It’s easy to get excited watching the number of “likes” and “re-tweets” accumulate. You feel important, like someone is listening to you and agrees with your brand. But does the number of “likes” you get on a social media post translate to brand recognition and more sales?

Counting your follows and tracking the amount of “likes” or “favorites” you get is an easy way to track success but it’s missing a few key metrics like, why people liked the post and whether or not the post converted anyone from a prospect to a sale. There are a lot of reasons why someone might click the like button on your Facebook business page or post including things that have nothing to do with your business, like the fact that their friend liked it or maybe because they thought the image you used was cute or funny. You’re not really going to find out if your social media accounts are making an impact until you start engaging with your followers.

Engagement is the conversation that happens about your brand online, it could be between you and your customers or it could be between your customers and their sphere of influence. With engagement an intentional action takes place that raises awareness about your business, your article or your post. Interaction is a much better validity test to your social media endeavors.

So how is engagement measured? There are several paid services out there but you can do some research yourself for free as well. Here are three easy and cheap ways to track your engagement:

  • Track individual accounts yourself. Facebook has a tab called “Facebook Insights” that makes tracking engagement a snap. Remember you are looking for comments and shares as well as likes and post clicks. For other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram you can track the number of “@ mentions” and comments your posts generate.
  • Klout – Klout is a free web app that helps you track your posts popularity and level of engagement all in one.Klout logo.
  • Cloze – also free, this web app will not only track your engagements but also your online relationships, alerting you when you’ve been neglecting people and posts that you should be paying better attention to.Cloze logo.

Managing your company’s Twitter account can quickly become a full time job when you’re successful and the desire to reduce noise in your feed might have you a bit bewildered when it comes to knowing who you should be following. There are no hard and fast rules and opinions on the subject vary but here are a few ideas to get you started in the right direction.

Following Your Followers

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This is the most intensely debated twitter following conundrum out there today. While some people feel obligated to “follow back” anyone and everyone that follows them, others are afraid to clutter up their own news feed with so many tweeters.

Think of it this way – not following users back sends a message that while you’ll accept their support you really don’t care about what they have to say as an individual. Also it limits your customer’s ability to direct message you and that could be a critical marketing mistake. You want to keep the lines of communication as open as possible.

Afraid of over-loading your own newsfeed and missing industry-critical news? Never fear, that’s what filters and lists are for! Spend a little time setting up lists on a social media management app like HootSuite and you can easily stay on top of the tweets you most want to see, no matter how many connections you have.

Following Industry Titans and Competing Companies

You need to keep up with market trends that are related to your industry and there is no easier way than keeping your finger firmly placed on the twitter-pulse of your chosen industry. Find out who the movers and shakers are in your niche and follow them all. Not only do you get their ideas, news and wisdom but you become more exposed to the people that follow them as well. Strike up conversations with individuals in your industry to add even more exposure. If you’re really savvy you can also follow their entire follower list but don’t add too many people too fast or you’ll get Twitter-Banned!

Keep a watchful eye on your competition because you can bet they’ll be watching you. You can even snag some valuable ideas to put your own spin on them. Make a list of your top 5-10 competing companies and find their Twitter accounts.

Following Local and Industry-Specific Media Outlets

Up your chances of free media exposure by following news outlets, writers, bloggers, podcasters and other presenters in your local area or industry. If you post things they like you might just be their next featured story. To find article writers to follow in your industry check out the free resource MuckRack and follow anyone that might be interested in what you have to offer. They are always looking for new story ideas!

You can also make a list of all the media outlets that have already shown you a little love and make sure to seek them out as well. They already like you so they are a warm lead. Make sure to share the wealth by re-tweeting them as well. Everyone loves to see their content shared!

Final Tips

shutterstock_110485376-updatedDon’t follow anyone silently. Make sure to reach out with a quick personal message. You can use a social media management client to automate the process somewhat but sending some personal messages to the right people can also add a touch of class.

Don’t forget to follow your own family and friends, leverage your SOI (sphere of influence) as these are the people most likely to star and re-tweet your content. People you already know will be champions for your business and help it grow.

Periodically reach out to followers by staring their content, commenting, re-tweeting or direct messaging them. These are the more hands-on nitty-gritty details of account management that can easily suck up a lot of your time. If you find it overwhelming you can hire a social media assistant or a company to manage it for you.

Don’t get too caught up in balancing your number of followers and followed accounts. Make sure to post rich content that people will find share-worthy and try to have a little fun while you build your social media account. Users like to see the lighter more human side to a business, make it personal and they will fall more easily in love with you.