There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a blog or Facebook post that you have worked hard on sitting out there, looking lonely and unread. It is easy to assume that if no one comments, no one is reading. And if no one is reading, it isn't working. But before you conclude this social media experiment was a bomb and throw in your mouse and cancel your blogger account, let me propose a walk into the world of social media analytics. Analytics is all about finding out how well read your websites and posts REALLY are and what kind of virtual splash you may be making even though you can't actually see the ripples.
Before I get too far, I have to admit my naivete in this field. But, as confusing as all of these tools and numbers are, I have learned one thing--analytics can help you measure your effectiveness and, even more important, focus your effort into the things that are actually working.
The first step in keeping track is to figure out who is watching. After all, if you know who is paying attention, you can do a better job of focusing your messages for that particular audience. While there are a number of ways to keep track of who is looking at your sites, there seem to be a few tools designed especially for people like me; people who are just getting started. The one I have fallen in love with is Google analytics. One of the reasons I like it is because it is free. It requires that you paste some HTML code into your blog (a little techie but not too bad), and the payoff is really fun. Unlike my blog site's statistics reports, Google analytics adds a number of pieces of feedback like where the people who read your site live (it gets down to a city by city analysis) and is loaded with colorful graphs and pie charts. Another helpful aspect is that it measures which keywords people are using to find your material. Using keywords to your advantage is key (get it--key) to drawing attention to your site. There are lots of ways to say things, but if you use a few of the right words, you can increase how many people will find you.
A second tool that has been recommended in a number of blogs is HootSuite. I haven't looked into that format too much, but the tool will track not only your blog, but all of your social media. It is also a nice way to organize your tweets, Facebook posts, web sites, and lots of other tools. If you have more than one person working on social media, it is a nice way to collaborate and organize what you are doing. HootSuite can also schedule your tweets or Facebook posts for the week. So if you want to do a bunch of blogs or tweets on Saturday when you have time, HooteSuite will allow you to schedule the time and date those things will actually appear.
While knowing your audience is important, knowing what they are saying about you is also a good idea. One of the easiest ways to do that is to track your Twitter "mentions". My TweetDeck does this beautifully, so that if any tweet shows up with my name or my church's name, I can see it. Seeing what strangers say doesn't mean I will reply, but it seems pretty important to know what topics resonate with people or what things really tic them off.
So, do numbers really matter? I say yes. It makes me feel better that just because my blog post looks lonely, doesn't mean it hasn't done it's job. And, as I refine my blogging, tweeting and posting skills, I am getting a better handle on who I am talking to and what is most important to them. Social media analytics doesn't have to be confined to nerdy statisticians and computer geeks. With a little work, we can use numbers to make us better at what we do.