This post is by Andy Smith, co-author of “The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change.” Read more on his blog and Twitter.
The people and organizations who most effectively use social-networking tools have one thing in common: laser-like focus. A single, focused goal is critical to provide direction, motivation and operational guidance.
When creating a goal, consider these five design principles, which can be remembered by the mnemonic “HATCH.”
- Humanistic: Before you can involve your audience, you need to understand them and connect with them as individuals. Start by asking: What is she like? What keeps her up at night? What do I want her to do? How might she resist? A compelling example of humanistic design thinking is the Montana Meth project, whose marketing campaign significantly reduced meth use in the state. After heavily researching methamphetamine users, they discovered their key audience was teenagers, most of whom begin to form opinions about drugs at the age of 13. They targeted this group with a “not even once” campaign, with the messages mainly being delivered by peers. The project succeeded in its goal to “unsell” meth, illustrating the importance of focusing on the needs of your audience to create broad change.
- Actionable: Striking the right balance between visionary and realistic goals is key to maintaining focus. Break the goal into parts: a single, long-term macro goal and a number of short-term, process goals, or micro-goals. Pursuing actionable micro-goals reduces a complex problem into something that is manageable, and gives a clear sense of progress.
- Testable: Establish metrics and set specific deadlines. Research proves that people perform best when working toward a deadline. Having milestone points along the way enables tracking of progress, which increases the chance that you can overcome obstacles and allows for course correction. Achieving more, smaller successes (as opposed to fewer, larger successes) works as positive reinforcement and sustains momentum.
- Clarity: While a clear goal may have multiple dimensions, pursuing many goals is counterproductive, as it causes people to lose focus. Research has shown that, in many cases, the reason why people didn’t achieve their goals isn’t because they didn’t try hard enough or think strategically enough, but simply because they embarked on too many goals at once or set conflicting goals. In addition, highly specific goals promote better performance than general, do-your-best goals. They tend to result in greater satisfaction and ultimately, a stronger commitment.
- Happiness: The goal you choose needs to be personally meaningful. The sheer thought of achieving it should make you happy. Too often in business the stated goal is to increase sales or maximize profit, which may be clear but is hardly motivating. Companies that go beyond financials to create more meaningful goals are more likely to excite employees. Kaiser Health is about helping members thrive; Whole Foods wants to make healthy eating pleasurable. Finally, ask yourself if you have a compelling backstory. People are unlikely to act or help unless they know why you’re doing what you are doing.