Most of the discussion around social media measurement is about ROI, or the lack thereof. Inevitably, standard social media metrics such as likes and retweets aren't enough. Instead, marketers are looking for how to attribute transactional data. This is often cited as one of the primary challenges of social media.
It seems to me that a serious look at the brand impact of social media was overlooked. In fact, there are very few tools to help us understand how a Facebook Page, for instance, has affected brand perceptions. Brand trackers are created for offline advertising, and brand studies are often run in conjunction with online advertising campaigns. Why not create brand studies for social media? Here's what we stand to gain:
Social vs. Anti-Social
Do people who "like" you on Facebook, through exposure to messaging, understand your brand better than those who don't? I think it's a fair question, particularly if you're an active brand on Facebook. A brand study in social media should be able to measure the brand lift of those who "like" or "follow" you, compared to those who don't.
Facebook vs. Twitter
What's more powerful at driving the brand metrics you want? Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare... You should know which channel is best for you at impacting the brand perceptions you care about.
Status vs. Event
As long as we're comparing the potential brand insights to what we get in other research, why not trying to understand the brand impact of specific kinds of messages? Is the brand impact, for example, of a status update more powerful than an event?
While I think there may be logistical challenges with tracking, as well as having large enough participation at social touchpoints to deliver meaningful results, I do think that some high level understanding of brand impact is possible, if through nothing else than some simple surveys. Ultimately, though, I think it's important to think about more than standard social metrics or transactional metrics. If you're wanting to build a lasting brand, I believe that social media can play an important role, and that we should be paying more attention to how to make that argument.