Consider a social media audit

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Nearly one of five small-business owners uses social media, according to a survey by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business.

But that doesn't mean they're using it correctly, say experts.

Many companies have thrown themselves into the social media spectrum without assessing whether their efforts are actually paying off. Conducting a social media audit may be just what your company needs to better focus its energy and stay on track.

"An audit helps you create a more cohesive online brand presence and gives you insights into how well your outreach attempts are performing," explains Tamar Weinberg, a Bronx-based social media strategist and author of "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web" (O'Reilly Media; $24.99). 

The anatomy of an audit
Social media audits generally review a number of areas, including a company's brand, to ensure consistency across social profiles; its ability to integrate its social presence throughout other marketing/information vehicles, such as a company website, newsletter, etc.; content (frequency/types of updates, etc.), and analytics/measurement (i.e., where leads are coming from), explains Weinberg.

Audits can be done quarterly, semiannually or even annually, depending on your objectives and resources, says Arthur Germain of Communication Strategy Group, a brand marketing agency in East Northport. He suggests the following assessments:

Acorporate content audit to determine your company's available content and how it could be shared via social media tools;

A corporate resource audit to identify the "social media champion" at your business who will focus on social media efforts;

A competitive audit to assess how competitors are engaging on the social networks, and;

A social network and online conversation scan to identify what social network your customers and prospects are on and what they're saying about you.

It helps to document the information on a spreadsheet to get a better handle on your efforts, says Germain, who is active on the social networks.

It also helps having a clear understanding of your social media goals so you can better direct your efforts, adds Bill Corbett Jr. of Corbett Public Relations Inc. in Floral Park.

"Do you want to sell, is it for branding or to create a community?" asks Corbett, who is on more than half a dozen sites.

Once you understand your goals, you can work toward them with measurable actions, he says. 

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Engagement
As part of your audit, you must consider how well you're engaging your audience, Corbett says. For example, are your Facebook posts getting "likes," or are you attracting more followbacks on Twitter, he says.

If you have a corporate Facebook fan page like Corbett's firm does, you should be reviewing analytics to track visitors, demographics, page likes, etc., Corbett notes. You can do this via Facebook Insights on your fan page (see facebook.com/help/?page=914), he says.

Also, if you're using a url shortener like bit.ly when posting links, monitor analytics to see how often people are clicking on the link, adds Gerek Allen, a Huntington Beach, Calif., social media expert and BizziBiz franchise owner, who offers digital marketing services.

If you're not getting the kind of engagement you're looking for, consider whether your links/posts are making an impact.

A good rule of thumb is the 90/10 rule, says Allen, noting that 90 percent of your content should be offering value and the other 10 percent can be an "actual plug."

"Unfortunately, too many people blatantly sell and no relationships are built whatsoever," says Allen.

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