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2011: Social Media and Budgets

Marketing departments across all sectors are gearing up for 2011.  This means brainstorming new ideas, strategizing marketing and communications initiatives and allocating the right resources to meet budgets.  However, many marketers are unsure where social media falls into this scheme.  It’s not that they don’t want ‘to do’ social media, but they have no idea how much to budget – or no good way to tabulate it.  In her recent AdAge article, How Much Will You Spend on Social-Media Marketing Next Year?Debra Aho Williamson principal analyst of eMarketer identifies three reasons why there may be confusion with budgeting for social media.

1. Too many cooks

Marketers are still figuring out their social media strategies and utilizing all resources to make it successful.  As a result, they are using multiple resources – both internal and external – to create Facebook pages, manage Twitter feeds, develop viral videos and measure ROI / impact.  Businesses are torn over whether the best strategy is to manage social media through their corporate communications group, marketing department or a separate social-media group. Adding complexity to the situation, marketers are inundated with pitches from ad agencies, PR agencies and social-media vendors.

2. Social media is free

Some businesses believe that social media is free – or nearly free.  Although earned media is indeed free publicity, there is almost always a cost associated with it, whether it is staffing, creative development or monitoring the results.

3. There are few benchmarks

Marketers don’t agree on how much of their marketing budgets they should spend on social media.  Surveys indicate that marketers spend 4% to 11% of their online marketing budgets on social media.  This wide range indicates the fact that social media marketing budgets are spread across multiple departments and groups, and that some types of companies and industries are more advanced than others.

Williamson recommends taking a holistic approach, and incorporating social media into the marketing planning from the start.  General Motors, for instance, is incorporating 2011 budgets for social media from the brand marketing groups.  This will help GM do a better job of aligning its social strategy with the rest of its marketing strategy.

Bottom line?  Marketers should worry less about how much they are spending on social media, or whether there should be a separate budget, and more about whether those dollars are working as hard as they can, producing real, quantifiable results.

This post was first published by Nicole Miscioscia on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

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