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Social Media Tips: 7 Questions for Setting Thoughtful Goals

Jennifer van Alstyne Featured Image

Some of you have thought about setting goals for your social media accounts. Others may never have considered it. Regardless of the size of your account, setting goals for your social media profiles is a good way for us to communicate better and be considerate of our audiences. I’m Jennifer van Alstyne (@HigherEdPR), and today I want to talk about how setting social media goals isn’t all about the numbers.

I talk with people about social media all the time. As a strategist, my goal is to help people find the best ways to communicate their work online. Goals-by-the-numbers comes up often. These are goals like:

  • “I want 10,000 followers on Instagram.”
  • “I want to double my audience.”
  • “I want X number of people to see this post.”

Those are specific goals, in that there is a number to achieve. But oftentimes when I ask why that number is important, people are stumped. They’re surprised more followers doesn’t automatically mean higher engagement, or more clicks.

Today I want to talk about 7 questions you can ask yourself to be mindful of your social media goals. These questions are designed to help you think about your audience, the content you want to share with them, and how you feel about social media.

  • Who is it most important for me to reach?
  • Why do I want to reach them?
  • How are you engaging with the people you want to connect with?
  • What do I want people to know about me?
  • What do I most want to communicate on social media?
  • When you post, how are people engaging?
  • How do you feel about the time and energy you put into social media?

Who is it most important for me to reach?

Sure, you may want 10,000 followers on Instagram, but you need an idea of who those people are. Remember that followers are real people (the ones you want to attract anyway). They want to read what you share, and engage with your posts.

Instead of a number of followers, deep dive into who you want to connect with on your social media channels. Who are they?

Why do I want to reach them?

Once you’ve thought about the people you want to attract, the people you want as long-term followers on social media, consider why you want to reach them.

Make it a full statement, like: “I want to reach more people like me, who research fandoms, because I want to better network with people in my field.”

Or, “I want to reach grad students and postdocs in STEM who are thinking about a career change, because they’re most likely to benefit from my coaching services.”

Why you want to reach your audience is just as important as figuring out who those people are. And, it prepares you to think about topics and content to create that will interest them.

How are you engaging with the people you want to connect with?

When you’ve figured out the people you want to reach and why, it’s a good idea to evaluate how you’re connecting with those audiences already.

And, while you may do things off social media to connect with people, this question refers to social media specifically.

What do you do on your social media channels now, to connect with the people you want to reach?

At this point, some people realize they’re not doing anything actively. When that’s the case, it makes that number-based goal, like 10k Instagram followers, kinda irrelevant.

Here are a few examples of what connecting with people on social media can look like

  • Creating content for those audiences
  • Engaging with content posted by people in those audiences in meaningful ways (beyond ‘liking’ their post)
  • Using hashtags relevant to the people you want to reach
  • Having conversations with people via direct messages (DMs)
  • Paid social media advertising to reach specific audiences

You don’t have to do all of these, of course. It is a good idea to ask yourself how you’re going about reaching the people you want to reach on a regular basis.

What do I want people to know about me?

How much information you share on social media is up to you. There isn’t a right or wrong way to be. Though research suggests that sharing things about your personal life and behind-the-scenes are types of content people enjoy engaging with.

Take some time to think about what you most want people to know about you. And, introduce yourself on social media in a post or video.

What do I most want to communicate on social media?

This is a question to ask yourself for each social media platform. Because it might be different. For instance, on my personal Facebook page, I tend to share things about my life and family. There’s not one thing I most want to communicate across all platforms, except that I’m me.

So what do you most want to communicate on your social media platforms?

Now that you know who you want to reach and why, thinking through what you want to share with them is a bit easier.

When you post, how are people engaging?

This is a benchmarking question. And it can be about the numbers if you want, and have access to analytics for your social media posts. It’s also something that can be evaluated by looking at your last post and seeing how people engaged with it.

If you got only likes, and no comments, you may want to try engaging your audience in more conversations.

What kind of comments are they? Can you tell people have read what you wrote? Or are the comments kind of generic?

If people are commenting often or sharing your posts, well that’s content people are wanting to see.

Go back through your last few posts, or the last month of posts. Just take a look and see how people are engaging overall.

If you see they’re not, you can look deeper into the analytics to see why

  • maybe only a few people saw the post because it was at the wrong time of day
  • maybe you included a link and the algorithms showed it to less people
  • maybe your graphic had too many words (those pesky algorithms at it again!)
  • Or, maybe you didn’t have the most relevant hashtags

There are so many reasons why your content might not be performing. While the numbers of likes, comments, and shares can give us a better understanding of what happened, it’s important we dive deeper into why.

How do you feel about the time and energy you put into social media?

The last question you should ask yourself is about self-care. Because if you’re hating social media right now, it’s time for a break. If you’re a business, that might mean hiring some help for your social channels. But for many of you stepping away for a few days or weeks can make a big difference. And your audience will understand, especially if you communicate with them.

So how do you feel about how much time you’re spending on social media right now?

If it’s too much, instead of creating new content this week, focus on how you can change or optimize that process. If it’s too little, pencil in some time and jot down some notes on how to spend it.

A round-up of the questions

Asking yourself these questions will help you focus your energy to communicate with your audiences effectively. I like to ask these questions myself 2-3 times per year.

This process has helped me understand what changes would be helpful to make, and why. I hope you find these questions helpful too.

Author Bio: Jennifer van Alstyne

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications strategist. As owner of The Academic Designer LLC, she consults with faculty, researchers, and organizations on how to share their work with the world online. Her blog, The Social Academic, shares advice articles and interviews on managing your online presence. Connect with Jennifer on social media @HigherEdPR on Twitter and Instagram.

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