Social media monitoring is listening to social network conversations to determine “who is doing the talking, what is being said, where they are saying it, when they are talking and how our brand is perceived”.
There are various free and paid methods of measuring such conversations. Although the latter tend to be more comprehensive, they are usually more expensive, precluding their use by individuals and small businesses.
Monitoring might begin by searching a company name to see what references there are in the news or Wikipedia. Most channels (i.e. WordPress) have their own basic analytic tools (# visits, click throughs and country of origin) while Google Analytics can also be used to measure success of a given channel. Paid solutions like Radian6 allow users to create a list of keywords to monitor and offer overviews of more sophisticated analytics such as sentiment statistics and the brand’s results against its competitor.
Do different networks have more “value” than others? Why? Will a network with more users (i.e. Facebook) mean more competition for attention? Are your likely customers using a given network (photographers and Picasa)? Does the network fit your demographic and is your industry present on that channel? Is your audience more likely to use a network which emphasizes videos (You Tube) or images (Pinterest) (Kevan Lee, How to Choose a Social Network)?
Brand managers need to be clear from the outset what the purpose of their social media efforts is. Generally, conversion occurs “when the user takes some action that the sender of a message desires” (Ashlee Humphreys, Social Media: Enduring Principles). Neil Patel has enumerated various illustrative conversion goals, including making an online purchase, filling out a contact form, signing up for a newsletter or viewing a video. These are more than simple page clicks and may not always be measured with basic analytic tools.
Pew Research has compiled social demographics for several years using indicators like gender, age, education, income and location. If you have created buyer personas, you could choose a channel (perhaps LinkedIn) most suited to your target group (business and professionals) and possibly for a cheaper price than Facebook, for example.
How do organizations transition from listening to participating? Google Trends could be utilized to see what topics are relevant and terms a company might use findings to increase conversation around their product. The company could also undertake comprehensive Search Engine Optimization (SEO), utilizing various channels.
Research could determine the best times to post updates and the magic number of posts while measuring the click-through rate and comparing lead sources and conversion rates (Lior Degani, 4 Social Analytics Tips)
The ROI (Return on Investment) determines whether the efforts generating an income are greater then the cost of the effort. Businesses can assign a monetary value to each conversion, determine the ROI of a given channel and measure total benefits of the campaign (Neil Patel, How to calculate the ROI), creating benchmarks against which to measure future social media efforts.