Most businesses use social media to generate awareness about their company as well as driving prospects and customers to their website. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or another social media channel, how do you know your social media activities are working? And which outlet sends you the most traffic?
Sean Gallahar, social media director at i7 Marketing in Rogue River, Ore., agrees and adds that analyzing social media data will tell you who is engaging with your company, compare that data to your target audience, and decide the next course of action to reaching that audience.
“If the wrong people are visiting and engaging with you, you’re either targeting a wrong audience or doing something wrong with your content, so something has to change,” he says. “However, if your target audience is the one engaging with you, then you can decide what to do to boost that engagement or reach a wider audience. Without this data, you’re simply shooting in the dark.”
Measuring your social media updates
If your ultimate goal for using social media is to drive leads and sales, Google Analytics is a great tool to determine which social channels to focus on, eliminate or concentrate on to improve sales. One way to track and measure your social media updates is by embedding a UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tracking code in your links. This allows for a greater detailed and simple understanding of how many visits are converting into actual sales or leads.
You can attach a UTM code to any website page or blog post to track where visitors came from. When someone clicks on a link with a UTM code, that information is sent back to your Google Analytics for tracking purposes.
“Google Analytics shows you from what social media platform you gain the best traffic,” Tomasz Smykowski, CEO of Social Media Agency Websoul based in Bydgoszcz, Poland. “This way you can discover not only what platform is the best to put effort in, but also what kind of content you should publish and where.”
A great benefit to using Google Analytics is that it’s free, notes Pophal. While other tools are available, Google Analytics provides functionality to meet the needs of most organizations.
In addition, she says the tool is very robust. “You can drill down virtually endlessly to see what is happening once a visitor has arrived via social media and compare the different types of social media you might use and compare those activities to other activities.”
Google Analytics also offers good on-site support tools and information about the various aspects of its package; they also offer training sessions and even a Google Analytics Academy (https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/explorer) for those interested in learning more, adds Pophal.
Tracking your social media posts
Assuming you already have a Google Analytics account, once you log in, under “Acquisition,” in the left margin, you will see a section labeled “Social.” If you click on it and then go to “Overview,” you will see a general overview of your traffic from social media networks.
Perhaps 100 of your visits in the past 30 days came from Facebook, 250 from Twitter and another 50 from LinkedIn. While you receive this nice aggregate of data, it doesn’t tell you which specific post brought visits to your website or blog.
To determine your most effective social media posts and channels, use UTM Tracking which works seamlessly with Google Analytics. You can pinpoint which posts are increasing traffic and which ones are underperforming. Not only can you determine which posts are doing well, but you can also spot trends. For example, are posts with larger images driving more traffic to your site? Or perhaps there’s a specific keyword resonating with your audience that is getting you traffic. You can also see which social media channel performs best for you.
Most importantly, a UTM code can validate your return on investment from your social activities. Now you will know for sure if the money you’re spending on social media-ads, or the fees you are paying a social media consultant are actually paying dividends for your business.
Getting started with UTM tracking
Setting up a tracking code is easy. Go to Google’s URL Builder which can be found at https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867. You can also search for “Google URL Builder,” in your search bar. You will come to a form with six fields which you need to fill out to generate a UTM tracking code. Only four of the six fields are mandatory:
1. Website URL (mandatory): enter the URL of the link you want to track. Let’s say you are promoting a new product line this fall via a blog post. Enter the link to the specific blog post. Example: www.yourwebsite.com/blog_post_title
2. Campaign Source (mandatory): this is how you identify where the traffic to that blog post is coming from. Enter the Campaign Source, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. In this example, you are sharing the blog post on both your Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Example: Social Media New Product Post
3.Campaign Medium (mandatory): this parameter tells you which specific post is bringing traffic to your page. In this example, enter the blog post title. Example: Blog Post Title
4. Campaign Term: this field is not mandatory. If you are running a paid ad campaign, you can enter your keywords for the ad in this field.
5. Campaign Content: this field is also not mandatory. However, if you are posting the same link on Facebook and LinkedIn and want to differentiate between the two, fill out this field.
6. Campaign Name: this field identifies the different campaigns you wish to track. Use utm_campaign to identify your overall campaign. Example: Fall2015Promotion
Click “Submit” when you are finished and this will generate your tracking code for your blog post. Since the link will be long you do not want to share the full link. Instead use a URL shortener service such as Google Shortener (https://goo.gl/) to shorten the link.
Analyzing your metrics
When someone clicks on this UTM-coded link from your Facebook or LinkedIn page, you can view details about it under the Campaigns section in your Google Analytics account. The Campaigns section will display results such as how many people clicked on that link and which social media outlet was the most successful.
“If you’re posting links on LinkedIn and you see that not one click came from there, you know to change your strategy,” says Gallahar. “Likewise, if you see Facebook is leading many people back to your site, keep using it and maybe even consider promoting your posts to see if it results in even more engagement.”
You can also monitor how your visitors interact with your site. For instance, after they enter your blog post landing page from the UTM-coded link, where do they go next? How long do they linger on your website? When do they leave your site and on which page? This data tells you if they are taking a desired call-to-action, such as visiting your contact page or sales page.
Depending on how often you post on social media per day or week, Gallahar suggests also tracking data related to your audience’s behavior. If they are more likely to comment at a certain time of day, then post your updates during that time. If your audience is simply liking certain type of content, like pictures with quotes for example, then keep posting them and see what you can do to improve the quality of the images or find quotes that are more shareable.
“Pay close attention to the times of day your audience engages,” he says. “Sometimes, your audience will be more active at two a.m. This may be a little strange but if that’s the case, use that data, and post something during that time by using an auto-scheduler like Hootsuite.”
While you can learn what social media activities gives you the most conversion to your website, Smykowski cautions that the biggest pitfall is to focus only on this metric. If you continue to drop too many sales-related content, your followers will become less interested in engaging with you. As a result, your metrics will soon become flat. The best thing to do is create a solid social media plan.
“Decide what you want to accomplish for your company, what people want to receive and build a strategy that mixes sales, entertainment and building company image content,” says Smykowski.
Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media marketing consultant from Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, visit www.danielcasciato.com or reach him at email@example.com.