How To Create Measurable Objectives

I tweeted sometime last week that I thought part of the problem folks face with social media measurement and determining performance against metrics like ROI is that they don’t know how to create measurable objectives in the first place.

So let’s do a (bit of a long) drilldown of what measurable objectives look like, and all the parts around them.

Goals vs. Objectives

First, a quick definition clarification. Goals are your general intentions, the big picture aims. Your objectives are the outcomes that represent achievement of that goal. Things you can actually observe. In order to be classified as an objective, something has to be measurable.  You need a way of defining whether or not you have completed them successfully.

Strategies are the action plans you’ll execute to reach the objective. Tactics are the pieces and parts of the strategy. So that’s the hierarchy:

Goal >> Objectives >> Strategies >> Tactics.

If you’ve actually written a clear objective, it’s measurable by definition. (So the term measurable objective is actually rather redundant). We good on that? Okay.

An Imaginary Scenario

Let’s say we’re a widget company of some generic stripe, and we’re going to write down some social media goals and objectives. They might look like this.

GOAL: To increase our company’s US brand footprint through participation in social media.

So, that’s the general end game you want to achieve. It’s big picture, and there can be any number of components that go into achieving that goal. Honestly, this is where a lot of people get stuck. They haven’t sat down and done the hard work to think about what it is they want to achieve and why.

A good way to write goals that have impact is to ask whether or not the goal you’re setting will somehow drive to goals that are up a level or two from your area of responsibility. So if your company has a vision that includes growth into, say, an international market, your marketing goals should be written with that at least partially in mind. If you’re in a specific marketing channel, like online or digital, your goals will want to reflect the overarching goals of the entire marketing or communications area.

That takes us to objectives.

OBJECTIVES:

  • Increase our blog subscribers by 15% in 6 months
  • Produce 12 episodes (one per month) of Widget.TV and achieve live viewership of 75 for each episode
  • Grow our LinkedIn Group to 250 members (a 25% increase) by the end of the year
  • Establish a Facebook Fan Page with 500 fans within 6 months

All of these items follow the SMART methodology, which means they’re Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timed. But the key is that they outline what you want to do, how you’ll quantify it, and what your deadline is.

Note that for each of these, it becomes immediately apparent what you have to track. You need mechanisms to measure blog subscribers, evidence of produced TV episodes, membership tracking for your LinkedIn Group, and ways to tell how many fans you have on Facebook. And for the ones that have growth implied, like the first one, you need a baseline measurement so you know where you’re starting from, and can tell when you’ve achieved that 15% growth number.

If you say you want to measure something but you don’t have a process in place to do that or aren’t yet, go no further. If measuring success is something you’re serious about, you have to solve the measurement mechanism problem first. If you want to increase customer retention but don’t know how you’re defining or calculating that metric now, that’s the place to start.

STRATEGIES:

Once you have the objectives written, you develop a strategy or set of strategies for each one. It’s like the roadmap for how you’ll get there. So let’s take the first one, increase blog subscribers by 15% in 6 months. Your strategies might include:

  • Designate a blogging team to contribute posts to the blog
  • Develop an editorial calendar to post three times weekly, and rotate assignments
  • Create a list of other relevant blogs in our industry and share with the team
  • Require each blog team member to leave 3 comments per week on other industry blogs
  • Improve blog subscription options on our main blog page and website

These are all the elements you’ll need to put in place to  make the objective happen. Then, it’s time for the nitty gritty.

TACTICS:

Tactics are the actual down and dirty execution steps you’ll need to take to support the strategy. It’s the detail work, really. So, for the first strategy above:

Designate a blogging team to contribute posts to the blog.

Your tactics might include sending out an email asking folks if they want to write for the blog, setting a meeting with your manager to select the contributors, setting up their profiles on the blog platform, and holding a training session for folks on the blogging admin tool. It’s all the actual execution steps you’ll need to take at the most fundamental level in order to make each strategy come together.

Measurement and ROI

Note something important: ROI is one metric. Boy have we really warped this one in social media discussions.

Not everything you do has a return in itself that’s measurable in terms of dollars (which the root of the ROI equation).  So if you’re looking for, say, the ROI on your blog, you’d have to figure out how it contributes directly to your revenue stream in order to measure true ROI. That would require mapping your blog traffic or subscribers to your lead pipeline and conversions in terms of dollars, and tracking how much you’ve invested in time and capital toward the effort.

Measuring success, however, can be different than ROI. You can have successful outcomes that are not measurable in terms of dollars. Qualitative ones like awareness and reach, and quantitative ones like website traffic, media placements, or even things like Net Promoter Scores.

This is why you’re far more likely to be able to accurately and effectively calculate the ROI of your marketing or customer service efforts as a whole, but why it’s going to be much more tricky at a granular level, say, the ROI of your Facebook page alone. All of the successful outcomes, collectively, impact the likelihood of sales growth.

But WHAT Do I Measure?

Sorry, no shortcut answer here. What you measure is entirely dependent on all the bits above, most especially your goal.

If your goal is better customer service, you measure things that indicate customer satisfaction like reviews, sentiment, positive comments/feedback, decreased “incident” reports from the call center. If your goal is brand awareness, you measure things like website traffic, share of conversation, media placements, volume of online chatter, or even standard market survey results.

Not every metric applies to every company or situation. And don’t try to measure every possible combination of factors. Pick three solid metrics that are relevant to your objectives and worry about those. Measurement is about tracking progress or lack of it. Not analyzing things to death.

See where I’m headed? The goals, if well considered, will guide you right to the kinds of metrics that are applicable. And heck. Create your own metrics. As long as they tangibly illustrate progress toward the goal you’ve set, they’re perfectly valid. Not every metric that’s been used for decades is bulletproof, anyway.

That’s The Crash Course.

The hard part is that I or anyone else can only ever give you the framework. The messy work of considering goals and doing the planning and measurement is yours alone. But that’s why you get paid the big bucks.

So does this help? Will it help someone you know or work with? Can you better articulate what you’re aiming for to your boss? Does it get you thinking a bit about how you can make your efforts – social media or otherwise – a bit more tangible?

Sound off in the comments.

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  • Mike Kujawski

    Hey Amber, having returned to this wonderful old post, I noticed something that is kind of bugging me among all the great content. Do you not think your examples of “strategies” are a bit too tactical in nature?

    Here’s what I mean: “create a list of other relevant blogs in our industry and share with the team” sounds like something out of an action plan. Same thing with “develop an editorial calendar to post three times weekly, and rotate assignments”. My perspective on strategy comes from a traditional business education (with marketing focus) where the term “strategy” refers to the general approach to reaching an objective (e.g. market development, market penetration, product development, diversification). Capitalist business strategy in turn is in large part derived from Sun Tsu’s The Art of War where the strategy of a battle would for example be “defensive” and the tactics would then describe what defensive actions will be taken.

    I think you’re right on with everything but you’re taking the strategies one level too deep and thus they have turned into tactics as well. I think your tactics are good, they are just too specific in my opinion. Technically you could keep going with tactics even deeper (e.g. tone of the email) but at some point you need to draw the line. A strategy should not tell you what to do but rather the approach, otherwise we wouldn’t need tactics. Things can get very confusing very fast if someone has numerous strategies with multiple tactics for each. Why not one general strategy to meet your goal and then numerous tactics in-line with that strategy?

    Anyway, let me know your thoughts. I know there are many opinions out there as to what constitutes, goals, objectives, strategy and tactics (try googling them), but we’re both essentially on the same page I think.

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  • Adn

    Excellent!!!! Thank you very much for such a great article.

  • Sibzianna

    What is an ROI?

    • http://www.shashi.name/ Shashib

      Return on investment

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  • Jessica Provan

    This speaks VOLUMES to me! ROI seems to be the only thing my big brother company understands. Everything is dollars and cents. How do you equate the growing need for staff to be engaged without “bringing home the bacon”? We don’t sell any widgets, we keep the widget buyers educated and informed.

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  • http://chevonesefender.blogspot.com/ Chevonese

    This is a great crash course. I have to present a PR Plan for a potential job as part of the interview and this has opened up my eyes and ideas a great deal. Thanks!

    http://chevonesefender.blogspot.com/

  • Delafishta182

    Thanks Amber. I am a first year PR and Marketing student and I’m currently in the process of writing my first PR plan. I found this article to be incredibly helpful and it certainly cleared up my confusion!

  • Krunal Vaghela

    Thos blogs must have been interesting!

    http://www.iweballey.com/

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  • Grace

    This is fantastic!!! Thank You :-)

  • http://www.jintech.in/ Jyotirmay Intellisense

    some people offering great amount of money. it also expansible as well as time. lot of source available here so that can help a lot. 

    but here is not any kind of equipment to measure the feelings and strength of brain as well as to archive the desire goal. 

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  • Frank A

    Thanks for the detailed examples and explanation on how to start from the ground up. clear definitions make it easy to understand the topic.

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  • humanufo

    Very helpful. Thank you!

  • Tunde Obafemi

    strategic thinking can never be enhanced without goal setting, I especially love the part where people “get stuck” …..its like telepathy, thank you very much for the enlightenment 

  • Jarod Billingslea

    Good read dude.

  • http://www.orchestratormail.com/ Ritu Raj

    Amber would love to have a short conversation with you about http://objectiveli.com, I am @ritu on twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/bathbusinessweb Bath Business Web

    Very useful advice, thankyou!

  • Lori Peters

    So I have a Linkedin group that I manage that has over 1200 screenwriters in it, but don’t know how to monetize it. I’m not sure how to sell them something I get stuck in what action do I want them to take

  • Twalumba Mbozi

    Very beneficial….thanks

  • Nani Eng

    Great idea..Goal >> Objectives >> Strategies >> Tactics followed by success. Call Center Services

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