Social Analytics 101

The basics on how to track engagement & social shares in Google Analytics

It is no surprise that Social Analytics are becoming more important for many organisations considering how fast social media is evolving. In particular, this is true for social's importance as a marketing channel. This is irrespective of whether you make use of e-commerce or simply want to measure the impact of social on your brand.

Most often the struggle is 'how do I measure the effectiveness of my social activities and initiatives?' According to Google, four elements define your impact through social:

  • Network Referrals
  • Landing Pages
  • Conversions
  • Social Plugins

The Social Reports in Google Analytics allow you to review and analyse this information. You find the Social Reports under Traffic Sources in the left navigation menu of Google Analytics.

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social-analytics-101-01

Navigating to the Social Report Overview will prompt you with this view.

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social-analytics-101-02

In Overview you can see your main metrics. More importantly, Social Value enables you to visualise how social channels impact your overall goal conversion. It also allows you to see the difference between Last Interaction Social Conversions and Assisted Social Conversions.

Last Interaction Social Conversions are those where a social referral directly leads to a conversion, whereas an Assisted Social Conversion is an instance where a referral leads to a conversion further down the road. Reviewing these two metrics will give a good indication of how social impacts the conversion path of your online visitors.

The Overview also shows you a table of the top Social Networks referring visitors to your site. Navigating to Network Referrals will help you understand how your content is shared, ultimately leading to visitors arriving and engaging with your site. Selecting a Social Network provides you with the relevant URLs that are being shared, helping you understand what content people are engaging with.

These Landing Pages are the entry point to your site. Another way of viewing popular content is in relation to social referrals. Here the all Shared URLs are ranked by Visits and Pageviews. Again, selecting a particular Shared URL will provide you with the relevant referrers.

The Conversions report allows you to measure and quantify the value of your social activities. It goes without saying that goals will have to be enabled and set up and goal values allocated in order for you to draw on this data. Goals do not need to be related to an ecommerce transaction. A goal can be any desirable action or event that is relevant to your organisation and its processes. If you would like a quick refresher on how to set up a conversion, then checkout our post on goals in Google Analytics.

So whether it is an on-site goal, conversion or e-commerce transaction, the Conversions report will help you clearly identify which social network is delivering the highest impact.

Which brings us to Social Plugins. Adding Social Plugin buttons such the '+1' allows users to share content directly from your site. People increasingly engage with, share, and discuss content on social networks through the use these buttons.

Google's +1 button is tracked by default in Google Analytics under Social Source and Action. Tracking social interactions for other plugins, such as Facebook or Twitter, requires custom configuration. If you haven't already set up your social plugins to track other social platforms interactions, read our post on measuring social plugins.

Once set up, it is easy to see which content is shared, how it is shared and on what network. The Social Source tab will show an aggregated summary of how many social actions are attributed to each network.

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social-analytics-101-03-2

Navigating to the third tab for Social Source and Action will give you a detailed breakdown of what social interaction was most popular on your site.

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social-analytics-101-04-2

Ultimately, all this data needs to be applied to your organisation and brand's strategy and goals. Being able to identify which social networks drives the most users to your site and what content engages them is invaluable. This allows you to tailor and create content that will not only engage users, but ultimately, will lead to users converting or completing goals that are important to you and your brand.