Goal Setting: Is Your Engagement Strategy Ready For A New Year?

boy kicking LEADING THOUGHTS In a recent post, we explored a parallel between social media and a giant cocktail party. To make that post more actionable for you, our readers, I want to expand a bit on goal setting in your overall engagement strategy, with a special emphasis on social media. Listening and engagement are a great first step, but you need to do it with an end goal in mind. Daily observations and questions I receive make me think that this is where most fall down. Having an end goal will help drive many decisions you face when creating an engagement plan, such as:

  1. Should we have a blog? What should it be about? Who should contribute to it?
  2. What should our Twitter handle be? Should we have one handle for our company, or should corporate branding and support get their own handles?
  3. Which conversations should we listen to? In which channels?
  4. Whom do we want to meet? What are we going to talk to them about?

Let’s take a quick look at 4 large goal buckets as examples. Many goals that you will build for yourself will end up being part of these big buckets. But let’s do this: let’s break these goals into several posts over the next two weeks. I want to go into detail on each one, and I don’t want to bore you with an incredibly long post. At the end, you should have a nice checklist and (hopefully) inspiration to build your own plan for 2011.

GOAL #1: RAISE AWARENESS

Whether you are a nascent company launching a new product, a mature company launching a new product, or a mature company with a mature product — you need to become and stay top of mind in the eyes of your constituents. Who are your constituents? Because the social conversation spans beyond the one-to-one conversation between the company and the consumer, to the many-to-many reality, digital influence and can have a circuitous path to the action it inspires. It’s thus important to engage with all of these groups: end users, bloggers, influencers, and potential partners. Some key ways to raise awareness are:

  • Become a goal-directed content provider. If you are blogging for business, make sure you aren’t just blogging about whatever comes to mind. While spontaneous creativity is key, you need to have at least a rough idea of general topic “buckets” from which you should be drawing. For example, when I first started working at Nimble, I created a list of larger topics I wanted to hit, and consult it often to make sure my posts relate back to this list and present a cogent body of work that can 1) act as a resource for readers and 2) clearly demonstrate our team’s competencies.
  • Engage in goal-directed conversations. Targeting is alive and well, although it’s taking on a new life form. Don’t try to boil the ocean and talk to everyone on Twitter. You won’t be able to, and you will end up disappointed and frustrated if you try. First, figure out who your target market is: who will end up buying your product? Where are these people? If they are on Twitter, go there. Is there an industry chat? Join! Provide your expertise. Is there a conversation? Join! Read here for more tips on how to engage tactfully.
  • Engage “influencers”. You’ve successfully identified your end user. Next question: whom are they listening to for advice? Go and meet those people. You can call them influencers, you can call them whatever you want, but you do need to know who they are, where they are, what they value, and what they talk about. Word of advice: never pitch a blogger without reading their blog first, as well as you wouldn’t pitch a reporter without reading their work.

Measuring success:

How do you measure success? Surely, anything worth doing is worth measuring, and awareness is no exception. You may need to adjust your expectations though, as this is quite different from what we are used to, especially in traditional marketing metrics. Try to focus as much on quality of conversation, its resonance and engagement, as much as you focus on  volume.

Step 1: Track the volume of mentions across each relevant channel. Plot a time series if you can. (Read here for more tips for benchmarking and measurement).

Step 2: Track where chatter originated. Understand what content is driving the conversations and who is creating that content. Understand how many unique pieces of content are responsible for all the mentions — did 1,000 end users tweet about their experience with you, or did a blogpost inspire a flurry of tweets? How many pieces of content drove conversation, and which were the most successful at starting conversations? (Hint: do more of that). Or is there a handful of brand advocates driving conversations on your behalf? (Hint: get more of those).

Step 3: Develop steps to empower the right people to talk about you.  Reach out to those whose voices can be instrumental in educating the community about your product or service. As always, avoid a “pitch” and aim for a “conversation”. If one blogger wrote about you, inspiring 500 social media mentions, your goal should become getting another 5 bloggers on board. Are your brand advocates living and breathing your product? Make sure that light doesn’t burn out — thank your advocates and empower them to keep telling your story. Have many users but not many advocates? Figure out how to empower them to advocate on your behalf through a combination of excellent service, an amazing brand experience and giving them the tools to tell your story.

Step 4: Tie it all back to business goals. Whether your goal is to increase end-user trials and sales (for paid products), increase signups (for free products), increase engagement (for all products) — you need to track the effect of all this awareness on your end goal. If people are sufficiently aware but not acting on it, that should set of an alarm to re-examine how well your website converts, how easy the signup process is, and if you are solving problems that enough people have.

In our upcoming posts, we’ll examine the following goals: increase customer satisfaction, increase revenue and increase profit. All of them feed into each other, but need to be examined separately as well.

Photo credit: ouyea

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