your_brand_onlineAccording to eMarketer, nearly nine in 10 companies in the United States use social media for marketing purposes – and it looks like their efforts pay off. A survey by HubSpot revealed that 73 percent of consumers will buy from a brand that is active on social media platforms. You may not need any convincing to create a page on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and every other channel you can think of. But is it working?

Getting lots of likes, follows, and fans might feel nice, but it won’t necessarily result in increased business. Engagement is a more effective metric to measure, but it can also be harder to track and quantify. Here are some tips and tools to monitor your social media presence and listen to what your customers are saying.

1. Set up Google Alerts

Google alerts are a quick and easy way to find out when someone mentions your brand online. Fill out a quick form to set up your alerts and choose keywords relevant to your brand, company and product. You can even monitor mentions of your competitors! Google will update you via email whenever your keywords show in new content, giving you the opportunity to not only monitor what’s being said, but being able to reach out to potential fans of your services.

2. Engage Your Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors can serve as powerful allies for your company. Identify your most loyal, repeat customers who regularly give referrals and mention you on their social media channels. Offer coupons, free products for review, or incentives to those who regularly tweet, post and blog about your company. Using ambassadors can put a friendly face behind your brand and help drive more word-of-mouth sales. Your branding allies can also help build public trust for your products and services.

There are a variety of tools that can help you identify your brand ambassadors. More on these in the following sections…

3. Get Organized with Social Media Monitoring Tools

Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Instagram are just some of the social channels that brands use to stay in front of customers and prospects. Maintaining an active presence on multiple social media platforms and tracking and responding to comments, questions and mentions can be incredibly time consuming without the right tools. This is where social media monitoring tools come in. Tools like Hootsuite or HubSpot can help reduce the amount of time you spend publishing updates (by enabling you to publish to all of your accounts from one place), increase the effectivenes of your monitoring efforts (by notifying you when your brand is mentioned), and boost engagement (by providing a single dashboard from which to respond, like, share, follow, etc.

4. Use Google AdWords

You might be familiar with Google Adwords as a pay per click advertising tool, but did you know that it has a wealth of FREE resources that brands can use to improve their online marketing results?

Look through the AdWords search volume tool to see how many people per month are searching keywords relevant to your brand. You can create an advertising campaign around those phrases and directly advertise to those potential clients, or you can use those keywords as the basis of an inbound marketing strategy.

Use the keyword search tool to study what similar phrases are used and what your competition is up to. This tool can give you fresh insights for how many people are actually looking for your products or services and which phrases are used the most. Armed with this information, take a fresh look at your website and social media profiles to be sure the words you’re using to describe your products or services match the words your audience is using.

5. Tap Social Mention

Social Mention offers a straightforward and simple interface to monitor over 80 social media channels including favorites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It even shares sentiment, which is the ratio of positive to negative mentions. Perhaps most helpful to brands, its passion meter will measure how likely people are to continue talking about your brand. Once you figure out what’s working and what’s not, you can adjust your online presence as needed and get valuable insights to what your customers really want.

The Bottom Line

Because there is such a low barrier to entry, any business can get on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc and create a profile. And with so many businesses jumping on the social media bandwagon, the social sphere is reaching a saturation point. What does that mean for you? To stand out online, you’re going to have to do more than simply post and hope for likes.

The most successful online marketing efforts focus more on engagement than on likes, follows and fans. And with so many tools (many of which are free) available, there is no reason that brands that are committed to using social media successfully should struggle. Start by checking out the tools we’ve mentioned above. If nothing else, you’ll leave armed with more information that you can use to determine whether and how you’ll achieve success with your onilne marketing strategy.

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