Google Analytics: Measuring Social Media

Monday, June 1st, 2015

For some businesses, measuring the value of social media to business goals will be a high priority. Google Analytics gives you the tools to gain useful knowledge in this area. It measures the traffic coming from these sources and offers information on the audience and their behaviour, enabling you to make decisions about which social media tactics have worked the best.

There are some limitations – Analytics has no access to the data contained within many social networks, so it’s only able to provide information once the click onto your site has been made. It still has plenty of insight to offer however, and can be found in the side menu under Acquisition > Social.


The overview page is designed to give you a summary of how your social traffic is doing, with a particular emphasis on goal conversions.

social overview

Your social strategy should have a particular audience in mind, and it’s important to set concrete goals for any online campaign that you do. The overview shows you the total conversions on the site, as well as how many can be attributed to social referrals, giving you a quick picture of whether they’re working out or not.

Network Referrals

The network referrals report allows you to find deeper data on which social networks are sending you traffic.

Google Analytics takes a reasonably broad view of what constitutes a social network, and includes sites such as TripAdvisor and Reddit – any site where links are shared socially. Each network or website has a unique demographic and this report allows you to ascertain which ones are the most effective at spreading your content. At first you may try a scattergun approach to experiment, but as time goes on you should use this data to refine your strategy and maximise the time you spend on social media.

You can also use this report to find more specific data with Advanced Segments, such as how many of these clicks are first-time visitors, or the percentage of mobile users coming via social media.

Social Data Hub

Google Analytics has joined with a number of media partners to provide more in-depth data on websites such as Reddit and Meetup, and of course their own Google+ network. However they lack partnerships with the big players – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr – so for many marketers the functionality of this section will be limited. If you are interested in one of the partner networks, you’ll be able to find data on sharing from within Analytics.

Landing Pages

Like elsewhere in Analytics, the landing pages section provides details on which pages visitors are arriving at on your site. This is useful particularly if you aren’t manually sharing social links yourself as it gives a clear picture of which pages are being picked up naturally by users. Popular landing pages should be optimised to capitalise on visitors coming from a social media source, showing them immediately what to do next and addressing the attraction that brought them there in the first place.


Trackbacks are a way of keeping a tab on who is sharing links to online articles and documents, which is especially useful for websites with blogs. Within Analytics you can find data on which article was shared, who by and what they said about it. Use this data to discern which blog posts are getting the most buzz so you can narrow down topics and find out what “sells”.


Social buzz and sharing is great, but it’s pointless if it doesn’t add any real value to your website. There are two sections to this report. The Conversions section is designed to turn clicks and visitor stats into monetary figures, breaking it down by social network and showing which one is best suited to your business. You may get more traffic from one network but a higher ratio of paying customers from another, and it’s an important distinction.

There is also a section for Assisted vs Last Interactions. Last Interaction social conversions mean that the customer completed a goal or transaction as an immediate result of clicking the socially shared link, while Assisted conversions mean that they left the site, then came back at a later date to complete their transaction. Assisted conversion data is important for seeing more comprehensive results of your social media campaign, as it shows the effect of raised awareness and visibility.

Users Flow

A useful feature of the Social report is being able to visualise the exact flow of visitors through your website from their original social source.

visitor flow

Starting with the social network on the left, it provides a flowchart showing where audiences clicked next and whether or not they dropped the site entirely. You can use this to identify how your website is being viewed and make adjustments to the visibility of certain links. In particular it will show whether or not visitors arriving via social media are finding their needs met on the first few pages they come to.

The social report is a great tool for adding practical, financial value to your social media campaign.

Related Posts: Getting Started, An Introduction To Top Reports, Building A Custom Dashboard, Goals and Conversions, In-Page Analysis, Sharing Data

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Katie is a lover of words and art, born and raised in Christchurch. With a BA in English and Japanese, she’s happiest tapping away at her keyboard writing copy or articles, or else working on the latest illustration. To balance the creative side, Katie is also very motivated and a bit of a perfectionist, which helps with her SEO duties. Although her hobbies could probably be described as art, art and more art, she also enjoys long walks, good friends and travel.

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