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As we rush towards the end of the year, many marketers turn attention to budgets and planning. Planning goals, KPIs and a roadmap for the year is, as always, the essential starting point. So too is an understanding of what has changed since last year.  What are the priority platforms, what are the opportunities and where are the risks?

We are already seeing that budgets are getting bigger as marketers see the value of social. Latest research from the CMO survey reveals social media spend is climbing rapidly towards 20.9% of marketing budgets.  But with more money, comes greater responsibility to make sure your plans are robust and results are achieved. That includes thinking beyond your social media execution and to what you need to invest in as social becomes a permanent feature of your marketing mix.

Budgeting is of course a careful calculation based on impact to the bottom line. However, if I were to pick the areas that brands should be investing in for 2017 this would be my recommended wish list:

Don’t just plan for resource, plan for skills development too

Bringing skills in house makes sense. Even with an agency at your side, the fast pace of change in social requires someone from within to champion social internally and keep you abreast of the opportunities.

But ready-made social professionals are still few and far between. You need to invest in people. Developing capabilities, skills and the mind-set to work on the shifting sands of social media. It is not just a case of getting some social training. Your social talent will need mentoring, possibly more than one course and be given space for R&D. And not just your social professional. You need your whole marketing team to be up to speed. Look at a development programme that includes social platform meetings, conference attendance and ongoing mentoring. It is an investment that will pay off for years to come too.

Oh and for those brands on the path to social enablement throughout their organisation, you will need to scope out a schedule of regular in house training, mentoring and championing of social media.

Stop muddling through with tech

One of the biggest requirements from clients at this time of year at immediate future is the need to develop a strategy for the next 12 months. Let me be frank, you cannot do this without the technology and tools to help you. Social media is data marketing at its best. The data informs your strategy. It is the starting point of all plans, budgets and your success.

It really is time for brands to stop playing around with the free (or nearly free) tools. Whilst monitoring tools help you focus on the opportunities in social and document the results in context, social media management tools will save you time. A whole lot of time that your staff can spend on developing better content, innovating or honing your results.

Paid is now the backbone of social

Without a doubt this year was the year that paid social media came into its own. The targeting is phenomenal, the bid prices are still not too scary compared to PPC and the results are exceptional.

Regardless of whether you have tried paid, you are going to have to face facts, the social channels are pushing you to do so. Organic reach is now so low as to have little impact at the levels you now need to be effective. Paid must be part of your strategy and for that you will need budget.

Give yourself a chance with hero content

Social is now filled with brand chatter. Cutting through the noise is harder than ever. You need hero content. More importantly you need hero content built for social. Not a re-purpose of other assets, but something designed with social storytelling in mind. Ok, this may not be every day content, instead it should be stand out storylines that maximise the range of formats with narratives that can be shattered into multiple messages across multiple platforms.

Budget for the unexpected

Social changes direction on a pin. New formats appear by the hour some days and the next Facebook might be around the corner. Added to which you never can tell when you might be hit by a business crisis, or something goes wrong in social. At that point you need to move fast. Either snapping the opportunity or defending then brand. A contingency budget helps move things quickly when things get stressful. So put a little budget in the tin for a rainy day or to buy something special.

 

We know not everyone has the luxury of never ending budgets (actually no one ever has that). Being focused on the areas that will give you the most impact on social is the key. Add these wish list items and a lot of your activities will fall into place around a strong well planned approach. Ultimately though, you need to tie your spend back to ROI. Prove the value and your social budgets could be even bigger in 2018!

 

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