Data-Driven Social Media Strategy (Part 1): Goal-Setting

Friends, it’s been a month since I proclaimed that a social media strategy should follow a five-step process. I arrived at my conclusion by weighing the strategy in place at my own university, and acknowledging that we should be basing our plans and decisions on data–on analysis. I found myself the keeper of “new media” long after the university had endeavored into Facebook or Twitter. And so instead of attempting to measure the success of a strategy that wasn’t built from the ground up, I decided to take us back to the beginning. To follow my own advice.

You may recall that I promised to share my progress. This post is the first in what will be a series about moving through the stages in creating a social media strategy. To recap, the five steps or stages I will follow include: Goal-setting, choosing social media channels, content and messaging, evaluation, and adaptation.

So let’s get to it.


First things first: I scheduled a meeting. I may have been deemed the university’s social media person, but I am most certainly not the only person supporting our efforts. Our social networks all have multiple administrators to help monitor and participate in conversation. Content is gathered by nearly everyone on our team. I wanted to be sure to set thoughtful goals that made sense to everyone. With our director, assistant director, creative manager, and brand analyst, I spelled out my plan for building our social media strategy.

Below is an excerpt from the meeting recap I wrote for the University Relations blog.

As we convened for our official Social Media Goal-Setting Meeting in University Relations last week, I explained my past dilemma to my colleagues. I’d been producing monthly social media reports for nearly two years, all the while struggling to answer the question, “So what?” Because we didn’t begin our social media journey with measurable goals in mind, I had no way to know when we were successful or failing.

And so it began–the examination of what we’d really like the online social spaces for the University of Michigan-Flint to be and do.

We’ve long looked at our social networks as a place to share brand-related content and influence the perception of our brand. But we decided there’s more. We want UM-Flint’s social networks to be online communities, where not only the content–but the experience itself–reinforces our brand.

At the University of Michigan-Flint, everyone matters.

This conversation translated into two strategic and measurable goals: 1.) Grow the university’s online communities within in-use and new networks; and 2.) increase engagement/participation within communities.


These two goals emerged from a great conversation that included a lot more than just goal-related brainstorming. Much of our “goal talk” had more to do with things we’d like to do in order to reach our goals.

The image on the right is an actual snapshot of the white board in our conference room. You’ll see there’s more than just measurable goals listed there. Notes like, “Increase video production,” for example, shouldn’t be considered a strategic goal–but a tactic for reaching one of our strategic goals.

As you consider your own strategic goals, consistently ask yourself, “How will we measure this? When will we know we’ve been successful?”

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