Post Smarter on Social: Leverage Social Reports in Google Analytics

March 13th, 2013 by DaBrian Marketing Group

It’s no surprise that more organizations than ever are allocating additional time and resources to establishing a solid presence in social media. Strategies are cooked up by marketing and brand managers. Page designs, cover photos, and icons are designed with care. Facebook and Twitter badges are placed on marketing pieces and business cards. As a member of a team of digital marketers and analysts, this is a glorious thing to behold. But (there’s always a ‘but’), how effective are these strategies? Is there room for improvements? Are these organizations really connecting with the right customer segments, or are they just shouting in a room full of the wrong people? These are just a few of many questions that Google Analytics Social reporting can help answer.

These reports can be found under Traffic Sources and range from Referral data to landing pages, Trackbacks, Conversions, and more.

These social reports can shine light on a wide array of facets of your social media presence, including referrals, social plugins (Likes, +1’s, etc.), social conversions (online purchases, submissions, or requests performed by social visitors), as well as the flow and paths of social media traffic into your website. Let’s take a look at three of these reports and features a little closer and see how they can be leveraged to bolster the effectiveness of your social media assets.

So, Where Are You From? – Network Referrals

One of the more fundamental reports available in the Google Analytics social section, the Network Referral report, is very similar to the main Traffic Sources report we’ve all come to know and love in the past. Much of this referral data was available within Google Analytics for some time, however in the past we had to perform some manual slicing and dicing to get a clear picture of social media traffic. This report does much of that manual labor for us, shining light onto what social media assets are actually referring visitors to your web properties. Since this is essentially a modified derivative of the original Traffic Sources report, you also have access to advanced filters and regex functionality.

See what social platforms are sending the most traffic to your site – and see how relevant they find your content!

What Google Analytics report would be complete without some drill-down functionality? There are some juicy insights beyond just the names of the social media websites that referred traffic. Clicking on the various network names drills down to reveal what URLs on your website were shared and how many visitors landed on each. This is where you can really turn insights into tactics: Leverage the information here to determine what social posts and links are being deemed relevant to your target audience. If they’re clicking on the links and getting to the site but aren’t spending enough time on the page to do much of anything, there’s a good chance that there’s a disconnect between the post’s message and the content on the shared page.

Thanks For Sharing! – Trackbacks

A crucial element in establishing a solid foundation on any social media platform is to secure advocates of your brand or product. One very powerful way of leveraging this is getting these advocates to talk about you! In today’s world this can take the form of social posts or even blogs. With the Trackback report in Google Analytics, you can see exactly where some of these kinds of social referrals are coming from. Just last month we found a very interesting tidbit for one of our financial services clients using the Trackback report. A prominent travel blogger recently posted a very in-depth evaluation and review of their global credit card that detailed his experiences using the card abroad. Not only was this critique extremely useful for optimizing their product; but it also expanded their brand and product visibility to a significant and extremely targeted audience. Overall, this is not a report to be ignored! Trackbacks may come and go depending on the size and volume of your website, but every now and then there might be a hidden gem worth taking a look at.

Thank You, Come Again! – Conversions

It’s great to know how many visitors reached your site from Facebook versus Twitter, what pages they landed on, or who’s talking about you; but how do you know that your social marketing is really effective? By using the Social Conversions report, of course!

Whether we like it or not, marketing always comes down to Return on Investment. Since social media is one of those weird areas where the emphasis is more on customer relations than sales, it can be a bit tricky to directly tie social media success back to ROI. So whether you’re leveraging social media for sales, customer relations, or both, you can gain much greater visibility into the end result using the Social Conversions report in Google Analytics. This report provides a look at whether or not your social traffic is performing the conversions you’ve set up in Google Analytics. If you’re leaning more towards using social media as a customer relations tool but still want to see if all of that hard work is leading to increased long-term sales, you can employ the use of the utm_nooverride parameter on your shared URLs to ensure that the first touch-point with social media gets credit for the conversion over the long-term.

Measure, Rinse, Repeat!

It should be noted that these are only a few of the measurement capabilities that Google Analytics has with regards to social media. Some of the other reports and features within the tool can easily be sliced and diced with filters and advanced segments to uncover even deeper insights into your social media marketing effectiveness. The biggest thing to keep in mind: any marketing method (social media, traditional, pay per click, etc.) can only be improved if you have a measurement strategy in place. In the case of social media, leveraging Google Analytics brings your insights full-circle and provides actionable insights to keep your customers happy and your marketing budget even happier.

Have questions on how you can use the social reporting capabilities of Google Analytics? Leave a comment and our web analytics team will answer!

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