Using Google Analytics to Track Social Media Strategies 

It’s hard for marketers to escape the call to take full advantage of social media in their marketing efforts. The conventional wisdom is that it’s foolish to not utilize free or low-cost platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, which hold the potential to reach huge and targeted audiences; and, while some sites require payment for premium offerings, most are free for the basic service. (For an overview of ten popular tools, see this analysis on BusinessesGrow.com.)

But, even if there isn’t an explicit cost to toot your horn on social media sites, it can still require considerable time and effort to maintain a robust presence on multiple sites; and, as any small business owner knows, time is money. So how can you tell if your social media efforts are worth it? How do you calculate a return on investment (ROI) for your efforts?

Fortunately, another online tool—Google Analytics—can help track the value of your social media activity. Generally, most businesses that have an online presence are attempting to drive traffic to their websites in an effort to drive a conversion of some sort—which might be the generation of a lead, a request for a product (e.g. whitepaper) or a sale. The analysis of social media can help marketers determine whether their social media efforts are generating results— or simply creating noise. Through Google Analytics, you not only can determine how many referrals may have come through various social channels by reviewing “Referrals” but also can get a sense of this by looking at the landing pages where people tend to enter your site.

As we look at our own and our clients’ data at Strategic Communications, we often find that many of these landings are coming through shortened links that we’ve used in messages sent via social media. With the landing pages, you can then determine the extent to which the landing resulted in some, ultimate, desired action. On Google Analytics, you can also, of course, set up funnels to help you determine whether desired actions have been taken once someone enters your site.

And, as mentioned above, it’s free. There are other tools out there, but Google Analytics provides functionality to meet the needs of most small- to medium-sized businesses and even some larger organizations. In addition, the tool is very robust—you can drill down endlessly to see what is happening once a visitor has arrived via social media, compare the different types of social media you might use, compare those activities to other activities, etc.

For some small business owners, tackling social media can be daunting enough on its own, so the prospect of using an analytics tool to track to results of that activity might seem beyond the reach of all but the most tech-savvy entrepreneurs. However, Google Analytics offers good on-site help tools and information about the various aspects of its package; they also offer training sessions and even a Google Analytics Academy for those interested in learning more. It’s in their best interest to make it as easy as possible, and provide as much information as possible, to keep users engaged with their package vs. other available options. Google takes advantage of the results of its analytics across millions of users to help it learn more about how users traverse the Internet. That knowledge comes to them at no charge and, because of their size and the volume of data they collect, is one element that helps them maintain a #1 position in search.

This article by Chris Sietsema of Convince & Convert discusses some of the best reports from Google Analytics and is a good starting point for those just starting to test the waters of the tool.

Social media truly is a valuable, inexpensive tool for marketers, and with applications like Google Analytics, it’s much easier for even the most tech-wary neophyte to track the value of those activities.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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