Defining SMART goals

By: Magda Walczak

Do you have a goal you want to achieve? If it’s something like “Increase customer engagement” then you actually have no goal at all. It’s too generic. That is, if that’s a goal, when will you know that you have achieved it? Instead, set your goals using the SMART technique and you’ll know exactly when success happens.

SMART is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time framed. SMART goals are used often in coaching and performance management, but they work brilliantly in other areas that demand goals. The following is an example of setting a SMART goal for your brand’s social media activities.

Specific

To put it most simply, specific is the opposite of broad and general. Making a goal specific helps you to know when you’ve actually achieved the goal. For example, a general goal could be “Increase customer engagement.” What does customer engagement mean? How will you know if you’ve increased it? Make the goal more specific by changing it to something like “Increase our interactions with customers via Twitter, Facebook and the company blog by 100%.”

Measurable

Making a goal measurable is to clearly quantify the goal. Let’s take our goal so far “Increase our interactions with customers via Twitter, Facebook and the company blog by 100%.” A way to improve this goal to make it more measurable would be to further define what 100% means. For example, “Increase our interactions with customers via Twitter from 10 to 20 per day, via Facebook from 15 to 30 per day and the company blog from 2 to 4 per day.”

Achievable

Can you actually achieve the goal?┬áIs it possible for you to increase your interactions with customers as much as we specified? Is there someone who can have those extra interactions? Are you currently replying to all comments? If so, then increasing the number of replies would mean you’d need more comments, right? Where will you get those comments from? If you don’t know, then perhaps the goal is not achievable and should be revised further. Let’s say that we’re already getting to all Facebook comments and let’s change our goal a bit to reflect it “Increase our interactions with customers via Twitter from 10 to 20 per day and via the company blog from 2 to 4 per day while continuing to answer every comment on Facebook on a daily basis.”

Relevant

Is the goal relevant? Does your company need you to increase the interactions with customers? The best way to check relevancy of the goal is to think about the reason why you’ve established the goal in the first place. If the goal relates to the reason, then you’re in good shape.

Time framed

When would you like to achieve this goal by? For now, we know it’s some time in the future but when exactly? Not three weeks or three months from now, but rather by what specific date would you like to achieve it? Let’s revise our goal a bit to illustrate this: “By September 1st, 2010, increase our interactions with customers via Twitter from 10 to 20 per day and via the company blog from 2 to 4 per day while continuing to answer every comment on Facebook on a daily basis.”

Tips for writing SMART goals

  • Make them as specific as necessary. Technically, our goal is now SMART, but we could still make it better. For example, what is an “interaction”? Is it merely replying or is there more to it, which should be included in the goal? Also, should we address other social media not listed specifically in the goal? It’s up to you. Now that you know what a SMART goal is, you can decide for yourself :).
  • What happens when your goal is something that sounds very qualitative, like “Increase quality of responses,” how can you make that measurable? This is where the 1-10 scale comes in very handy. When talking about quality of responses, on a scale of 1-10, what quality do you think the responses are now? Where do you want to get them to? What does a quality 10 response look like? You could change the goal in this example to something like “By August 15, 2010, increase the quality of responses in social media from 4 to 8.” If you like you could then write a second sentence which explains what an 8 actually means (“We’ll know we’re at an 8 if…” or “An 8 means that each response is longer than X…”)
  • What happens when your goal becomes a big long and begins to look like a few separate goals stuck together? At that point, you can establish an umbrella goal which is further made up of individual SMART goals (ie, umbrella goal to increase interactions and individual SMART goals for each social network).

I hope that this post is helpful in making SMART goals in your organization or even in your personal life. Good luck with all your goals!

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Always hungry. Nuts for dogs. Love to travel. I write about marketing, food, web, travel and whatever else strikes my fancy.