Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Blog Indiana 2011 conference—its fourth, my first, and an enlightening experience. Though attendees found presentations as varied as “Legal Primer for Bloggers,” “Internet Marketing in 90 minutes a Week,” and “Can Your Agency Blog Better Than You?” (full presentation list here), one theme was noticeable:

Social media is playing with the big kids now.

Throughout the two days, presenters and attendees focused on strategy and measurement, and didn’t waste time encouraging people to actually get in the game.

Why? Because everyone already knows social media are an integral part of a successful marketing plan.

Not long ago, it was enough to tell the boss, “Social media. We’ve got that covered. We have a blog.” Or “We’re on Facebook.” No one asked how effective it was, because we didn’t understand enough to measure it.

Now, channels have evolved and employees are dedicated to social media. Real, grown-up employees, not interns. Measuring success is key, and there are more and more tools available to do it.

We discussed tools like pagelever.com, a service that provides in-depth analysis of Facebook engagement, instead of convincing people that blogging was the important to search engine optimization and visitor engagement. Services that provided data on sharing of content—who, what, when, and where—such as analytics.postrank.com—were introduced. Douglas Karr of DK New Media even revealed “40 Tools to Publish, Track, Improve, and Automate Social Media.” (They’re awesome. )

The evolution is exciting. Strategy and measurement are what differentiate the big kids from the ones playing dress-up. And what makes them smart, big kids? Knowing what measurements are meaningful, and what changes should happen over time to be more successful.

Personally, I think the grown-up table is more fun, anyway. That’s where the wine is.