Social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy for people to come together and share opinions, experiences and thoughts on a number of topics. Smart companies understand this and are using the power of social media to connect and inform their customers, and prospects. Referred to as “Social Media Marketing“, it’s a smart way to open the lines of communication between you and your customers/prospects.

Social media activities run the gamut from Blogging, micro blogging sites such as Twitter, social networking communities such as LinkedIn and Facebook, video and music uploading sites, discussion forums, photo sharing and more. With so many different sites and ways to participate, it can be difficult to keep track of all your efforts.

Participating in social media doesn’t take a lot of money, but it is very time consuming and businesses want to know that all of this investment in time is paying off. Before launching a campaign, you should have a firm grasp on what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Is it increasing website traffic? Getting more ezine subscribers? Having more people download your free ebook or whitepaper? Or maybe you just want to work on your company’s brand image. Whatever it is, you need to have a plan. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there”. Have your game plan intact before getting started in marketing yourself, or your company with social media.

There are many different forms of social media, so it’s impossible to use them all. Pick three or four, and funnel the majority of your efforts there. Even if you won’t be working them all, at the very least you should claim your name or company name on as many social services as possible. You don’t want to find out later that someone has the user name that you want. If you need to see if your chosen user name is available try Namechk.com which checks dozens of social media networking and bookmarking sites all at once to see if it’s available. Claim your name now so you won’t end up being sorry later.

How do you monitor all the buzz?

How do you monitor your brand and protect your hard earned reputation? I thought you’d never ask. There isn’t one fool-proof method but there are many services and tools out there that will make it easy to see who’s talking about you online. Some are free and others will make you pull out your wallet.

These “online reputation management” tools, as they’re often referred to, will help you to define keywords, or phrases you wish to track and then watches for any mention of your company name, products, or services. It’s important to defend and monitor your online reputation.

Let’s take a look at some of the measuring and tracking tools at your disposal:

  1. http://BackTweets.com
    A search engine for Twitter. See who’s tweeting your links and more. Can also sign up for email alerts of new findings.
  2. http://Addictomatic.com **
    A little different than the others , you type in a keyword, topic or phrase and out it goes searching the top blogs, news sites, Google, Technorati, Ask, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Topix and more. You’ll be given a personalized results page to bookmark with everything it finds related to your topic.
  3. http://Surchur.com
    Search for the latest and greatest on topics that are popular right now. Type in a keyphrase and it searches blogs, social news sites, photo and video sites for your chosen topic.
  4. http://AlertRank.com
    A better way to organize and sort Google alerts. Get a daily report emailed to you in a spreadsheet format of what it finds.
  5. http://www.google.com/alerts **
    I’ve been using this “secret weapon” for years. Simply type in your name or company name and receive daily emails of results found. They do the work, you receive the links. Free and nice.
  6. http://BrandsEye.com
    An online reputation management tool with a real-time, concise overview of your online reputation. Multiple levels of services and pricing available. Starting at $1.00.
  7. http://Twazzup.com
    Another Twitter only search engine.
  8. http://SocialMention.com/alerts
    Just like Google Alerts but for social media. Enter your keyword phrase and email address to be notified of any new findings. Searches blogs, microblogs like Twitter, bookmarks, comments, events, images, news, videos and more.
  9. http://BlogPulse.com
    A search engine that searches only for data posted to blogs. Enter your keyword, hit submit and off it goes to gather results.
  10. http://Topsy.com
    Topsy will track your tweets that have been retweeted so you can find out who’s been sending you all that “link love”. Type in your Twitter user name and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

If you’d like to track incoming traffic from your various social media profiles, an easy way to do it using Google Analytics can be found here http://Tinyurl.com/kuc9rL **.

Just as there are many ways to market your company using social media, as you can see, there’s a multitude of tools and services at your disposal to track and see if all of that hard work is paying off. Smart companies realize the importance of social media in their marketing efforts and are utilizing it on some level. How smart are you?