Want to know the secret to making your social media strategy solid? Shhhh. Success criteria.
I hear a lot about social media goals and strategies, but surprisingly little about success criteria. Yet, success criteria are the lynchpin of any social media strategy, because if they’re used properly, they can help ensure the plan is solid and effective.
What are Success Criteria?
Hailing from the world of project management, success criteria are also called acceptance criteria. In Project Management, they define the requirements that must be met for the project to be a considered a success or the deliverables to be accepted by the project’s client.
I use success criteria as part of my social media strategies, redefining it as “the requirements that must be met in order to consider a social media goal as having been achieved.”
You’ve heard it before: social media strategy starts with clear business goals. Once you have the goals, though, you should be able to define success criteria for each one. To do that, the goals have to be specific, concise, and action-oriented.
Social Media Success Criteria are Measurable
Each success criterion must include a timeframe within which it should be achieved. The criterion describe the specific data that will be measured and the values that must be achieved in order for the goal to be met. Examples of success criteria include:
- Six months post-launch of the social strategy, 10% of our new registrations can be traced back to the social channels we are working in.
- One year after launch, partners are posting an average of twelve articles a month on the wiki.
Success Criteria Point Out Flaws in Your Social Media Goals
One of the first benefits of creating success criteria is that they help you to clarify and define your goals. If you can’t list success criteria for your goals, then you probably haven’t defined them properly. If your list of success criteria is too long (say more than six criterion) or you can’t come up with anything specific and measurable, it’s probably a problem with your goals.
If you can’t come up with specific, measurable criteria, your goal may not be actionable or result-oriented. If you have too many criterion, it probably means that your goal isn’t granular enough.
Each social media goal needs to be specific and relatively narrow. Try rewording the goal to start with a verb. For example, a goal such as Increase customer loyalty may be too vague. Try Increase customer resales or Maintain ongoing contact with previous customers.
Success Criteria Help Ensure Your Goals are Achievable
Sometimes the problem is that the social media goals you’ve defined aren’t really achievable. This will become apparent quickly when you try to create success criteria. If none of the numbers look doable, you’ve probably set the bar too high. Being able to specify criteria you think are achievable is a good indication you’ve set realistic goals.
Success Criteria Help Align the Various Stakeholders
One of the reasons success criteria came to be used in project management is that agreeing on success criteria helps align the various parties in a project and illuminate differences of opinion. With so many companies jumping on the social media bandwagon because “everyone’s using social media,” success criteria can ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons. By getting everyone to sign off, you can feel more confident that you won’t get blindsided later and that you’ve taken into account everyone’s opinion and goals.
Success Criteria Help Focus Your Strategy
Defining a goal doesn’t tell you how to reach that goal. Neither does defining success criteria. But defining success criteria can help you clarify your strategy. When you create success criteria, you take your evaluation one level deeper. Let’s say you’re thinking you’ll drive traffic to your website to get more registrations. You start by creating a succint, business goal: Increase new registrations. You begin by asking yourself how you’ll know when that specific goal has been achieved, and come up with a list:
- Website registrations will increase by 20% by one year post-launch.
- Customer registrations over the phone will increase by 10% by one-year post-launch.
As you worked to define criteria, you realized that new registration could come through the phone, as well as the website. Because you created a success criterion for phone registrations, when you go to define the details of your strategy, you’ll remember to plan for driving phone registrations as well as online ones.
Moreover, when you begin creating the tactical plan, looking at your success criteria can trigger details. Look at each criterion and ask yourself, what has to happen to lead to this success criterion. If online registrations are going to increase, does awareness of our product have to increase first? Does the registration have to be easier or happen where the customer lives, instead of on the website? Can we get to 20% only if existing customers spread the word more effectively, or can we get there by spreading the word ourselves?
If you keep coming back to your success criteria, you’ll find your goals, your strategy, and your detailed plan are all stronger as a result.
Next week: the power of success criteria for ROI and social measurement
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