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The other night, I had one of those classic nightmares that transported me back to the seventh grade. I was running for class president, and it was time to give my campaign speech to the entire grade. I’d prepared for days and had the entire speech written on little note cards. I stepped up to the microphone and gave the speech of my life! When the speech ended, I looked up expecting to hear roaring applause from my classmates. What I heard instead was…crickets. I forgot that the assembly was the day before. The bleachers were empty, and no one heard my Oscar caliber speech!

Suddenly, the nightmare morphed. I stepped up to the microphone again. This time, the bleachers were full of students all laughing hysterically. I didn’t understand what was so funny until I looked down and realized that I was in my underwear! Mortified, I stumbled through my speech, too humiliated to remember half the words. It didn’t matter, though, because my classmates were laughing too hard to hear me.

We’ve all had nightmares like this. I think it’s because we want to be heard and more importantly, we want people to respond positively to what we say. This applies to both our personal and professional lives. Sometimes when I use social media to promote my business, I wonder if I’m in the grown-up equivalent of that nightmare. Am I promoting my business perfectly, but no one hears me? If people are hearing me, are they excited about my product or do they even care at all?

In order to have any idea of whether your efforts in Internet-land are helping your business, you have to understand how to interpret the results of your social media marketing efforts. Here are three questions you should ask yourself when you’re evaluating your social media metrics:

listeningDoes anybody hear me?

In a cheerier version of that campaign speech dream, I’d be fully dressed and on time for the assembly. But unless my classmates actually attend the assembly, there’s no point to giving my speech. In a social media context, all those tweets and Instagram photos aren’t going to matter if no one is following you. The first social media metric you should evaluate is how many people you’re reaching.

On platforms like Twitter or Instagram, how many followers do you have? How many likes does your Facebook page have? If you have a blog, how many views do you get? Go down the line for every platform you’re on and see how many people you reach.

Once you’ve got a baseline number of followers for each platform, you should evaluate growth on a weekly or monthly basis. If you see a spike or a dip in growth, look into the reasons. Did you offer a giveaway? Did you forget to post for a few days? The more you know about how many people follow you and what gets them to your site, the better able you’ll be to increase your social media presence.

Now you know how many people are following you. Your next question is whether anybody is actually listening.

Does anybody care – or at least care in a good way?

Back to the seventh grade campaign speech. All the students are there, and I give my speech. My new concern is whether they’re tuning me out to chat with their friends or even worse, paying close attention so they can laugh at me later. For better or worse, the professional world is often a lot like seventh grade. Once you’ve evaluated the reach of your social media platform, you need to ask whether your followers are positively engaged.

On Twitter or Facebook, how many retweets or likes do you get per posting? How many comments are you getting? If you have a YouTube channel, are your followers sharing your videos with their friends? Or, even better, is your video going viral? If you search for your company’s name on Google, do you see a lot of websites mentioning your company?

Don’t forget to evaluate whether your engaged followers are cheering you or jeering at you. They say that all publicity is good publicity, but I think we all know that bad publicity can turn into an absolute disaster. The results of your social media efforts may backfire if people are mainly responding negatively. Be sure that you actually look at the comments your posts receive and references on other websites. Whether they’re negative or positive, ask yourself why that comment happened. If there are problems, the faster you’re aware of them, the faster you can fix them and prevent more fallout. If your followers are all thrilled with your business, you can work on doing the same thing more often and even better than before.

Hopefully, your followers are numerous, actively engaged, and uniformly happy with your services. Now the question becomes whether your social media efforts are actually getting results.

Using social media metrics to answer: Is anybody flocking to my business now?

crowdedStill in the seventh grade, the campaign speech is over and was received well in this version of the dream. It’s election day. Will my classmates remember my fabulous speech and vote me into office? Similarly, the point of social media engagement is to generate business for you (and hopefully have some fun along the way).

Are your sales increasing as you increase your social media presence? Does one platform generate more business than another? Are you getting new customers through social media? Are returning customers spending more than before?

Looking at the impact of social media on your business will help you tailor future efforts. If your sales increase the week after you post a promotion on Facebook, you can try offering more frequent promotions. If business increases on days where you tweet all the time but you don’t see a single sale after blogging every day for a week, maybe you should concentrate more on the social media platform that is getting results. Additionally, a quick and easy way to measure social media impact is to ask your customers where they follow you and what they like best about your online presence.

In a happy dream world, my great campaign speech gets my classmates to cast their votes for me in the election, and I win! Of course in the real world, elections usually aren’t won by a single speech. Neither do businesses grow by isolated, unexamined social media efforts.

With a thoughtful examination of your social media presence, you can find new customers, increase customer loyalty, and best of all increase sales. It can be a tricky thing to navigate social media and blogging alone. That’s why we recommend you don’t go it alone: have a team to make sure you avoid that seventh grade nightmare. We’d love to help make sure your social media efforts get dream results! Just give us a call.

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