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Setting The Goals For Social Media And Making Them SMART

In some cases, you might be consulting or advising a client and they’re having trouble determining what their goals are for social media.

When you know you’re going to have a goal-setting session or conversation with a client it’s a good idea to come with three goals in hand.

Basically, tell them what their goals should be.

You’ve done the research, you know the industry, you’ve done a competitive analysis, you understand what their social media needs are, so just go ahead and make recommendations on what you believe their goals should be based off their needs and your knowledge.

It’s like writing versus editing. Writing something from scratch starting with a blank document is hard. But for some reason, everyone is an editor.

If you give them something to work with, people always have edit suggestions and revisions for you.

So, make it easy for them, and for you frankly, and come to the table with goals in mind. That gives the clients something to work with or “edit” and you can have a much more productive conversation.

Again, you can always pivot or change them later. The idea is to not overthink this step or get stuck on goal setting, keeping you from moving on with the process.

After you’ve determined your goals – I think it’s ideal to have anywhere between three and five goals – you want to build on them.

A popular practice for goal setting is to make them SMART.

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham in 1981. This framework is widely used to create goals.

Here’s a quick summary in case you’re not familiar or need a recap.

  • Specific – It helps to be as specific as possible when defining a goal. Being specific about what you’re trying to achieve helps to keep it clearly in focus.
  • Measurable – If your goal is measurable you can track your progress. How else will you know whether you are on your way to achieving your objective?
  • Achievable – In Doran et al’s 1981 paper, A stood for Assignable. I like the old version because it requires you to specify the person or persons accountable for meeting the goal. But I suppose it makes little sense if the goal only applies to one person. The A has evolved into attainable or achievable. It’s good to have high aspirations but you want your goals to be reachable, especially if it has to do with your job performance. You want to make it challenging but not impossible.
  • Relevant – The R has also changed over the years. Originally, it was realistic, and it became relevant in later versions. You want the goals to be pertinent to the organization and aligned with its mission and values.
  • Time-bound – The T also had a face-lift over the years. Initially, it was time-related. You’re more apt to hear people use timely or time-bound these days. No matter which version you use, the concept is the same. You want to identify a timeframe for when the results can be achieved or give yourself a due date. When you hit your goals, you want to create new ones.

These are important characteristics for your goals to have, and you want your social media goals to be SMART. But it can be an intimidating place to start.

When you’re looking at a blank sheet and you’re trying to include all the SMART elements (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) to your goals, and your goals are qualitative or centered around messaging, it feels impossible to make them completely SMART.

I had trouble wrapping my brain around this for a long time until I reframed the practice. I propose you set your goals, like mentioned earlier, and build on them.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Let’s take a previous example, launching a selection of savory cupcakes. Then list some tactics you plan to employ to support the goal and how long you plan to continue the tactics.

Company goal = Launch a selection of savory cupcakes this calendar year.

Tactic #1 = Publish an Instagram story once a week about the new cupcakes.

Tactic #2 = Publish an Instagram Reel about the new cupcakes every two weeks.

Tactic #3 = Publish a TikTok about the new cupcakes once a week.

Length = Until the new cupcakes are launched.

Then write this into one complete thought from the perspective of the social media manager or team:

One of our main objectives is to support the launch of the cupcake store’s new savory line of cupcakes. Our goals are to publish an Instagram story and a TikTok once a week about the launch of the new cupcakes and post an Instagram Reel about the new cupcakes every two weeks.

Our plan is to continue at this pace until the launch date of x/x/xxxx at which time we will reassess our posting schedule regarding the new cupcakes.

When you approach your goals this way, you will notice you naturally end up with a SMART goal. Let’s break it down:

  • Specific – The objective is to support the launch of the new savory line of cupcakes. (This is much more specific than “Make the world a better place.”)
  • Measurable – You can track whether you’re publishing an Instagram story and a TikTok once a week and an Instagram Reel every two weeks.
  • Achievable – If you have the right resources to maintain this level of content creation, this is an achievable goal.
  • Relevant – The content is relevant to the company’s goal.
  • Time-bound – You stated that you will do this until the launch date, at which point you will reassess the schedule.

Let’s try it again with another previously mentioned example.

Let’s use one of the vague company goals, “We want to continue to be a leader in our field.”

After you’ve done your listening tour let’s say you’ve chosen to support this goal by promoting the company’s in-house daycare and pre-school services for employees’ children, provided at a low cost and with scholarships available for those in need.

Company goal = We want to continue to be a leader in our field.

Tactic #1 = Tweet once a week about the in-house day care and preschool.

Tactic #2 = Publish an Instagram Story every two weeks about the day care and pre-school.

Tactic #3 = Post in LinkedIn every two weeks about the childcare services.

Length = Until the end of the calendar year.

Then write it in one complete thought, which will serve as one of your goals:

One of our company’s goals is to maintain our reputation as being a leader in our field. We feel the in-house childcare service available to all employees demonstrates the company’s leadership in the industry. We will promote this fact on social media by tweeting about it once a week and posting an Instagram Story and on LinkedIn every two weeks until the end of the calendar year.

Now let’s break it down into the SMART elements:

  • Specific –While the overarching company goal is vague, you’ve identified a specific way to support the goal.
  • Measurable – You can track your posts to identify whether you’re hitting your goals of one tweet a week and an Instagram Story and LinkedIn post every two weeks.
  • Achievable – If you’re finding you don’t have enough content to maintain this pace, adjust the goal to make it achievable or add more resources. It’s okay to make adjustments as you go.
  • Relevant – The content supports the company’s goals and reinforces the stories you’re trying to tell.
  • Time-bound – You stated that you will continue this posting schedule until the end of the calendar year, at which point you will reassess the schedule and the goal.

Let’s do one more example so you’re confident in the process and feel you can repeat it yourself.

Company goal = Sell 10,000 units of product Beta in the first quarter of this year.

Tactic #1 = Publish an Instagram Reel once a week with a fan of the product talking about it, sharing their stories of how they discovered it and why they like it.

Tactic #2 = Share user generated content about product Beta on all platforms.

Tactic #3 = Work with micro-influencers on collaborations.

Rewrite these ideas in one complete thought:

The company is aiming to sell 10,000 units of product Beta in Q1. After doing some research, we discovered the product is starting to amass a small but loyal following. Our strategy to support this goal will be tofeature the fans in our content.

We’re going to publish an Instagram Reel with a fan once a week and share user generated content about the product on all of our active platforms. We’re also going to identify some micro-influencers who have given the product positive reviews, and recruit them for possible collaborations.

And now transform it into SMART elements:

  • Specific – Selling 10,000 units of a product is super specific.
  • Measurable – There are ways of tracking whether a purchase was made from a social media post or by using a promo code specific to a micro-influencer. You can also document whether you’re posting an Instagram Reel with a fan once and week and record how many pieces of user-generated content you’ve shared.
  • Achievable –Make sure you can maintain your tactics for the first quarter of the year.
  • Relevant –Fan stories and testimonies are relevant to the product and the goal.
  • Time-bound –The goal states the target dates of Q1.


3 G Doran. There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives, Management Review, 1981, 70, 35–36.

This extract is from Organic Social Media by Jenny Li Fowler ©2023 and is reproduced and adapted with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.

To purchase the book, SEJ readers get an exclusive 20% discount and complimentary shipping for all US and UK addresses. Use code: OSM20 here to redeem your offer.

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