When we’re discussing tracking social media promotions and discounts in analytics, it’s important to keep in mind that this is inbound traffic to your site — not social activity that’s happening on your site. Google Analytics has many features with regard to social interactions, but that’s how to capture social interaction when a current visitor interacts on your site with a like button, a follow button, or other interaction.
Our focus here is the impact of social initiatives that refer traffic to your brand. These activities include referrals from different social networks, along with their conversion activity on your site. Remember: a conversion doesn’t necessarily have to be a purchase; it can also be a download of your whitepaper, a subscription to your newsletter, a registration for a demo, or any number of behaviors that are indicative of a visitor engaging with your brand.
Notice that I said brand and not website? That’s because there are a number of different ways that visitors can interact and convert with your brand outside your website but through social media. Mobile applications, Facebook Applications, and even phone calls can be tracked back to social engagement but often go untracked in your overall social strategy.
Social media marketing includes paid and sponsored updates
Social media marketing can include both organic behavior as well as an increasingly important strategy — paid social media marketing. If you’ve got a great community built on your brand’s Facebook page, your updates aren’t going to get much exposure unless you’re paying for Facebook Ads to get the word out. Facebook states that pages organically reach about 16 percent of their overall fans on average.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest … virtually every platform has its own advertising system where you can set daily budgets and finitely target the consumers or businesses that you hope to do business with.
Does social media underperform?
The majority of analytics platforms track a conversion with respect to who brought the visitor in last. This is known as last-touch attribution. That’s a problem nowadays as our cross-channel strategies become more interdependent upon one another. For example:
- Your company shares an infographic on your blog.
- The blog is shared through your social media channels.
- The social media channels light up and provide a ton of direct traffic back to your site, but no one converts.
- Because of the popularity of the infographic, it’s shared on several high-authority industry sites that mention you and link to the infographic.
- That linking generates authority on some very specific keywords associated with your industry.
- A search engine user searches for one of those keywords, clicks through to your site, and subscribes to your email newsletter.
- After a few newsletters, the subscriber clicks on an offer and converts into a customer.
Analytics is pretty clear on this one — the conversion is attributed to email marketing efforts … but was it really?
Many companies underestimate the power of social media. Word of mouth has always been an essential strategy for growing business — and social is your online word-of-mouth platform. We like to think of it as a limitless echo chamber for your online marketing.
Offers and discounts that are shared on social media are distributed widely by relevant networks of people —introducing your brand to friends of friends of friends of friends who you would have never otherwise reached.
Google Analytics has implemented Multi-Channel Funnels to help users better understand how social and other channels interact with your conversions:
Just keep in mind that Google’s scope of social media activity is only a sliver of your overall social traffic.
Google Analytics social reporting is severely limited
Google Analytics offers social analytics reports (Reporting > Acquisition > Social) but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only a partial view. Google’s social activity is based on properties that are part of the Social Data Hub, but this only includes Blogger, Google+, Delicious, Digg, Disqus, Meetup and Reddit. That’s not much given that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Tumblr aren’t supporting the Social Data Hub but account for the vast majority of social interaction on the web. Keep this in mind as you view their social interactions reporting.
Two elements of successful social media tracking
If you wish to ensure a rock solid methodology of tracking social media activity, there’s really only one way: develop a specific social media landing page that is hidden from search and not exposed in any other campaign, and ensure conversion tracking is utilized.
Some of you might argue that campaign tracking could be effectively deployed using social media. Campaign tracking is valuable and I’d be hesitant not to recommend it. Basically, you’d develop the content or landing page that you wish to share, and then append Google Analytics campaign tracking to it. So, if I had an article I wished to share on social media, it would look like this:
My link: https://www.godaddy.com/garage/webpro/design/designers-cheat-sheet-for-social-media-image-sizing/
With Campaign Tracking (I use Google’s URL Builder): https://www.godaddy.com/garage/webpro/design/designers-cheat-sheet-for-social-media-image-sizing/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=designercheatsheet
I would then shorten this link using a tool like Bit.ly — http://bit.ly/1hJViAS — so that I can append it to my Tweets, Facebook Updates, or shares on LinkedIn. When someone clicks on that link, it will register the source (“social”), the medium (“link”) and the campaign name (“designercheatsheet”), and will track all of the activity the visitor makes all the way through to the conversion.
But what happens when my friend clicks my link and then retweets the page using the social button I have installed on my site? The link I distributed is no longer passed; a clean link is now being distributed across social media. If anyone clicks that link, there’s no means of tracking it back to my campaign.
Build a social landing page
If you’re going to provide an offer or discount, the best means of tracking it with analytics is to implement a custom landing page at a URL that is not getting tracked by search engines. This can be done by placing a meta tag in the <head> section:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">
Many companies have specific pages built for each source — domain.com/twitter, domain.com/facebook, domain.com/pinterest, domain.com/linkedin — and then they even specify their profile pages on those sites to these landing pages where the offer or discount code can be applied through use of a URL variable or a form variable (that can also be populated dynamically).
As an example, my offer might be for one free consultation. I can build my Twitter page with a field called “Offer” and the user is directed to enter “1free”. Or I can have a link at domain.com/twitter?offer=1free that automatically populates the form. If you’re a WordPress user and have Gravity Forms, that’s achievable through their dynamic population.
Whether or not you’re acquiring organic or paid social media traffic, conversion tracking is an absolute must. Google Analytics conversion tracking is fairly simple to set up, and you can incorporate ecommerce tracking if you’d like to set up dollar amounts for the value of the sale. This might make it easier to track discounts vs. sales within Google Analytics.
Most of the social advertising platforms offer their own conversion analytics:
Conversion tracking for social ads will provide the conversion data within the social ad network’s analytics — not Google Analytics. Conversion tracking is essential because the visitor is tracked from the social network through to the conversion, not just when they land on your site. This makes it possible to track to any page within your site — not just a specific landing page set aside for social.