How do you measure your social media efforts? How should you? Most people in the industry talk generally about measuring engagement as a concept and cite examples such as time spent on a site or number of comments, or inbound links as ways to track this. Others talk about ad equivalency (ie how much you saved by avoiding paying for advertising to achieve the same results) or even tie social media efforts directly back to sales and conversions. All are good models and we use a combination of these on just about every client engagement.

Today at the Executing Social Media event in Atlanta, I shared a thought that I have been having over the past few weeks about a missing element of measurement that has been surprisingly important to many clients we have worked with. Consider it the "softer" side of social media measurement. Here are a few examples:

Metric: Internal Bragging Rights
Depending on where you work, this can be a big motivator. Being able to talk internally about a new social media effort or innovative marketing program is something that can build reputations of those involved, as well as lead to better internal responsibilities and possibly promotions and other good things.

Metric: Industry Recognition
Recognition from peers is a big deal as well, particularly the higher up in the marketing chain you go. Though some CMOs may not admit it, getting the envy or appreciation from other CMOs is just about the best compliment you can get. This doesn’t necessarily need to be about winning some sort of award, just getting industry credit.

Metric: Lessons Learned
Sometimes failures can be the best thing to happen to a social media campaign. Doing something wrong gives you the chance to learn from your mistakes and perhaps even make your next campaign much more successful. The problem is that most metrics would record a campaign like this as having no redeeming qualities. That’s not quite true and though most marketers know it, many don’t have a way to share it.

Metric: Media Non-Coverage
An obvious numbers-based metric is about volume of coverage but there is a softer side of social media measurement when it comes to media. This could include avoiding negative coverage – for example if there is a journalist seeking brands that "don’t get it" and your brand is not on the list because of your efforts. Another similar example might be having your brand’s point of view portrayed more accurately as a result of social media content you have online.

Metric: Testimonials
One of the most powerful effects of social media is the testimonials that you often get from customers, employees and just about anyone else. These testimonials provide powerful stories that can be retold within an organization. Even if there is only one great video or a single great blog post, these can take on outsized importance when reported as part of social media measurement for a campaign.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the "real" social media metrics we might report don’t matter. Only that there may be a softer side of metrics that we too often forget, but that do make a difference.