Evaluating Social Media: Step 3. State your objectives

The communications environment is in constant flux, which means that many things might change on the way to your goal. A typical communications plan looks ahead 12-18 months, which is a much shorter time frame than the five or ten year goal.

However, a five or ten year goal informs your communications plan. The plan itself is more defined by your objectives. The authors of the guide see objectives as a series of benchmarks with a shorter time frame on the way to your goal, or as they write: “a few intermediate objectives that progressively lead to your goal.”

The objective should not focus on an output from your organization, such as establishing a Facebook presence or publish a video, but rather on an outcome from your audience (what does your audience do with your Facebook presence or that video?). In short, a consumer-focused objective: what result do you want to see from your audience?

That’s where the SMART objective comes in, an acronym for “specific, measurable, attainable, result-focused, and time-specific.” These elements are basically a requirement; you have to have an answer for all five when you frame your objective.

If we take our example of building a network of supporters, what would be an intermediate objective toward that goal? One example of a SMART objective could look like this: “By the end of year one, have established an online community of 25,000 active, engaging members.”

Establishing an engaged online community, certainly works as an intermediate step toward the goal of building a network of supporters.

But even this seemingly straightforward example has some issues: it does fulfill the attainable, result-focused, and time-specific requirements, but the specific and measurable requirements seem a little vague.

It seems specific, but what do we understand as “community”? I understand “community” not necessarily as a group in one fixed place, but rather a group of people that could be spread over several different online places, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

It seems measurable, as it includes a number. But “active” and “engaging” certainly need refined definitions. What exactly does active and engaging mean? It could possibly mean that a member has completed three pre-defined actions (download a podcast, watch a video, write a review, buy a ticket from the Web) within the given year.

Covering our marketing spectrum, with a sales or commerce inspired goal, a marketing focused objective could look like this: “By the end of year two, increase revenue from online referrals from Facebook and Twitter by $50,000.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at step four: identifying your audience.

(Source: Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide)