­­­­­social media how toDo you have a grip on your social traffic?

Measuring your social media impact can be overwhelming.

A tried-and-true favorite social media measurement tool is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics can track the impact of social media traffic on your site, going beyond clicks, retweets and other vanity metrics.

Here’s how to measure your social media traffic using Google Analytics.

#1: Identify Where Your Social Traffic Comes From

Google Analytics can help you understand the users’ social networks and their physical location.

To see your social media traffic, you need to first set up an advanced segment in Google Analytics.

When you’re logged into your Google Analytics account, head to Advanced Segments, +New Custom Segment, then add your social media traffic sources to the segment.

You can see this below.

social media advanced segment

Use one catchall segment to capture all of your social media traffic at once.

Once that’s set up, head to Audience – Demographics – Location, and you’ll get a grid that looks like this:

social media location report

Shows what states my social media traffic is coming from (one step deeper than the default country-level report).

How can this information help you improve your marketing?

You can apply this information to your business goals. For example, you can use this information from Google Analytics to help you decide what locations might be best for a meet-up, where to set up the best Facebook location targeted ads or determine the best locations for a Pay-With-a-Tweet store.

#2: Determine What Social Media Traffic Comes From Mobile Devices

We’ve all heard that mobile is on the rise. Google’s 2012 Our Mobile Planet report shows that 80% of smartphone users in the United States use their phones to access social networks, and 55% visit more than once a day.

What about your audience? Industry stats are great, but don’t you want to see what applies specifically to your site?

With that advanced segment selected, simply head to Standard Reporting – Audience – Mobile – Overview.

You’ll get a chart that looks a lot like this:

social media mobile traffic

Here I've selected the default All Visits segment to compare against my Social Media Traffic segment.

How can this information help you improve your marketing?

You’ll find it useful to know how much of your social media traffic comes from mobile. If there’s a significant number, you’ll want to check how your content shows up on mobile devices.

Maybe your detailed infographic is hard to read. Or your Flash video only shows up as a “?” on mobile devices. Or maybe that contest form you’re thinking about tweeting has a lot of tiny fields that are too hard to fill out.

#3: What Social Media Outlet Sends You the Best Traffic?

Google Analytics’ built-in traffic quality metrics like Time on Page and Bounce Rate are great. But when you’re serious about measuring the quality of traffic, it comes down to conversions.

In Google Analytics, conversions are generally defined as goal completions.

Let’s walk through a quick “how-to” for setting up one of the most common goals: signing up for your newsletter. (I’m assuming here you’re using a double opt-in process for your email marketing.)

  • Walk through your newsletter sign-up process. When you click on the link in your email to confirm your subscription, what page do you end up on? Copy that link.  (Note: if that ‘Thanks for signing up!’ page is not on your own website, change that first. You can’t measure what’s not on your own website. With most email marketing service providers, you can easily tell them to redirect to your site as part of the process. Here’s how to do this for MailChimp.)
    thank you page url

    The thank you page for signing up for Social Media Examiner's newsletter.

  • In your Google Analytics account, head to Admin (upper right, orange bar). Click through to your profile. Click the blue-text Goals menu (next to Assets, Users).
  • Click New Goal.
  • Enter Goal Name (something as clever as “Newsletter Sign-up” works well here).
    goal name

    Newsletter Sign Up is a relevant name for this goal.

  • Select URL Destination as the Goal Type.
    goal type

    Our visitor completes this action by landing on a different URL, so URL Destination is the right choice here.

  • That URL you grabbed earlier? The one that’s the last page in your newsletter sign-up process? Copy that into the Goal URL box here. Remove the part of it.
    thank you page goal url

    Be sure to exclude the portion of the goal URL.

  • Click Save.

Awesome. Now you have a goal set up. It can take 24 hours for Google Analytics to start tracking these.

Once you start to collect some newsletter sign-up data, you can move on to properly evaluate your social media outlets.

In your Google Analytics account, head to Standard Reporting – Conversions – Goals – Overview.

Here, you can compare your social media traffic in one of two ways:

  1. If you don’t have a lot of referral sources, you can tell with a quick glance which networks are working for you without having to use advanced segments.
  2. If you have a lot of referral sources, you might want to set up different advanced segments for each social network ( + vs. + twitter, for example). Here’s more on that if you need it.

If you’re using segments, you’ll see something like this:

facebook vs twitter

Google Analytics shows you how much traffic comes from each social media platform.

But let’s not forget about the assisted conversion—not all traffic converts the first time they visit your site.

Here’s how to check if social media is helping some of your other channels:

Simply head to Standard Reporting – Conversions – Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths.

You’ll get a chart that looks like this:

social media top conversion paths

Social media plays a role in 2 of the top 5 conversion paths for my newsletter.

How can this information help you improve your marketing?

This tells you where you should spend your time and where you need to improve your social media marketing.

For example, let’s say you’ve been spending a lot of time on Facebook marketing, but Google Analytics shows you this is not bringing in much traffic, and you’ve been getting a good amount of Twitter traffic even though you’ve spent little time on Twitter marketing.

Consider switching things up. You could decide to change your Facebook marketing tactics to try to get more traffic. Or you could decide to spend more time on your Twitter marketing efforts, because this is what’s giving you the best results.

What about you?

What do you think? Do you use Google Analytics to evaluate your social media traffic? What have you learned? Do you have any tips to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

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  • Chimezirim Odimba

    It is easy to focus on the “wrong” social network if you don’t know where you are getting the best leads from. Thanks for sharing as this will help any business that’s heavily into social media optimize their properties and marketing to serve their customers better.

  • Thanks! I totally agree. Glad you liked the article!

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  • Great article, Liz! 
    It gave me a clearer understanding of how Google analytics can work for me as an entrepreneur who uses Social Media as a means to reach out to my target audience. I will definitely take into account the things I’ve learned here, so that I can concentrate more effort in the areas where my Social Media Marketing is strongest.Have a great Thursday SME peeps!

  • Hi Liz, really really great post! One thing I would add is that if you want to track the performance down to a specific link posted to FB, Twitter, etc. you can do so by tracking it at the Campaign level.

    For example, if a person links from FB out to their site, their link might look like this:

    Note: the utm_campaign=FacebookGoogleAnalyticsNov15

    If you look in Google Analytics under Traffic->Campaigns you’ll see “FacebookGoogleAnalyticsNov15” and you’ll see metrics for that specific post (pages/visit, avg. time on site, goal completions, ecommerce transactions, etc.).

    I find this to be the easiest way to measure the performance of individual posts when I need to. 

  • I love reading tips about Google Analytics. A few weeks earlier on the commenting section of social media examiner, someone posted this terrific link on how to setup and use advanced segments on Google+ 

  • Thanks John! Glad it helped 🙂

  • Hi Kristina! Thanks for sharing – there are so many details you can measure in Google Analytics, aren’t there?

  • Thanks for sharing! I love advanced segments.

  • All about social media in prospect of bloggers. I really got some unknown information. thanks alot.

  • Randy Kemp

    In another article I’ve read, if you go to the Home tab, you can then view Google Analytics Real Time, via the Real-Time tab.  I’ll have to see if this also applies to the Social Media stuff under the Advanced Segment Tab, I’ve learned from this blog post.

  • Saumitra M Ghotikar

    Beautiful article again , I shall surely start using this immediately. As I am putting a good amount of money on my FB Ads, It will also be a good segment to add, whats the opinion ?

  • Great post.. Ill be setting all that up tonight..  

  • Randy – I don’t know that you can view these advanced segments in the Real Time reports at the moment but let me know if you find otherwise!

  • Thanks! I’d agree that’s a valuable segment of traffic to track if you’re spending a lot of money there. There’s a bit of extra tweaking you need in place to track those effectively – I did a recent video tutorial on my blog about it that might help:

  • Thanks Shawn! Let me know if you run into any questions 🙂

  • Great article Liz. It is almost as if you knew what was on my mind earlier today when I was visiting my Analytics page! Thanks again. 

  • Scott Linklater

    Brilliant article and really really beneficial in every way! Thank you very much for that! 🙂


  • Thanks Rashelle! Glad it was timely for you 🙂

  • Thanks Scott! Glad I could help!

  • Amazing post, Liz. Really broke down Google Analytics in a way I could understand. Previously I was only measuring traffic from blog and SEO results, and I’ve been wanting to find a comprehensive way to find which social media outlet I should put my time and effort into. Especially timely as I’ve JUST stepped into a community manager role at my new company :).

  • Thanks Aylin! Happy to help – good luck with your new role!

  • Elmer Mercado

    In 2011 when I started making video marketing of our real estate and construction biz and uploading them on Youtube. That is the time when I come across Google Analytics.

    Google Analytics (GA) is a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visits to a website. The product is aimed at marketers as opposed to webmasters and technologists from which the industry of web analytics originally grew. It is the most widely used website statistics service.The basic service is free of charge and a premium version is available for a fee. Once you set up Analytics, the sky is the limit. You can tract everything from unique visitors to time-on-site to PPC Ad success. At the beginning, you’l probably want to focus on how much traffic you are getting and where it is coming from. Trafffic Analysis is the foundation upon which to successfully manage your marketing efforts. You’ll know what is working and what isn’t.

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  • Awesome post. Before reading this post i was looking for some tool to analyze my social media efforts, But this post really helped me to get overview of my efforts. 

  • This will definitely help me with my client’s Google Analytics because he’s been asking why he hasn’t received any traffic from Twitter.

  • Brilliant article Liz 🙂 This will be so handy to use when we finally get a chance to set up our social media networks! At least then I can concentrate on looking at one one major platform rather than having to keep going back and forth between several dashboards! Plus we were looking for a way to use Google Analytics to track our newsletters as well!

    Keep up the good work! 

  • Be sure to setup your social media channels via the admin tab on each account and look for “Social Settings”. 

  • Before read your post i never thought to measure my social media traffic. Actually i didn’t know how to do that technical thing now after read your post i learn this technical thing and now i will active this important feature in my google analytics account.

  • Great post. Testing it now.

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  • Glad I could help!

  • Thanks Bryony!

  • Great!

  • Thanks! Let me know if you run into any questions 🙂

  • Hi Liz — thanks for the write-up on our product. A quick thing: you should check out our new social sources reports. We’ve already built a social segment in GA for you that has 400+ social sources …and should do a better job aggregating the social web [automatically!]. Although you’re spot on — it’s all about assigning goals to really understand your efforts. Cheers and happy measurement. 

  • Hey Adam! Thanks for mentioning the social sources report – I like those too but find more flexibility in analysis by creating a separate segment and looking at that throughout the rest of GA. 

  • Ok so I set up an advance segment as per the instructions above. (for the past 30 days) GA now indicates 22 conversions for “Social Media Traffic” BUT if I navigate to Traffic Sources->Social->”Conversions I see 56 Assisted Conversion” and 7 “Last Interaction Conversions” How is Google interpreting the 22 conversions for “Social Media Traffic” I can’t tell if the 2 sets of metrics complement or contradict each other. 

  • Hey! Thanks for trying it out and reporting back. You’ll see some discrepancy in the official social reports vs the advanced segments you set up because the social reports include a *lot* of social media traffic sources that you might not have included in your segment – things like Stumbleupon are tagged as social in that report. 

  • but GA only lists 4 platforms for the 56 combined conversions If “social reports include a *lot* of social media traffic sources that you might not have included in your segment ” why doesn’t GA report those? GA lists in the “official” social reports Facebook 54 – Youtube 20 – Pinterest 2 vs my Advance Segments which includes LinkedIn so that’s not the case……….please enlighten me Obie One

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  • Mitch

    Google has added segments for social, no need to recreate them. Otherwise great article.

  • Very informative. I’ve be looking at the general info on social media at Google Analytics. I didn’t know how to set up the custom segments before. Thank you.

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  • Most useful, thank you!

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  • Robin Villariza

    Nice topic very useful and informative. 

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  • Wow thanks for the detailed article. Glad I came across this one!

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  • Robert

    Great article, very useful information I never knew.

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  • Andrew R

    Hi Liz!

    This is a really great article, but I’m struggling to wrap my head around the discrepency in stats that I’m seeing… Probably just need some clarification.

    I have setup in advanced segments and the number I see for visits I see are much higher than when I simply go to referral traffic to see the referrals from (advanced segments off). What exactly does advanced segments measure and what am I missing here?

    Your help is appreciated!

  • Hey Andrew! Can’t give specific advice without looking at your Analytics, but if you have in referral doesn’t include m.facebook or — both sources which you may have set up in your advanced segment. Hope that helps! Feel free to email me with any further Qs 🙂

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  • Great article very informative! Any suggestions on how to monitor links from my website to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? 



  • Jordan

    When advertising though facebook is there a way of knowing which audience within FB is converting? For example: Lets suppose I am running an advert for life coaching – I target likes and interests such as Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Dwain Dyer etc – How do I measure which one converted? Thanks 🙂

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  • I got a silly question Liz, do I put in the entire url of my social media links? 

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