A 5-Step Guide to Social Media Analytics

It’s time we put to rest the idea that social media results can’t be measured. Yes they can be measured and we don’t have to resort to fabricated KPIs such as “return on influence.”

There are a few simple steps to follow to properly track your social media marketing.

Step 1: Clearly define your campaign objectives.

Make them S.M.A.R.T.— specifically for the purposes of this tutorial, focus on the M and T: measurable and timely. If you can’t or don’t know how to measure the outcomes, you may want to get help or change your plans.

What are fair social media objectives? Hate to say this but it really depends on your business objectives, on what already works and doesn’t work for your company, and the amount of time and resources you have to do. Have you mastered sales but you are spending too much on recruiting? You can set an objective to increase share of talent referrals from social media by Q4.


Step 2: Set a benchmark.

This could be a snapshot of your social data before you start a new campaign, or it could be an industry benchmark. HubSpot frequently publishes industry data that you can use as reference.


Step 3: Set up tracking tools.

Once you have defined your campaign objectives and set your benchmarks, you’ll want to set up tools to track your progress.

Part 1: List all possible measurable elements.

  • Number of new fans
  • Number of shares
  • Number of impressions
  • Number of clicks to your website by social network or
  • Number of retail visits (you may have to implement a survey at POS)
  • Conversion rate

Part 2: Prepare your tracking tools and process.


Part 3: Or maybe all you really need is Google Analytics. Especially for those who only care about conversions, and have no branding objective (not recommended but we know it happens).

Go to your Google Analytics, under Traffic Sources you will find a Social dropdown.

One thing to note is that Google is only able to track social visits from web browsers. We estimate about 40% of social traffic tracking gets categorized into a different generic bucket.

Part 4: Build your campaign tracking URLs. As I noted above, Google Analytics doesn’t track all social traffic. But you can track social media efforts with source-coded URLs using the Google Analytics URL Builder. Here’s how to get started with this tool:

There’s also a nifty Chrome app called the Google Analytics URL Builder, which offers three advantages:

  • You don’t have to copy and paste your URL from your website to the Google URL Builder. One click on the app shortcut and you can build your source-coded URL.
  • You can set up, save, export and import sets of campaign parameters. With a simple click on the sets option, you can select the campaign and quickly append the needed parameters.
  • If you want to also track your urls with bit.ly, the app gives you the option as well.

Step 4: Run the campaign.

As you run your campaign, input weekly annotations in Google Analytics so you can trackback any spikes or dips to what you did that day or week.


Step 5: Evaluate results.

After your campaign concludes, collect the data and compare it to your benchmark or snapshot. How are the numbers looking? Did they grow? By how much? Which actions (which can be determined by referencing your Google Analytics annotations) worked best and which didn’t? How does your cost per conversion compare with the cost per conversion from your other marketing? Where do you get the best bang for the buck?

Notice I didn’t mention ROI. The reason for that is that marketing is an expense. The trick is to get the best results for the lowest cost. Additionally marketing is about testing and learning. Once you identified the most effective marketing approach, you can look at evolving that marketing and calculating ROI. If you get too focused on the ROI too soon, you’ll risk dismissing marketing that could be great but that just wasn’t executed properly.

So, are you ready to get started tracking social media analytics?

About the Author

Mana Ionescu is the founder and president of Chicago Social Media Marketing company, Lightspan Digital. Mana believes in clear and simple marketing solutions that deliver results. Start simple, test, learn and evolve. At Lightspan, Mana created a company with focus on best-in-class methodology to help businesses of all sizes learn and be able to adopt good social media practices. Lightspan also offers social media management and campaign development and execution. Mana loves to cook Romanian food, SCUBA dive and attend the Lyric Opera. Connect with her on Twitter @manamica and Google+.

Photo courtesy of wwarby (flickr)


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