Norman Arvidsson
May 8, 2016

What Should Your Social Media Marketing Budget Be?

Businessman Working Dashboard Strategy Research Concept


The Internet, and social media in particular, has leveled the marketing playing field for small businesses. The “little guy” can have an active and well planned Facebook page right along with the likes of Coca-Cola and Geico’s Gecko. The little guy can Tweet all day long, and post great photos and quotes on Instagram, just like the big boys do. And that is all free of charge. So, as a small business owner, do you really need a social media marketing budget? The short and long answer is absolutely.

What Exactly is a Social Media Marketing Budget For?

If you spend some time navigating around Facebook and looking at the pages of businesses that have large followings, you will see an extremely active page. You will also see other things – a great profile, exceptional designs, graphics, and images, great copy, and more.

Daily posts at a minimum have to be written by a creative person; someone has to upload the photos, images and videos; someone has to make those videos; someone has to respond to posts by customers, especially if there is a question, problem or other issues. Unless you are a super-human and can do it all, you will have to budget for what you cannot do yourself.

If you want to see a great example of a Facebook page, check out ModCloth – they currently have a visitor count in excess of 1.4 million – very impressive.

How Much Should You Budget for Social Media Marketing

The size of companies and budgets vary, so it is easier to speak of a percentage of budget rather than dollars. And, if you a new at this, then the best plan is to spend the average percentage spent by successful companies that are already doing this.

In 2015, the percentage of a marketing budget spent on social media averaged 13%. Most companies said, however, that they will be spending more in 2016. And it is predicted that the percentage will reach as high as 21% by 2019. This figure is not a percentage of just the digital marketing budget; it is a percentage of the total marketing budget.

How You Split Out the Budget

Again, this is based upon individual circumstances. If you are a creative who can create great images, then you will not be hiring someone to do that. The creative text, however? Another story. So your budget must be split up among a number of items, and you will spend money where you need to. Here is a bit of a percentage breakdown that might help:

  1. Graphics and Visuals – 40%

Images carry lots of weight on social media, so almost half of your budget should be spent here. This might include cover photos for your profile pages, icons, logo, and other images you might want to create. There are plenty of free tools if your budget is very tight and you can do it yourself. For cheap help, you can turn to:

  • Fiverr is a great little site where you can find design help
  • Creative Market is a clearinghouse of designers who are selling small creations for from $1-$2. Great place to search for icons photos and other graphics.
  • Death to Stock Photo: For $10 a month you can have access to a huge gallery of photos. Once a photo has been used a certain amount, they are pulled. So, photos you choose from here will be unique.
  1. Advertising – 30%

You have to build an audience somewhere. Of course, your family and friends will share you with their communities, but there’s a lot of overlap and that will only go so far.

The good thing about advertising on social media is that it’s pretty cheap. And so you can place some advertising, figure out what and where it is working best, and put your future bucks where they are most effective.

Every social media platform offers advertising at great rates. And you can get help setting up your own campaign from the platform itself.

Facebook Ads: Try $1 a day on Facebook for two weeks. Some studies have shown that you can expand an audience by as many as 4,000 visits with this tactic. Here is how you begin:

Twitter Ads: Try the same on Twitter. There are also case studies that show pretty substantial click rates with $1 a day. Twitter will also help you set up your campaign:

  1. Copywriting – 10%

Next to visuals, the other big draw is the creativity of text that goes along with those visuals. You need engaging titles and teasers to entice viewers to click through; you need engaging captions on photos; you may want to have quotes that are humorous or inspirational. Someone has to write them if you are not creative, and that is not free.

You don’t want to scrimp on the copy quality – either on your posts or in your ads. Words are still powerful motivators. Suppose, for example, you have decided that, like Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine, you want to tweet at least one great photo with an inspirational quote every day. Who will find those quotes and impose them upon the photos? Suppose you want a humorous comment for every major and minor holiday like Charmin does? Someone has to write them.

  1. Response Time – 10%

While this may seem a bit much, it really is not. Even if you are only using two social media platforms for your marketing efforts, someone will need to check those platforms several times a day to respond to every comment that is made. This is the only way that you keep a relationship growing and resolve anyone’s complaints or answer questions. You will also need a social monitoring tool so that you are alerted anytime your brand is mentioned on social media. That mention must be checked out because you cannot let any negative comment stand.

  1. Scheduling/Analytics – 10%

While you are still young, you can use free analytics tools to determine what’s working on which social media platforms. Later, as you grow and add more platforms, you will probably want some more sophisticated analytics reports, and those will cost.

In terms of scheduling, you will want to have the data regarding when and how often to post on each of your platforms. This information is available for free with a little digging on your part. Posting according to the schedule you develop, however, can get a bit hectic. It’s nice to create posts in advance and use a service to post them according to your schedule. If, for example, you discover that you want to publish the same post on Twitter 3 times a day for the first few days, you will have to remember to do that. Better to use a service.

General “Rules” for Your Budget

Here are three general principles that should guide you as you establish your social media marketing budget if you are a small business.

  1. Pay for that which you cannot do well yourself.
  2. Pay for that which takes up too much of your time to do, or at least for the tools that will make what you do easier and more efficient
  3. Continue to spend money only on those efforts that are generating sales and profits.


As you grow, your social media marketing budget will scale up as well. By then, you will be far more expert on the strategies and tactics into which you can put more money.

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Norman Arvidsson

writer, blogger at self employed
Norman Arvidsson is a passionate writer who was born in Sweden but then moved to the United States with his family. Now his goal is to share his experience with others through blogging. Familiar with such areas as web dev and design, marketing, freelancing, startups, small business, self-development, and eLearning. Considers personal growth as the main goal in his life.