Measuring Social Media Through Google Analytics – 8 Actionable Tips


July 22, 2017


Social Media


Marketing Professionals

1. Know your purpose

Like every aspect of your marketing plan, social media is a means to an end. Without a purpose, your social media will fail on two fronts.

1. You won’t know what you need to do with it, and so won’t have a direction.
2. You won’t know what it’s supposed to be doing, so won’t know whether it’s successful.

The first action to take in any social media strategy, whether it be Facebook for Business, True View YouTube ads or another channel, is to set out its purpose in a specific and actionable way. How does it help the end goal of the marketing team, and the business overall?

Something as simple as “get more followers” or “increase engagement” is a start, but it’s self perpetuating. If the only reason to have social media is to grow social media, it’s pointless. “Bring more traffic to the site” is better, but still doesn’t have a real end goal. What are you bringing more traffic to the site for?

A good example of social media purpose is “increasing traffic from engaged customers, who have a high conversion rate, thus increasing conversion rate and conversions across the business”.

Once you know what your purpose is, then you can start to worry about how to measure success.

2. Utm tagging

Utm tagging is an incredibly easy way of modifying your posts to help you figure out where traffic is actually coming from. Although Google Analytics is good at telling you which social media site visitors come from, it can’t tell you which post they followed, let alone whether that post was part of a larger, cross-platform campaign.

You can set up utm tagging through a url builder, choosing a custom campaign Source, Medium, Name and Content. On Google Analytics, you can begin to segment this data through the ‘Source’, ‘Medium’, ‘Campaign’ and ‘Ad Content’ dimensions respectively.

Now you can see exactly which url a visitor followed when coming to your website: was it the noon post on Facebook about the summer sale, or the 2pm post on Twitter advertising the new blog? How many people followed summer sale posts across all social media, regardless of platform? What time works better for posts, and which tone was more successful?

With utm tagging you can really begin to drill down on exactly what’s working and what isn’t, so that you know what needs improving and where your biggest successes are coming from.

3. Goals & events

Not all social media campaigns are designed to increase ecommerce sales, or even aim for the same conversions as other parts of the business. Your purpose, while related, may lie somewhere else instead.

Setting goals and events lets you track what users do on your site and provide an easy-to-understand success value. If you want social media users to sign up for a newsletter, for example, you can set a goal to track when they do, and so easily see how many social media visitors are doing what you need them to. For playing videos or downloading files, events offer you the same functionality.

Goals and events are basically your conversions, so they’re incredibly important to measure. You could even set up new goals for new social media campaigns if you want to really drill down on separating the data.

4. Behaviour flow/conversion funnel

It’s important to know not just whether visitors are converting, but also the path they take to conversion. Social media is supposed to create value for your customers, and if they don’t get that value when they follow links through to your site, then you risk turning them away.

Behaviour flow and conversion funnels help you visualise the customer journey not just that you expect, but the one that customers actually take. With behaviour flow, you can see where people are entering the site, the routes they follow through and where they drop off. With conversion funnels you can more generally track how far people are getting towards conversion and what stage of the journey is turning them away.

Each has its place, and both together will help you analyse chokepoints in your strategy to fix either on the website, or by adapting your social media to better prepare customers.

5. Track moments

Google Analytics can track a lot, but it can’t track what you’re doing in real life, or what’s happening outside your website. You should be taking notes of exactly what you’re doing when on social media, so that you have something to reference when you look at the Google Analytics data later on.

Within Google Analytics you can use the annotation function to make note of these, or you can keep notes separately as part of a broader social media report. Either way, know when you’re posting what, when a new campaign starts, when a sale starts and so on, so that you have something to refer to when you see the rises and falls in Analytics data.

6. Create segments for quick, easy tracking

Segments offer you the ability to look only at the data you find relevant, with quick access to everything you need and no distractions. Google Analytics tracks a lot of data, not all of which is relevant to you immediately, or even ever. It’s useful for other aspects of marketing to have, but you need to be focusing just on what you’re doing.

Creating and saving a segment will get Google Analytics to immediately show you everything you want to see without having to dig around to find it. You won’t have to constantly dig down into the areas you find important, they’ll be presented to you straight away.

This makes your life easier, and your job quicker. It also cuts down on mistakes from overlooking data that you forget to look at, by making sure it’s always there to remind you.

7. Analysing the data

Reading data is easy, but the real value is in the actual analysis. It’s not enough just to say that visits have increased, conversion rates are up, or Facebook is providing more traffic than Twitter. You need to be able to say why those things are true, and also what it means for your strategy.

When creating your reports, or even when reading the data, think deeper about what it all means, how it fits together, and how it fits into your overall purpose. Find something to say about every shred of data, and always be asking questions. Always refer back to your purpose and your methodology – know where you’re coming from and where you’re going.

8. Comparative performance

Don’t measure your performance in a vacuum, always remember that you’re part of something bigger. Compare your performance to other areas of the company as well as your own previous performance. Is social media conversion rate as good as other methods? How is the comparative ROI? These are things you need to compare in order to evaluate the overall performance of social media.

Doing better than last month is good, but if you can’t promise a valuable return on investment compared to other marketing methods, maybe social media is something that needs to be reconsidered or vastly improved.