When people start participating in social media, the most common sentiment is that it is a waste of time. The more social media becomes a part of our online activities, the more brands start to participate.

However, many still view it as a burden, something they have to do to promote their website. Reluctance comes from the fact that it is difficult to measure how well you are doing with your social efforts.

It is important to remember that there are two ways people can engage with your company. You will track each of them separately and will analyze them differently.

  1. Traffic source: social. Visitors come to your website from a variety of social sites (YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Reddit, etc.)
  2. Site engagement. People can also interact with your website's content. They can like your blog post on Facebook, tweet about it, share it on Google Plus. When they distribute your content to their social network they become socially engaged on your website.

Let's talk about measuring the effort and putting a monetary value on your social campaigns. I am not going to talk about specific metrics. Social media goals vary and so do the measurements. Instead, I will talk about the general approach to analyzing your success and what's necessary to get the data you need.

The process
not complicated
The process is not complicated. First, you need to make sure that you track your efforts. Second, you need to collect data. And third, gather valuable lessons for your business.

URL tagging

In case you do not know why you should tag all URLs that you share, here is the reason.

Apps like TweetDeck or mobile Twitter do not pass referrer code to an analytics tool (Google Analytics, Omniture, any tool).

If you do not tag your URLs, all clicks to your website will come through as direct traffic. Therefore, when you distribute a link to your site anywhere - in a press release, on Twitter or Facebook, email newsletter - always tag it appropriately. Google URL Builder will help you.


Social traffic

You can create a general tag for social media (utm_source=social-media) or specify each source by name (utm_source=twitter, utm_source=facebook, etc) for each URL you send out. Then, create a custom segment in your Analytics to include all social media traffic sources. The filter will include your tags and the the traffic from the actual websites (Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, and other sites).

Now you can apply your segment to any report - visitor frequency & recency report or engagement report (in Audience Behavior). You will be able to see different patterns of behavior among social and not social visitors. The behavior will be different and you will be able to see which content is more attractive to each group.

Multi-Channel Funnels

Multi-channel funnels is where we start seeing real money attached to the social media campaigns. Go to Conversions -> Multi-channel funnels -> Overview and look at a Venn diagram illustrating interactions of your marketing channels. It shows them all working as a team. These are the channels that closed the deal.

Often, people do not convert right away. Assisted conversions tab will show how much social networks contributed to achieving your main goals. The number that should bring tears of joy to your eyes is Assisted Conversion Value by Social Network channel. This is just a part of return on your social media investment.

Social engagement

One of the recent addition to Google Analytics is Social Engagement Reporting. You will need to do some coding, but the benefits are well worth it.

Social Engagement report allows you to find out not only how many people shared your content (socially engaged), but also discover what type of engagement it was - share, Facebook like, unlike, send, tweet, etc. Lookfor pages that are most engaging and build on them.

If you would like to learn more about what metrics to keep an eye on to measure your efforts in social media, check out a post by Avinash Kaushik - Best Social Media Metrics. In addition, I also like to track number media inquiries, online citations, and other off-line metrics for branding social media campaigns.

Drawing conclusions

You need to know the value of Social Media to your business to get funding. People rarely come to your website throgh social media and buy something right away. Social media is the glue that holds together your online reputation. Social media is good at establishing a relationship with your brand. It can be used to instill trust in your product. Nobody said it is easy to measure value of a relationship.

What is your next step? You should be examining your mobile strategy success. Single out mobile traffic on your website and find out how socially engaged the visitors are. If your numbers are not impressive, you have your work cut out for you.

How successful are you in your social media efforts? What are your favorite metrics to measure your success?

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