How to Make Social Media Marketing Work on a Budget

Most people believe that social media is beneficial for their companies, but they don’t always know how to turn that intuition into actual benefits. Follow this social media playbook to grow your channels on a budget and improve your larger digital marketing strategy.

This is why LinkedIn decided to let every member begin blogging for free in its news feed. Blogs worth reading drive traffic, and LinkedIn now capitalizes on the fruits of its members’ labour in exchange for offering a personal publishing platform with a built-in audience.

It’s a good value exchange for most people, and it works.

Become the Persona of Your Brand

Even the biggest brands can forget how to connect with their audiences, both on and off social media. Sometimes it’s Wal-Mart just using Twitter as a one-way megaphone, and sometimes it’s Pepsi trying to convince millennials that a little caffeine will make the riot police go away.

As a small or medium business, you can leverage your personality and brand in a way that the big boys can’t—and that’s where you’re going to win in the social ring.

Spend Some Ad Money… Strategically

Corporations like to spend ad money like it’s a water faucet. But you need to be more strategic than that.

The key to social spending is figuring out how to land a “critical hit” (for the gamers out there). Buying the exposure to get a certain amount of followers in a steady pattern of growth is fine, but there’s a better way.

Don’t Boost Offers to Non-Followers. Boost Content

The thing about paid offers is that you need to send them to people who already trust you.

And if people aren’t your followers, they don’t trust you. Not yet.

In the first episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby says “I love you” to Robin. It didn’t work. Honestly, how would you feel if someone randomly ran up to you in the street and screamed at you to marry them?

It would be scary and weird. You’d run away and never go back to that part of town, and we both know it.

Spending money to push your promotion in front of people who don’t even know you is the equivalent of doing that. Instead of spending your money on unqualified leads who are going to run away, you can spend them on lead acquisition. You can target them as followers once they’re in your orbit.

Win their hearts and minds with content that hits the right chord.

Talk to Followers Instead of Talking at Them

Corporations treat social media like newspapers without a letter to the editor. That’s exactly social, yet it’s supposed to be.

Engage with your customers. Really talk to them. Make jokes. If you’re local, then reference places, news, and festivals. If you’re in Kitchener-Waterloo, then don’t be afraid to take a few affectionate jabs at how long the LRT construction has taken.

No one’s going to sift through your social media accounts in seven years to pinpoint every non-positive thing you’ve ever said, so don’t be afraid to have fun with your brand.

Don’t be crass or offensive, obviously, but you need to interact with your followers the way you would in a real social setting, like the neighbourhood pub. If you’re afraid to acknowledge the existence of alcohol, then it might not be for you.

Pick One Channel to Start

I’ve seen everyone make this mistake, including seasoned marketers of 20 years. They try to start accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube all at once.

It failed, obviously. You saw that coming a mile away.

The medium is the message. This is so fundamental that people overlook it. Those networks are different for a reason! they wouldn’t need to be different if a one-size-fits-all approach actually worked, so why attempt it in the first place?

You don’t need to be everywhere. You need to be in a place according to two criteria:

  • Where your prospects live
  • Where you can shine

That begs the question…

Decide Which Social Channel Is for You

You can’t be on every channel at once… not at the start. I have watched a venture-backed company try to launch five channels at once (including a subreddit) only to scale it back to focus on two.

Doing social media well takes time and effort. You need to create a posting schedule (which means creating your own content), talking to followers directly, and actively reaching out to other brands and influencers to get more visibility.

That’s why you start with one channel and work your way up to more afterward—if it even makes sense to do so.


  • Largest user base out there
  • Supports multimedia posts: image, video, polls, and events
  • You need to pay to play (but the ad platform is thorough)
  • Facebook has a somewhat conservative culture
  • Video is going to become a focal point.


  • This channel moves faster than any other
  • It’s an open platform, giving you lots of access to wide audiences
  • It has become more multimedia-friendly, but it takes manual work
  • There a lot of bots out there
  • The advertising platform is weak and expensive.
  • Twitter has an edgier culture


  • Rule #1: It’s made by millennials, for millennials
  • Stunning images rule this channel
  • It was designed for people, not brands
  • Most brands struggle to monetize the channel at all


  • The most conservative culture of all social networks
  • This is both a B2B sales platform and a hiring platform
  • You represent your brand to colleagues as much as prospects
  • It moves slowly. Post once every 2-3 days
  • You can post company page updates, but human profiles are more effective
  • Premium profiles are prohibitively expensive for solopreneurs and early-stage companies


  • This is a 100% video platform
  • Successful channels are personality-driven. You need both literal and brand voices.
  • Balance quality and quantity—both are important, and neither can be sacrificed.
  • Video production is key to success. If you can’t make videos, you can’t make it. Period.


Update: Google+ has been phased out due to a lack of users, but we thought we’d leave our notes here in case you’re curious about why anyone might have used it.

  • It’s built well, with an intuitive wall system.
  • No one “actively” uses Google+, making it more or less a dead platform.
  • It’s also connected to all Google profiles, like Gmail and Chrome.
  • Marketers tend to use it because they aren’t sure what Google does or doesn’t index

It’s not wrong to be in multiple channels at once, if you can make it work. In fact, certain channels share a kind of synergy that make them natural bedfellows.

For example, many YouTube channels also have sister Instagram channels. They shoot enough video that some of their still frames make for jaw-dropping photos. On the other hand, Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram means that you can manage both of those channels from one place.

Grow New Channels Laterally

Whatever combination of social channels you end up with, don’t build each one entirely from the ground up if you can avoid it.

Once you’ve established a certain number of followers on your default channel, then you should leverage those followers to build your next channel. But why bother if they already follow you somewhere else?

Most social channels assign weight to your follower count. Your first 1,000 followers on Twitter, for example, are the most difficult you’ll ever get. Then you’ll notice that gaining followers becomes easier and smoother after that point.

The same principle is widely believed to apply to every network in some form. Furthermore, you cannot count on all of your followers to see every post, so you can double your chances of a given follower being exposed to your posts this way.

Getting Started

You don’t need to have it all figured out right away, but you can take these next steps to give yourself a fair chance at success:

  • Come with a strong brand and voice
  • Come prepared with a purpose
  • Have your content ready to share
  • Prepare to be entertaining and helpful 80% while asking for nothing back

Follow those guidelines, or get a consultant to work them out with you. It’s your brand, and it deserves every bit of care that your customers do.


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Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew is a content designer, UX writer, and content strategist with SEO chops. He has worked in UX and marketing for companies like Shopify and Meta, but he also runs the Webb Content consulting brand.

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