Social Media Marketing Budgets and ROI: How to Plan for 2016

Today, social platforms are essential to digital marketing strategy. These insights can help you organize an effective plan to prepare your social media marketing budget for next year.

As we enter Q4 of 2015 and the race continues for technology market position from younger social tech companies like Periscope, Meerkat, Pinterest and Instagram, the modern social media marketer or social manager has a lot to think about. The heavyweight advertising platforms – LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – are becoming more sophisticated, offering all types of hyper-local targeting and better analytics.

People and time resources for social media management are becoming more demanding, as organizations finally see social media marketing as a real branding and sales channel. All of these things combined require marketing directors to assess their marketing budgets a bit differently moving ahead into 2016.

Any good chief operating officer (COO) understands the concept of wastage as well as any great chief marketing officer (CMO) understands the strength of solid, experienced marketing resources. When considering a budget for social media, the balance between the two is critical. Before the marketing decision-maker makes their 2016 social media marketing budget, I suggest he or she sits down with the company chief financial officer and/or COO to review company expenses, profitability, and company goals.

In my opinion, social media is a serious branding tool. I say this because it can inevitably affect a company reputation, market position, and valuation, if it is a public company. The operations side of any organization needs to understand how social media branding can play a big part in a company’s overall value.

Initiate a real social media marketing planning session. For this session, the top executives – the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, and sales director – should convene to discuss what the company vision is for the next year, and how social media can support it. Additionally, the previous marketing year programs should go under review. This allows the whole team to visibly see where the company has spent marketing dollars, where these funds have performed, and where they have failed to perform.

When considering where to put your money in social media advertising, marketing, and resources, it is critical to review your target audience. Create user profiles of social behaviors for each audience. It’s more than likely you already have smart CRM systems, digital analytics, and social analytics deployed internally. Use these to start gathering insights on which social channels are delivering the most site traffic, where your users are spending their time in social, what types of content is driving the highest consumption and shareability, and so forth.

With this data, illustrate user social behaviors and traffic patterns. You will start to realize:

  • Which social ad platforms may make sense for your business
  • What type of content production you should invest in for 2016
  • What frequency you should invest in content production during 2016
  • Where you might consider enabling a talent resource to manage a vertical online community

It’s also a good time to review the listening, managing, monitoring tools your organization utilizes for social media marketing. Evaluate the:

  • Ad management reporting tools
  • Market automation tools
  • APIs
  • CRM systems

Assess your tools and their related effective use to create what I call, an internal end-to-end social media branding and sales system.

Finally, analyze how social media marketing will affect sales so that sales planning and social planning can start to better align in 2016. This means:

  • The sales goals and past years’ performances needs to be reviewed and considered.
  • Each salesperson’s personality type for social selling needs to be understood. Building relationships in social media is a bit more complex than our traditional face-to-face interactions. You could have the best social sales person right under your nose and not even know it.
  • A proper social salesperson needs to be trained in the art of supporting the company social ecosystem.
  • At minimum, your marketing efforts and tools need to correlate with the social sales process, from LinkedIn profile messaging to the use of SlideShare and Twitter to CRM to offline presentations.

As a guide for social media budgeting and assessing proper ROI, both branding ROI and sales ROI must be considered because social supports both. On the branding side, ROI is determined by:

  • Gains in market share
  • Popularity in social
  • Mentions in online PR
  • Requests for branded interviews in influential publications

But social branding is not as easy as it was at one time. Competition in virtually every industry is strong: social mobile usage is at an all-time high and the social noise is tremendous. This means that more social resources need to be deployed at the company level, including training, hiring, and managing.

Of course, measuring social to sales success is much more tangible. Today, there is a plethora of opportunities in social media marketing, with more platforms and more chances for targeted selling. Advertising spend has increased for B2B organizations across the board, and corporate spend has substantiated this fact.

For an idea of budgeting for social at the starting point, I would encourage you to take a look at an infographic I created in 2013 for ClickZ in my article, How to Effectively Budget Your Social Media Program in 2013. Simply add 15 to 20 percent to each end of the annual spectrum for small and mid-market companies and 20 to 30 percent for larger, enterprise organizations to get current estimates.

I hope this information will help you plan for your social media marketing for 2016. Feel free to share your comments here.

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