Social Media Spending Has Increased And Strategies Have Complicated But This Template Is Still A Simple Guide To Calculating A Social Media Budget.

Social Media Marketing Budget Template

Social media marketing spending is up and social media strategy is maturing. In a previous post, I explained how a Social Media Metrics Template can help track increased spending to company performance. The CMO Survey reports average spending on social media marketing is 16% of marketing budgets. Yet, there’s no guarantee you will get that amount of money for social media, and if you do how do you know what to spend it on?

A social media budget begins with breaking expenses into categories.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Few managers or clients will approve a social media strategy without knowing the cost and how that money will be spent. To estimate the cost of a social media plan I created a Social Media Marketing Budget Template in the first edition of my Social Media Strategy book that is still relevant today. It breaks down costs into five expense categories: content creation, social advertising, social engagement, software/tools, and promotions/contests.

Each category is also divided by in-house costs (to be performed by employees) and outsourced costs (to be hired out). The template also calculates the percentage of each item under categories and the percentage of each category out of the total budget to understand where the most money is being spent.

After running the plan and getting some KPI metric results, you’ll have an idea of how each category is contributing to overall success. Based on evaluation results consider adjusting budget category percentages to match contribution level.

(Click on the template image to download a PDF)Social Media Marketing Budget Template


Content Creation Is Time And Assets Used To Write And Design Posts.

Estimate the time to create content in a month. You can get an idea of how much content is needed from a content calendar. For in-house employees, divide salary into an hourly rate. For outsourced help, use their hourly rate or their cost per piece or project. Include any fixed costs such as stock photos or video production.

Social Advertising Is Paid Outsourced Costs For Reach Per Platform.

From the content calendar estimate paid posts. Calculate costs based on current rates per social platform. Most brands buy social ads with set per-day limits. Estimate spending per day, per platform, multiplied by the number of days you expect to run social ads in a month. Then include influencer marketing spending which is often negotiated with a per-post cost. Add the number of posts multiplied by each creator’s per-post rate to estimate monthly expenses.

Social Engagement Is Cost To Listen And Respond To Brand Talk Per Platform.

Live engagement can’t be planned, but you can estimate the cost based on current activity. Get an idea of the level of brand engagement needed from a Social Media Audit. Does the brand typically get hundreds or just a few dozen brand posts a day? From that estimate the hours per day needed to engage all or a percentage of those consumer brand posts. Multiply the number of hours by employee or outsourced rates.

Software/Tools Cover Costs For Social Monitoring, Scheduling, and Analytics.

This category is broken into monitoring, scheduling, and analytics. More specialized software may require additional categories such as consumer research, automation, or AI. You may need to subtract categories if your software solution covers multiple functions. Or a software solution may provide services outside social media such as Salesforce CRM. In that case, divide a percentage of the cost for the integrated system by social media–only services.

Promotions/Contests Are Costs For Prizes, Discounts, Coupons, Or Offer Codes.

Besides buying reach through social ads, many businesses build audience and engagement through special offers and contests. Estimate the costs for offering these sales promotions per campaign. You may have seasonal and holiday campaigns, new customer and event promotions and contests. Included with a monthly expense estimate.

How Do You Know If You’re Spending too Much or too Little?

Add totals per month, per line item, and per category. Then calculate a percentage for each category and category percentages for the total budget. Over time seek to balance spending in each category based on results. Investing in software tools may free up time to be spent on engagement to increase performance. Investing in automation or AI tools may free up employee/outsource costs to invest in social ads.

You can also seek insights from other social media marketers. Join social media professional groups and ask what they tend to spend on various categories. For example, one survey found that top social media costs were internal employee compensation (37%), followed by social media advertising (18%), external staff compensation (10%), and content costs (7%).

Another way to put total social media budgets into context is to compare to competitors. In a social media audit, you may notice a more successful competitor engages fans more and uses more social ads or influencers. You could recommend a similar social media strategy and your budget becomes an estimate of costs to match the competitor’s level and type of activity.

Social budgets can also be compared to industry standards by looking at typical percentages of social media spending. As we saw at the beginning of this post the latest CMO Survey reports average spending on social media marketing is 16% of marketing budgets. But this average varies based on the economic sector from B2B products (8%) to B2C products (22%). To check the latest averages, visit

Sometimes a boss or client will set a specific budget based on what they can afford or what they have left over. Then your social media plan and objectives may need to be adjusted to fit available resources.

Budgeting in social media can be complicated. However, taking a step back and calculating costs based on categories and in relation to marketing spending averages can simplify the process. If you’re budgeting against a solid social media plan tied to business, marketing, and/or communications objectives a budget with the right metrics in place can help justify ROI.

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Social Media Not Meeting Expectations? Perform A Social Media Audit.

Social Media Audit Template

Companies have been active in social media for years. Today 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook and 86% are on Twitter. But those efforts were likely created in a piecemeal fashion. Different brand accounts were added for different reasons at different times. Objectives or options may have changed. Or you may be so focused on current social accounts you are missing out on opportunities elsewhere. How do you know you are posting the right content in the right places to drive the right consumer actions? Perform a social media audit.

Click here for an updated version of this template and post.

Social Media Audit TemplateWhat Is A Social Media Audit?

A social media audit is simply a systematic examination of social media data. It is a snapshot of all social media activity in and around a brand evaluated for strategic insights. Why? Different organizational objectives and target markets may require different social media messages and platforms. Existing brand accounts may be wrong for current business objectives and new social media platforms may be ideal, but were never considered. Perhaps brand social media was started by marketing or public relations, but now customer service requests are overwhelming the system and increased integration is needed.

First Start By Listening.

Use social media tools to gather data about brand social media channels and content. Discover what consumers are saying about the brand, product, service, and key personnel in any social platform. Listen to what is being said by and about brand competitors. You may be monitoring social media daily, but simply responding to what comes your way.

Analyze the bigger picture. Qualify and quantify social media action looking for patterns and opportunity. Listen with an outside perspective to the social talk about your brand, employees, customers and competitors. Look on both official corporate social media accounts and unofficial or personal accounts.

If you don’t have a social media monitoring software or if you are a startup or student just getting started simply go to each social media platform and search the brand name to find the conversations. Look on official brand accounts to see what the brand is doing and look at the conversation happening on those official brand accounts.

Start with the social channels you know the brand has brand pages (they are probably listed on the brand website). Then search other popular social media channels the brand does not have official accounts to find additional consumer brand content. Do the same for one main competitor to find their social channels, brand content and consumer brand conversations. This Social Media Channel Template provides a list of top social platforms by category for ideas on where to look for official brand accounts and consumer brand conversations.

An audit need not capture every mention, but should gather a complete picture. Find conversation on all social platforms. Be sure to consider social networks, blogs and forums, microblogs, media sharing platforms, geosocial, ratings and reviews, social bookmarking, social knowledge, plus podcasts. This Social Media Channel Category Guide provides a quick guide to the top social media platforms in each category by kind and key characteristics.

Next Organize Social Talk Data.

When collecting social talk data it should be organized for meaningful analysis. This can be done by following a social media audit template such as the one I created from the concept of the Five Ws that journalists use to write news stories. Gather social talk into three categories of company, consumer, and competitor (down first row) then record observations by where, what, when, and why (across columns).

Collect and Analyze Social Media Audit Data by:

  • Who—company, consumers, competitors
  • Where—social media channel (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and environment (describe the look and feel)
  • What—type of content (articles, photos, videos, links, questions, etc.) and sentiment (positive, negative, neutral)
  • When—frequency of activity (number of posts, comments, views, shares, etc. per day, week, or month)
  • Why—purpose (brand awareness, promotion, drive traffic, customer complaint, praise, etc.)

The number of rows under “Who” will vary based on the number of brand and competitor social accounts and the number of social media platforms where consumer brand talk is found. Larger organizations may need to divide the “Company” category further into departments, offices, or employees. Capture what each location or executive is communicating.

If the brand has an official social media account (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) you place it under “Company” with its own row for insights. This is where you describe what the company is doing on those platforms. Under “Consumer” you should list all the social platforms where consumers are participating in discussion about the brand. If they are engaging on an official company social media account list it here and provide those insights in a row (such as Facebook and Pinterest). Also search the brand name and see what people are saying off the official account be sure to include that discussion as well.

If a brand has an account on a social platform and there is no consumer engagement (such as Twitter) then list it under “Company,” but don’t list it under “Consumer.” This may be a platform the brand may want to close. Search main platforms where the brand doesn’t have an account (such as Instagram). Are consumers talking about the brand? List that platform in a row under “Consumer” and describe what is being said. There may be a brand community but no official brand account and they may want to add this platform. For “Competitor” you don’t need to go as in depth to capture insights. Simply list each official brand account on a row and describe what the brand is doing and their customers are doing on those channels.

Then Determine What The Data Is Saying.

Does the data point to opportunities? Are there trouble spots? Do brand social media platforms present a consistent look, voice and unified message? Are customers complaining about similar product or service issues? Is the brand consistently posting quality content and consistently responding to customers? Are there social platforms where customers are talking about the brand, yet there isn’t an official brand presence? Is the social media channel a problem or an opportunity for a defensive or offensive social media strategy.

Determining the “Why” for each social action is important. If you can’t think of a strategic purpose then reevaluate the effort. Is maintaining a brand account on specific social media platforms worth the organization’s time? Once a purpose is determined, identify the social media metrics to measure performance. Ask questions such as, “Why does the organization have a Pinterest page and how is success being measured?” “Because everyone is there” and “to increase followers” is not enough. If you know the business purpose and metrics ask, “How has the platform performed? With roughly 10% of marketing budgets spent on social media it is more important than ever to connect social action to higher-level business objectives and justify expense.

Finally Evaluate Brand Engagement.

Are your consumer’s engaging with your brand? How are views, likes, comments and shares? Have they gone up or down over time? Advertising Hall of Famer Howard Gossage said, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them.” In social media reach is gained when consumers find content interesting enough to share. Quality content is important. Whether educational or entertaining it must be considered valuable. Only social media that is viewed and shared reaches an audience that can then take action to meet business objectives.

Today you can also interrupt people’s social feeds with paid social media or native advertising. Paid social media can buy reach to a targeted audience, but that does not replace the need to create interesting content. Social media advertising merely buys exposure. Content must convey value to drive consumer action, further distribution, and ultimate ROI.

Is It Time For A Social Media Audit?

If you haven’t evaluated your brand’s social media presence in a while it may be time for a social media audit. Use this template to see how consumers are experiencing your brand in social media. You may uncover some problem areas, promising opportunities, social channels you should be in and ones you should leave behind.

A social media audit can help you:

  • Realize the need for increased integration with other departments.
  • Find gaps in brand promise and product/service performance.
  • Uncover inconsistencies across brand social accounts.
  • Reveal blind spots in current social action with content, schedule and response.
  • Discover consumer ideas for product/service improvements.
  • Optimize brand content to drive engagement.
  • Find unexpected consumer generated content on other platforms.
  • Discover valuable brand or industry influencers.
  • Optimize time devoted to most effective social media platforms.
  • Learn from successful competitor social strategies.
  • Uncover a need for metrics to connect social action to business objectives.

Whether launching a new social media effort or evaluating current social activity, a social media audit can deliver valuable insights to create or optimize any social media strategy. For the latest changes in social media strategy consider Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Social Media Strategy.