Social Media On A Budget?

First question is why don’t you have a budget for social media? Marketing Directors & Managers are now being tasked to add Social Media to the company online assets and now the question arises … How do we pay for it?

MARKETER TIP >>> Social media management typically is paid through marketing, public relations or customer service budget allocations depending on how you plan to utilize your social media channels. If you need some backup on how much of your marketing budget should go to social check out these resources:

How Much Time and Money Do Small Business Spend on Social Media

12 Social Media Marketing Trends for Small Business

70% of Marketers Will Spend More on Social Media Ads This Year

Remember, social media is just like every other type of marketing/advertising in that you get out of it what you put into it. Typically an agency is going to be spending time researching, writing, purchasing & sizing/formatting images, creating graphics, monitoring the social channels and running analytics from 3rd party paid software and that’s all just for organic reach. A successful brand will also layer in paid ad campaigns. There are hard costs tied to each step so when budget meets reality you’ll need to make decisions on what you can afford.

Ok but seriously Stephanie, we have no money what can we do? I get this posed to me sometimes when I’m speaking at Entrepreneurial or Non-profit groups. How can you effectively engage on social media with a limited or non-existent budget? Well you’re entering DIY territory but that’s ok because I’m going to walk you through what you can do.

Kickstarting Social Media without a Budget

  • Identify someone in-house that can take this on and if you’re reading that, congratulations because that’s probably going to be you. Expect to dedicate 5-7 hours per week. 
  • Review your existing profiles and going back 4-6 weeks and make a list of the types of posts that your audience engaged with (like, share or comment). Your goal is to make a category list ideally 4-7 categories, pay attention to the types of pictures or links that your audience responds to. If you don’t have posts up and your starting a new page then find a business or group that shares your audience, for example if your page will be for medical professionals then find other businesses or associations that also target medical professionals. Now take that list and combine it with your goals for what you are trying to accomplish with your overall marketing efforts. Essentially, what are you needing your social media to do? This process will give you a hit list of content. 
  • Now that you know what you need, you need to source how you’re going to say it. Find graphics that you already own… this usually means going to talk to your sales department to find spec sheets or pull images off your website. You’ll need to find pictures of your products, process, company etc. If you don’t have any find a camera phone and make a list of pictures you’ll need that go along with the posts that you’ll be writing. For example, if you write about calling your customer service department or share a review of the company then a picture of your actual customer service staff would go great there. Try to keep a balance of posts with rich media, a text only approach is a sure fire way to plummet your engagement. You will most likely need to spend some money on pictures, and there’s tons of picture resources but it’s much better to invest and buy a picture legally then get into copyright issues because you stole pictures off the web! 
  • Spell check, spell check, spell check EVERYTHING 
  • Schedule a time to publish your posts on your social channels, I strongly recommend using a software like and you will like that too because it’s free and remember… you don’t have any money. 
  • Monitor! Login to your accounts each morning and look for comments or messages that need your attention. Ideally you should be logged in 2-3 times a day but I know that for the DIY’er that’s probably not realistic. Just remember that last time you were really frustrated with something and you blasted it out on social media… how long did you wait until you were mad about the company not responding? Keep that in mind if you are tempted to put off logging in and taking a look to make sure all is calm on your social channels. 
  • Analytics – run analytics to review and get feedback before you start writing more content for you page. You won’t be able to afford the dynamic demographic reports from a paid service but a simple report is available in hootsuite with basic metrics that can give you insights into your audience behavior. 
  • Set up google alerts – an agency would be using 3rd party monitoring software to find and notify if anyone online is talking about your company. For the company on a budget, setting up a free google alert is the next best thing. It’s not as comprehensive or timely but it’s better then nothing and gets you used to monitoring for mentions of your company name, brand, slogan or common terms. 
  • Rinse & repeat. Keep this cycle up and before long you should start to see your audience engaging and interacting on your page. Hopefully by this time you’ve also seen the power and reach of social media and will be willing to approve a budget allocation for social media.

Ok, I have some money now … where should I spend it first?

  • Hire a professional. That doesn’t mean hire your friends niece or the company intern because “he’s always on that Facebook app”. The only time that’s a valid reason to hire someone is if they also happen to already be trained in social media management. I mean it, you wouldn’t believe the number of times we get a frantic call to help a company clean up a mess that was the result of this exact scenario. 

HIRING SURVIVAL TIP>>> Consuming social media and developing a strategy, creating content and diligent monitoring and management is VERY different then consuming social media. Would you hire someone to create a tv campaign for you just because they watch a lot of TV? Didn’t think so. 

  • Invest in images, if you hire an agency this will most likely be included in your cost however if you hire an employee then you’ll need to purchase a subscription to an image source. Check out Getty Images, Shutterstock or something similar. 
  • Invest in software, again if you source your social media to an agency this will be included but if you are still a DIY’er then find a software like Sprout Social & Simply Measured.

I would love to hear how you kickstarted your social media profiles, if you have a great tip please share it!