Published originally on Hootsuite Blog by Sam Milbrath

At Hootsuite, the difference between having your marketing budget approved or rejected depends on how you respond to three questions:

  1. What do you hope to accomplish with said budget?
  2. What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will show your success?
  3. How do your objectives and KPIs support those of your department and organization?

As with any marketing initiative, success flows from setting the right objectives and ensuring you have the resources you need to achieve them. If you want to drive brand awareness, then perhaps success is measured based on share of voice and engagement. If you want to drive sales, then you’ll want to evaluate your efforts according to a stricter return on investment (ROI) calculus. Once your budget is approved, measure progress and ensure that whatever you put in, you get back in return.

Every social media budget should incorporate the following seven essential components:

1. Plan and setup

Every social media budget should start with a planning stage. Developing a social media strategy and setting up your online presence will take considerable time and resources initially. By scheduling time to plan ahead, you will be less likely to waste resources in the future by backtracking and re-strategizing. You will want to map out goals and strategies for your organic social and paid advertising, content and creative, engagement, SEO (search engine optimization), and campaigns.

This is when you should decide:

  • Which social channels to focus on
  • Your organic and paid social marketing mix
  • Who will publish content and engage in conversations
  • How often you will post and when
  • Where you want to direct social media traffic to
  • How much social media engagement is worth to your business

Budget at least one full-time employee, consultant, or freelance strategist for between one week and one month to strategize and set up your online presence. How long you’ll need to budget this person for depends on whether you already have some social media structure in place and how much content, creative, and branding you require.

2. Software and tools

Social media is attractive to so many businesses looking to sell more, serve better, and market further because it’s basically free. It becomes costly when you waste time and resources on social media without the tools and software to make it efficient.

Here are some standard efficiency software and tools you will want to budget for (in order to save time and money in the long run):

  • Social media management platform—Find an all-in-one platform with publishing, listening, engagement, security, collaboration, mobile, and analytics (we’re biased toward Hootsuite)
  • Project management system (such as Wrike for marketing project management)
  • Analytics (for both your website and social media networks)
  • Marketing automation (for example Marketo for lead generation or MailChimp for email marketing)
  • Content hosting (for your website, blog, and landing pages)
  • Creative software (such as Adobe Creative Cloud)

Some budgetary items may make more sense for your business to outsource. For example, by hiring a creative agency to give your brand a refresh, you don’t have to incur the cost of in-house creative teams, computers, and the tools and software they require. Social media management platforms, on the other hand, tend to be cost efficient, running from zero to a few hundred dollars a month, depending on your scale and need.

3. Management

Social media is just that. It’s social—people connecting with other people. Every social media budget must assume that a person will be managing the channels, whether it’s 100 percent of their job or 10. We recently wrote a blog post about how to create a social media dream team in which we discuss that this team could be one person or many—and in-house or outsourced.

This team (or person) must oversee:

  • Social media management (publishing, listening, and engagement)
  • Strategy and analytics
  • Content creation
  • Community management
  • Campaigns and promotions

Your budget should factor in the cost of social media training or education if you plan to manage your own presence.

4. Creative and branding

Creative and branding is the look and feel of your online presence‚ through media such as images, video, graphics, and other design elements. Decide how often you want to share social content with rich media such as infographics, GIFs, or high-resolution images. Does it make sense to hire a professional photographer to create personal-branded images for your website, landing pages, and social? Or would you prefer to pay for stock photography when you require it?

If you prefer to have a creative and brand team at-hand, does this mean you will be hiring an agency or employees? For in-house teams, examine the cost of headcount, software such as InDesign, video editing, animation, project management, and equipment required such as computers, cameras, and lighting. In some cases, it might make sense to hire an agency or freelance designer for a month, for example, to create your business’ custom branding for a campaign or refresh.

5. Content

Content is king on social media. And unless you can write engaging content yourself (which requires your personal time and resources), you’ll want to either hire freelance copywriters and copy editors or bring them on as employees.

If you plan to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn five days a week, for example, who is going to create the social media messages and the content you’re directing traffic to? Consider how often you want to share content and who will write your social media messages, content for your owned channels (such as your blog and website), and for campaigns or promotions.

6. Paid advertising

Your organic social can only reach so far without the help of paid social, but you also don’t want to spend more than you’re making. Because of this, your social media strategy and budget should balance organic with paid. Whenever an organic social message performs well, we suggest spending some money to promote it. Experiment with ad spend to see how far you can push your brand reach and click-through rate.

Budget your advertising spend for:

  • Search
  • Display and retargeting
  • Mobile
  • Social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest)
  • Lead generation (think: content discovery and email marketing)

Here are some terms to consider when thinking of paid ads:

  • Cost per click (CPC): When you choose a Pay Per Click ad program, this is the actual cost you incur whenever someone clicks on your ad. In Google AdWords, the average CPC is between $1 and $2. This is more of a direct approach to driving sales and leads.
  • Cost per a thousand impressions (CPM): Rather than paying every time a customer clicks on your ad, you pay for the number of times your ad is shown, regardless of whether it is clicked on or not. This is more of a brand awareness approach, where the customer may not purchase right away, but will think of you when they’re ready to buy.

7. Campaigns and promotions

Campaigns, promotions, and other initiatives may cost a bit, but could be worthwhile from a brand awareness or sales perspective. They are a great way to boost brand awareness and send an influx of potential leads through your sales funnel. Divide your budget up according to planning, execution, and reflection stages. In the planning stages, set aside time and resources for ideation and strategizing. Think about how many campaigns you want to run per year, the  individual budgets for each (as well as your overall budget), your goals, content and creative strategy, and the role social media and advertising will play.

Will you hire an agency or consultant to help launch and drive the campaign? You will need someone to monitor for conversations, publish content, connect with your community, and track and control your spending against performance. Just like how agencies provide analytics to show performance, you’ll want to measure the success of your campaign and reflect on what you can improve upon in the future.

Final thoughts on building a social media budget

There’s no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to creating a budget for social media marketing. That’s the beauty and challenge of social media. You can do some experimenting with paid social advertising for a hundred bucks. For a few thousand, you can hire a freelance marketing consultant to create a content strategy that helps drive sales back to your website. With $10,000, you can hire an agency to create a brand awareness campaign.

Oh, to have the social media marketing budget that brands like Coca Cola have, just for a day. Then again, think of what a resourceful team, thirsty for success, can do with so little.