level social media management software, check out this article where we walk through considerations to think about before committing to a tool.

Advertising and paid campaigns

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. With organic reach down and competition high, having a social media advertising budget is a key way to stay top-of-feed, and top-of-mind for paying consumers.

For companies executing multichannel campaigns, you’ll need to decide how much to allocate for each channel.

If Facebook is your biggest channel, it makes sense to devote more money there. The average Facebook ad cost per click hovers around the $0.94 mark but fluctuates based on industry.

A line chart showing the average facebook cost per click

If you want to grow your Instagram audience, invest more of your budget in Instagram ads. Thankfully, you can manage Instagram and Facebook ads from one location, and even serve the same ad across both platforms.

If you’re just starting out with social media advertising, we suggest learning the basics first and experimenting with different platforms, targeting options and content approaches.

Influencer, creator and other business partnerships

Between brand collaborations, the booming creator economy and influencer marketing campaigns, brand partnerships are everywhere on social media. They effectively increase your brand presence and get new customers to your virtual door, but they do cost money to implement, especially depending on the reach of your partner.

When it comes to working with content creators, marketers cite budget as their biggest challenge. Do your research and decide which channels and content types to prioritize early to make a better case for your creator-focused budget.

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

Similarly, the cost of your partnerships can depend on content type, as well as the platform you’re requesting content for.

Graph from Sprout Social's Creator Economy report. In the graph, the cost of working with creators on different social media platforms is explained. The costs are also broken down by post type.

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 to back up your social media marketing budget

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 by continually tracking social metrics to reevaluate and get more buy-in for your budget.

For example, a tool like Sprout Social tracks content performance, hashtag analytics and more. All of which can help you inform the budget considerations above.

Facebook analytics tools cross network performance report in Sprout

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.

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Create your social media marketing budget to set yourself up for success

At the end of the day, a budget helps you organize your team and your strategy. And it has benefits that extend beyond simply boosting posts—from securing the software you use, to guiding your advertising strategy, fueling paid partnerships and more.

Whether you need a bigger budget, analytics tools or a new team member, your next step is to build a business case to secure executive buy-in. Download this free template to build a compelling foundation for your proposal to prove that an investment in social media is an investment in your business.