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How to Budget for Social Media Activities

Budgeting is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to marketing, and it’s even more complicated when it comes to social media.

There are a lot of “irrational” layers from a CFO point of view; a CFO’s concerns might sound boring at first for any social media enthusiast, but in fact they raise a lot of opportunities to sell social strategies better, therefore improving the performance of our actions.

Splitting the different lines of tasks

Budgeting is all about structuring costs and defining objectives. There’s a need to set up basic costs, explain to CFOs what is crucial and what is a "nice to have."


Products and services don’t immediately generate value per se but they do help in achieving results. It’s of course possible to do everything with free tools, but this will be quickly limiting. CFOs are here to generate ROI; justifying which services achieve which goals is a way to demonstrate how profitable they can be. Showing to CFOs that you’ve included “free” services is a way to prove you’re budget-savvy.

Here’s a beginning of budget lines you could start working with:

-         Community management tools

o   “free” tools like Tweetdeck

o   “paid” tools like solutions to find influencers in a quickest way

-         Social listening tools

o   “free” tools like the basic features of Twitter counter to analyze the growth of a community, Facebook Insights, etc.

o   “paid” tools like SocialBakers to better know your audience

o   Monitoring tools like Radian6, Webfluenz or Synthesio to better understand “consumers” expectations

o   Mapping tools like eCairn

When it comes to social media, we often forget tools that are not only dedicated to social media specialists. Nonetheless, your team is going to require a lot of other tools to make the strange chemistry happen:

-         Photo editor

o   “free” tools like apps you can get on Play

o   “paid” tools like Adobe Creative Cloud

-         Content Library

o   “free” tools to create your own contents: cameras, mics…

o   “paid” tools like access to premium versions of online library

-         Video material

o   “free” tools like Google Hangout

o   “paid” solutions to better edit interviews like Premiere or Final Cut

-         Presentation, text editor etc.

It’s not because social media is perceived as “digital” that other costs don’t occur: Good social media specialists tend to write a lot on sticky notes, walls, good old paper.


Once you’ve created this first list of costs, it’s now time to justify which team members you need and which sorts of profiles you require. These talents are pretty expensive (junior social media specialists start at £16K, while top managers can earn more than £120K).

Again, it’s important to split between talents who will be necessary every month to implement the strategies and digital specialists who will be important because of specific needs, specific actions.

That is why you need to align the presentation of your budget depending on your social activities. Not everything can be planned; however, you definitely need to create your own “brand seasons” with key momentums. The Oreo example is a good one: their ability to react in the now and to really understand real-time marketing is shows their preparedness, design and mastership. Because in social media as in any practice, most of the work is actually invisible for the end-users.

-         Team pillars: there are key skills that need to be spread among the organizations. Depending on your organization, these skills can sometimes be allocated to other collaborators as part of their activities, or directly outsources

o   Digital strategist: depending on the side of your business, you might require few of them. These people are responsible for the global coherence of the projects; they must be very digital-savvy but most importantly, understand what your brand is about. They must lead the process and provide insights, while developing state-of-the art ideas

o   Content strategist: once you have the global strategy, it must come to life. Content strategist will create editorial pillars, tone of voice, will adjust the social brand with the digital strategist and the brand team leaders. They will also diffuse the brand culture to all the other components of the social media team

o   Creative team (copywriters and designers): they’re going to play an important role to create executions; a simple action like a Facebook contest actually requires the right user experience, the right words, the right appealing visuals

o   Social media analyst: they are going to crawl the web, analyze social media presence, measure impact. They are as important as the strategists because they are the ones who are actually going to justify ROI (or not)

o   Coordinator: making sure that everybody’s aligned, calling for quick catch-up, supporting social media team ideas to the other departments are key tasks. Most of the time, the organizations aren’t aware of what the “geeks” are doing. 10 years after the very first social media activities, this crucial part of the business - internal communication – is still an issue

Each of these functions can be outsourced to agencies, freelancers, or allocated to other business functions. There are many examples of good “hybridization” of talents, as in the long-term, every collaborator will have a role to play in “social”. Nonetheless, it still requires coordinators to make sure virtuous loops are happening. The worse scenario is to outsource all the social media tasks to an agency: the loss of control and the lack of reactivity will lead to two mistakes: a lack of “change” within the organization, and less synergies between the brand ideas and what external experts can bring on the table

-         Word-of mouth accelerators: among the diverse social media activities that a team must do on a daily basis, there are activities which require specific talents

o   Developers: developing an app for a contest can be either bought from an agency (ie: there are many companies specialized in Facebook apps) or developed in a more bespoke way, either internally or with freelancers; it’s important to anticipate your key momentums: do you want to arrange a contest for Christmas? Then you might need an app

o   Database of customers: some companies already own strong databases of existing customers or prospects, some others don’t. In order to accelerate word-of-mouth, you might need at some point to hire a CRM specialist


If something has tremendously changed in the last couple of years, it’s the link between advertising and social media. Before, some activities could have a chance to go viral, because it was new, outstanding, inspiring and because social networks were running after critical masses of users, therefore were offering a lot of tools to marketers…for free. Times have changed and it’s now key to forecast the boosters you’ll need to foster your campaigns.

Splitting the different lines of activities

Once this first work is done, a tremendously efficient way of preparing your budget is to split your costs directly on the social media editorial plan and explain which goals are then expected.

-         Permanent costs: it’s important to explain that a core team won’t be able to create magic everyday but will be able to complete growth in diverse areas: fans, followers, leads, email addresses, drive to e-commerce etc. It’s great because it’s also a way to justify the fact that CFOs also need to invest in accelerators at some point to generate peaks

o   A bit like the “listening” task is always on, your core team will be permanently working on your organization’s storyline

o   Licenses will then be plugged to this “support” line

-         Additional costs for specific events: you can now explain how to generate peaks, accelerators to acquire new sorts of publics etc.

o   You might need social media correspondents to cover specific events?

o   You might need more budget to buy an app for Christmas?

CFOs will then have a full understanding of what you want to achieve and why you require specific manpower and tools. With this split by tasks and activities, CFOs can, in an easier way, discover if this organization can become a profit center and how.

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