By now, most entrepreneurs are aware of the power of social media and the benefits it can bring to your brand. Yet, many businesses, specifically small businesses or early stage companies, aren't invested in social media either because it's far too time-consuming or because they don't have it in the budget to hire a skilled agency or team of freelancers. 

While this hesitation is certainly valid, there do exist ways to effectively leverage social media marketing on a shoestring budget. All it takes is some know-how, strategy and a little bit of creativity.

Here are six creatives ways to cut back on your social media marketing spend.

1. Exchange office space for social media marketing services.

If you, as a business owner, have a large amount of office or event space, trading a piece of it to a small social media agency or freelancer who needs it in exchange for social media services could be a viable option. A video editor I know used this method to get a little office to herself at a local nonprofit. Many freelancers or early stage agencies may be tired of working at home or at coffee shops but don't yet have the cash to afford an office of their own, so the trade is beneficial to both parties.

2. Allow a talented employee at your company to handle your social media.

With online learning platforms like Udemy and Lynda, learning new skills is more accessible today than ever before. If you have an employee with a strong interest in social media, giving them some extra cash or company perks in exchange for social media services could be an affordable way to leverage social media no matter if you're a pizza shop owner, solopreneur or a startup founder.

To be fair, I'm not saying this is an ideal scenario or a foolproof alternative to hiring an expert, but if the content is solid and follows a theme, it's certainly better than being absent from social media altogether.

3. Hire a freelancer.

With platforms like Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr and Thumbtack, hiring a quality freelancer has gone from being a hair-pulling process to a pretty seamless one. My two favorite aspects of these platforms is the speed of hiring and the ability to see the reviews and work history of the freelancers you're scoping out. This way, you're not taking a complete stab in the dark.

There are downsides to this method though relative to hiring a more seasoned professional. The primary one is not every freelancer is created equal, and a team of one (no matter how skilled), will be limited in their expertise and ability to execute projects on a timely basis.

4. Hire an affordable, credible agency.

With most things in life, you get what you pay for. Marketing is no different. An agency being affordable isn't a promise that their work is any good, especially nowadays with every 9th grader with a smartphone calling themselves an agency owner. That being said, there are plenty of agencies out there that are overcharging clients for their work, so finding quality work at a reasonable price is possible.

Do your homework to find an affordable, credible agency that has driven great results for other clients in the past. You just might hit the jackpot and find your dream partner.

5. Hire employees who have background in marketing.

No matter if your business is a cafe in Portland or a Silicon Valley startup, hiring employees with backgrounds in marketing is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone. In exchange for them taking care of social media, reward them with extra company perks, higher hourly rates, or something along those lines.

6. Use free, third party tools.

There are plenty of free tools on the market that can serve as an alternative to high-ticket tools or services. Some include Unsplash and  Pexels for high-quality stock photography and videos, and Canva for graphic design.

Are these the best options out there? Hell no; you'd have to pay for those. That being said, they're decent options to hold you over until you can afford a better option.

I'm, by no means, encouraging companies to be tightwads or cheap when it comes to social media. The days of free social media are long gone, and far too many business owners haven't accepted that fact yet. What I am saying though, is if your budget really is limited, there are still creative ways for you to take advantage of social media. While they may not be ideal, something is always better than nothing. Best of luck.