Social Media Strategy: Goals

The first step of developing a social media strategy is defining the goals. This is part one of our series about our social media strategy framework.

This article is part of a series about our social media strategy framework.

Choosing a destination

Mike Arauz recently defined strategy as “the practice of figuring out the best way to get from here to there.” That idea is at the heart of this social media strategy framework. But before we can figure out the way, we actually have to define the “there.”1 It’s impossible to consult a route planner without being able to give a destination.

This actually explains a lot when looking at many social media efforts out there. The brand or company just got out the door and started moving without knowing where they were headed. They kept making decisions about the next step of the journey by looking at their immediate surroundings and choosing what seems right without thinking about where it will take them in the long-term.

Guess what? This is a completely reasonable approach. It’s basic exploring and being guided by serendipity. It can be a really great experience, especially in a new area that there is much more to learn about. It can be an appropriate strategic approach.
But if it remains the only approach of getting around and journeying in an area, it’s very exhausting and inefficient. We need to choose our destination, apply our gained knowledge and figure out the path we want to take to get there.
That’s the stage that most companies are right in now, when it comes to their social media strategy. They need to move from exploring the field to choosing concrete goals and then setting out to reach them.

How to choose the “there”

Choosing a destination always starts by taking a closer look at where we are right now and how we want to advance from this place. What positive effects are we seeing, and what challenges and problems are we facing right now? And how could social media help with them?

The goals a company chooses for its social media strategy are highly individual and dependent on that company’s unique situation. We can only make some recommendations based on our experiences with the clients we’ve worked with.

Goals should always be connected to the business side of things. That’s why we labeled this element of the framework ‘business objectives.’ That doesn’t mean that the social media strategy should have to ‘sell product’ right from the start. It nevertheless should be connected to that goal in the long-term. A strategy that doesn’t help the long-term growth of the business is a hobby. And we think it’s time that social media turns from a hobby into a viable part of the business strategy.

We’ve seen good results emerge from working with the management to understand the business challenges they are facing and then connecting the social media strategy to one or more of them. From establishing a new distribution channel to gaining more insight into target-group. From getting up to speed with digital communication to getting more customer involvement in product development. The possibilities are endless and social media can help with a lot of these.

A good set of goals comes down to these points:

  • A good mix between external (new distribution channel) and internal (rejuvenating the company) goals.
  • Goals should come from more than one department. If the strategy is only informed by the marketing or PR department, it will fall short.
  • The goals should be organized into short-term, middle-term and long-term to provide a good mix between actionable next steps, a plan and a vision.
  • Goals should be quantifiable and measurable to the extent that is possible. If no metric is available, a new one should be established.2 Fluffy goals sound nice in a powerpoint but won’t get the buy-in from the management and the employees. For us, a good measure of the quality of the goals is if we see the clients’ eyes light up when we explain the goals we’ve chosen. If they gain hope that social media will actually do something for them, they will get behind the effort.

When you have a clear set of goals that are a good mix and seem tough to reach but not too tough, you have defined a good “there”. Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there from here. It’s time to define a strategy.

The next article in this series is: Social Media Strategy: People.

  1. Companies that are not sure about their “here” have another kind of problem that we’re also very willing to help with. 

  2. We will talk in detail about measurement in the article about Analysis. 

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.