Choosing Goals for Social Media

Brass Tack Thinking - Choosing Goals for Social MediaWhen it comes to business – and most especially social media – measurement is still a vast, ongoing discussion that’s fraught with questions. Many of those questions start at the very beginning: How do I know I’m setting the right goals?

As we’ve said a zillion times before, the right goals for you are going to be heavily dependent upon your business. But, what we can talk about are the underlying reasons that most goals exist: to solve a problem.

One of you will undoubtedly point out – and you’d be right – that goals can often be set in order to create or capitalize upon new opportunities. But when you break down that opportunity into it’s pieces, what you’re again left with is a set of problems or challenges that need to be solved in order to put you on the path toward that opportunity. So when we say problem, think in terms of “thing that needs solving” versus a heavily negative connotation. Problems aren’t always bad things.

The Need Buckets

In a business context, and specifically social media, most external goals seek to solve problems in one of three main buckets:

Money (M): there’s either not enough coming in, or there’s too much going out, or both

Attention (A): either the attention you have is the wrong kind, or you need more of the kind of attention you do want. You might want that for brand purposes, or even something like recruitment.

Longevity (L): you’re looking for more customer loyalty, donor retention, or more referrals from your customers or the community at large.

Just about any goal you have can eventually tie back to one of these overarching business needs. Also, keep in mind that you can rarely if ever do all three of these at once with a consistent and equal level of effectiveness. You’ve got to prioritize your needs, and decide which one is going to serve as the backbone your social media efforts.

Someday, when we’re all big and mighty with fully wired social media into every facet of our organization, perhaps we can all being dedicating armies of people to do all three simultaneously via different avenues. But my guess is that you’re not at that point yet – very few of us are – so try and start somewhere focused and where your need is greatest. And be careful of always jumping to money as the problem that needs to be solved. Are you sure it’s just more leads you need?

There’s a Goal In the Bucket

Once you’ve got your bucket or your business need identified, then you can build the solutions that get you there.

(If you’re not sure the difference between a goal and an objective, I talk about those a bit over here, but basically, the objectives get specific with things like numbers and timeframes.)

The solutions and ensuing goals themselves can usually be pretty solidly categorized, too, and tied back to one or more of those buckets (M, A, L). They’ll usually take the shape of:

Thought Leadership (A, L): creating and spreading ideas via online content, speaking, or other methods that showcase expertise/industry knowledge

Reach & Lead Quality (M, A): Getting the word out more broadly, to the right people, via lead generation or awareness efforts outward, or SEO or content marketing inward

Reputation Stewardship (A, L): Probably a blend of many solutions, but a longer term effort to shift or reinforce brand perception

Customer Satisfaction (L, M): If there are issues there that need correcting, or to back up a strength you’re known for

Relationship Quality (L): From building new communities to growing existing ones in order to strengthen relationships and networks, and be available and responsive

There are probably more, and you can slice and dice them a few ways. But do you see where I’m headed here? Goals gather in groups around overarching needs.

One Ring To Rule Them All

If you’re shrewd, you might be looking at this and saying “But Amber, if I have goals to improve customer satisfaction, doing that well could impact all three of those need areas.” You could say the same for something like leads; if I have more and better of them, that can address at least the money and attention buckets.

Aha. Yes, indeed it can. But here’s the deal.

Doing all of this well – or any part of it really well – will make the need buckets look like something familiar: a business cycle. Attention leads to money leads to longevity. They’re all dependent upon one another for survival. Right?

What your social media goals are likely to be addressing, however, is the movement in between those stops on the cycle. How are you moving people from zero to attention? From thinking you suck to thinking you’re pretty okay? From liking you to purchase? From purchase to loving you forever and ever and telling all their friends?

Crash Course in Measurement

This concept – need buckets and solutions – is a rather simplistic one, but maybe it helps you. And if you’re looking for some other guidance about goals, metrics and measurement in social media, I’ve got a bunch of other stuff here on the blog, including an ebook, that might help.

How To Create Measurable Objectives
Breaking a Goal Into Metrics
13 Truths about Social Media Measurement
Wiring In Social Media Measurement

Practical Measurement Series:

We pulled that whole series into an e-book over at Radian6 (my employer) that you can find and download here: Practical Social Media Measurement & Analysis

How else can we help? Let’s hear from you in the comments.

image credit: laffy4k

  • Tom Webster

    …and the devil in the details here, as we've chatted about before, is that while it's pretty easy to measure things like brand mentions online, actually measuring the impact of social media engagement upon moving a prospect from vague awareness to interest is not so easily measured. It's absolutely measurable, of course – it isn't a black box mystery – but it isn't easy. Few worthwhile endeavors are.

  • Matt Ridings – Techguerilla

    My inner geek just rode the happiness merry-go-round that is @ambercadabra. Great piece, if you'll excuse me I have to sit down though as I'm a little dizzy from the ride.

  • Kiel Holliday

    Doing all three takes time. While each have its merits, none can be done at a level without some sacrifice of the other 2 points. Until there is a better way to measure the important parts of social media, we just have to be content with hustle to make sure all the bases are covered.

    Do the best you can and in time you can reach the level that is satisfactory. Goals have to be attainable, not so outlandish that disappear.

  • Ian Gordon

    So much of what makes social media efforts successful or not, comes down to basic good business practices. Setting goals is a great example. I never go into any project, job, contract, without clearly defining what a win is. You can't exceed expectations if you don't set them. This is going to help a lot people get started right.

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  • Alicia Ontiveros

    This post is so timely. So was the other one about keeping up hope the other day. Last night I just met my goal of making it into the top ten in the Pepsi Refresh contest. It's been a tireless battle that is paying off. Now we have to stay in the top ten until the end of the month. If we do, we'll get $25k to make a documentary about how Gulf residents are recovering from the BP oil spill. My social media campaign continues!!! Thank you for the encouraging posts!! -Alicia

  • BrettRelander

    Nice article Amber!

    It's obvious to most of us that the marketing, advertising, and public relations business model has changed. The lines have blurred and rightly so. At large advertising agencies, in the past and many still today, they always want to start at strategy and move down the road from there. The problem with this is that they haven't taken the time to determine the clients metrics, desired outcomes and core intent. The traditional advertising model should really be turned upside down. You must understand the client and their core goals before you determine strategy and tactics. When it comes to social media many talk about followers and friends, but these #'s don't really give us any indication of the effectivness of a campaign or socail engagement. We all know that those #'s can be artificailly inflated. The key to social media can, in part, be audience size but more importantly it's audience engagement. How many are coming to you daily, clicking your links, leaving comments, and even more importantly shareing your info with their audience. Malcolm Gladwell defined it well in his book The Tipping Point when he identified connectors, mavens, and salespeople. Do you know who these people are in your circle of influence? Do you know who you should be identifying and connecting with inside and outside of your audience? If not, it's time to start investigating.

    Brett Relander

  • Synthesio

    Always providing good resources Amber :)

    Michelle @Synthesio

  • Kerstin

    An excellent article, Amber. Thank you! We have a social media component in our iphone app, Wine by the Bar, which allows users to tweet or facebook post wines that they like to friends. Discussing the advantages of this capability with our wine store and winery customers has been challenging. You offer a simple framework for explaining the social media benefits in language which all will understand.

  • Patrick Garmoe

    I'm fairly new to this side of the equation (was a journalist) but it seems to me that even in the old days, wouldn't it have been critical for an agency to understand the client and the company's core goals? How can you really talk strategy, before grasping what the client really is trying to accomplish? I define strategy by figuring out what the client wants, and then figuring out a way to make those goals happen. If you don't know what the client's goals are, what's there to strategize about?

  • Patrick Garmoe

    Congrats Alicia! I worked my tail off with about 50 friends for a Pepsi Refresh competition, and were #12 at one point, but by the end was #90. It can be REALLY hard to win.

  • BrettRelander

    Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for responding to my comment. In my experience traditional advertising firms develop strategy based on traffic past a billboard, subscribers to a magazine, or viewers of a TV show. They've always been more about reach than true relevance. I know personally of companies that have spent millions on Monday Night Football ads because their small demographic was known to watch Monday Night Football. My point is that just because your demographic may be in a certain space doesn't mean that's the right place for your marketing message. Not to mention the fact that it's very difficult to track the results of these types of campaigns. If you could spend $20,000,000 on a high profile TV campaign or $200,000 on a highly targeted and relevant social media campaign that allows you to make direct contact with your demographic and track your results, which would you choose?

  • luis23

    Making your customers happy and feel them fulfilled with your products is one of the best ways to get exposure in the social media sites. I mean this is very basic word of mouth marketing but it is happening faster in the internet world.

    I do think it is good to plan ahead for the social media world but I think it is also good for those who don't have a clue, get into the waters test them by yourself and evolve quickly your social media strategies. :)

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  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    What a very interesting read, I confess I didn’t think this in such terms but it makes a lot of sense and I have to agree.
    Having clear goals and a clear plan to get to them is the tricky part in most companies, especially startups, but “simplifying” things in this way is a very nice and refreshing approach.
    Thanks for sharing Amber.

  • Nicole Harrison

    Another great article…I love how you broke this stuff down into simple, understandable pieces…nice!

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    Approaching social media with a specific goal in mind can assist
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