You know you should measure your brand’s social activity. And you’ve been mulling over the best way to develop an effective measurement discipline. Frankly, the best way to do that is to simply start. Here are seven key consideration for building a social measurement practice:

1. Start with output. You need to start by tracking output. How many people visited your blog, pinned your infographic, shared or liked your status, or retweeted a Tweet? Count all of that.

2. Establish a benchmark. The output you track will become the benchmark for future measurement. Without a benchmark you will not be able to show traction.

3. Count everything. In the beginning, count everything. Establish a benchmark for number of blog posts written, number of comments, and traffic on each post. Track your Tweets, followers, retweets and favorites. As you refine your program you will learn what metrics are most important and you’ll want to have established a benchmark for those key markers.

4. Google it. Along those line, get access to your Google Analytics if you don’t already have it. Look at UVMs, keywords, bounce rates, visitors by time and geography. Study and track everything. You can refine later.

5. Value money saved as much as money made. Continue refining your measurement process and make sure you analyze the money you’re saving as well as the money you are making. Did a Facebook campaign generate leads? Fantastic. Likewise did a social listening exercise on Twitter cut down on research hours? Track that too. There’s value there.

6. Consider reach and influence. When you start to cull the data, make sure you consider reach and influence. Drill down into your fans and followers. Did one person’s action generate more awareness than 100 people combined? Who’s connected and who are they connected too? Tools like Klout, Alexa and Compete can help you analyze reach and influence. Sign up for them.

7. Remember micro conversations are as important as macro trends. Once you start to drill down beyond the numbers, analyze both the macro trends you’re seeing as well as the micro conversations. Just as important as watching the lifecycle of a conversation thread, is looking at who exactly is in that conversation. Maybe some negative chatter is dying down, but if the remaining detractor is influential, you’re not out of the woods. Likewise, maybe your Twitter chat was attended by 500 people. If they’re not the right people, you didn’t gain much. When it comes to measurement, both the granular and the long view both matter.

Don’t become a victim of analysis and paralysis. Start tracking your online activity and you will see patterns and trends emerge. If you don’t start counting what you’re doing today, you’ll never figure out where you want to be tomorrow.

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