You have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a Google + account. You have 100 unique visitors per week, 200 Facebook likes, and 200 Twitter followers. Those numbers are social media analytics – measurements that help you understand your online exposure and what it means for your business.

Social media outlets really can be game changers for businesses because they let your customers tell you what they like about you, your products and your services directly.   All you have to do is measure the *right* activities, understand what they’re telling you and then take action to increase your sales.

The good news is that most of the tools you’re already using to create social media include social media analytics tools to track its effectiveness.   Here’s a quick overview of the basics and a few steps to get you started.

Step 1:  Learn which Social Media metrics really matter. 

Avinash Kaushik has a gift for thinking up numbers that really matter to web and social media marketers, so much so that Google hired him as their Digital Marketing Evangelist.  When it comes to Social Media, Kaushik will tell you that the big 4 numbers you want to know about are: Conversion Rate, Amplification Rate, Applause, and Economic Value. Do a little reading here, and then start setting up your accounts.

Step 2:  Understand your website and blog traffic with Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is the standard for measuring website traffic and performance, and it’s free.  Google Analytics lets you track how many times people view each of your pages or posts and most importantly, which lead to conversions – an online sale or an email submission to you.

Step 3:  Measure your customer base with Facebook Insights.

Facebook Insights helps businesses measure the buzz they create in their customer communities, the size of their customer base, and hopefully, link that buzz to advertising campaigns. If you have a Facebook page for your organization, you already have access to Facebook Insights if more than 30 people like your page.  It’s free.

Step 4:  Measure Twitter activity with Twitter Analytics or HootSuite.

Twitter’s analytics tools for now seem to be limited to paid Twitter promoters. “Twitter for Business” accounts let users track the impact of their promoted tweets and information about their follower base.   In 2011, Twitter announced development of a Twitter Analytics Tool for regular users, but as of yet, no general use tool has emerged.

In general, people use third party tools to track Twitter activity – like HootSuite.

Step 5:  Tie it all together.  

Once you’ve got the basics down,  you can start linking all your activity together.  With a little work, you can visualize how your blog posts and Tweets affect your Facebook fan base, and most importantly, how all of it affects your real world sales.  For Twitter users, HootSuite is a pretty popular tool for publishing tweets, then gauging impact.  You can tie in Facebook and Google Analtyics data for roughly $10 / month.  HubSpot is more expensive, but offers you the ability to create all your content in one place – and to import additional marketing-related information.

Rusty Frioux is managing principal of Data Clear, a Baton Rouge business analytics firm. He holds a M.S. in business analytics from Louisiana State University, a B.S. in psychology from Tulane University, and a Certified Business Intelligence Professional credential from the Data Warehouse Institute. Connect with him via Twitter or his blog.

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