How to Effectively Budget Your Social Media Program in 2013

The first step that any organization needs to make when approaching social media marketing is to assess its resources and start to assign necessary roles.

Social media marketing in 2013 is a serious job. No longer can we leave managing our social media pages to a new college grad with a major in communications. Social media, which now signals SEO, can manage customer service, and can hurt your brand reputation, is a key component of any corporate marketing program. So, how is the practice, which changes daily, managed and, equally as important, budgeted?

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The first step that any organization needs to make when approaching social media marketing is to assess its resources and start to assign necessary roles. For social media to assist in online brand strength, supplant customer service, and ultimately aid in qualified customer acquisition, an effective plan and professional team for daily execution needs to be put in place.

Budget Consideration No. 1: Social Media Marketing Strategy

A social media marketing strategy in itself should be considered your first investment. Whether that’s delivered by a social media consultant, a social media marketing agency, or an internal social media manager, the strategy is a roadmap that no company can afford to do without. A proper social media marketing strategy, as I covered in my recent ClickZ column, requires specific steps. The investment in the strategy will certainly take time and most likely dollars, especially if you require creation of compelling content to sell strategy up the corporate chain. To do it right, especially if you’re on the marketing team of a mid-size or enterprise-size organization, you should expect to invest $5,000 to $10,000 in strategy and a solid month of time.

Budget Consideration No. 2: Social Media Build

Social media channel setup will be your first hard cost. This includes the creation of custom skins for pages such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (company header). Also, you will need a graphics person to design other images such as Pinterest boards and welcome pages such as the Facebook landing page. Profiles will need to be optimized for social impact and online brand message delivery. For example, in LinkedIn, not only will you need your company profile page designed and optimized with your brand in mind, but also some employee training will be required to get all of your sales team on the same page as far as LinkedIn marketing goes.

If you’re like most companies that aggressively use technology to drive marketing, you may even consider investing in a social app customized to support popular service functions. Your investment here includes graphic design, technology development, planning, and training. Again, if you’re a part of an established firm, you could look at spend anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.

Budget Consideration No. 3: Social Media Content Development

Once you have a content plan in step one, you’ll then need to commit to creating ongoing compelling content. Content takes professionalism in design, writing skills, video production, photography, webcast production, audio development, and more. You’ll also require someone skilled in social media management, most likely a social media manager, to manage all content and ensure that it’s engaging, supports your online brand position, and is optimized for your targeted search keywords as a signal to SEO.

The content creation itself, if staffed appropriately, can be done by skilled writers and designers coupled with outside producers (of video content). Content creation needs to be considered a full-time job. Again, this can be done on salary by skilled staff or outsourced to a professional content development team or agency. Content development, including ongoing video production (product demos, service testimonials, campaigns), can be costly, but if done effectively, can deliver a high ROI (in building a strong online customer base). Effective social media marketing content should include:

  • Blogging (a minimum of two to three new posts per week)
  • Infographics or other illustrations
  • Online videos (professionally done preferred)
  • Whitepapers
  • Reports
  • Podcasts
  • Articles (written for specific influential blogs and online publications as directed in your plan)
  • Professional photography (products, live events)
  • Recorded webinars and webcasts

A good budget for content development per month can range from $3,000 to $5,000 per month at a minimum.

Budget Consideration No. 4: Social Media Channel Management

Once you have a working content plan, you’ll need daily management of the social channels that will drive your online brand awareness and engagement. Social media management takes listening, research, staying on top of trends and influencers, and ongoing creative thinking. Social media management, even for SMB organizations, takes a full-time salary worth of work. Don’t skimp on this and expect a junior person to take it on and run it (as many organizations do and fail). Would you trust an intern or a new college grad to run client meetings for you? I don’t think so. At the same time, social is driving your brand and its sentiment. A wise investment here is to hire a professional or team to manage your content delivery, engagement in groups, outreach, commenting, and fan/follower/connect building. Expect to budget at least $3,000 to $5,000 per month for this work to do it right.

Budget Consideration No. 5: Social Media Campaigning

As an ongoing marketing practice, campaigning and outreach to specific targets, whether primary consumer/client or direct to media, is a necessary step to keep your brand in the face of those who will influence or directly make the buy. There are loads of opportunities to create and deliver display ad and PR campaigns within the social networks. In doing so, cost factors include: design, goal-setting, analytics and reporting, and of course, outreach and management. Best practices at a minimum for any serious social media marketer include one strong targeted campaign per quarter. You should set aside a minimum of $1,500 additional budget a quarter for these programs.

Budget Consideration No. 6: Social Media Management and Monitoring Tools

With all that needs to be done in social media marketing in multiple channel setup and management, content creation and delivery, content topic planning and campaign outreach, and management, having a solid social tool can help. Although the social networks themselves provide some level of reporting (LinkedIn profile analytics, Facebook Insights, etc.), there are specific tools such as SocialOomph, HootSuite, and Radian6 (now a product) that can take your social media management to the next level. In general, most companies can get by using a dashboard and monitoring tool like HootSuite at $10 per month and up. Larger, enterprise organizations or large agencies that are managing excessive campaigns and social inventory should certainly review more of a Radian6 type at $5,000 per month and up.

Whether you insource (hire professional social media managers, writers, production personnel, designers, SEO people) or outsource your social media marketing to a specialized agency, you need to have a budget for this practice. Social media marketing – as discussed by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, as well as many other leaders in the online marketing space – is signaling search visibility and brand engagement more today than ever, and that will only continue to deepen. Get your social media marketing program working for you. Assess your resources, budget, and marketing goals, set the right budget for your organization, and start driving customer engagement results in social media.

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