So here’s a question: Do you have a social media budget?

If you answer no, you’re not alone. Results of the SMB Group Social Business Study 2012 show that many small businesses have no dedicated social media budget at all. And, in a recent Small Business Trends report on that study, Anita Campbell pointed out that the median social media budget for small businesses that do set aside funds for social media is only between $1,000 and $2,499 annually.

While it’s understandable that fledgling small businesses try to make the most of social media without spending any money at all, spending strategically could bring financial rewards.

How Small Businesses Use Social Media

Social media has the potential to help you interact more effectively with potential customers, generate leads, get input on plans to develop new products and services, recruit employees, and keep track of your company’s reputation. Here are a few of the specific ways small businesses are accomplishing this through social media:

  • Building a branded blog
  • Creating Twitter accounts
  • Commenting on related blogs
  • Using social bookmarking sites
  • Using a company Facebook page
  • Staying active in relevant LinkedIn groups
  • Posting YouTube videos

What Should You Spend Money On?

There are a number of ways you could budget your money, which brings me to my next point: You can’t really budget without first developing a social media strategy. If you’re operating ad hoc right now, spending money isn’t advisable. Once you have a plan and are prepared to track your results, however, spending a little money can augment your campaign.

You could beef up your social media campaign by…

…Hiring someone to implement and track your social media strategy.

Sometimes — okay, all the time — it’s easier to stick to the social media plan and track your results when you have an employee dedicated to those tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire someone new or hire someone full-time. However, instead of letting everyone take a stab at Tweeting when they have time, make it a dedicated assignment for someone on your team. If you’re doing it yourself, budget your time.

…Hiring a consultant to help you develop a better strategy.

Not sure where your potential customers are hanging out? Don’t know what makes a good Tweet? Need help branding your social media profiles? You could spend some of your budget working with a social media expert to help you with branding and messaging.

…Spending money on promotions.

Finally, you could set aside part of your budget for promoting your business on social media.  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all offer you ways to promote your messages for a fee. It’s essentially advertising. (Word to the wise: While promotions can be effective, you must target your messages to a specific audience. If you don’t you’re wasting time and money.)

Do you currently have a budget for your social media campaign? If so, have you noticed a positive or negative change in ROI for your efforts?