How to Use Google Analytics for Social Media Measurement

How to Use Google Analytics for Social Media Measurement Dallas McLaughlin Blogger Extraordinaire Simply Measured

The importance social media marketing plays in long-term business growth is one of the most heavily debated topics among marketers and business owners.

Answering Your Boss’s Questions about Your Social Campaigns

Most social marketers would agree that tying social media marketing to actual business results is a very difficult task. Social media marketing, in comparison to traditional media and alternate forms of digital marketing, is still in its infancy. As the tools marketers use become more sophisticated, and our strategies more refined, the role social media marketing plays in impacting business growth will become easier to quantify.

In the meantime, measuring how social media is turning into actual business results is not impossible. In fact, one of the greatest tools at measuring and reporting social media success is freely available and probably already installed on your website: Google Analytics!

Landing Page Comparison
And don’t forget to check out Simply Measured’s Landing Page Comparison, which gathers data from Google Analytics so you can easily understand how your landing pages compare in terms of goal completions and bounce rate.

In this post, we’ll cover basic Google Analytics reports, set up goal conversions, look at how to review conversions from social media, and pull all of the most important reports into a single downloadable social media marketing dashboard.

Identify and Set Up Goal Conversions

The first step in measuring the success of a business’s social media strategy is determining what within the website needs to be measured. Common goal conversions include form completions, downloads, time on site, amount of pages viewed, or even a specific sequence of pages viewed.

To set up a goal within Google Analytics, click your Admin tab, select your view, and click Goals > + New Goal.

new-goal

For this example, let’s create a goal to measure the number of email newsletter opt-ins from the website. The Goal setup step has a few templates, but I usually recommend the Custom selection.

Goal description is simply the name this conversion will appear as in reports. Leave Goal slot ID as is and select Destination for the Type.

Under the Goal details field enter the URL of the thank you or completion page, excluding the domain name. Optionally, if you know the lifetime value of one email subscriber, enter it in the Value field. You can even specify a sequence of pages required before a conversion is counted (for example, a multi-page form). You can enter this information in the Funnel field.

goal-setup

Save your goal and it will immediately begin measuring all future traffic to the conversion page entered in the Goal details field. Later on, we’ll look at how to determine what kind of impact social media is having on website conversions.

Identify Which Platform Drives the Most Traffic

To accurately measure how social media is influencing overall website traffic, you must be able to view traffic referred by social media networks independent of all other traffic sources.

This information is in the Channels report, which can be found by clicking Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

channel-grouping-report

The Channels report silos all individual traffic sources into their corresponding groups and allows businesses to easily compare traffic from each channel type. This is important because businesses can review not only total site visits per channel, but also engagement and conversion rates channel-to-channel, which helps determine the quality and value of the traffic referred by each channel.

Simply Measured's Social Traffic Report gets right to the heart of the matter, synthesizing Google Analytics data and making it easy to understand and manipulate -- and visually appealing.
Simply Measured’s Social Traffic Report gets right to the heart of the matter, synthesizing Google Analytics data and making it easy to understand and manipulate, and also visually appealing.

Using the date selection, this report can be compared month-over-month, year-over-year (or any other time frame) to show changes in traffic, engagement, and conversions over time.

Clicking on the Social channel dives deeper into this report, revealing all individual referring networks.

social-channel-report

This is the same as the Channels report, only now you’re reviewing traffic, engagement, and conversions on a network-to-network level. This can be useful if you’re wondering exactly how a specific network’s strategy is paying off in terms of goal conversions and on-site engagement.

View Conversions Assisted By Social Media

There are a lot of ways to review the number of conversions from social media, the easiest being the Social view of the Channels report mentioned above.

social-conversions-report

What I feel is more important is measuring the amount of conversions that social media has assisted with but has not been awarded the attribution. One often-misunderstood piece of conversion reporting is that in most cases, the conversion is attributed to the traffic source directly before the conversion. This is called Last Click Attribution.

For example, what happens if a consumer discovers the brand by visiting the site through a tweet, comes back three days later through a remarketing ad, and becomes a customer? Pay-per-click is awarded the attribution, even though social media is how the customer discovered the business.

To see how many conversions social media has assisted in, open the Assisted Conversions report by clicking Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions.

assisted-conversions-report

In this report you can see Social was attributed with 903 conversions in a Last Click Attribution model. However, Social assisted in 173 more conversions which have been attributed elsewhere.

Clicking the First Interaction Analysis tab at the top of the Assisted Conversions report shows us that Social would be attributed with 941 conversions in a First Click Attribution model.

first-click-attribution

Whatever the case may be, a combination of these reports is a great way to show exactly what role social media marketing is playing in the ever-changing consumer purchase path, be it introducing future customers to the business or directly selling a product.

Create a Social Media Marketing Dashboard

Sometimes, proving the value of social media marketing is all about how the data is presented. There’s no easier way to do this than to set up a social media marketing dashboard within Google Analytics.

To get started creating a new dashboard, click Dashboard > New Dashboard. Select Blank Canvas, name your dashboard, and select Create Dashboard.

social-media-dashboard

The first widget I always create is Total Social Visits. To do this, I select Metric as the Standard and Sessions as the Metric.

The most important piece of every widget in this dashboard is filtering out any non-social media traffic. This is done by adding a filter which matches, Only show + Default Channel Grouping + Containing + Social.

total-social-site-visits

From here, you can keep adding widgets to track what is most important to the business. Just remember to filter out any non-social media traffic. Some of my favorite widgets include Conversions by Network, Time on Site by Network, Pages Per Session by Network, and New Visitor Acquisition by Network.

If you need a little more guidance in creating a social media dashboard, you can click here to automatically import my dashboard and learn from the widgets I’ve created.

Measurement Starts With Organization & Understanding

Measuring and reporting on how successful your social media marketing efforts are at driving web traffic is not impossible; in fact, it’s relatively easy with just a few basic reports. It all begins with having a well-planned and organized strategy with clearly defined goals.

The more clear it is to everyone in your business exactly what the social media goals are and how you will measure them, the easier it becomes to show the value of social media marketing. If you need more help clarifying the role of social in your own organization, download Simply Measured’s on-point guide below.

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Dallas McLaughlin

Dallas McLaughlin is a Digital Marketing Specialist at The James Agency, a full service advertising agency in Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs frequently at DallasMcLaughlin.com about Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and Social Media Marketing trends. If you have any questions, you can tweet him directly at @BossDJay.