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Are You Tracking Your Social Media Performance?

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The term "social media" is a broad one that may refer to any number of internet applications that are used as tools for communication. So while you might instantly think of Facebook and Twitter when you hear the term, it could also be used in relation to your website or your onsite blog, depending on how you have set them up.

Anything that allows you to interface with the public (consumers, partners, vendors, etc.) and start a dialog in the online arena technically qualifies as social media. And anything that can be categorized under social media can also be viewed as a marketing tool for your business, which means that you should be tracking the effect it has on the community (and the subsequent results for your professional operation). The question for most business owners is how (and why) to track social media.

The how part is easy. There are all kinds of tools available to help you track your efforts in the online arena. Google Analytics, for example, is a wonderful and comprehensive program that comes with a slew of social media monitoring tools. It basically works to collect data from your website and/or blog pertaining to traffic, sales, and visitor trends. You will, of course, have to analyze this information on your own, but it could help you to determine the effect that various social media marketing efforts are having on your business. Whether you're using SEO practices to spread your brand, increase your web presence, and raise your page rank, or you have decided to create dozens of professional profiles on social networking sites as a way to expand your network and reach a new pool of prospective customers and colleagues, this program can help you to see the immediate and long term effects of your efforts.

And of course, there are all kinds of tools similar to Google Analytics that can provide you with more focused data (or alternately, a comprehensive setup that offers coverage and comparison of many social media outlets). The nice thing about Google Analytics is that it is free. Several other options, such as Lithium, Radian6, and Sysomos, are highly lauded and they will provide you with more information and help than you can handle. But they could also end up costing you several hundred to several thousand dollars each month. Some business owners will simply see this as the cost of doing business, and considering how useful these tools can be, they could be right. But for the small business owner that doesn't necessarily see the need for these pricey tools, taking the leap can be a bit tough.

You just have to understand that using social media is not as simple as signing up for an account and waiting for website traffic to increase. Just because you have a Facebook profile and you place "GetShared" buttons on every bit of content on your site doesn't mean that you will see an uptick in visitors. The truth is that you have to treat it like any form or real-world marketing by finding ways to target demographics, tailor your efforts to their wants and needs using the social media landscape, and track your efforts in order to determine what works. This will help you to be successful in your online endeavors and it could make a dramatic difference to your business overall.

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