A well-thought-out social media strategy is one of the best tools you have for helping your brand rise above the fray.

In today’s crowded social media landscape, competition can be brutal. Everyone is not only fighting for engagement—they’re spending more to get it.

One method for building a successful social media strategy is to apply the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework: create a strategy that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Though “SMART” is typically applied to individual goals, it also functions as a guide for creating an overarching strategy that ties your social media efforts to your broader company goals.

We’ll show you how to use this framework to focus your strategy so you know where to concentrate your social efforts and spending.

In the process, you’ll read some SMART goal examples to help you define clear KPIs that showcase how social is helping your company grow.

Specify Your Target Audience

The first aspect of the SMART framework is to be specific. A specific social media strategy has to have a target audience in mind for every campaign, organic or paid. Knowing your audience will help you identify the best platforms for your content and determine where to concentrate resources.

Understanding your target audience’s interests and habits makes it easier to create content that resonates and encourages engagement. Targeting can also help you increase sales, such as when you create custom audiences on Facebook.

Facebook custom audience

Example custom audience creation from our Facebook Ad Custom Audiences guide

A good place to start thinking about these audiences is by creating a buyer persona to bring together everything there is to know about a target customer or follower. Personas help you define certain aspects of your audience’s personality and create content that resonates with them.

Your first buyer persona would represent a high-level audience. This is the general group of people you want to target with your social media strategy. You’ll likely include standard information like age, demographics, location, and platform.

Here’s a visual example:

Example buyer persona

Buyer persona example from Alexa

Next, you’ll want to narrow down your high-level audience into niche groups based on a specific goal or campaign. These are campaign-specific audiences.

For example, look at this buyer persona from Indie Game Girl:

Buyer persona example

The persona breaks down a very specific pain point—not being able to find a shoe in the right width—that the company can use to create a targeted ad campaign.

From there, use SMART goal examples to apply audience information to your social media strategy. Let’s say your goal is to get 1,000 new followers by the end of the month. In that case, you would look at your target audience and build content that kept them coming back and encouraged them to follow your page so they would see all of your posts.

Identify Measurable KPIs for Your Social Media Strategy

The next part of the SMART goal framework is making your social media strategy measurable by choosing key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are the key to tracking the ROI of your social media campaigns.

Broad goals are a necessary element of social media strategies, but they’re hard to measure. Hootsuite says that building brand awareness and managing brand reputation are the top social media goals for companies. But how do you know when you’re achieving those kinds of goals?

Choosing KPIs makes your strategy measurable, so you can see when you’re on or off track. A fully fleshed-out social media strategy should include KPIs and specific metrics for every goal or initiative you create. The types of KPIs you choose will depend on your overall goal. If you have a campaign focused on customer experience, then you would need customer experience KPIs.

You can even create KPIs that are more specific to your product. When YouTube wanted to increase customer engagement, it set a KPI of “time spent watching a video.” Because the company was tracking that metric, it knew (and could brag about) when customers hit the milestone of watching one billion hours of video every day.

So let’s say your goal is to increase brand awareness. Here are a few KPIs you might track:

  • Number of followers
  • Average number of impressions
  • Brand mentions

Use this Hootsuite resource to identify the metrics you want to track based on your social goals and campaigns. Just make sure you stay away from vanity metrics such as comments, retweets, and likes.

Set Achievable Goals to Maximize Impact

All good strategies start off with a specific goal in mind. Saying, “I want to be the most popular brand on Facebook in my market!” isn’t detailed enough for you to pursue. That’s why SMART goal examples are attainable. If a goal is completely out of reach, it’s not motivating, and it won’t help you achieve real progress.

Use current performance metrics to identify stretch goals that are still attainable. For example, rideshare service Ridester analyzed its current social and website traffic and used that information to set the goal of more than doubling the number of visitors per month. Once the company had a set goal, it could tailor its social media strategy to meet that goal (and it did!).

Of course, goals aren’t static. It’s important to constantly track how posts and campaigns are performing and to adjust your goals and strategy as necessary based on what you find. Your goal might be to double your click-through rate (CTR) in a month, but if you see your CTR is growing more slowly than you expected, you may need to adjust your timeline while you test what types of content lead to higher CTRs.

Facebook Ads metrics are incredibly useful for monitoring campaign progress, including data on impressions, reach, cost per result, and even custom metrics that you create.

Just remember that all goals you create must align with one another, and with your overall company objectives. If your objective is increasing brand awareness, then you might set goals to increase followers, impressions, and reach. These goals all connect to the overall objective, and they align with one another as a result. If there is a disconnect, it will be much more difficult to realize your larger strategy.

Do Relevant Market Research to Learn What Works

The “R” in the SMART framework stands for relevant. Designing a relevant social media strategy means using market research and competitor analyses to see what topics and content types resonate with your target audience and inspire the most engagement.

Start by looking at your top competitors, and break down the type of content they create on each platform. Make a note of how often they post, which platforms see the highest engagement, and what days and times your target audience is most active.

Here are a few questions to help frame your search:

  • What kinds of themes do my competitors focus on for each platform?
  • How often do they post?
  • Do they show a lot of personality? If yes, how do followers react?

These questions will help you see what types of content work with your target audience and what don’t, and they will help you identify any gaps your company can fill. You can supplement your competitor research with tools like BuzzSumo to get ideas for unique, engaging content that will appeal to your audience.

You’ll also want to figure out which platforms each of your competitors uses most often. Differentiate your content on these channels so you stand out and pull some of your competitor’s followers to your brand.

Platforms like SimilarWeb and Alexa provide helpful insights into this information.

Similarweb results for AdEspresso

Social platform results for AdEspresso from Similarweb

As you can see, most of AdEspresso’s social traffic comes from Facebook, but we’re also seeing people come to the site through YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Pocket.

Formulate a social media strategy that differentiates your brand but still focuses on the platforms where your competitors and customers are.

Assign Time Limits to Your KPIs

The final element of the SMART goal framework is to make sure your goal is time-bound. Creating time-limited KPIs helps you see whether you are achieving your goals as quickly as you expect or whether your social media strategy needs to be adjusted. Your social media strategy should include both short- and long-term goals, with KPIs to match. Then, you can use the time limits to track and measure how your content is performing.

For example, Eternal Works, a marketing and web design company, set a goal of increasing site traffic from 200 visits per month to 1,000. It assigned a four-month time limit for achieving their goal. The time frame motivated employees to redesign the website to reduce bounce rate and to create organic and paid social media campaigns to drive traffic.

The result? The company increased traffic to 1,900 visits per month within the four-month time limit.

You can also use time-limited KPIs and goals to see how well your social media strategy is helping your company achieve its broader goals. If your overall goal is to increase brand awareness, you can set time limits for KPIs related to number of followers and number of impressions.

Use the social media reports from Hootsuite to easily visualize progress across platforms and see where your strategy may need to be adjusted.

Hootsuite social media report

Hootsuite’s social media analytics template for tracking Facebook performance

Each spreadsheet lays out exactly what you need to track based on a specified date range. Use templates as a framework to track KPIs and goals as they change on a month-over-month basis.

This information will show you which campaigns are the most effective at driving likes, page views, and overall engagement with your brand on social media. Then, you can make tweaks to your social media strategy based on your results.

Connect Your Social Media Strategy to Broader Business Goals

The SMART framework can help you research and design your social media strategy, but, ultimately, your strategy requires an understanding of your business’s larger goals.

Whether you’re creating a post on Facebook, thinking about ad design on LinkedIn, or sending out your daily tweets, everything has to fit together to help your business thrive.

Using the SMART framework ensures that your strategy is built around goals you can track and measure regularly.

When you test, analyze, and reevaluate your social content on an ongoing basis, it helps you craft a social media strategy that grows alongside your company.

It’s your turn now! How do you go about building your social media strategy? Give us your tips and tricks in the comments below!