Seven Quick Tips for Winning Ways at Social Media on a Tight Budget


Have a tight budget? Need to be extra-smart with your social media budget? Check out these tips for making the most of it.

Social media managers rarely boast about large budgets. Most can be found enviously gazing at the IT team that has been lavished with the latest tech tools, no expense spared. Your budget may not be reflective of the size of the organization … It may be reflective of the organization’s view toward social media marketing.

The Gartner CMO Spend Survey for 2019-2020 found that 61% of CMOs expected their marketing budgets to increase in 2020, but social media spending overall averaged 11-12% of total marketing budget.

So, what if you have a tight social media budget? Or (dare I say it?) zero social media budget?

In this article, I’m sharing my insights as director of Contentworks Agency to win at social media on a tight budget.

Related Post: Social Media Marketing 101

But first, let’s take a look at the latest 2020 marketing budget stats:

An average of 2% of all revenue is spent directly on a company’s B2B marketing budget.
B2B industry professionals list lack of budget (59%) as their biggest obstacle.
A 2019 study by  Gartner reported that marketing leaders planned to spend 26% of their marketing budget on marketing technology in 2020, making it the single largest area of investment for marketers, followed by labor, agencies, and paid media.
Social media advertising investments will continue to grow, with a 17% compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021.

Should you be spending budget on social media? The chart below shows that email marketing has the highest percentage of Excellent and Good ROI results reported, with social media marketing following closely behind.

Our agency works predominantly with middle to large enterprises. But small businesses, startups, and companies with limited funding often don’t have access to high social media budgets.

Here’s what they can do.

1. Take advantage of affordable (and free) design tools

80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing. And there’s a good reason why. When people read information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information. If a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65%.

Visual graphics are essential for social media. In fact, I would say they are the most important thing you must do to be successful at social media. Large brands have in-house graphic designers, Photoshop experts, and a video production team.

But what if yours doesn’t?

Use free programs such as Canva to create your post images, animated stickers, presentations, and covers. I’ve been a Canva advocate since it was launched in 2012, and it just keeps getting better. Canva makes it easy to create visual graphics that size up perfectly for each social media network, so you don’t need to be a graphic designer to make it work.

Though there is a paid option, you also have enough free graphics and templates to get you started.

Remember to add branding via your color palette and logo. You can also create a design, duplicate it, and simply change the text as I have done below. I’m particularly obsessed with their newest feature “animated stickers,” which are flying on our social media channels.

And Canva isn’t the only design program I’m loving. I also love Visme. Visme is an all-in-one content creation tool that allows you to quickly and easily create beautiful graphics, PDFs, and more for your marketing. With plans starting from $0, you’ll find something to fit every budget. Check out these great free templates for presentations, infographics, charts and maps, documents, website, and social media.

Another fave of mine is PosterMyWall. This design program allows you to make still and animated posters, flyers, promos, and, of course, social media images. There are free templates and pay-as-you go options.


Before committing to a design program, make sure you get a free trial or a free template to work on. Some programs are easier to use than others. (And if, like me, you’re not a designer, you will need to find one that works for you.)

2. Use stock photos

Speaking of design, don’t forget the stock photos to accompany your social media posts. You will need a lot if you’re going to be posting each day on a variety of social media networks.

Sorry for sounding basic—but you need to stop “borrowing” photos from Google. You could be fined for copyright theft, something that becomes increasingly likely the bigger your brand is.

Additionally, “borrowed” photos are often poor quality, pixelated and not on brand for your company.

Stock photos are licensed and therefore legally free to use once you’ve purchased them. But they can be expensive. For example, we ran a campaign that required the use of licensed photos of American presidents. These were sourced from Getty Images and consumed a large chunk of our marketing budget. Luckily, there are free stock photos available and you can use them for social media.

Here are my fave stock photo sites. | This site has a ton of gorgeous photos and high-res images, and the best thing is they are completely free. Unlike some free image sites, adds hundreds of images each week. The photos they include are under creative commons public domain;  this means you can use them without crediting the owner.

PixaBay | I love PixaBay for its stunning high-res images. On this site, I find that there are fewer images for corporate marketing but tons for food, nature, and travel.

Unsplash | This site categorizes images, so they are easy to find for your sector. For example, Food & Drink. The images are great quality and good enough for your website or social media.

Splitshire | This site features photos from web designer Daniel Nanescu and has had over 2,000,000 downloads, and 6,000,000+ page views.  Splitshire offers its images for personal and commercial use—something very important to check. Images are unique and don’t have that “stock image” feel to them.

Pexels | I’m always in Pexels finding great stock photos for social media. Each search reveals helpful subsections. For example, a search for finance will highlight business, money, office, technology, bank, and accounting.


Make your images on brand wherever possible. This may mean adding your color filter, a logo, some text, a sticker, or a caption. Social media images on your channels should be recognizable as yours, especially when they are shared. Decide on your brand’s image style. Is it photos, vectors, animations? Decide and stick to it. find out why teams love managing their social with agorapulse

3. Budget for video

Video for social media is insanely important. 85% of all Internet users in the United States watch online video content. 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. And, 73% of consumers claim that they have been influenced by a brand’s social media presence when making a purchasing decision.

A 30-second mainstream TV ad, which may not even reach your target audience, will cost around a third of a million dollars excluding setup costs. On the other hand, targeted YouTube ads cost on average, $0.10–$0.30 per view. Reaching 100,000 YouTube viewers will cost around $20,000.

So, you need video. But what if you don’t have a videographer, studio and editing software?

Here are my tips …

Go Live | Use your smartphone to go live on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and now even Linkedin! Going live is easy can reach huge numbers of people. It’s free, so all you need is a good quality smartphone and a plan. I have gone Live with my brands for behind the scenes, store opening, Director AMAs, Takeovers or simply a silly office dance on TikTok.

Video Creation Tools | Video creation tools are rarely free (not the good ones, anyway). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them for cheap. I love Powtoon for creating high-quality videos for our social media channels. Powtoon isn’t free, but, it’s low cost and scalable:

Other good tools include Animoto, Biteable, VideoScribe, and Crello to name a few.


Keep your social media videos short, ideally 30 seconds or less. One of the best ways to do this is to create a rolling GIF. Simply make your branded images in Canva (square size works best), upload them to gif maker, choose your speed and create. Gifs, especially fun ones, are ideal for platforms like Twitter.

4. Invest in paid advertising

Let’s talk about paid advertising. Notice I didn’t list this one first for a reason. Paid advertising should not be your first thought when creating a social media strategy. Great content, catchy design, solid branding, and community interaction always come first.

You should also know where your target audience hangs out. For example, Gen Z is all over TikTok, and the Boomer generation flocks to Facebook.

It also depends on the product. From my experience, B2C product sales work well on Instagram, but B2B services less so. Knowing this will mean a more targeted advertising approach and less wasted budget.

So, what gives the most bang for your buck? Here are some insights:

Instagram wins on engagement right now. Brands are driving a median engagement of 1.60% across all industries on Instagram. On Facebook, anything above 1% engagement rate is good, 0.5%-0.99% is average.
So, it’s not a surprise that Instagram is seeing an upward trend in ad revenue–jumping from $23.66 billion in 2018 to $28.52 billion in 2019. According to projections, Instagram will likely net $33.71 billion in ad revenue during 2020.
The average CPM (cost per thousand) across Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are $8.26 per 1,000 impressions. This is cheaper than the average CPM with a major magazine of $1.09 per impression and the average broadcast TV CPM of $17 per 1,000 viewers.
Opt for Carousel ads for Instagram stories over single-image link ads. The former drives 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion and 20-30% lower cost-per-click.
Don’t ignore channels like Pinterest. The channel has really evolved introducing exciting new tools and analytics. In fact, half of Pinterest users earn $50K or greater per year and each pin is worth around 78 cents in sales!


Know your audience and target them on the platform(s) they love most. Trying to spend across all channels is costly and will dilute your budget. Split test adverts on the same platform using different images or landing pages then direct more funds to the one that works best.

5. Inspire user-generated content 

I love user-generated content (UGC). It’s engaging, creates trust, wins sales, and is FREE!

In marketing, UGC refers to content related to your brand created by someone. It could be a social media update, a review, a video, a podcast, a commentary, or a tagged post. If it involves your brand, and none of your employees made it, it’s user-generated content.

85% of consumers find UGC more influential than any form of brand content.

According to research by Travel Counsellors, 96% of travelers are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded content.

User-generated content displayed as social proof on product pages increases the time spent on site and drives conversion rates by 20-30%.

Example: FIFA Museum

UGC is great for your event promotions on social media because it creates a big buzz and a tasty chunk of FOMO.

FIFA Museum presents social media feeds on a digital display. This welcomes museum visitors with a stream of inspiring social media content and inspires them to share their favorite football moments, too.

Utilize user-generated content by …

Searching your brand’s name, campaign hashtag, or product to see what’s already out there. What’s the conversation about?
Creating a feed gathering UGC by hashtag, posts mentioning a username or posts published by a specific social account. Hint–you can do this in your Agorapulse dashboard!
Embedding UGC social media posts, reviews, and videos on your website or embed in a blog.
Encouraging fans to try your products and upload photos to an app or in page competition.
If you have a physical location, you can use Instagram’s geography tags to pull in images shared in one of your physical locations. You can then comment, share, or recycle later.
Adding messaging in-store that incentivizes UGC on social media. This could be a social media contest or an in-store discount.
Identifying and approaching micro influencers who are talking about your brand or products like yours.


User-generated content isn’t all about you. It’s about your customers. So, don’t be too grabby for attention. Consider a non-branded hashtag that customers may be more included to tag or a TikTok challenge that’s more likely to spark attention.

6. Get micro influencers involved

We are all getting tired of celebrity influencers, aren’t we? Conversations around influencer marketing have dropped in the last year, according to a new report. The report found that social mentions around influencer marketing are on the decline, dropping 42% across social media channels this year from the same period a year before. But we couldn’t afford it anyway, right?

Selena Gomez reportedly charges AUD$724,000 per promotional Instagram post, Mariah Carey mentioned Airbnb on Instagram when they let her stay in a $22 million home during her trip to Aspen Colorado. Kendall Jenner has been paid $250,000 for a single promotional post.

Enter micro influencers, your cost-effective, sincere and popular influencer marketing tool.

A branded video promoted by micro-influencers on TikTok typically costs between $200 and $2,500.
Micro influencers are the most engaging group of influencers that also produce greater ROI.
On average, micro influencers cost 1.5x less than macro-influencers and 7x less than celebrity influencers on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Micro influencers generally drive 7x more engagement than macro-influencers.
Micro influencers deliver 30% better ROI per $1 spent than micro-influencers and 20% better ROI than celebrity influencers.

Example: Miette Dierckx 

Travel and food micro influencer Miette Dierckx is a Coke brand ambassador with more than 35,000 Instagram followers. Using Instagram posts tagged with #cokeambassador, Miette captures happy moments while sipping a refreshing Coke.

You can see the below post received 1,261 likes and an engagement rate of 3.6%.

For amazing tips on snaring your own micro influencers, check out Dhariana’s recent article.


Micro influencer marketing is great—but be careful not to deceive followers. Influencer posts should be tagged as such, false claims avoided, and unrealistic photos or outcomes not included. The Advertising Standards Authority has laid down some very clear guidelines which you can read here. 

7. Recycle content … but do it properly!

Lastly, recycling content is a huge money-saver, and I’m a fan.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of researching and creating a fact sheet or blog, then recycle it. Pull stats out and tweet them, create an infographic for social media, and perhaps even a short video talking about it.

Here are some more ways you can recycle old content and save money:

Repost content that your influencers have shared. Not only does this give you free content, but it also increases your reach.
Rewrite your best blog post and bring them up to date with the latest stats. This will swell your SEO rankings and ensure your content is on point.
Turn blog snippets into Twitter cards.
Turn posts or tweets into infographics.
Link a blog to a Facebook or Instagram poll.
Post older content with media like GIFs, videos, images, etc.

I love tools like Click to Tweet,which allow snippets to be easily shared to social media from your articles.

Takeaway: Decide whether your content is evergreen or trending before you repurpose it. For instance, a survey published in 2017 wouldn’t fit for recycling as the facts and opinions presented in it most likely would have changed.

Want more helpful, actionable content like this? Subscribe to the Agorapulse newsletter, and get the most recent blog posts and news about the social media channels you use most.


This article was published originally in 2015 and has been updated for 2020.

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