One of the reasons I’ve been such a blogging hard-ass over the issue of ROI, measurement, and social media is that I was smack in the middle of the 1990s Internet Bust and I don’t want to see responsible professionals (like you!) go through that all over again.

What caused that cataclysmic, wealth-destroying nuclear melt-down? Companies poured millions into Internet-based businesses and marketing efforts with no clear monetization plan, simply because they were afraid to be left behind. When the loan payments came due, they discovered the banks would not accept “page views” as collateral. : )

Does that sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s exactly what’s happening now.

What will keep you from falling into the next melt-down? Setting up practical, rational value measurements that are aligned with the objectives of the enterprise.

As my teacher and mentor Peter Drucker would tell us, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The good news is, comparatively speaking, social media is easy to measure and exciting new developments are emerging almost daily.

No matter what social media frenzy is taking hold of your organization, as a leader, you must insist on meaningful measurement and accountability. This is a DIFFICULT challenge in an environment that is so over-hyped. I actually heard one consultant say that it was “good” that a company was not asking for data on social media initiatives because it gave them a license to do whatever they wanted (and pay him to do it!). That is simply irresponsible advice … and I told him so!

In the midst of hype like that, keep your eye on business fundamentals. Be prepared to stand up and demonstrate the value of your program to your stakeholders at any time. Your initial measurement systems don’t have to be expensive, complicated, or even 100% accurate as long as they are directionally-correct and aligned with the company’s over-arching goals.

And have the courage to change. If you find that your measurement process doesn’t work, or isn’t as relevant as you hoped, tear it up and do something better! I know how disappointing it is to abandon months of now-meaningless data and those gorgeous spreadsheets, but leaders have the strength to put their own ideas aside if better ones come along. Here is the worst thing you can do to a business — consistently execute a flawed strategy! So be flexible and adjust as needed, especially as the measurement technology improves.

If you’re struggling with measurement issues, here are a few posts that might help:

The biggest lie in social media marketing
Social media ROI shock treatment
Social media impact on brand equity
The most important question to ask in social media marketing
Social media measurement is like a bartender

Let me know how it’s going for you. What measurement/political dilemmas do you face?

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