Monitoring social media with Google Analytics

April 17, 20109 Comments
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With any form of marketing, if you don’t measure , you are pretty much flushing money down the pan. Whilst the social platforms that we use to communicate are, on the whole free –  your time is not, and all too often its easy to get blindsided, and fritter the day away by being too active within these networks.

However, with social media maturing all the time, a number of tools have cropped up that allow marketers to monitor their efforts all the more closely. We can now get instantaneously actionable data back, and work out what is working, and what isn’t benefiting us. This post concentrates on some of the bits and bobs you should know from a reporting and data collection point of view, that will allow you to more closely analyse social media actions granularly.

Google Analytics

Throughout this post, I’m going to be talking about how to track marketing campaigns generally with Google Analytics.  Although not everyone is using it, a good majority of small web based businesses are – and the tool is pretty well known.  Tracking properly however, is seldom done well – and interpretation of the data you receive back worse still. I’m going to introduce you to some of the techniques I use myself to learn more about visitors coming from a  couple of different traffic sources, and work out what they are doing.

Know thy UTM Tags

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tags are used within Google Analytics to add extra information to a link.  If you are sharing multiple links around in different places, tagging with this will allow you to quickly and easily see how much traffic different campaigns are sending your site. It will also allow you to segment it easily later, to work out what campaigns resulted in website conversions. The following example shows a link with UTM tags added:

http://www.domain.com/?utm_source=FacebookAds&utm_medium=SocialMedia&utm_campaign=Summer2010

To create the URL just add a “?” (known as a querystring) at the end of the URL and then an “&” between each one of the terms. If you are completely stuck, here’s a handy Google Analytic UTM URL Builder.

Required UTM Values

  • utm_source=XXX This is the source of the link. For Example: Search Engine, Facebook, Twitter
  • utm_medium=XXX This is the method of delivery. For Example: Social media, TV, Email, or Adwords
  • utm_campaign=XXX This is a name that helps you group different campaigns in GA Example: Winter2010, Summer2010 etc

Optional UTM Values

  • utm_term=XXX This is used to denote the keywords for this ad
  • utm_content=XXX This is for split testing or content-targeted ads e.g. topad, bottomad

Note.  For SEO reasons, Google suggest that you use the canonical tag when dealing with potentially duplicate URL’s. The issue is explained well over at the Google Analytics blog, and should be read by anyone who is considering tagging on or offline campaigns on a website.

Knowing the above information, will definitely help provide you with a base on which to build, and you may decide to start tracking things much more granularly as a result. You can of course combine the above URL’s with URL shorteners which are now pretty commonplace on the web.

Conversions

Every website has Goals.

If you think you don’t have one, look a bit harder. If you are trying to encourage people to pick up the phone, and your phone number is on your contact page, track your contact page as a conversion. If you provide marketing material in the form of downloads, track  downloads as a conversion. If you provide a newsletter to your audience, track a signup as a conversion.  If your site is a blog, there’s loads of stuff to keep an eye on.

If you’ve an offline business that gets leads from your website, I’d recommend creating a process within your business that asks visitors where they found you, and if it happens to be a website, or blog give your staff a secret URL to visit that can be tracked back in G.A. That’s the sort of questions you should be asking anyway to monitor offline advertising, so adding your website to the list, and asking one question a the end of a phone call can make all the difference. Bottom line, everyone has goals, and Google Analytics can monitor those if you think creatively enough about it. Social media shouldn’t be any different.

Knowing what your conversion rate is critical in your online marketing efforts, because if you don’t know how you are performing how can you improve it? (BTW – if you have gone to the effort of measuring this, there’s loads of online tools out there to help you improve your conversion rate).

Essentially within Google Analytics, there are four ways to track things, which depend largely on what you are measuring.  It can be difficult to think what way to track things, and which javascript to use, but in general:

1) Adwords spend
Use Google Analytics conversion tracking code – very good for goals which have monetary value attached, and equally useful, as the video shows for those that dont.

The video below from Google explains why its important to track conversions, particularly in relation to Adwords.

2) Page visits
Generally speaking, Google will do this automatically if you use the code they provide out of the box.  Google state that trackpageview should be use for pages that “do not generate pageviews” naturally. There’s an issue with this tho, if you use trackpageview for virtual pages, you’ve just inflated your pageviews inaccurately. For many publishers the quality of the data you supply to advertisers is of great importance, and its better to track withpage events these type of virtual measurements.

However in some instances you may choose to exclude certain pages from your overall page impressions. To do so, you’ll have to use trackpageview() – and then drop it on aforementioned pages.

3) Page events
For virtual page tracking- (e.g. button clicks, rss subscribes, video plays, social sharing etc) use trackPageEvent.  If you are using WordPress, you might find this little snip useful –

  1. <a href=”/feed/” onclick=”pageTracker._trackEvent(‘Subscribe’,’RSS’,'<?php the_title();?>’);”></a>

This little bit of code will let you see what page on your site generates the most subscribers, and in turn what page you should be pushing.

4) Ecommerce tracking
Ecommerce tracking allows a more detailed view of products as they are bought on a website, including which ones generate the most revenue easily. Should be used in conjunction with Adwords conversion goal code.

Social Media

Twitter as an example

So how can you use what I’ve just talked about for competitive insight? Well firstly lets take Twitter as a good sample platform to monitor, there are a number of ways in which we can monitor traffic coming from this source. However there’s a couple of different types of traffic that may be useful to know..

1)  The people who click through from your profile URL
In many cases they are just trying to work out who you are, and what you are about, before choosing to follow you.

2) The people who click through the links you share, and are already connected to you.
These loyal followers may prove to react differently to your content, as they have likely seen it before. They are more likely to be engaged users.

3) The people who find your content themselves, or from someone else
These are likely targets to at least start a conversation with, if they aren’t already following you.

You can see very quickly that just seeing referring URL = twitter.com, doesn’t really paint the full picture. So what can you do to distinguish these visitors? I’ll address each in turn

Point 1) As I pointed out earlier, you can simply add UTM tracking to your profile URL. This is what my own looks like:

http://www.webdistortion.com/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=ProfileURL

Point 2) If you provide the link – you also control it, and as such you can simply stick tagging on the end of it, similar to above. However you may want to go one step further, by building your own URL shortener – hat tip to Sugarrae on this one- however to add Analytics tagging to this, you’ll have to go an extra step with the code mod:

  1. /**
  2. * Get final destination based on query and redirect user.
  3. */
  4. function go(){
  5. //determine final destination
  6. $final_destination = $this->getFinalDest();
  7. $utm_destination = $final_destination + ‘?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=MyURLS';
  8. //redirect user
  9. wp_redirect($final_destination,301);
  10. }

Point 3) The people who find your content all on their own, will use whatever crappy URL shortener they choose, they may even not bother to shorten it. Unfortunately, you aint got control of that – but if you aren’t tweeting it, and it isn’t coming from your profile URL, you can safely assume the traffic is someone else. In other words, you can segment it in Google Analytics with a logical NOT.

Obviously, this is just one facet of social media, but to properly monitor your actions, whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or your blog – you should be tagging every time your URL as often as you can to get the real benefits of your web analytics tool.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on monitoring social media campaigns. My next post will deal with a couple of segmentation reports you can use specifically, that show how to dive down into this data and make sense of what is working, and what is not. Subscribe so you don’t miss the next one.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (9)

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  1. Nikki Rae says:

    Hi
    i think this is a really good post detailing bits that people do not discuss enough e.g. about UTM Parameters. Well Done.

    Nikki rae

  2. Good call on the Campaign Tracking parameters. Always important to include those.
    For the Google Analytics Ninjas out there, one of my favorite tricks is to also use a visitor level custom variable that you set when someone comes from a social media site. Later, you can use an advanced segment to identify users that have EVER come from a social media site and see how they interact with the site. By coming once from a link, you can make an assumption that they follow your tweets/buzzes/fan pages and might be later influenced to convert (even if they don’t come directly from one of the social media clicks on the converting visit.

  3. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Clancy,

    How lovely to have a member of the Google team stop by to comment! Custom level parameters would certainly keep URL’s much cleaner, but would probably require a little server side code to detect social media sites at present. I may do a bit of a WordPress function / plugin to help out with that, as I frequently get asked the question – but would perhaps be nice to have somewhere with G.A. where we can specify what sources of traffic are defined as social media, and what aren’t?

    Regards,
    Paul.

  4. Jason says:

    Hi there Anthony,

    Thanks for the post. You have really given me an insight into monitoring camapigns. This is something so improtant and I am sad to say that I’ve been neglecting it for so long. Bless you man.

    Really great post

    Jason Thomas
    Bonafide Marketing (South Africa)

  5. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Jason,

    Many thanks for your kind words and tweet! Really appreciated.

    Paul.

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