Social media has made interacting with your customers easier than ever.
In fact, the importance of reaching audiences online has increased exponentially since the days when Facebook was for kids and Twitter was something only birds did. In the next three years alone spending on social media marketing will skyrocket in the B2B space from $11 million in 2009 to $54 million by 2014, according to a Forrester Research study.
That means even more business owners will seek out consumers online to not only listen to what they are saying, but to identify and address their needs. And fostering client relationships through social media is expect to be a key ingredient in retaining clients.
However, with the velocity at which social networking is growing it can become an overwhelming task to both market your brand and run a business at the same time. After all, it’s not just Facebook and Twitter you’ll need to manage; dozens of other sites such as LinkedIn, Foursquare and Yelp among many others are often used to find and review businesses.
Luckily, the increase in networking applications has inspired a wave of social management tools to help keep your efforts efficient and organized. And, best of all – most of them offer services for free.
Determining which is right for you depend on your social media goals. With that in mind, below are several platforms to help you get started.
As its name suggest, TwitterCounter monitors Twitter activity. It tracks the increase (or decline) in follower growth, the number of tweets about your business and can also help users identify how your messages are impacting followers.
One of the application’s best features is its prediction tool, which estimates how many users you are likely to gain within a specific time frame. It also calculates how long it may take to break certain milestones – such as achieving 10,000 followers. This information can help businesses coordinate the launch of new products or promote contests.
The Facebook Insights dashboard is designed to provide page owners with relevant metrics to determine how their content is being received by their visitors. The program tracks “Likes,” number of active users, post views and feedback. Insights also shows how often users frequent a Facebook page.
Obviously tracking metrics is important to help determine how successful your social media efforts are. And as Facebook continues to be a standard barrier for the space, so too are tools like Facebook Insights.
Crowdbooster is a tool that enables integrated social management and free analytics for Facebook and Twitter.
The application measures fan growth, the number of impressions your posts and tweets receive, and identifies top fans and followers. These key influencers are important to identify if you plan to engage your audience in any meaningful way.
Another popular feature of this site is the tweet scheduler which allows users to schedule status updates and tweets for publishing at a time and date of their choice; it’s a way to keep your marketing campaign running when you’re unavailable.
Postling is designed to provide that all important online reputation management. How it works: if a customer writes a negative review of your business on say Twitter, ¬and it links to popular sites such as LinkedIn and Yelp, you can respond through this service and address both mentions. The site also offers free keyword tracking so companies can monitor what is being said of their products, services, or competitors.
Hootsuite application, supported by the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, lets users manage five social profiles and integrate two RSS feeds through their free service. Follow your social accounts and keep informed on your favorite blog and news sites all from the convenience of your phone. It also enables photo sharing, analytic tracking, and tweet/status scheduling.
Although these sites provide an easy way for users to connect all their social networks into one manageable account, being everywhere isn’t always the best policy. Being on every social network can turn your social marketing management into a major chore. Know your demographics and what platforms they use for social media. This will allow you to effectively communicate with your audiences. After all, social marketing is about effectively building and maintaining relationships, not trying to be everywhere all the time.
About the guest author: Elizabeth Demcsak is a marketing specialist with Blue Fountain Media, a web design firm in New York City. You can learn how to grow your business online by finding helpful articles on http://www.bluefountainmedia.com/blog/
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