Measuring Social Marketing ROI with Google Analytics

Until recently return on investment for social marketing has been mostly a big question mark and, most probably, the lack of a tool to measure it prevented a lot of businesses to engage more heavily in social networks. I know we already wrote about this subject on our blog, but since Google Analytics introduced the Social Report, things have changed and became easier.

Of course, this might not meet all the needs and wants of some marketers or business owners, but I believe it is a huge step compared to the amount of data available on social marketing we had approximately a year ago.

You can find the following sections related to social stats under Traffic Sources -> Social.

Sources

The Sources report enables you to analyze which social network brings your website the most visits or pageviews, visitors from which channel stay longer (average visit duration) and which visit more pages during a session (pages/visit). As a side note I would mention that you should be careful when analyzing these metrics, because they can be deceptive, especially the Average Visit Duration and the Pages/Visit metrics. Why? Because they take into consideration extreme data. For example, if you have a non-ecommerce website, let’s say a news site, and in a given period of time 100 of your visitors visit 20 of your pages, while 1,000 visit only 1 page. This would mean that the average is 2.7 pages/visit, which might be considered a good result, but in fact 90% of your visitors view only one page visitors, which in the case of a news site is relatively problematic. To get the bigger picture look at the distribution table, which you can find under the Audience -> Behavior-> Engagement section. But in order for you to see the data related only to the visitors who are coming from social media networks you will have to apply an Advanced Segment (in the picture below you can notice that I named my segment Social Networks). I will talk about how to create such an segment in the second part of the article).

By drilling down through each channel you can analyze through which landing pages visitors from each social networks came to your website, and in what timeframe. You could discover that a piece of content from your site, which was shared by you or one of your fans/followers a week ago is still bringing a considerable amount of traffic to you site.

In the Social Network and Action tab you can see through which action the content was distributed. For example in the case of Google+, you can see how many times it received +1s, or how many times it was posted and re-shared.

Additionally, in some cases you can read the conversations that took place regarding your content, in the Activity Stream tab. This feature is available only for social networks that are part of Google’s Social Data Hub.

Pages

The metrics and features available are the same as in the Sources report, but from the point of view of your content. This gives you the opportunity to analyze which of your content was more “viral” and through which social channels each content was distributed.

Conversion

I consider this to be the most important section and you should too, because the value of the visits coming from social referrals and all the social interaction can be found in this report. An important aspect to remember is that this section would be empty if you do not enable ecommerce tracking (if you have an ecommerce website) or set up goals, including a Goal Value (if you have a non-ecommerce website you can use the method described by Google Analytics to calculate the Goal Value .

If one of the two or both ecommerce and goals are set up, the Conversion report will be populated with the social networks you receive traffic from, together with the number of conversions and the conversion value for each social network.

In the Assisted vs. Last interaction tab, for each social media network you can see the number of Assisted and Last Interaction and their value respectively, together with the Assisted / Last Interaction Conversions ratio. But what does this all mean you ask? Let’s see below:

  • Assisted Conversions and Assisted Conversion Value shows the number and monetary value respectively, of sales and/or conversions that a particular social network assisted. An assist occurs when a visitor (coming through a social media network) leaves without converting to a goal or without buying something on your ecommerce site, but returns later to convert during an ulterior visit. The higher these numbers are the more visitors came through social media channels before converting on their last visit.
  • Last Interaction Conversions and Last Interaction Conversion Value show the number and monetary value respectively, of the last click sales and/or conversions. A Last click is considered that particular visit when a visitor converts. The higher these numbers are the more visitors converted when coming from a social media channel (in the case of that particular visit).

Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics explained

Note that if a visitor comes for the first time through a social network and converts in the same session, the Last Interaction Conversion is incremented, but the Assisted Interaction Conversion is not. The Assisted / Last Interaction Conversions ratio is interpreted in comparison to the value 1 (see chart below).

Google Analytics - Assisted / Last Interaction Conversion Rate explained

All the metrics available in this report can be viewed for all goals or just for one goal in particular (just select the goal for which you want to see the data from the drop-down list in the upper-left side).

If you are a marketer who’s lobbying for social marketing within your company, these metrics might just have the power to convince your CEO regarding the (monetary) value of the social networks you are active on.

Social Plugins

If you have social plugins implemented on your home page and you inner pages, with the Social Plugins report you can see what content is liked, +1ed and tweeted directly from your website. This could be another metric which shows you which of your content and what kind of content is more appealing to your visitors to share and on which channels. If you have the plugin implemented only on your home page, then the report will show you data only for this page.

Take note that by default Google Analytics only includes in the Social Plugin reports from Google Plus. To include Facebook and Twitter, for example, changes to the tracking code have to be made.

Social Visitors Flow

This visually represents what pages did the visitors, coming from social networks, viewed during a session on your website, where they left your website and so on. Thus, you can observe which pages are considered important by visitors coming from social networks and which pages need improvement (looking at the number of visitors who left after viewing a particular page). If you want to see more levels just click the arrow in the right. If you want a more thorough analysis, for example for new visitors or visits with conversions, select an advanced segment from the drop-down list in the upper-left corner. You also have the option to see the flow for visitors coming from a particular social network, just left-click on the particular channel you would like to analyze and select “highlight traffic through here” or “view only this segment”. You can do the same with a particular node (page) as well.

Google Analytics - Social Visitors Flow

Advanced Segments

If you want additional data on your visitors than what Social Reports, the location they come from, the operating system/browser they use, how much of you social traffic are returning visitors and so on you could create an Advanced Segment that includes only social traffic. You can use this method to see the distribution table for social traffic, when it comes to average pages/visit and visit duration (in the Audience section under Behavior).

For example, we created our “Social Networks” advanced segment using the following Regular Expression:

facebook\.com|m\.facebook\.com|twitter\.com|digg\.com|stumbleupon\.com|linkedin\.com|technorati\.com|myspace\.com|bit\.ly|delicious\.com|reddit\.com|t\.co|goo\.gl

If you want to use the same specifications, save this advanced segment to the profile you desire.

After you save it, you can edit it to better fit your analysis needs, or you can add other social networks we did not include.

If you observe that you are using Advanced Segments quite often you might want to consider creating an additional profile, in which you include only social traffic (remember to always keep an “untouched” profile). 

If you add the data available from Google Analytics to the number of followers, likes or +1s, number of interactions, total reach, check-ins and so on, you are able to draw a comprehensive picture about the results your social media activity has and take informed decisions regarding steps to be taken.

How do you measure the results of your social marketing activities?

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  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

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