Tuesday's Inc. article entitled 'Facebook Tops Google in Directing Web Traffic' is significant. It shows a growing trend to which start-ups and small businesses must pay attention: some portion of your potential customers won't go to a search engine like Yahoo or Google to find you. Instead, their friends will pass on these customers to you - if you're online and creating interesting news, content, videos, and talking with your customers so people notice you. You have to be share-worthy.

I hear from many small business owners that 'Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are too hard – they take too much time.' August's piece on 'Social Media for Small Business Takes Time – How much is up to you' states it clearly – you must focus and be organized. There's a fear factor. There's also reality - the more you do something, the less time it will take you. However, you also have to measure, measure, measure so you know if your online promotional efforts are gaining you customers.

Let's take this to a practical level - How do you measure the customer interactions on Facebook? If you have a Fan Page, Facebook's analytic package, called 'Insights' gives you some information on who is coming to your page.

Facebook Insights

According to Taylor Pratt, Product Marketing Manager of Raven Internet Marketing Tools, a small business may not have to dig a bit to use the information from those basic Facebook analytics. 'Take the example of a local restaurant. Maybe their goal is to increase awareness of their place, and gain fans who eat there regularly. Once the page is up and working, look at Insights to see the age of fans and use the demographics. The owner might choose to feature healthy food if demographics skew older, or feature maybe drink specials if there's a younger crowd. Apply the information you're getting from your insights to change your business.' Of course, you then have to measure your cash register sales and see if your changes are bringing in people. Asking them where they heard about your restaurant or your specials may help you confirm the channel of communication - Facebook, word of mouth from friends, or other things you're trying.

Twitter doesn't have analytics, but Pratt suggests your FB fan crowd might have similar demographics to your twitter crowd, so you might adjust your conversations on Twitter accordingly.

'When people are interacting with you see what they're saying?' asks Pratt. 'Are they reporting bad service, asking about ingredients or calories? This is a lot different than ‘How many people are visiting my page?'

The conversational aspect of services like Facebook and Twitter also lend themselves to measurement. The successful posts are ones you get comments on, and people choosing to 'like' your posts are a lesser measure. People don't take the time to comment unless they're feeling strongly. If they said these things to you in your place of business – how would you respond? Do the same online. 'Don't let the conversation die!' urges Pratt. 'Also try Facebook Ads. You can target the city you live in, and specific demographics like 'Women 25-54' to tune in the exact crowd you want.

How are you managing your online outreach time? What is most effective? Let us know in the comments.