Your marketing people keep telling you how great social media is and how you can't afford to ignore it anymore. Wouldn't it be nice if they could tell you how much it will cost and how much money it will bring in? There's a logical first step to evaluating social media, by monitoring it. Social media monitoring will help you answer important questions about your brand, your people and your competition.
Much can be accomplished just using free tools like Google Alerts. Google Alerts is a free service for receiving alerts by e-mail or by RSS feedreader (like Google Reader) whenever keywords are found in online news articles, blogs or web pages. My advice is to use a feedreader because it's easier to keep track of your alerts than using e-mail. Setup keywords that track your brand, yourself, your employees and your competitors. Any time your keywords are mentioned, you will receive a notification within minutes of publication of the article, blog or page. Google Alerts will also track Twitter tweets containing your keywords as well as social media aggregators like FriendFeed and ChatCatcher. There are more comprehensive and sophisticated tools for social media monitoring, but Google Alerts is a good place to start.
These are simple qualitative judgments that you can make just by setting up free social media monitoring tools and spending some time every day reading and analyzing your alerts. They can tell you a lot about your position in the marketplace, your brand reputation and the activities of your employees that you may not have been aware of. They may convince you that the conversations about your brand have already started, and it's time for you to join them. After all, if you won't even defend or promote yourself, who will?
If you decide to take the next step, investing in social media marketing, you may want to read our free whitepaper on building a social media team. There is good news. With a well-designed inbound marketing strategy and program, you can improve sales and track performance as well as enhance your brand in social media.