In his book Tweet Naked, online marketing expert and Social Media Firm CEO Scott Levy provides the critical information entrepreneurs need to craft a social media strategy that will boost their brand and their business. In this edited excerpt, the author explains which three metrics you should be monitoring and why.

Monitoring and measuring your social media efforts are essential to your success. Without doing so, you'll have no way to determine whether you're making an impact on your target market or are on track to reach your social media goals. Monitoring is imperative, and it must be a significant part of your social media strategy.

The most important area to monitor is conversations: You want to know who's talking about your brand and what they're saying. Are the comments positive or negative? Are people happy or frustrated? Monitoring conversations is a great way to learn what you're doing well and where you need to make improvements. Maybe your customers and followers are all talking about a new product line that's catching on or complaining about the changes you made to a longtime favorite. It's a huge benefit to businesses, which have never before had the opportunity to listen to their customers, potential customers and critics. It's like eavesdropping at water coolers worldwide.

Monitoring conversations is all about listening, and social media is 10 times more powerful if you listen and don't just talk. Very often, companies are so concerned with what they're putting out there that they neglect to hear what's being said.

Monitoring and listening is how you find out how people feel about your brand. It's important to track who's engaging, what they're saying and whether customer service issues are being resolved. The more you listen, the more you learn, which benefits your brand.

There's a mind-boggling amount of data that you can monitor, measure and analyze. Information that was once compiled though surveys or focus groups is now available through a myriad of tools, with 1,000 times more detail. You can easily determine not just how many people clicked on your post but where they clicked from, and then how many went to your webpage. You can follow their activities to see if any resulted in sales.

Among the multitude of data you can measure:

  • The number of views, likes, retweets, comments or any other manner of engagement on any social media platform
  • How much of your content is being shared and from which platforms
  • How much time visitors spend on your social media pages or web pages
  • The demographics of anyone who has engaged in any manner
  • Klout or Kred scores, to see if any influencers have engaged or are fans or followers
  • Which content is drawing the most attention--for better or worse
  • How many people contacted customer service and whether or not they were happy with the results
  • Which platform, demographic group(s), geographic location and even hour of the day is resulting in the most views, clicks, or conversations
  • Which content, and on which platforms, is resulting in the best conversion rates

These three core areas are critical to social media success:

Monitoring your performance. This includes reviewing everything from the best times of day to post to how successful your campaigns are. Review when you're getting the most engagement, where your reach is coming from and who's responding--essentially, everything your company does, including the performance of each individual status update, picture and video you share. You can see what's working and what isn't. Performance monitoring lets you know if the time and money you're investing in social media is paying off.

Tracking competitors. How do you know what results to look for? Are 3,000 likes good? Are 5,000 followers a lot? How do you know what the numbers mean?

For this reason, competitor tracking is very important. There's nothing wrong with keeping tabs on your competitors through public tools and public information; you're looking at your market and seeing how your campaigns stack up against those of your competitors. Compare your efforts with those of similar-sized companies in your industry. You may also want to consider other factors such as geographic region or how long the company's been in business and engaged in social media. That's how you can best determine where you stand.

For example, if you're a small business selling TVs, computers and other electronic equipment from several retail locations and through your website, seek out similar businesses with a few locations and online sales. Don't compare yourself to Best Buy, which has a much larger budget for social media and most likely a big team working 24/7.

There is, however, a reason to also monitor larger companies, starting with those that are one size up from your business. You can see what they're doing and model your social media campaigns after theirs in hopes of moving up to their level. By monitoring a larger company, you can also get some great ideas for future campaigns.

Gathering industry data. You can learn a lot about your own industry by monitoring conversations about the latest topics and trends. For example, if the Coleman Company, which makes equipment for camping and hiking, monitors its industry, it will see which outdoor products people are most passionate about and which ones they're complaining about. Such data can help not only with social media marketing opportunities but with sales and even future manufacturing plans. Industry awareness keeps your business competitive and helps you capture the brand awareness you need to succeed.