Small to medium-sized businesses are turning to social media marketing like never before – often aided by the wealth of excellent advice which is available for free online.

However, once you’ve established the beginnings of a social media marketing strategy (and started reaping the rewards) it can be difficult to know how to elevate the operation to the next level.

How can you take things up a notch with minimal outlay?

The simple answer is this: get expert advice, without actually having to pay for experts. But how?

My advice would be to set aside a small sum for one or two subscriptions to quality social media marketing journals. The number of such titles in increasing and they represent a really cost-effective way to gain access to a high level of social media marketing insight on the latest trends and techniques, often for as little as around £100 a year (which is a lot less than sustained social media support and training from a real-life expert would cost).

Of course, ideally, it would be best to be in a position to invest in a proper social media strategy built by experts – but many small businesses simply don’t have the revenue to afford this and understandably prefer a smaller DIY social media presence.

Below are my top tips for journal subscriptions for these kinds of social media marketers wanting to advance their understanding and skills, from beginner to intermediate and even advanced practices. And in terms of value-for-money, this would be my winning choice for businesses on a tight budget.

1. Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing

An excellent and brand new title (launched in 2013). 4 volumes per year costing £220. Articles are largely written by professionals rather than academics and the journal features a good balance between longer articles, case studies, practice examples, legal document reviews and the odd academic research paper.

Very accessible to non-specialists and my absolute top tip if you can only afford one such subscription. (Check out this sample article from the inaugural issue about grow fans and increase engagement on Facebook, written by the head of digital marketing for

2. Journal of Interactive Marketing

An older and very well established journal which has, in recent years, moved towards including an extensive quantity of social media marketing related pieces. 4 volumes a year for £198 (for individual users). This journal has a greater emphasis on original research articles (rather than more practice-rooted pieces) but is excellent for those wanting a really rigorous, data-led assessment of the various digital marketing approaches on offer.

3. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice

Another excellent choice with an exclusively digital focus (compared with the many other marketing journals which only sometimes feature articles and content about online matters). This is the official journal of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing. 4 volumes a year for £136 (personal subscription). Another good mix of case studies, book reviews, practice tutorial articles, analysis of legal matters and research papers (see the current issue’s table of contents here).

There are others out there but they tend to either be far more expensive (prohibitively so for small businesses) or they have a much broader remit and only sporadically touch upon digital and social media marketing among a range of other marketing related topics. If you can afford only one, my advice is either the first or third of the above.

If you can afford only one, my advice is either the first or third of the above. If you can afford all three, I would expect that you’ll be something of a social media marketing expert within a year if you read all the material attentively – gaining an essential edge in this key aspect of the modern business environment at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing it to someone else!