One of the most elusive aspects to social media is budgeting time and money. How do you know what you should invest in and what a realistic cost might be?

You would think a simple Google search for "social media budget" tips or ideas would provide a plethora of answers. But sadly, it seems this is a topic most would rather keep to themselves.

So let's demystify the costs for a social media budget and help you easily create your own. Here are the top 4 essentials to plan and develop your social media budget.

1. Design

From graphics for social posts to your social media cover images, graphic design plays a critical role in branding your business online.

Depending on the stage of your business, you might opt for free tools as opposed to hiring a professional. I will caution you though, the more time you spend "working in your business," the less time you have to focus on growing your business.

Balance your time wisely by listing what a graphic designer could take off your plate. Then begin your research to find a designer with an eye and style aligned with your brand. Sites like Toptal, 99designs, and Upwork will help you vet designers based on portfolio, client work, skills, background, and particular strengths.

For example, I love flat design. When looking for a designer, I was specific in looking for someone that worked with flat design, but also had hand drawn skills for various elements. Whether it's product illustrations, animated graphics, or story development, find a designer that can help you nail down your look and feel.

Budget Breakdown

Social Graphics: $15-$200
Social Covers: $30 - $60 for one formatted for all cover sizes
Banners: $20-$80 per banner
Announcements/Events: $15 - $50 each

2. Video

Video is expected to overtake text-based posts in popularity by the year 2018. Folks, that's right around the corner. No time to sit on this marketing medium. To determine how it fits into your budget, first identify the type of video you want to use.

A few popular ideas:

  • Teaser
  • Promo
  • Explainer

Now determine if you want to use a video tool on your own, or if you need to enlist the help of a videographer. Your choice will determine the price you'll pay.

Budget Breakdown

Video creation/editing tools: $20-$500/month

Videographer: $75-$500/hour

3. Virtual Assistant

Like everything else in your business, a Virtual Assistant isn't a luxury. It's a necessity and something you should invest in sooner than later. The longer you take to hire the right VA, the more you spin your wheels on tasks you shouldn't manage.

What do I mean by this? Instead of committing your time to money-making activities, you get sucked into to-do's that could (and should) be handled by someone better equipped to manage those tasks.

I know it might feel as if you don't have the budget for it, but I promise that this is an investment that makes you money in the long run.

How can you use a VA in your business? A few common ways to use a social media assistant are: create social media posts, curate social media content, monitor social media mentions, schedule social media content, social customer care, manage social promotion, and more.

So what can you expect to pay for these services?

Budget Breakdown

Average hourly pay: $15/hr

Average monthly pay: $700-$3,000/month

4. Tools

Using the right tools is an important part of social media success. But many of those tools come with a hefty price. The key is finding the perfect mix of tools that help you manage, optimize, and strategically create a social media presence.

The top:

  • Buzzsumo - For finding social media influencers and trending content
  • Post Planner - For finding and scheduling engaging content
  • Brand 24 - For tracking mentions and influencers
  • Social Quant - For growing a targeted Twitter following
  • Sprout Social - For scheduling, mentions, and analytics

Budget Breakdown:

Buzzsumo: $79-$559/month

Post Planner: $9-$49/month

Brand 24: $49-$399/month

Social Quant: $50/month

Sprout Social: $99-$249/month

No matter your budget, consider the medium and social channel. Which works best for your business? Don't fall into the trap of relying on one social network.

Test each idea to set a realistic budget and strategy for your social media marketing strategy.