How To Plan Social Program Budgets For 2015

Photo by Larry Lamsa / CC BY 2.0

Round about now, many companies head into planning mode. This is a process known as AOP which in this case means Annual Operating Planning. 

AOP provides an adjustable roadmap for the upcoming fiscal year. This plan is built by evaluating prior data for all aspects of the business, including revenue, production, capacity and expense. Setting an AOP requires input from numerous members of an organization, including those in sales, production, marketing, and social media marketing teams.

So the AOP is the social media marketer’s opportunity to submit expected budget and costs for the year ahead to ensure adequate funding throughout the year to help scale and grow internal social efforts.

Yet this is a planning process that relies traditionally on historic data; data that does not account for the fact that the programs teams executed and spent on two years ago are likely no longer the same as the programs they want to spend on now.

Given the evolution of social channels and paid media, the data pulled over the last 18-24 months for social programs cannot be evaluated in the same way as the better-established mediums— such as direct marketing, in-store activation, paid media, or PR. 

So how should marketers plan for social spend in 2015?

Invest more now to reap the rewards next year.

Current social spend is currently 9.4% of marketing budgets. And despite this being on the smaller side, this is expected to increase 128% to 21.4% in the next five years.

Current Spredfast customers list top priorities for social next year that include scaling engagement, staffing models to support expansion, fully integrating and understanding data, and ongoing internal training and education on social. 

Allocating budget on a growth trajectory will serve to support those goals. And spending time now on showcasing your results from the past year and how they tie into the overarching business performance and goals, will help. Forty-five percent of marketers have not been able to demonstrate this impact at all while 40% have qualitative proof only. Getting that all-important quantitative proof, which only 15% have, is essential to justifying this spend

Evaluate where you are on the Maturity Curve.

Rather than trying to jam everything into one budget, brands can take a long view and realistic look at where they are on the Social Maturity curve and what the next 12 months will bring, to understand what they need to budget for. Forrester’s curve has long been a benchmark here and continues to evolve with the industry. The Diffusion of Innovations model is another to look at.

This will stop the feeling of needing to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the AOP. A Social Innovator will be looking at sophisticated custom builds and social technology development, while those in what Forrester terms the “Early Majority” are likely getting a more robust SMMS or SRP in place, establishing training and a social care configuration.

Allow flexibility in planning and budget for change.

More rigid planning and implementation processes can lead to missed opportunities in an ever-shifting medium. After all, planning September to November for something that will happen in July the next year is tough when the social platforms themselves can change technically every week. 

By being a little more flexible when allocating budget for social media marketing goals, organizations can accommodate today’s digital and social marketing tactics. 

A “Reserve” budget for unexpected items that arise can help fill in the gaps; a“Test and Learn” social budget can be repurposed for flexible use for social programs that arise later in the year.

Evaluate social programs for the last 12 months in smaller increments.

Take a look at the year, then take a look at each quarter to see if there are shifts in these timeframes that will help plot out where change and growth can come from over the next 12 months. Using tools that allow for a longer-term view on trends in social channels can also help here too.  

Platforms and partners can help with a data deep dive.

There was never a better time to call on your partners. The smart analytics folks, who can aggregate and analyze the data a brand’s programs generate, can help the same brand with marketing in forecasting growth and performance based on the data they are used to working with each and every day. 

Social is a fast moving medium. By adapting a social-ready planning strategy, budgets can keep up to ensure the most effective and impactful plans in 2015. And then the O in AOP will not stand for Overspend! 

Wondering how your social marketing plans stack up to those of global enterprise companies? Download the 2014 State of Enterprise Social Marketing Report


Gemma Craven's picture

Gemma Craven

Gemma is the Executive Director of Strategic Markets at Spredfast where she leads Spredfast's North American team of Market Directors - social business practitioners and key partners to Spredfast's clients and prospects. She is also a WOMMA board member, runner, and owner of a Boston Terrier named Stella.