Little Budget, Big Impact

Most of the people I meet who are looking to ramp up their social media presence feel pressed for resources and are always looking for ways to maximize the ROI on what they spend. The other thing I have found? A lot of people are stressed about social media because they are trying to pull something off that they don’t have the ideal resources for. 

So today, let’s get real with each other and talk about how to make a big impact on your social media accounts with a little budget. Because you don’t have someone working around the clock to do it for you, right? (If you do, good on ya!)

Building a brand that stands in front of a successful (and sustainable) business requires that you create strategies that are within your resources. And (newsflash!) creatives are not famous for being linear thinkers or people who move in sequence from point A to point B. Creatively inclined minds bounce around, but making a big impact on a little budget requires that you push your creative mind to think more strategically. So here’s how I work with my clients to plan with purpose and make the most out of the resources they’ve got.

Start by taking inventory of your resources. Don’t lie to yourself and act as if you have the time and resources to create the Instagram feed of all Instagram feeds (sorry for the extreme pragmatism) but learning how to work within your limits is actually a very creative thing. More on that later. Step one in making something out of nothing is to lay out how much “nothing” you actually have. So, take stock of what tools you have to work with:

  • How much time on a weekly basis do you have to dedicate to social media? And seriously? Be realistic with your time estimates.
  • How much money do you have to invest in equipment, education or support from another human?
  • What assets do you already have? The camera on your phone, your drawing skills, that sample piece of marble you have sitting in the garage. Think of everything you have at your disposal that could be used to create content.
  • Who do you know? Who in your network could you potentially collaborate with?

Take a little bit of time to do this because, in the end, you are going to see that you actually have more resources than you realized. Score!

Define your goals. Think of it this way – if you think you are training for a 5k and you show up on race day to find out that it’s a marathon, you are kind of screwed. The moral of that epic story? Know what you are getting yourself into and be very specific with your goals.

What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to increase sales? Are you looking to grow your audience? Are you trying to focus your brand identity? Looking to gain some traction and public recognition? Some basic social media goals you can set for yourself are:

  • Creating a consistent story to update all your profiles with
  • Growing your following by X number of people by Y date
  • Building a library of on-brand images to share
  • Spending the time to research the proper hashtags that will put your brand in front of the right people

Map out both your short and long term goals and put them on a timeline or calendar. Doing so will let you know (ahead of time) when to sprint and when to settle into your pace.

Have a strategy. Doing things on the fly is not a strategy! ::insert wide eyed emoji here::

Once you know what tools you have to work with and have a clear set of goals, it is time to sit down and map everything out (in a way that uses your resources without overextending them, of course). Create a calendar so that you can see all of your deadlines, launch dates, milestones, publication dates (again, everything). Then you can take a step back and think strategically about what you are going to talk about and when.

You also need to decide which platforms make the most sense for you to be on and pick which one going to sit at the center of your strategy. (Personal note: Instagram seems to sit at the center of my social media universe nowadays but, with some of my clients, their blog does.) Focus your creation strategy on content that is tailored to the platforms that will help you reach your goals and create a schedule for yourself to stick to.

In the end, creating a strategy is a little bit like creating a budget. It’s all about time and resources. So build something for yourself that isn’t going to break the bank!

Tip: collaborate with other complementary business owners to swap content and audiences for a day (you know #takeovertuesday).

Get into the creative zone. This is where the magic happens! After you have taken the time to set the foundation, then you get to have some fun. Accept the challenge of creating beautiful content without an in-house photographer rather than letting that challenge stress you out. Allow yourself to enjoy the struggle a little bit. You might be surprised with what you come up with.

I really want to encourage you to step outside of your creative comfort zone (because that is half of the battle). Here are a couple things to start with when you are trying create visually compelling content on a limited budget:

  • What are the characteristics of your brand’s identity? Define color palettes, visual themes, voice, tone. Then keep everything consistent. This will help you curate the Instagram account you have always dreamed about.
  • Repurpose the content you have by pulling mini-stories out of the larger ones. What can you share about the design or production process? Are there visual elements or themes that have popped up in a couple projects of yours? Do you create badass mood boards or sketch out your ideas for clients? All of these things are quality pieces of content that humanize your brand and demonstrate your expertise…show them off!
  • Start looking at the tiny beautiful things around you. Snap a picture and start telling the story of who you are and where you find inspiration.

Tip: It’s ok to curate content from accounts you admire but please pull images that compliment your brand and tell the story you are trying to tell. Don’t just pull pretty images off of the internet. And be sure to always give credit where credit is due!

Make smart investments. I know we are talking about how to make a big impact on a little budget but at some point, you are going to have to spend some money. Make smart investments in the things that are going to help you execute your plan flawlessly, help you create pin-worthy content, or even free up your time to focus on things that have a huge impact on your business. I am talking about things like:

  • Upgrading your phone to a newer version with a better camera
  • Investing in a few props that can become the foundation of your visual brand identity
  • Subscribing to a social scheduling software (There are lots of options but Hootsuite is the most cost effective)
  • Taking a social media course (Hello, Social Studio!)
  • Delegating some or all of your social media responsibilities to a consultant or manager (Again, do what is sustainable for your business and affordable within your resources.)

Tip: Willing to forgo a fancy latte for a day in order to invest in your business? Use those couple bucks to purchase a quality photo editing app in the app store.

In the end, I just used a lot of words to tell you things you might already know but I want to close with what has helped my clients (and myself) to not let the pressure of marketing on social media become an overwhelming experience. Manage your own expectations and create realistic goals and strategies that take advantage of what you do have and not what you don’t. And when you find your groove, you’ll start to see that a little goes a long way.