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Setting Social Media Goals: If It’s Not Painful, You’re Not Doing it Right

target_sm 2“Pick a goal and do what it takes to hit it.”

I had a sales manager once who lived by this phrase, and I always hated it.

There’s a common misconception that setting a goal is simple; it’s hitting it that’s the tough part. However, if you do it right, the opposite is true.

Goal-setting is a critical part of success for any company, department, or individual. But if you work in social media, you may be feel like you’re off the hook. Why?

Because your boss doesn’t really know what success on social should look like.

The easy way out is to smile and say to yourself “Awesome, I get a hall pass!” before playing another round of Candy Crush (or whatever game is hot in the streets these days). However, this isn’t going to benefit you or your company in the long run.

As a social media or community manager, you have a unique area of expertise that presents two distinct opportunities:

  • To become an integral stakeholder on your marketing team by setting the course and direction of your most publicly visible channels.
  • To train your boss on the importance of social, and the value it can bring to the organization.

But to do this, you need clear, data-driven goals that you can communicate across teams and use to explain and validate value in your decisions…and then you need a plan to back them up.

We work in a dream industry where everything we do can be quantified. We know what to expect, and what works best. Why? Because we have the ability to see the results of every decision we’ve made.

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We can back every goal up with data, and develop them based on a measurable understanding of our social programs.

On our team at Simply Measured, we develop quarterly goals, break them out into monthly plans, and benchmark them with weekly KPIs.

That’s great in theory, but where do you start? If your program has never had defined goals other than “Tweet back when people holler at you” then you might need to define the framework.

Here are five questions that can help you build that framework, develop your own goals, and build a predictable and sustainable program that your boss will not only allow, but support and help grow.

If you set the right goals — based on data instead of assumptions — and plan accordingly, hitting those goals becomes easier than you can imagine.

Goal Setting: 5 Questions You Need to Ask

Goal setting shouldn’t start with the individual metrics you want to hit. “I want to get XX @replies on Twitter” isn’t a goal. It’s a KPI. Those are important, but you need to start more broadly than that, and ask yourself why you want those @replies. What’s the point? Take a page from the OKR framework (Objectives and Key Results) developed at Intel: start with an over-arching objective. From there, you can develop the key results, and finally, your plan.

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What’s my objective?

Lets pretend you’re a community manager for a widget factory, because if you’ve ever taken a business or marketing class, you know that widget factories are all the rage in text books. Your objective should be a qualitative, aggressive, and achievable statement that applies to your overall business goals, and you want to be true at the end of the time period.

Objective: To be considered the go-to brand on social for information and conversation about widgets.

This is a good objective. It’s big, it’s clear, and it’s simple. But you still have one big question:

Is it achievable?

To understand that, you need to break down the different components of this objective:

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When I look at this example, I see three components that I would need to measure in order to understand whether or not this is a realistic goal:

Go-to: This means sought after. How do you measure that? Google Search terms for your brand? But how about social? Inbound Tweets and wall posts? Organic audience growth? How big would you have to be to consider yourself the go-to? And what would it mean to be there?

Information: How do you become a go-to for information? What do you need to do to get there? What type of information would you need to create, cultivate, and promote in order to become the go-to for information on widgets? How can I quantify this?

Conversation: What would you measure around conversation? How do you become an integral part of widget conversations?

Now that you have a solid understanding of the specific questions you want to answer, it’s time to establish your key results. Group by the different aspects of your objective and develop your key results in that context.

What key results would get me to my objective?

When building your key results, ask yourself the question: If I hit all of these, can I definitively say I’ve achieved my objective? If not, you either need more key results, or more specific ones.

This is when it’s time to dig into the data and set measurable KPIs that will roll up to your specific objective. This is where having social analytics is crucial. You can’t grow your social programs without understanding what that means. What is the rest of the widget industry doing? How do you stack up?

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Once you have this context, you can set your key results.

Just an FYI: My intention isn’t to do the work for you. I’m as lazy as you are. This should help you ask the right questions of yourself and your data, but it won’t lay out each metric you should focus on; those will be individual to your business and program.

Maybe part of being the “go-to” resource means your engagement rate on Facebook is the best in the widget industry. Is that achievable? You need to know where you are to know where you’re going. Time for some data. Put together an industry report so you can find out what you’d have to do to get there:

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If I work for Widget Co. 3, there’s a good chance I won’t match Widget Co. 1’s total audience over the next quarter (unless I put a lot of paid spend into audience growth), but I could match their engagement as a percentage of fans. A more reasonable, but aggressive key result might be to increase our percentage of fans engaged from 7.1% to 11.8% over the next quarter.

Your key results should be measurable, trackable, and something you have direct control over so you can work towards each one over the course of your established time period. Create several, so your plan becomes more tangible.

In this example, perhaps becoming a go-to source for information means you need to focus on your content strategy. A key result could be based on data for this as well. What does it mean to be a go-to source? It means I want X number of visits to Y blog posts and Z videos about widgets this quarter.

To be a go-to source for conversation, you may focus on Twitter engagements, comments on Facebook, or percentage of Tweets containing the keyword “widgets” that also mention your brand. Once you have these desired results set, your planning will be more focused, because you know what you’re driving towards.

Do I know the right levers to pull?

Once you have these key results in place, build your plan for each one.

If you want to be mentioned in X% of Tweets with the keyword “widgets”, you need to respond to Y Tweets per day, providing sharable content that increases your odds. This means you need to develop Z pieces of content each week.

Deadlines, and end-dates are important. If you don’t hold yourself to these standards, you’re not working a plan; you’re just working.

It can be painstaking to develop a full social plan, but by working backwards, you know your plan isn’t in vain, and it will be easier to stick to it.

Am I doing it right?

To be honest, there’s a good chance it will take several iterations to get this right. Gut check your goals with your team, share them with your manager, be flexible, and then check in on them regularly. If you’re missing something or not performing the way you expected, it may mean you need to adjust your plan, or even reevaluate your objective and key results.

I can’t stress enough how important solid data is when it comes to establishing goals, objectives, and a workable plan. To learn more about how Simply Measured can help, take a tour of the entire software suite by clicking the button below:

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Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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