When businesses first venture into the seemingly overwhelming world of social media, they’re often not thinking about goals.  Truthfully, some companies are just in a hurry to get started with social media because that’s what the competition is doing.

But the reasons for entering the space is the where the conversation should start.  From there, you can work backwards into a strategy.  There are many ways that you could potentially participate in social media, but not every outlet and network should be part of your social strategy.

Here are 5 steps you can follow to set goals for your social media and strategy.

Step 1 – Do Your Homework

Is your audience participating in social media?  Do some research and find out if your customers (or potential customers) are taking part in conversations online.  Don’t assume that you already know where they are, especially based on your personal use of these tools.  Get out there and dig in.  Talk to your customers about how they’re finding you and what they’re saying.  In most cases, your customers are there, online and talking.

Also, what are your competitors doing?  Where are they participating?  Are they doing a good job?  Research what you see the competition doing so you can determine what might work for you.  You can also see where competitors are falling short. Whatever you do, do not simply mimic your competition. Differentiate.

But don’t stop with the competition.  Think of some companies you admire that are not in your industry.  Take a look at what they’re doing right.  Are there ways you can adapt similar strategies to your organization?

What can you do in social media that is different and will set you apart from others?  What is it that your customers need to see?

Think about all of the services or products that you offer, and brainstorm on how you can improve the delivery of those products, customer service, and the customer experience by using social media.  Those are the actions you should take.

Step 2 – What Defines Success in Your Organization?

Is it growth in visits to your website?  It is certain interactions on a social media network?

Believe it or not, a lot of times it’s hard for companies to pinpoint this.  But you can do do it.  Think, what would constitute the success of a social media or content initiative?  Some possibilities:

  • Increase in visitation to your site (which in turn could drive revenue, sales, units sold)
  • Increase in the number of shares
  • Increase in the number of comments
  • Increase in the number of entries into a contest
  • Decrease in the number of times a certain question is asked
  • Etc.

There are lots of possibilities here, but only you know what measures equal success for your company.  Make a list of these success factors.

Step 3 – Establish Goals for Your Participation

Using those success definitions, create goals for your organization.  They might be quantifiable, such as:

  • Increase traffic to site from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ by X%
  • Increase in online sales and purchases by $X
  • X number of shares of our Blog Post

Or they might be qualitative goals, such as:

  • Increase in awareness of a new service.
  • Change in perception for your product.
  • Begin conversation around your brand or your products.

Set those goals.  Write them down.  Communicate them to others who are part of these initiatives, and make sure they understand what their role is in helping the company reach them.

Step 4 – Adopt the Mindset of a Publisher.  

Mitch Joel and Adam Singer do a great job of describing what it means to have a publisher’s mindset.  Now that your company is actively participating in social media, you too are now a publisher of unique, useful content.

In order to meet the goals that you’ve set, you need to get into this mindset.  Publishing, on a regular basis, is the only way that you’ll have any chance of getting where you want to be with social media and content.

And what you share needs to be relevant and useful, not the social equivalent of you standing on a streetcorner with a megaphone hawking your wares.

So make your status updates interesting and engaging.  Blog on topics that will give readers something valuable to takeaway.  Make them feel more educated, involved, important, and interested in your company after each and every interaction.  Create an editorial calendar that organizes your post topics and content ideas.

Remember, you’re a publisher now, so start thinking like one.

Step 5 – Measure.  And Keep Measuring!

The only way to know if you’ve met the goals you’ve set is to track results.  Now that you know which metrics and KPIs relate to your goals, determine how you need to review those measures.  Should you look at results once a day or once a month?  What are the baseline numbers associated with all of your metrics?

It will require a few months of tracking to be able to see patterns in some of the results, but they will begin to emerge.  There are plenty of great tracking tools out there, and of course, Google Analytics is free.  Here at Digital Relativity we use Raven, which allows us to pipe in results from several different publishing platforms.

These simple steps will help you get started; once you begin to dig in, you’ll really create a unique framework that works for you.  There is no ‘one-and-only’ set of goals and measurements that works for everyone.

Have other goal-setting tips to share?  Tell us in the comments.