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Tracking Social Engagement in a Business-driven Context

Posted on 1.07.2013

Social media is many things, but easy to track and analyze is not one of them. Why? There just has not been much in the way of analytics standards across the various social networks — or from a website, for that matter — which makes understanding engagement in a purely business-driven context nearly impossible.

At least until now.

While that failure has not historically prevented companies and individuals from using — and heavily investing resources into — social networks, the call to start measuring, tracking and, more importantly, understanding social media channel participation and the effect on a businesses’ bottom line is growing each and every day.

Most Web professionals and digital business analysts are still stymied by the process of tracking social engagement. While there are many companies that offer powerful standalone solutions for managing, measuring, listening in on and even optimizing the channel, most of the responsibility to integrate that data into systems that help to make meaning out of the social analytics madness in a business context still rests squarely on the virtual shoulders of digital marketers.

Fortunately, it’s gotten much simpler thanks to the introduction of a new set of social reports within Google Analytics. With a little virtual elbow grease and a focus on doing what is right for your enterprise, making sure that time and money are spent wisely, you will be well on your way to not just tracking social engagement but also improving your participation.

Google’s new social reports cut through the clutter to allow users to identify the actual value of traffic sent from social sites and measure how and if that traffic leads to conversions or assists in future conversions. The end result is that social media and business analysts can finally start to make data-driven decisions about their social media marketing campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at these important new reports:

The Overview reportshows how much actual conversion value is generated from all social channels. The available visualization (see image) compares the number and monetary value of all goals completed on a website against those that resulted from social referrals — both as “last interaction” (where a visitor arrives from a social referral and converts immediately) and “assisted” (where a visitor from a social referral returns to a website after the initial visit and then converts).

The Conversion report is where marketers will be able to measure the actual value of individual social channels by viewing conversion rates and the monetary value that results from participation. Keep in mind that goals and goal values must be set up in order to access data in these reports.

The Social Sources report within Google Analytics shows engagement and conversion metrics for each social network, showing how visitors are interacting with content and whether it’s leading to a completed conversion. For example, if you run social campaigns that promote specific products, you can see via the Social Visitor Flow whether visitors from each social network entered your site through these product pages and whether they continued on to other parts of the site or whether they exited.

Content publishers interested in understanding which articles on their own site are shared or recommended most often, and on which networks, will also appreciate the Social Plugins report. The report shows which articles on your site are receiving the most engagement and which social buttons — Google +1, for example — are being clicked to share them.

Finally, for those seeking more in the way of qualitative information, Google’s Activity Stream report will be very important. While Google’s other reports show the impact that social engagement is having on your site, the Activities Stream tab shows how people are engaging socially with content away from your site on the social Web. Marketers will be able to see the URLs shared, how and where they were shared, and what was said.

Social media can be measured, but it requires a clear focus from marketers about the expectations they have for their participation on these consumerfacing networks.

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