Measuring your success in social media can be tricky. ROI (return on investment) is determined by the impact on your sales, profits, and/or revenues. It is the financial outcome of your efforts.
Impact, however, is about output and the efforts themselves—whether or not your message was effectively communicated, whether you received the exposure you expected, or whether you were able to positively affect customers’ perceptions. Impact is often more qualitative than ROI and isn’t linked to revenue.
Both of these things can be used to measure the success of social media.
If, for example, you run a website that sells organic cleaning supplies, your goal may be to alleviate the concern that organic products are too expensive and not worth the investment. Your social media campaign may include running trivia contests on Twitter (“How much money can you save each year by using organic surface cleaner? Closest answer gets a free product!”), writing blogs about the benefits of organic products, and partnering with frugal family sites to spread your message there.
At the end of your campaign, you would measure ROI by looking at how much you were able to increase sales of your organic cleaning product. You would measure impact by recording how much traffic your blog posts received (especially when compared to your typical post), how many new followers you gained on Twitter, how many comments your posts received on partner sites, etc. You also could have conducted a before-and-after survey to see what customers’ attitudes were towards organic products before and after the campaign.
Therefore, the key to measuring the success of social media and strengthening your understanding of it is to explore both impact and ROI together.