The thing that separates a good goal from a bad goal is this: a good goal is something that you can take meaningful action to accomplish, and a bad goal is something that you have little influence over.  One of my jobs is helping organizations develop social media strategies, and one of the biggest problems I see is that people set goals like the following, “I want to have 10,000 followers in six months,” or “I want to have 30,000 blog subscribers in a year.”  The problem I have with goals like that is not that they are too ambitious.  Ambition is GREAT.  The problem is that those goals can only be advanced by tactics, and you need to implement the same or similar tactics whether you want 10,000 subscribers, 20,000 subscribers, or a million subscribers.  In other words, those goals may be measurable, but they are not actionable.

For an example from my own social media strategy, my initial goal with my Twitter feed was simply to create an online place where people could get all the most important news and analysis about online communications, fundraising, education, and entrepreneurship.  I wanted my Twitter feed to be a type of “resume” that would communicate to my clients and investors that I was immersed in the details of my company.  That’s something that I have complete control over.  And once I was satisfied that I had accomplished it, I was able to think about adding other goals, such as creating a new pipeline for speaking engagements.

To borrow a phrase from my hero Avinash Kaushik, after you set any goal you should ask yourself: “So what?”  If there isn’t an obvious answer to that question, you should find new goals.  Your goals shouldn’t just be things that you hope will happen somehow someday, they should be like those little flags that tell the slalom skiers where to go if they want to win the gold medal in Toronto.

Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web 2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Read more about Will Marlow here, or email him at