Setting social media goals that are the right balance of realistic and challenging is incredibly difficult.

For those of you just starting out on social media, or those who haven’t been tracking your previous social media results very diligently, it can feel especially confusing.

Establishing new goals might seem like a daunting task, but in reality, it’s very manageable, especially for small businesses.

But as with all business strategies, you want to have a solid understanding of how your actions will help you achieve larger business goals.

Small businesses often don’t have the luxury to try new things on a whim. You have to be acutely aware of the risks associated with every strategy executed — especially ones that require a considerable time or money investment.

Here are 3 questions you need to ask when creating social media goals:

1. What is the purpose of using social media for your business?

To figure out what your return on investment will be for social media, start by breaking down the benefits you would like social media to bring to your business.

Let’s start at the beginning: why did your business/does your business want to use social media?

You reasons could include:

  • I was told my business should be on social media.
  • I want to go viral.
  • I want to connect with my customers online.
  • I want to uncover potential new customers online.
  • I want a cheap way to talk to customers.
  • I want more people to know about my business.

Each one of these reasons has drawn small businesses to use social media, but none explain exactly what your purpose is on social media.

To figure out your purpose, take the initial reason for why you turned to social media and flip it into a mission that will help you build actionable goals.

Here are some examples:

  • Actively compete with your competitors by being accessible to current and potential customers on social media platforms.
  • Create meaningful content that promotes your business in an engaging way advertising can’t.
  • Provide a comfortable space where customers can openly provide feedback and know you will respond.
  • Discover new customers by being present on the platform which they search for businesses like yours.
  • Create an online community for your customers within a reasonable cost.
  • Create content that engages current customers and will attract prospective customers, either through organic or advertising methods.

Each of these goals are based on your initial reason for joining social media, but expand your reasoning into something more actionable.

Next, we need to take these broad goals and break them down into more concrete steps.

2. What steps do you need to take to reach your goals?

Once you have solidified your overarching goals, you need to identify the specific steps to take to reach these goals.

Let’s look at the second example: “Create meaningful content that promotes your business in an engaging way advertising can’t.”

Here are some of things you can do to make these goals possible:

  • Understand what content drives the most social shares.
    • Research general best practices for specific social networks.
    • Look at what works best for competitors.
    • Identify some things have worked well for you in the past.
  • Try sharing a variety of content.
    • Go beyond plain texts posts and include images and links.
    • Try adding videos to your strategy.
  • Understand who you most loyal social followers are.
    • Invite these people to give you feedback on your content.
    • Consider creating a brand ambassador program to inspire them to share your posts.

These three goals will get you closer to your mission of creating higher quality content for your followers so they can share and promote your business.

You can create a similar series of steps for other goals. Start by conducting some background research, check in with your own results, and reach out to your audience for feedback.

3. What is your timeline?

Now that you have your overall mission, and actionable steps to achieve your goals, you need to set a timetable.

For example, for the step “Understand what content drives the most social shares,” your timeline might look something like this:

  • By the end of Q1, create a baseline for how many shares you get every month.
  • In Q2, increase your social shares by 20 percent.
  • In Q3, increase shares by 20 percent.
  • In Q4, increase shares by 10 percent.

You can create a social media posting schedule and add these goals to the calendar to keep on track.

Stick with it!

The most important part of any social media strategy goal is to keep your overall mission in mind, even when you are caught up in the day-to-day action items. By focusing on your mission, you are able to see what the real impact of your goals is.

As a small business owner you don’t have a lot of time to design a complicated social media strategy — your best bet is to keep it simple with actionable and achievable goals.

Follow this easy plan and I am confident that social media will show results for your business.

Looking for more social media advice? Visit the Constant Contact Social Media Quickstarter for tips and advice on more social networks.