By Kerry Bridge, Social Media Manager, Global MB Dell Marketing

The number of businesses experimenting with and finding value in social media as a promotional and customer engagement tool is on the rise. Yet many questions still remain on how best to establish and maintain positive relationships beyond the initial outreach. In terms of time and money, sustaining long term social media activity can be a real challenge, especially for smaller businesses.

The best way to maintain and develop a company’s social media program is to measure what matters most to your business. If you are able to show figures which prove that social media is delivering on your business objectives, then it’s much easier to justify sustaining these efforts or to make further investments in areas that show promising results.

What is it about social media ROI (Return On Investment) that seems so elusive when there are simple ROI models to be found at the click of a mouse? According to a 2009 study, 84% of professionals from a variety of industries reported that they did not measure ROI. However, with so many tools available to monitor your social media outlets, it is both simple and rewarding to watch social media grow your business.

Before you set up a Twitter feed, Facebook page or any other social media outlet for your business, it is essential to define your strategy and what you’d like social media to help you achieve. It is not enough to simply set up your company’s social media channels, but to ensure you measure them so you can recognise any successes.

Social media can help you enhance relationships with your customers, in a variety of ways such as acquiring new customers, promoting special offers and events, generating interest in your products and commenting on industry trends to establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Dell, for example, has embraced and invested in its social media initiatives, developing a cross-platform community that includes multiple Twitter handles, a network of blogs and online communities, and various Facebook accounts that communicate with Dell’s different customer groups on customer support, industry insight, new offers or product updates.

Monitoring your social media outlets doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. There are numerous free online tools that can keep track of what is being said about your business. Seven free measurement tools are:

1. Twittercounter

This shows you how many Twitter followers you have and provides a graph of the growth of your followers over time. It highlights how fast your base is growing and informs you of your behaviour at the time of growth so that you can act in the same way to achieve further growth.

2. TweetReach

Allows you to search hashtags, URLs, Twitter names etc, and highlights tweets that match your search, demonstrating how much exposure and reach they achieved. The starter service provides an initial lead on the last 50 tweets for free.

3. Facebook Insights

This tool provides Facebook Page owners with metrics around their content. By understanding and analyzing trends within user growth and demographics, consumption of content, and creation of content, you will be better equipped to improve your business through Facebook. The data can be exported as an excel or word document and the metrics are updated on a daily basis.

4. bit.ly

This service not only shortens URLs but also provides real-time traffic and analytics data for all links created via bitly. Monitoring which links are popular with your followers allows you to tailor your posts to satisfy existing followers and attract new ones, growing your overall social media traffic.

4. The Archivists
The Archivist is a free desktop application that lets you run any Twitter search and create a self-updated permanent archive. The tool also provides an easy way to export the whole Archive to Excel, enabling you to store and analyse relevant data regarding your business.

5. Social Mention

This is a social media search and analysis tool that provides a single stream of real-time content to show what people are saying about your company, allowing you to access information across a range of social media channels, all in one place.

6. Klout/ Peer Index

These tools enable users to measure their online influence. Influence is measured by the way you share, create and recommend content as it engages your ‘audience’ and has an impact on your online communities. Calculating these scores can show you how much people in your online community rely on your recommendations and opinions.

Using tools such as these will help measure which activity is a smart investment in any company’s future and provide a way to continually improve both business and customer relations.

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