Why a Social Media Budget Is Like Every Other Budget In Your Life: Important

I work with all different types of brands in social media marketing, and I’ve noticed one thing is fairly common among prospects in particular: many brands aren’t willing to give clear budget guidance for social media marketing efforts.
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I understand some of the reasons.  Early in relationships, brands may be hesitant to show all their cards up front. In otherSocial Media Budget cases (more difficult to believe these days), I’ve also heard the reason being that social media marketing is still a fairly new territory and the brand simply does not know.  Or my new personal favorite, “if the idea is good enough, a social media budget will be found.”
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As a social media marketer, I can tell you that while some of these reasons may be legit, not having any social media budget guidance or parameters is hurting you instead of helping.  Let me explain why:
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Reason #1: Budgets Spark Creativity & Ingenuity

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but knowing budget parameters actually helps spark creativity in the right areas.  If the budget is significant enough, then we know we can spend a lot more of our time on big thinking, and less time (at least initially) on considering all of the execution details that may contribute to cost.  If we have a smaller budget, we will still leave brainstorming open to creative ideas but will then spend more of our time refining and engineering these concepts to ensure they fit within our budget – where the real creativity and ingenuity begins.
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Reason #2: Budgets Help Prioritize

When you have a contractor over at your house – do you first let the contractor walk around your entire house and tell you everything they could do if money was no object?  Or do you instead begin with specific projects and the priority of those projects, and then let the contractor know what you are hoping to spend?  I would venture to say for most of us, we like to guide and direct the budgets in our daily lives.
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If I were to plan a wedding, a $100 budget wedding would have clearly different priorities than a $100k wedding.  Let’s face it – budgets help prioritize your efforts toward the best way to spend your money to achieve your objectives.  Your brand doesn’t need everything, it needs the right suggested tactics in social media marketing as it relates to the overall spend.
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Reason #3: Budgets Show the Importance of Social in Your Organization

In your personal life, typically the more money you spend on something tends to relate to the level of importance you have for that item.  Housing, Food, Day Care – are all at the top of the list of items on my personal budget, and do reflect, to some extent, my priorities.
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When a brand doesn’t divulge budget (even broadly) and doesn’t provide clear scope parameters for us to work within, it does make us question to a certain extent the importance of social within the organization.  Sometimes, we’ve been proven wrong.  Most other times, we realize that this is one early indicator that perhaps it’s too soon for that organization to be seeking outside services, and there is a lot more groundwork that has to be done internally.
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What Should Brands Do?

If budget is really elusive, brand managers should try one or more of the following tactics:

  • Pull any historical/comparable spend from previous marketing efforts as a baseline
  • Create a clear description of scope of work to price
  • Provide varying level of budget ballparks to guide projects or campaign creation (low=15-30k, mid=30-70k, high=70k+)
  • Compare expectations for results for this level of spend if it were applied to other marketing efforts. For example, what would you expect from TV for $70k total spend? From direct mail? From banner ads?
  • Set up a Q&A session with agency partners to get a feel for comparable prices of work completed for other clients

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Whether you are looking for an agency or working with one already – transparency is key. Being open and honest with the real opportunity or challenges that budgets present can help guide conversations, creativity & proposal development, and ultimately lead to more success.
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If you need further help to set your social media budget for next year, reference our “5 Tips to Setting Your 2016 budget” blog post, or contact us if you need to chat.

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