Monday, August 20, 2012

Setting Goals for Social Media Marketing

As social media makes the transition from "new trend" to "integrated marketing channel" many companies still approach social marketing as something completely different from traditional marketing channels, such as direct mail or phone banking.

But in the end, social media isn't that different.

When your company puts together a direct mail campaign, you no doubt have goals in mind. You set up a structure to measure progress toward those goals, whether it's how many coupons are redeemed in your store or the change in sales comparable to the same time last year.

In social media, the measurement can be different, but for you to use this channel effectively, you still need to set goals.

What Do You Want To Have Happen?

When you start a social media campaign, start with this basic question. What do you want to have happen? Do you want to generate buzz around a new product? Do you want to increase sales? Or maybe you just want to increase positive sentiment for your brand. Think very hard about this, because while all of these things are sensible goals, it's important in your first campaign to focus on one area, as a baseline for future campaigns.

Lurk Before You Leap

I always tell my clients that they need to begin by knowing how to use social media. Well, just as companies spend time monitoring competitors' reported sales or market position, it's also important to see what they're doing on social media. This is crucial to helping you set goals for yourself. If you look at your biggest competitor and notice that what they are doing is one hard sell pitch after another, and you see very few shares of their content, that will give you an idea of their goal (just increase sales) and how you might fare with a similar goal.

Additionally, just as you learn about the market's wants and needs before you develop a new product, look at what your customers are doing and saying on social networks. If you see a lot of messages asking for help about a product, that might lead you to set a goal to answer X customer questions per day.

Research the content on social media and interactions stewarded by the most successful brands: think Apple, Starbucks, Gilt Group, and HubSpot. Ask your network what brands they follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. What are those successful brands doing on social media, and what goals are they accomplishing? Sometimes working backwards can give you new insights into your own goal setting.

Think About Goals in Relation to Measurement

Never set a goal that you can't quantify. "Increase Word of Mouth" is not a good goal unless you have a way to measure it, either by shares of content or the number of times your brand is mentioned on a network.

Also, think about your goals in terms of specificity: the more specific the goal, the easier to measure it. "Increase sales" is a good goal, and you can measure sales that way, but a better way to look at social media marketing is "Increase sales through Twitter links." Now you can directly track your goal through a single channel. What if you're selling a terrific new product that you're tweeting about and it's also mentioned on a regional news program. Measuring just the increase of sales won't tell you if it was social media clicks or the television exposure that really increased your sales.

Set Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Goals

I always tell my clients that the real power of social media is amplification, and the ability to track it. Using tracking tags, or third party tools, you can create a fingerprint for your message and watch it spread over the internet, and even across social networks.

When you set up a campaign, think about the short term and the long term. Maybe your long term goal is to overtake a competitor in market share, but your short term goal will be a stop along the way, such as increasing reviews by X% on sites like Yelp. By thinking about how short-term goals work to build a foundation for your marketing efforts, you can, over time, achieve a bigger goal like becoming the #1 company in your industry.

Use Old Goals to Help Set New Goals

I think of building a solid marketing campaign in the same way the Egyptians thought about building pyramids. You start with a foundation and build up. Each new layer is built on an old layer.

Look at your past traditional marketing campaigns. What were your goals for direct mail? For events and promotions? Did you achieve those goals? If not, why not? Are those goals something that could be achieved via social media? If you can't use the same goals, think about what goals you did achieve and how they could help you determine new goals for social media. If you have enough exposure for your brand, can you use social media to turn exposure into leads? If you have enough leads, can you use social media to turn leads into sales? Look at what you know you can do, and think up to the next layer.

The Takeaway

Goal setting is key to getting the most out of social media, and before you launch a large scale campaign, you should think about your goals first. Social media is a channel in flux, so start small, but keep track of your goals and achievements, so you can build on them in the future. Use what you know to go forward. Always ask these questions to help you really understand what you're doing, and what you expect to get out of it.