How to Set Social Media Goals and Define Success

How to Set Social Media Goals and Define Success Jay Shemenski Blogger Extraordinaire Simply Measured

One of the most difficult elements of developing a social media marketing plan is defining success and the metrics which will represent that success. There is an assortment of numbers to choose from, ranging from the much-maligned “vanity” metrics to advanced data, like Lifetime Value of a customer: Customer Acquisition Cost (LTV:CAC).

How to Create a Monthly Social Media Report

With many options and little precedent, a lot of marketers and social media managers are left asking, “Where do I start?”

First, and most importantly, you need to establish the ultimate bottom line goal. This goal can come in the form of something like increasing sales or generating leads or lowering customer acquisition costs or simply building brand reputation.

Social Metrics MapNo matter what you choose, the goal must then be tied to a numerical value and a deadline, and it must support your larger marketing strategy.

The next phase in the process is to build out the objectives that will result in your ultimate goal, when tied together. One example can be in the form of sales, where these objectives may be aligned with the typical sales funnel of driving awareness, consideration, purchases, and retention from social audiences (aka social selling).

For instance, a goal can be decreasing the cost of acquisition through social media by 5% within one year. Then, your objectives will branch out from what’s necessary to achieve this goal over the time allotted.

From here, your metrics will be applied to track success on a micro-level.

A simpler version of this type of goal-setting and attribution is known as OKR (objectives and key results).

Now, let’s look at what this looks like at Harvard Medical School.

How We Do It

We view our social media program as contributing to our brand awareness and equity in the medical education space with an eye toward eventually operating like a science and medicine publisher.

Harvard Med SchoolConsequently, our goal is to use our social channels to help us become the dominant brand in the medical education field and one of the top resources for innovation in science and medicine — as part of our overall content marketing strategy.

With this framework in mind, we are then able to attach numbers and date projections to the goals for our social marketing program.

To achieve our conceptual goal, we’ve set our measured goal as:

To establish a majority social media market share for medical school accounts, drive over 400,000 visitors annually to HMS owned properties, and net over 5,000 new subscribers annually by 2018.

Based upon our market research, we feel that we would be on track to achieve our overarching goals by hitting these numbers on social media.

We’re also looking to grow our networks and content amplification, so we have secondary goals that include growing our followers, impressions, and earned impressions.

One key to remember is that these metrics aren’t set in stone. Rather, they are guides that allow us to understand if we’re moving in the right direction and can be amended as needed.

For instance, a year from now we may see that we’re outperforming these numbers or that the competitive landscape has changed more than we were projecting, and that we need to make adjustments. These goals also help inform us if there are opportunities or appropriate channels that we can isolate to have an impact on our strategy.

HMS and HSDM students sang, danced, and rapped at FABRIC — a show presented by first-year students to the newly accepted members of the incoming HMS/HSDM class. This year's FABRIC saluted the African diaspora through 'Baakoye,' which means "oneness" in the Akan language of Ghana. #HarvardMed

A photo posted by Harvard Medical School (@harvardmed) on

Since we’re competing for market share (we calculate this based on a combination of social share of voice and share of engagement), our success is measured on a combination of competitive metrics and internal performance metrics.

We also look at our objectives on a year-to-year basis. That way, we can reevaluate and refine them based on performance. Again, we don’t want to try to predict too far into the future, and we are ultimately making educated guesses for what performance will be like.

The objectives we choose are structured to add up to our overall goal, but they also provide information to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our channels, engagement, and message amplification.

Here are a few of our 2016 social media objectives:

  • Increase social engagement by 50%
  • Increase in social referral growth by 58%
  • Establish a quality traffic conversion rate of 25%
  • Establish an email signup conversion rate of 1%

Admittedly, we track a lot, and a 100% success rate isn’t likely. But, we want to be sure that we are as informed as possible and can quickly isolate specific causes for trends that need to be either leveraged or modified.

Building on our objectives are the metrics and KPI’s we measure and how they link to our overall business objectives.

We attempt to look at what the metrics are that are attached to our objectives, what success looks like with each metric, the business impact each metric represents, and what the insights are that we can pull from applicable metrics.

metrics_objectivesAdditionally, we match these metrics to our audience’s journey, which also informs how they help fulfill our goals, the KPIs needed to determine success, and what they translate to in regards to our business goals.

metrics_audience_journeyFinally, we attach numbers to the journey to understand what success looks like.

numbers_audience_journeyWith all of this in place, we can then focus on the strategy and tactics needed to reach our goals and understand what success looks like on a micro-level to ensure we are continually moving in the right direction.

We also examine how each channel is contributing to these metrics to understand how to allocate resources, where we’re gaining advantages over our competitors (or losing them), and make strategic decisions.

How do you set goals in your organization? Shoot me your strategies and tips at @Jshemenski on Twitter.

Jay Shemenski

Jay Shemenski

Jay Shemenski is the Digital Manager at Harvard Medical School. He is a content strategist with 5+ years of experience in non-profit, in-house, and freelance environments. His expertise is in developing comprehensive brand experiences and digital marketing strategies to successfully engage markets and establish long-term growth.