Brass Tack Thinking - Choosing Goals for Social Media

When 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