Guest writer Jamie Lee Wallace contributes this post on our series of social media marketing measurement.

To create a measurement plan without losing your marbles, you’ll need to follow three simple steps: get in the right frame of mind, wrap your head around the goals, and break things down into manageable metrics.

Step 1: Create a social mindset
The first step to successfully measuring the impact of your social media engagement is creating reasonable expectations and figuring out if you can commit to them. Often, this requires an overhaul of how your company thinks about marketing. Amber Naslund of Radian 6 wrote an insightful post on the importance of changing company culture to support social initiatives. A commitment to social media is less like an individual tactic and more like a guiding principle for how you do business in general.

Before you invest in social media, consider if you’re willing and able to:

> Maintain a consistent, high-quality social presence
> Relinquish control over the conversation about your brand
> Put aside existing assumptions so you can truly listen
> Collaborate openly with your customers
> Take a long-term (and far-sighted) approach
> Agree with your legal team on a viable publishing process

Social media success requires an unwavering commitment to building your business around your customer’s needs. There is no room for rhetoric. Social media is all about walking the walk.

Step 2: Understand the goals
Before you can measure results, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish and how social media efforts factor into your success. Or, as Mark Schaefer noted in his recent article, you must answer this question: What behavior are you trying to drive?

If traditional marketing is a one-time, immediately gratifying purchase of fruits and vegetables, social media marketing is the ongoing cultivation of a garden which will produce a consistent harvest for years. In the same way that you wouldn’t expect a just-planted seed to provide sustenance for your table, you shouldn’t expect social media engagement to immediately generate new leads.

In a summary of his presentation about Social Media ROI, Yongfook of Egg Co makes the point, “Returns don’t always need to directly translate into revenue if the return is undeniably a positive force for the organisation.” It’s important to understand and accept at face value the intrinsic value of social media’s “soft” benefits — if you know what you are trying to accomplish.

Step 3: Know what to measure
There are a number of key differences between typical traditional and social media as outlined in the table at the beginining of the article.

Don’t get caught in the traps of measuring irrelevant data (like number of followers) or trying to evaluate social efforts with traditional metrics. The social Web actually provides more measurement points than traditional media, but you have to know which bits of information are actually important — the behavior you’re trying to drive.

The bottom line is that there are ways to break down even intangible benefits into measurable metrics. Thought leadership, for instance, can be measured by Google page rank, number of trackbacks from and interviews with a predefined list of industry publications, number of speaking invitations, etc.

Do you think the right mindset is critical to successful social engagement? What are your expectations about what social media can deliver? What other differences do you see between traditional and social metrics?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a versatile strategist and copywriter with nearly 20 years of varied experience and a passion for working with clients where business, the social Web, and real life intersect. She also has way too much fun blogging at Savvy B2B Marketing with her five Savvy Sisters.

This is Part Eight of a series examining social media marketing measurement.

Part 2: Social media ROI shock treatment

Part 3: Irresponsible social media measurement research            

Part 4: Social media impact on brand equity                                                        

Part 5: The most important question to ask in social media marketing     

Part 6: A double standard for social media marketing?                   

Part 7: Yes, it IS about the money!                                                          

Part 8: Creating a measurement plan                                                     

Part 9: Measurement is like a bartender                               

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