Wait - social media is free! Why do I need a budget?
Every small business owner and entrepreneur's immediate response to the discussion of social media budget is they don't need a digital marketing budget: it's free!
But the reality is while many social media channels and tools are free, there are real costs involved with using social media to build your business. Your social media budget is part of your business's marketing budget.
social media spending is currently nine percent of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to more than 13 percent in the next year. In five years, marketers expect to spend more than 21 percent of their budgets on social media.
What Is In a Social Media Budget?
1. Content Creation
Creating useful, interesting content is how people and search engines find your website and social media sites. Someone has to design a content strategy that defines what you're going to talk about online, and when; and then someone has to create that content. Content creation includes the copy, headlines, social media posts, images and links to internal sources or outside authorities, using strategies to drive traffic to your site and get found by search engines. There are several options for content creation:
- outsource: hire a marketing agency, a social media content marketer, or a freelancer
- DIY: create your own content plan
- assign it to a current team member
There are free and paid tools to help you create good content, including:
- blog topic generators
- audience listening tools
- image creators and editors
- stock photos
- URL shorteners
- spelling and grammar checks
2. Scheduling Content
Once you have content, you need to schedule and post it on your website, blog and social media platforms. Strategically, you don't want the identical post on several different social platforms: you may need to craft 3, 4, 5 or even more posts; each with different copy and images (different social media sites require different sizes of images).
Depending on your audience, each social media channel has optimal times to post so you get the most visibility. The best time to post is when your audience is there: not when its most convenient for you! If you're a local business your audience's social media hours may be very different than if you're a national or international business.
Many tools exist to help you schedule social media so your posts go live at the best time - and free you up to do other tasks. Some social media scheduling tools that we use at Alchemy include:
- WordPress post scheduler: schedule your blogs to go live a day, week, month or even months in advance
- HootSuite: this freemium tool lets you schedule up to 3 different social media posts for free, 4 or more channels start at $9.99/month; and cover dozens of social platforms
- IFTTT: free 'recipes' that you choose or create to set up a defined action and result: IF This, Then That; these recipes can help you broaden your social reach and save you time by automating social media functions.
If you choose to use a tool to schedule your social media posts, just set it and forget it: NOT! Monitor your scheduled social posts so that you don't set a post to go live 2 months from now and totally forget about itwhen circumstances have changed. Think of the many Social Media Fails, such as a tragedy that has occurred and someone's scheduled social post says, I hope everyone is out enjoying this gorgeous Saturday!
tip: read Jeff Bullas' 17 Best Social Media Management Tools
3. Promoting Your Content
There's a lot of competition online, and its getting harder and harder for even high quality content to show up in the feeds of people who want to read it! Today, paid social media advertising is becoming the norm: unless you already have a committed audience of fans and followers, its easy to get lost in the online crowd. Much social media is pay to play:
- Paid Ads: Facebook ads for as little as $1/day can drive traffic to your website or build your following; Twitter ads for a few dollars a day dramatically increase the likelihood your post gets seen. Here are some results from WordStream:
LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are other top-performing social platforms that accepts ads in a range of prices.
- Brand Ambassadors: Bloggers, influencers and social media celebrities will promote your posts for in-kind services, a fee, or a percentage of sales.
- Social share buttons on your blog or website invite visitors to share your content with their followers. Some of these share buttons are free, but others have a monthly fee and do a great job of encouring action.
Each of these 3 critical social media marketing tasks can be done by you: but time is money. When you set your social media marketing budget, what is your time worth to you?
How To Set Your Social Media Marketing Budget
1. Allocate a portion of your marketing budget to social media marketing (10% is a good starting point).
2. Keep track of your success rate - and your failure rate - for your social media marketing campaigns. Know your KPI's - Key Performance Indicators. Measuring your social media ROI is tricky:
- did you set the right goals?
- did you have the right budget?
- was your campaign interesting to anyone other than you?
If your campaign doesn't get the results you want, learn from it: and make adjustments for future social media marketing campaigns.
3. Analyze your competitors' social media campaigns, and see what you like and want to adapt, and what isn't right for your business.
Whether your social media budget is 15 hours a month of your own time plus $100 per month for Facebook ads and stock photos, or $1500 per month to outsource to an agency, or somewhere in between; its critical to the success of your social media marketing strategy that you understand the value of social media. Your social media budget should reflect the results your business wants to achieve and your resources, then you can set a realistic budget that supports your business goals.
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