You can't really be online these days without encountering social media. Whether it's the ubiquitous Facebook, the crowd wisdom of Twitter or sites such as LinkedIn, you're nobody if you don't have some sort of social media presence.
Businesses are increasingly aware of this and are turning to social networks to help market their products and services. But whether you're an individual or a company, how do you go about measuring social media success? Counting how many followers you have only tells part of the story.
Fortunately, there are some tools available that can help you work out if you're winning or losing in the social media game. And here are eight of the best.
Klout measures your influence across a range of websites based on how many people interact with your posts. It then works out an individual Klout score of between 1 and 100, which will go up and down depending on your activity. Other users can recommend your influence with a +K, which helps boost your ranking. Graphical displays show you how your score has changed over the last 90 days, plus there's also a pie chart indicating which sites your influence comes from.
2. Sprout Social
The Sprout Social site is aimed mainly at business users. It enables you to analyse your followers by various demographic measures and helps you schedule posts on your social media profiles at times when they'll be most effective. It can manage multiple accounts and monitor keywords across all social media so that you know when your brand is being discussed. It also helps companies respond to customers by routing messages to the people within the organisation who need to action them. After the 30 day free trial, it costs from US$39 (around £25) per month.
Viralheat aggregates all of your social media traffic into a single stream for easy access, and you can sort this using filters. It also enables you to schedule posts, and there's an analytics dashboard. You can use the Explorer tool to search for user names or hashtags. The free personal service supports up to seven social media accounts, and there are paid options for business users. Some features such as keyword searches are only available in the paid versions of the tool, which costs from US$9.99 (around £6.50) per month.
Hootsuite enables you to manage your accounts across the most popular social networks. There's a free version that supports up to five profiles and has limited analytic information. If you want to get more detailed reports you'll need to upgrade to the paid program, which costs £7.19 (around US$11) per month, after a 30-day free trial. This too has an in-built scheduling function so that you can post updates to your accounts when you're not around. You can access Hootsuite functions from the website or there are plug-ins available for the popular browsers.
Tweriod is a tool for Twitter that helps you work out the best time to send out tweets. It will analyse your account and produce a graph showing when your followers are online. It can then tell you the times of day to tweet in order to get maximum exposure. The free version is pretty basic and only enables you to run one analysis each month. You can upgrade to a premium account for which pricing is based on how many followers you have.
WolframAlpha is a "knowledge engine" that generates reports and data on a wide range of topics. It has now acquired a Facebook analytics tool that looks at your account and gives you a raft of information showing where your friends are located, how popular they are and what they talk about. You can also see when you most use Facebook and who are the most important people in your network. The report is free and you can, of course, share the results on Facebook.
The SimplyMeasured site offers a selection of free reports on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google+. Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn are due to be added soon. The reports take a little while to generate and are rather business-focused, but they have useful information about how engaged people are by your activity. You can view your report online or download it in Excel format. There are a range of more sophisticated subscriber reports available to paying users, including the ability to take a complete social media snapshot.
8. Social Mention