How to Solve the Question: Who Funds the Social Media Budget?

A few weeks ago, PR at Sunrise brought to light a very interesting debate happening between communicators and sales folks. The topic was, “Should the sales team pay for part of the social media budget?

It’s an interesting question. At first I thought, “Yes, the sales team should pay for a portion of the social media budget.” But then I thought about it a little more and changed my mind.

First off, for the vast majority of brands it’s problematic to make sales the primary focus for their social media efforts. Instead, the communicators, tasked with managing the various social communities, should be focused on brand awareness, brand reputation and integrity, customer service, building positive connections with customers and potential customers, positioning themselves as thought/industry leaders and so on… Sure, sales can factor into the overall plan, but it shouldn’t be at the top of the list (for most brands.)

If the sales team starts funding the social efforts, they’ll want to control the messages and skew the objectives/plans in their favor. That said, saddling the communicators with strictly finding leads and driving sales puts them in a tough spot. How would you feel if before you went to a cocktail party, your boss told you to find sales leads and assigned you a sales quota? It’d be tough, because conversations between brands and people shouldn’t only be about selling.

I propose a new solution to this question, because obviously we want the sales team and the communications team to play nice. Let the communicators do their thing and fund their own projects. But, keep ‘sales’ as part of the overall strategy (second to other objectives mentioned above).  And, if the sales team experiences some success as a result of the social efforts, a portion of their commission should be paid to the communications team quarterly.

Creative campaigns via Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, etc. can be used to drive sales and help show the value in the communication team’s social efforts. Sales can then pay a portion of the increased sales revenue to the communications team as a measure of good faith.

Perhaps this won’t work… but maybe it just might…. What do you think?

About the Author
Andrew Bartucci is a social media consultant and account executive from Toronto, Canada. He holds a BA in Communications and a Graduate Certificate in PR. His expertise is in corporate communications, digital PR and social media. Andrew also writes for and owns Contact him via Twitter: @bar2cci


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6 comments on “How to Solve the Question: Who Funds the Social Media Budget?

  1. Good post Andrew,

    I like your new proposed solution to this problem. I’ve experienced this before and believe that this model could prove beneficial to both parties. As you quite rightly point out, we want comms and sales to play nice, but engaging as a community manager vs engaging as a salesperson are very different – and at the end of the day jumping into the social space looking to automatically spruik a sales message is going to do the brand more harm than good.

    Better to invest the time and effort in engaging and building relationships with your community in this space. Doesn’t mean that campaigns won’t have their place – only that the core function of managing the community remains for communicators to operate, and that they have a designated portion of funds to do so.

    Cheers from Australia, Jamie

  2. Thank you for this Andrew! I am still in university so I do not know exactly how the office relationships work but it seems to me that comms should be the ones to control the social media. Social Media should focus on creating a conversation and building relationships with publics, not selling–that’s what other mediums are for (tv, radio print spots.) Social media, in the end, helps sales and that is why it must be a joint venture. I like your proposition and hope that next year in the real world I can play nice with the sales team! =]
    I am taking a full course on social media next semester and look forward to learning more.

  3. Hi Brooke,

    Thanks for the comment! I like how you seperate social media from traditional forms of advertising. You’re right not to lump those all together. At its best, social media is a relationship building tool – at its worst, its just another vehicle for advertisements.

    Good luck in all your classes.


  4. Where the funding should come from really depends on how you use your social media. Ideally, it should be used in conjunction with the sales and marketing efforts to work towards the same end goal (to boost sales revenue), but do so using a different strategy. The social media strategy should make use of its inherent design, which facilitates communication: develop and post content that engages people, creates an open floor for dialogue, and manages the brand’s reputation and perception.

  5. Pingback: How to Build a Social Media Ambassador Program | PR at Sunrise

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