Twitter goals and corrupting targets

Twitter goals and corrupting targets

I happened upon a question yesterday night in some tweets by Clare Haynes about whether people have ‘Twitter goals’. I said that I did and that I’d be happy to share – so here we go.

When I started working as an independent I realised that I had a wealth of options open to me as to how I operated and what I tried to achieve.

I could target a certain revenue amount or I could target a certain volume of days etc. If I wasn’t going to advertise then I was probably going to be on social media and if I was on social media I should probably have some quantifiable targets on what that time gave me.

Whilst that may seem like it would have been a smart thing to do I am more aware than most of the corrupting nature of targets, as I worked for the first company the regulators really cracked down on post recession. Targets, particularly ‘stretch targets’ create a tension and fog that changes behaviour and clarity of perception – rarely for the better.

I wanted to work in a different way – the ambition I set myself was to do cool work with cool people that makes a difference. I’m not a salesperson and I can’t do biz dev, so I figured I’d be myself and see what happened.

So instead of stretch targets I set myself ‘worthwhileness measures’ for the business. Numbers/soft measures that I should be able to comfortably hit if I was doing things the right way. And if I didn’t hit them then the activity was probably not worthwhile and I’d stop it or at least have a think about it. I then set myself some ‘audacious goals’ – things I’d be delighted to hit but had no expectation to. I’ve listed them below with the thought process behind them. I hope it’s useful .

Twitter followers – when I first started on Twitter (just over a year ago) I spent quite a bit of time looking at the stats of people I respected and the stats of people that used it in a way that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with. I remember reading a great piece from Mervyn Dinnen where he had analysed the engagement levels of folks with high numbers of followers and some of them may as well have been robots. I wouldn’t make a good robot. Most of the folk that I enjoyed engaging with and learning from had more than 700 followers. As it would only be worthwhile to be on Twitter if other people found me worthwhile I set a target of ‘approaching 700 followers by the end of the first year and 900 by year two’.

I also had some guiding rules that went with the worthwhileness target to keep me honest

  • I’d only follow people who I was interested in
  • I’d only follow back if we had something in common
  • No automation

Blogging stats – I had absolutely no idea what good blogging stats would look like. Sukh and Alistair were kind enough to share some of their numbers to give me context. I wanted to share stuff I was thinking about and not have to chase numbers – but if nobody is reading it then I wasn’t sure what the point was. On the other hand I had no desire to pump out work just because I thought it would land well. I settled on 8000 hits in the first year and 10,000 in the second year. I went for 8000 as it gives a target of 667 hits a month which is a silly number for a target and stops me getting hung up on whether I’m tracking to target each month – as working out percentages of 667 mentally is quite tricky. 10,000 would have felt too obvious and too ‘targety’. I then set myself some guiding rules that went with it, some of them deliberately contrary to the advice you get in the ‘how to write a popular blog’ guides.

  • Write when I feel like it – never write to a schdeule
  • Write about what I feel like – never write about a topic because it will be popular. I have had the odd popular one, but please trust me when I say there are several that sank for every one of those

Sexy blog reaction

  • Splurt the words out without reference to SEO etc
  • Stop it if it stops being fun
  • One person saying ‘that really helped’ justifies writing a post.

I did break my rules for one post just to see what happened, because I like experimenting. If you really want to read about ‘FlappyBird and business’ then feel free.

AND THEN MY AUDACIOUS GOALS – no specific time period, would just be cool

  • Visit Facebook, Google and Innocent
  • Become a published author
  • Keynote a conference
  • Get interviewed on TV (or by mainstream press) as an expert so my family can watch and understand what I do for a living…
  • Get published in a variant of HBR
  • Get a chance to talk to Dan Ariely, Steve Levitt, Malcolm Gladwell and Charles Handy
  • Trend on Twitter

I know some of these may seem like vanity metrics, but they are also reasonable measures of professional recognition and progress. And since they aren’t ‘in plan’ I can just take the opportunities if they come up. No pressure means no change in behaviour. I can just have fun.

Am I advocating this approach for everyone?

No – I’m genuinely just sharing because someone asked and I offered. For the moment I’m experimenting and it is working for me. I’d encourage you to experiment too – but the approach may not work for people with a greater ambition or need for control. I have huge respect for the folk that do genuine thoughtful business development, I just don’t have it in me.

My lack of business orientated targeting may, over time, come to be the reason I fail. It may be naive. For the moment? It feels worthwhile.

Would I try it in an actual company? These days, I might…

Because after all, this is what I’m in it for…