Social Media Analytics Starts with Google Analytics

Just like with every new trend—there are skeptics and devoted followers.  Social networking is a marketing tool that has skyrocketed to importance and popularity with SMB marketers in the last decade.  Devoted followers appreciate the creativity, wide range of outreach, and yet low cost that using sights such as facebook and twitter allow. This marketing tool has settled comfortably into SMB’s routines and has become an asset to their overall marketing strategy.   There do, however, remain some skeptics—many of these skeptics stem from the fact that few SMB’s have discovered how to effectively calculate the numerical value of this new marketing tool. 

Nathan Linnel, of Search Engine Watch, laid out four steps in which companies can use Google Analytics, a free tool used to generate statistics which analyze a website’s visitors, in order to find the ROI of social media. Through Google Analytics, some tracking customization, as well as your social media team’s meticulous attention to detail, you can in fact calculate the ROI of the social media trend.

Use Google Analytics and generate calculations to sway those old-school naysay marketers in these four steps:

Step 1: Learn from Hansel and Gretel, Leave a Trail

The first step insures your organization is able to piece together which social media sight generates what revenue.  For this, use the URL builder tool offered by Google and create campaign-tracking strings.  Then, create an “Advanced Segment” and combine the parameters that you used in your campaign tracking.  From here, you are able to breakdown the last-click transactions that occurred from direct social media efforts.


You are, however, still missing the individuals who visited your website through non-campaign tracked social sources.  To catch these, create a second “Advanced Segment”.  This segment should use “source” as a dimension and contain an expression that will match all relevant social sites.  Then, include an “and statement” which excludes the segments you included in the first “Advanced Segment”.

After Step 1, you are able to segment the revenue generated through internal direct social media and those generated externally. 

Step 2:  Make New Clicks, But Keep The Old, Track Last Click Transactions

In web analytics tools, transactional data is reported by the last-click.  Each transaction is credited to the source that drove the visitor to the site where the final transaction occurred.  In order to view the visitors referred from social media sites you must apply the “Advanced Segments” created in the first step to the e-commerce reporting tool in Google Analytics.  This allows you to view the revenue generated by direct social media efforts and the social media revenue generated by external means within the Google Analytic site breakdown.

Step 3: Who’s got the assist?  Tracking Assisted Transactions

Unfortunately this step is still limited to Google Analytics beta users because it requires the use of multi channel funnels.  When it is released, it will allow for companies to see the data for all transactions in which social media assisted.  Assisted transactions means that the referring source for a transaction was not the last click, but referred the visitor to the site in the 30 days prior to the actual transaction.

When it is available to your company, you should use the “Advanced Segments” you created during step one—however, instead of looking at last-click revenue the focus should be on the revenue that each segment assisted in generating.

Step 4: Know Your Reach, Track Off Site Influence

Social media often leads to transactions without the visitor ever visiting your site.  Some customers will see your social media campaigns and make their purchase decision strictly from that without further research which would have led them to your website.  Unfortunately, these transactions will not record in Google Analytics as having had social media impact.  In order to gain insight as to the influence of the off site social media behavior, a few questions should be attached to your checkout process.  These questions allow your organization to view what factors played into the individual’s purchase decision, some examples would be:

How did you hear about us?
What had the greatest influence on your purchase decision?

These questions tap into the customer’s transaction decision and allow you to see the impact your social media campaigns may have had on them.


In addition to simply prompting customers with these questions, you must record their answers into Google Analytics as part of the transaction information.  Use the “Affiliation” feature in the e-commerce tracking to record the answers.  This allows you to see the responses that were given for each transaction as they were recorded in Google Analytics.  The end result is that for each transaction you have the ability to see whether social media was responsible for the last click, assisted in the transaction by driving a previous visit, influenced the purchase decision off site, or a combination of the three. 

After following these steps, your organization is capable of accurately calculating an ROI that supports social media as an effective tool in SMB marketing.  Take your marketing campaign to the next step and prove its success by calculating the ROI and the direct revenue it has brought to your company. It is all about numbers people, and with the numbers you can generate using Google Analytics in social media—who could be a skeptic?

Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Laughing Squid

3 responses to “Social Media Analytics Starts with Google Analytics”

  1. Teri Gidwitz

    Pretty sure Multi Channel Funnels has been rolled out to all Google Analytics users, in the new interface, as long as you have goals set up in the profile. 

    Good post!

  2. Elizabeth Lewis

    Google analytics offers you data about your site activity. If you want to monitor news, blogs, twitter, facebook, google+ or youtube from any website you can use There’s an open search engine on website.

  3. Matt About Friday: The "Web Based Software Programs for Which I am Thankful" Edition | Matt About Business

    [...] Social Media Analytics Starts with Google Analytics: I’m a big fan of using Google Analytics to track activity on your website. This post shows you how to use the tool to track social media activity. [...]

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