Are you a social media manager with a small social media budget? Check out these tips from the Director of Contentworks Agency on how to work a budget for social media marketing, so that you can secure a bigger one.

According to Gartner’s The State of Marketing Budgets 2021 report, as a percentage of revenue, digital marketing budgets have been cut from 11% in 2020 down to 6.4% in 2021 across all industries.

That spells bad news for marketers and raises a question that we must address before we go any further: Should you be spending your budget on social media?

How Has Social Media Changed the Marketing Budget?

In February 2021, social media spending averaged around 14.9% of the total marketing budget. A year later, and this has risen to 17.8%.

Previously, CMOs sidelined “trivial” social media marketing tactics in favor of tried-and-tested digital marketing techniques like paid advertising, emails, and PR.

But with the wide appeal of social media (over 58.4% of the world is active on social media), and the massive reach-potential that social platforms offer brands, digital marketers are starting to see social media as a valid marketing channel:

  • Social media, as a digital marketing channel, is growing at a rate of 7.5% a year, and gains more than 10 new users every second.
  • Over 93% of social media managers now use their social media budget to promote their brands on Facebook, while 78% use it to promote on Instagram.
  • More than 50% of social media marketers plan on increasing their investments in Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok in 2022.
  • Social media ad spending is expected to reach $177 billion in 2022, overtaking television ad spend.
  • Social media marketing is forecasted to account for 26.5% of all advertising by 2024.

So, you can see why over 75% of digital marketers plan to increase their social media budget over the next year.

Although social media marketing is on the rise, with big-budget cuts across the board, we’re still living in tough times.

Every single penny spent has to be scrutinized for what it can return. So, securing a bigger social media budget could be challenging.

How to Secure a Bigger Social Media Budget

As a social media manager, to secure a bigger social media budget you’ll need to prove that what you spend on social media delivers results that positively affect the bottom line.

You’ll need to prove that the ROI for every social media campaign you run is worth its weight in gold in terms of leads, revenue, and growth potential.

That might feel daunting, especially if you’re competing against big brands with huge social media marketing budgets that will easily spend more than $7,000 a month on their social media activities.

But it’s not impossible.

Keep your spending on social media low (without compromising on value) and find ways to free up your time, so you can focus on strategic tasks that will improve the overall performance of your social media activity. Doing so will make proving social ROI much easier.

As director of Contentworks Agency, I often work with clients that are either reluctant to spend on social media or just don’t have access to a large social media budget.

So, I know how to run successful social media campaigns without breaking the bank and without hemorrhaging your time.

Small Budget, Big Impact: How to Run Successful Social Media Campaigns Without Breaking the Bank

The old adage “Time is money” has never been more appropriate in today’s world of social media marketing. With that in mind, the best piece of advice I can give social media managers is this:

If you invest your social media budget in tools or software that take care of the time-consuming, day-to-day tasks, you’ll have more time to focus on the tasks that will drive more demand, engagement, and sales. This will ultimately help you to prove social ROI and get a bigger social media budget.

Social media management software and tools can often come with a hefty price tag, so this might seem easier said than done, especially if you have a minuscule social media budget to start with.

But it can be done …

How to Spend Your Social Media Budget (Wisely)

Social media budget tip #1: Invest in tools that help you do more with less

Attract social media attention with image creation tools

80% of social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing. And there’s a good reason why. When people read information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information. If that information is paired with a relevant image, people will retain up to 65%.

A large brand, with a big social media marketing budget, can pay for graphic designers, Photoshop experts, and maybe even a video production team to create assets for their social media campaigns.

But what if you don’t have that type of social media marketing budget?

Invest in free design tools, like Canva.

I’ve been a Canva advocate since it was launched in 2012 because you don’t need to be a graphic designer to make it work. It allows you to create high-quality post images, animated stickers, presentations, and covers that size up perfectly for each social media network.

You can add your logo and branding colors, create designs, duplicate them, and change the text. See the below examples.


Canva is simple to pick up and it’s so quick and easy to create and upload your social assets straight to your social media platforms. 

I also love Visme as a free social media design tool.  

Visme is an all-in-one content creation tool that allows you to quickly and easily create beautiful graphics, PDFs, and more for your social media marketing. 

With plans starting from $0, you’ll find something to fit every budget. 

Check out these free templates for presentations, infographics, charts, maps, documents, websites, and social media assets.

Another fave of mine is PosterMyWall.

This design program allows you to make still and animated posters, flyers, promos, and, of course, social media images.

There are free templates and pay-as-you go options.

Engage your audience with video creation tools

You don’t need me to tell you that video content is big news, but if you need proof:

Again, hiring a videographer or trying to create video content yourself is time-consuming and expensive, especially if it’s not your natural skillset.

However, there are video content creation tools that will allow you to create high-quality animations and videos, easily, quickly, and in-house.

Personally, I think Powtoon is one of the best video content creation tools out there. It has basic features that let you create animations, upload them to YouTube, and share them with your followers for free. But they do offer subscription plans that open up a wider selection of characters, images, and soundtracks with higher resolution exports, and more download options. So again, there’s something for every budget.

Social media video success story

Taco Bell launched its nacho fries with the “Web of Fries” video campaign.

Because fries are so common, to get people’s attention Taco Bell used a 90-second faux movie trailer with funny thriller clichés.

The result: The campaign was a hit! With 53 million orders in the first five weeks, Taco Bell’s nacho fries became one of the most successful food launches in history.

Boost your position in the SERPs with SEO tools

You know the SEO basics: Find the high volume, low difficulty keywords that your target audience are searching for and that you’re likely to rank for, and use these in your blog and YouTube content. Pepper your content with relevant links from high DA sites and your internal content, and watch your content rise up through the search engine results pages and the number of people accessing your content increase.

By far, the best tool I’ve found to help you do this is Ahrefs. Its Keywords Explorer helps you find achievable keywords, the Rank Tracker feature helps you set up and track the ranking performance of your content in Google, and the Site Explorer looks at the backlink profile and search traffic for your website or any URL. They do offer a free backlink checker which is a paired down version of the Site Explorer function, but in my opinion, to get the most out of Ahrefs, you need to pay for its full suite of features. Prices start from $61 a month, but if you’re serious about SEO, I’d consider forking out for their ‘Standard plan’, which is around $185 per month.

If you track user journeys through your content and monitor metrics like traffic volume, click-through rates, page dwell time, bounce rates, and conversions, you’ll easily be able to prove the ROI for a tool like Ahrefs.

Reach your target audience with social media audience research tools

You want to create social media content that appeals to a wide audience or build a community that everyone wants to join. But when you design campaigns that speak to everyone, you waste resources marketing to people that are outside of your target audience.

To spend your social media budget as efficiently as possible, you need to get to know your followers.
Consider utilizing free, built-in tools like Facebook Insights to find out what your social media audience does and doesn’t like. You can then use what you’ve learned to create and publish content that directly appeals to your target audience.

Moz’s Followerwonk is good for giving you a deeper insight into your Twitter followers and lets you analyze your social media audience demographics to find right-fit influencers. You can choose their free plan or get more features on one of their paid plans.

Hashtagify is also a great tool to use if you want to identify trends and get the best hashtag suggestions for your target audience on Twitter and Instagram. Although plans start at $29 per month, it’s a useful tool to have in your martech stack to help you attract your target audience organically.

conquer social media inbox with agorapulse header image

Prove ROI with social media reporting software

Once you’ve found a social media strategy that works, it’s tempting to set it and then forget it.

But monitoring, experimenting, testing, and modifying your social media campaigns is key to proving the ROI on your social media activity and getting that bigger social media budget.

Set goals and track performance metrics such as engagement levels (likes, comments, shares, and clicks), awareness (impressions and reach), and ROI (referrals and conversions) to see whether you met, exceeded, or fell short of your goals each month.

Then make small adjustments to your social media campaigns—such as posting at different times or sharing a new series of brand images—to see what moves the needle.

Google Analytics is an obvious way to track the performance of your social media campaigns. You can see how much traffic comes to your website from each social network, and use UTM parameters to track specific social media campaigns.

Or you could choose to invest in a dedicated social media reporting tool like Snaplytics to measure performance.

Snaplytics is a subscription-based platform (plans start at $29 per month) that allows you to track and report on metrics, such as the open and completion rates on Snapchat and Instagram, so you can see where story engagement peaks and where viewers drop off.

An alternative platform to consider is Shortstack. Shortstack (another subscription-based tool that has plans starting at $99 per month) is great if you run a lot of hashtag or “comment-to-enter” competitions. You can set up these competitions and giveaways within the platform and track, measure, and report on the engagement levels for each one.

shortstack for social media budget

Improve productivity with all-in-one social media management software

A problem that many social media managers face when working out how to set a social media budget is that the subscriptions for all the different social media tools that take care of the laborious, day-to-day tasks, add up.

Not only do these individual subscriptions eat into their social media budget, but they also end up with siloed and complex martech stacks that are cumbersome, time-consuming, and difficult to manage.

An effective way to get the most out of your social media budget and your time is to invest in all-in-one social media management software instead of using multiple, individual software solutions.

These are my top two recommendations:

#1 best social media management tool: Agorapulse

Obviously, Agorapulse is my favorite. But it’s my favorite for a reason. It’s the ultimate social media management tool because it offers features that allow you to create social content, schedule it, collaborate with internal and external team members and clients, manage multiple accounts, and interact with your audience, all from one single place.

But where Agorapulse really shines is in its ability to track, analyze and report on the performance of all your social media campaigns, across all platforms.

It has this unique social ROI reporting feature that collects data from Google Analytics and allows you to report on the revenue generated by each of your campaigns. It enables you to see which posts are driving the most sales, leads, and traffic across your social platforms, without having to access Google Analytics.

Although you do have to pay for this platform (plans start from $42 per month), this social media management tool not only makes the daily management of social media easier, it allows you to directly prove social ROI from your efforts, which can only contribute to the increase of your social media budget, right?

Book a demo with one of their sales team, or sign up for a free trial (no credit card needed).

#2 best social media management tool: also costs (plans start from $9 a month, but the real value lies in its upper-tier plans which start from $49). But it is worth it if you find the content creation side of your job particularly time-consuming. studies what your audience watches, hears, and reads online and then builds you a custom model that generates social media content, like tweets and posts, automatically. It pre-tests this content and then spits out a list of the best social content for your audience. So all you then need to do is pick which content you like and post it to your various platforms! It’s so cool.

Although it’s a full-service platform that offers scheduling and analytics functionality, too, I find the rest of its features clunky and difficult to use.

So, what I tend to do is create my content using, export a CSV of the content I want to post, and then upload this file into the Agorapulse platform. I then use Agorapulse to schedule and track my content because I prefer the interface and functionality of Agorapulse.

That said, if you do decide to invest in all-in-one social media management software, I encourage you to check out Ian Anderson Gray’s Buyer’s Guide. It makes you think about what you need, what you want, and the factors you need to consider when choosing the right social media management platform.

Sometimes, the best tool isn’t the most expensive. But sometimes, neither is the cheapest.

Key takeaway: Choose tools and software that maximize your productivity and track social ROI effectively

The best way to get a bigger social media budget is to choose tools and software that not only add value to your social media campaigns but also save you time and make it super-easy for you to prove the ROI.

It’s worth noting that sometimes it’s worth spending a little more in the initial stages to get a better ROI in the longer term.

Social Media Budget Tip #2: Invest in paid advertising

Paid ads can be a complete waste of time and money if you create content that doesn’t resonate with your audience and targets the wrong people on the wrong platforms. But it can be incredibly cost-effective if you do your research and create ads that hit the right people, at the right time, on the right social channels. (See the “social media audience research tools” section for help with this.)

It also depends on the product. From my experience, Instagram ads work well for B2C product sales, but they don’t for B2B services. Knowing this will mean a more targeted advertising approach and less wasted budget.

So, what gives the most bang for your buck?

Here are some insights:

  • Brands are driving a median engagement of 1.6% across all industries for their Instagram ads. This is 17x higher than Facebook and 33x higher than Twitter. On Facebook, anything above a 1% engagement rate is good, but 0.5%-0.99% is the average.
  • The average CPM (cost per thousand impressions) on Facebook, across all industries, is $7.19 and the average CPM on Instagram is $6.70. To put that into context, the average TV ad CPT (the CPM equivalent) is $19.45.
  • Carousel ads for Instagram stories perform better than single-image link ads. Carousel ads drive a 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion and 20-30% lower cost-per-click.

Key takeaway: Prove social ROI by running paid ads that target the right people, on the right channels, at the right times, with the right message

Only invest in paid ads if you’re prepared to:

  • Do your target audience research
  • Test your ad content and run times
  • Find out which channels work best for your product or service.

If you continuously test, monitor, and tweak your ads, channels, and optimum run times, you should be able to prove the ROI for paid ads easily.

Social Media Budget Tip #3: Create user-generated content

​​I love user-generated content (UGC) because it’s engaging, it creates trust, it’s proven to win sales, and it’s completely free.

In fact, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than any form of brand content. Statistics also show that, if UGC is displayed on product pages, it increases the time spent on site and drives conversion rates by 20-30%. These types of stats are great to track as they will prove the ROI for UGC and get that social media budget increased.

Launch campaigns that encourage followers to create user-generated content: It could be a social media update, a review, a video, a podcast, a commentary, or a tagged post. If it involves your brand, and none of your employees made it, it’s user-generated content.

Utilize user-generated content by:

  • Creating a public feed that displays UGC by hashtags or specific usernames or social accounts. (Top tip: You can do this from your Agorapulse dashboard.)
  • Embedding UGC into social media posts, reviews, and videos on your website or blogs
  • Encouraging fans to try your products and getting them to upload photos to their social media platforms, your app, or in-page competitions
  • Using Instagram’s geography tags to pull in images shared in one of your physical locations. You can then comment, share, or recycle later.
  • Adding a non-branded hashtag that customers may be more inclined to tag or start a TikTok challenge that sparks attention.
  • Downloading your audience’s Instagram videos and reposting them to your account with the proper credit. Most creators love to have their content reposted because it provides them with a wider audience for their content and they receive an endorsement from their favorite brand.

Top tip: Always ask for permission to repost content before doing so.

UGC success story: FIFA Museum

UGC is great for your event promotions on social media because it creates a big buzz and a tasty chunk of FOMO.

The FIFA Museum presents its social media feeds on a digital display at the entrance of the museum itself. It welcomes visitors with a stream of inspiring social media content and inspires them to share their favorite football moments, too.

Key takeaway: Encourage your audience to create social media content for you and track its performance to prove the ROI

Social Media Budget Tip #4: Inspire micro-influencer content

We’re all getting tired of celebrity influencers, aren’t we? Conversations and social mentions around celebrity influencer marketing have dropped by 42% across social media channels over the last couple of years, and it’s continuing to do so.

But we couldn’t afford it anyway, right?

Selena Gomez reportedly charges $724,000 per promotional social media post. Mariah Carey was able to stay in a $22 million Airbnb in Aspen, Colorado for free because she mentioned them on Instagram. And Kendall Jenner was once paid $250,000 for a single promotional post.

Who has that sort of budget?

Enter micro-influencers: Your cost-effective, sincere, and popular influencer marketing tool.

Micro-influencers are “normal people” that have social media accounts with anywhere from 10,000-50,000 followers. Their endorsement of your product inspires trust because they’re just like me and you: If they’re using your product, perhaps we should, too …

Micro-influencers are usually looking to grow their following, so they’re often willing to overserve the brands they work for, at a lower cost, so they can build long-term relationships with them. This inevitably creates a good ROI for this social media marketing tactic.

For instance:

  • A branded video promoted by micro-influencers on TikTok will typically cost between $300–$1,250.
  • On average, micro-influencers cost 1.5x less than macro-influencers and 7x less than celebrity influencers on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
  • Micro-influencers generally drive 7x more engagement than macro-influencers. For instance, micro-influencers get a 17.96% engagement rate on TikTok, compared to mega-influencers that only get 4.96%.
  • Micro-influencers deliver a 30% better ROI per $1 spent than macro-influencers, and a 20% better ROI than celebrity influencers. On average, brands can earn $5.78 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing.

A word of warning, however. Any micro-influencer post should:

  • Be tagged as a #ad
  • Not include false claims
  • Not contain unrealistic photos or outcomes

The Advertising Standards Authority has laid down some very clear guidelines which you can read here.

Micro-influencer success story: Miette Dierckx

Travel and food micro-influencer Miette Dierckx is a Coke brand ambassador with more than 35,000 Instagram followers. Using Instagram posts tagged with #cokeambassador, Miette captures happy moments while sipping on a Coke.

The below post, for example, received 1,261 likes and an engagement rate of 3.6%.

For amazing tips on snaring your own micro-influencers, check out Dhariana’s recent article.

Key Takeaway: Work with micro-influencers because they resonate with your audience better and deliver a higher ROI than celebrity or macro-influencers.

Utilize micro-influencers to build trust with your audience. They cost less than expensive celebrities or macro-influencers, they’ll often offer you better value for money and they’re likely to bring in more conversions. This will help you prove social ROI.

Social Media Budget Tip #5: Recycle content across multiple channels

Recycling content is a huge time and money-saver, and I’m a huge fan.

If you’ve spent time researching and creating social content, like whitepapers or blog posts, then recycle it. Pull out stats and tweet them (I love Click to Tweet for this), create infographics with the key facts displayed in a visually engaging way, and make short videos that talk through the main points.

This will increase the value of your campaigns and help you get as much ROI as possible from each piece of content.

Here are more ways you can recycle social content and get a high ROI for your trouble:

  • Repost content that your influencers have shared. Not only does this give you free content, but it also increases your reach.
  • Rewrite your best blog post and bring them up to date with the latest stats. This will swell your SEO rankings and ensure your content is on point.
  • Turn blog snippets into Twitter cards.
  • Turn posts or tweets into infographics.
  • Link a blog to a Facebook or Instagram poll.
  • Influencer-generated content (IGC) is a creative asset that provides social proof. You can leverage diverse IGC to create personalized emails.
  • You can repost content that your influencers have shared. Not only does this give you free content, but it also increases your reach.
  • Identify the most successful content from an influencer campaign and use it to create highly-targeted paid ads. Ads with IGC generate 5x more click-through rates.

Key takeaway: Recycle content to generate new interest and reach a wider audience without spending time and money creating new content

If you utilize the content that you’ve already created and track its performance, the ROI for these pieces of content will be sky-high! This will do wonders for your social media budget increase.

Social Media Budget Tip #6: Try podcasting

While radio ads used to be an effective form of audio marketing, radio listening time among Gen-Zers has dropped by 40% and podcasts have stepped in and taken over.

The number of podcast listeners is expected to grow by 53% to 132 million by the end of 2022, and 7 in 10 millennials and Gen-Zers are listening to podcasts at least once a week.

Depending on the location and size of your audience, radio advertising can cost you from $200 to $5,000 per week. On the other hand, you can expect to spend between $200-$500 to start a good quality podcast.

And podcasts are so much more accessible than radio ads. Radio ads can only run during set times, but listeners can tune into a podcast at any time and in any place.

Podcasts are easy to set up, and most podcast software will allow you to track social ROI by monitoring the listening and engagement stats. Plus, if you add CTA’s into the recordings and any description text, you can also track the conversion metrics.

I see podcasts as a low-cost, effective opportunity to reach and engage with a wider audience, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

A great example of a branded podcast is Agorapulse’s Confessions of a Social Media Manager. This podcast is only12 episodes in and has already generated over 2,904 listens because it’s incredibly informative. It speaks to influential figures within the social media industry about everything from the common problems social media managers face, to the current trends circling the social media industry. It’s establishing Agorapulse as a social media expert, and it’s well worth a listen.

confessions of a social media manager podcast

But, building up a listenership can take time. So, you could think about paying for podcast advertising. Although you might want to keep costs low, podcast advertising is a cost-effective way to leverage podcasting and start getting results in the short term.

Buying advertising puts you in front of an audience that already trusts their host, so they’re more likely to pay attention to the ads. The average cost of a 30-second ad is $18 per 1,000 listeners and $25 per 1,000 listeners for a 60-second ad.

Key takeaway: Start a podcast and track engagement and conversion rates to prove the ROI

Podcasts are on the rise, so jump on the podcast bandwagon before it gets too full. Reach a wider audience and establish yourself as a leader in your industry for a small start-up cost.

Monitor listening and subscriber stats and add CTA’s where you can so you can track, measure, and prove the ROI.

In the interim, while you’re waiting for your podcast to gain traction, consider investing in podcast ads to reach an already engaged audience.

The key to securing a higher social media budget

Securing a bigger social media budget is solely about proving the ROI for your social media activities.

So, choose your social media tools and software carefully, do your research and continually test your paid ads, utilize free, or low-cost ways to generate content (recycle it and use micro-influencers and your audience), and trial podcasting.

But, you might as well not bother with any of the above if you can’t track social ROI on each campaign that you run and prove that your social media activity is generating tangible results that are improving the bottom line.

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