Twitter and Google Analytics: What to Track

A couple of weeks ago I decided to start Twittering. I’ve had a Twitter account for a while, but never really got into it. But after observing some friends for a while, and reading up on how others use Twitter, I started to see some value in the service.

One thing I’ve noticed is the amount of promotion done with Twitter. Whether it be self promotion, like me promoting a blog post, or corporate promotion, like a sale, people are driving traffic to websites using tweets (posts on Twitter). Check out how CNN is driving traffic to their Political Ticker blog using Twitter.

Here’s another great example that was mentioned on the GokDotCom blog. Bryan Eisenberg found a t-shirt coupon posted as a tweet and passed the information on to his coworkers. Here’s the original tweet that Bryan read and sent on via email (I assume he used email):

Who wants a FREE $50 gift code? Here it is: TLTW7897 First come, first serve – and all tees are ON SALE FOR $12!! http://tinyurl.com/yqe9f

This got me thinking, how are people tracking Twitter as a marketing activity using Google Analytics?

Default Tracking Method

By default, traffic from Twitter will be tracked as referral traffic in Google Analytics. if someone clicks on a link to your site from a tweet you will see ‘www.twitter.com’ in the Referrals report.

This data will give you a basic idea of how much traffic your tweets are generating. It’s good, but there is an issue.

What happens if your tweet gets passed along to others, as it did in Bryan’s case? Bryan’s co-workers never clicked on a link at twitter.com, they received a link in an email. How can we identify these visitors as coming from Twitter and not an email?

Preferred Tracking Method

A better way to track a Twitter campaign would be to use GA’s campaign tracking feature. This method will track anyone visiting the site as a result of your tweet, regardless of where they clicked on the URL. It doesn’t matter if it’s in an email client, hosted email app. etc.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Most tweets that include a URL use some type of URL shortening service, like Tinyurl.com. This service shortens a URL by creating a redirect that is hosted on www.tinyurl.com.

The cool thing about Tiny URL is you can add GA’s campaign tracking parameters to your Tiny URL, thus encoding campaign info into the URL you use in your tweet. When someone forwards your tweet using email the tiny URL will contain campaign info identifying the visitor’s source as your Twitter campaign.

This is the secret to tracking tweets with GA: adding campaign information to your tiny URL.

Here’s an example. Here’s a tweet that I posted with a link to this blog:

Help me test tracking Twitter with Google Analytics: Please click on this link http://tinyurl.com/5eyfjo

I added GA campaign parameters to the Tiny URL in the tweet above. If you click the tiny URL in my tweet you get this URL:

http://www.cutroni.com/blog/?utm_campaign=blog&

utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=micro-blog

The campaign information in the URL will bucket the visitor as part of the blog campaign and as someone who was reached by the ‘micro-blogging’ medium. Here’s how the data looks in the All Traffic Sources report:

There it is in all its glory. But let’s dig deeper. I’m really interested in knowing how people are using Twitter. Are they on their mobile (like me) or PC? This can have a big impact on how they interact with my tweet. Let’s segment the tweet by OS:

7 of 25 users are on the iPhone, interesting. I know that I’m an iPhone user and it’s one of the only reasons I twitter. It’s just easy on the iPhone! :)

So if you’re using Twitter to drive traffic to a site:

1. Always use a Tiny URL
2. Always add Google Analytics campaign tracking information to your Tiny URL

If you’re unfamiliar with campaign tracking you may want to check out these posts:

Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Pt. 0: An Overview
Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Pt. 1: Link Tagging
Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Pt. 2: The EpikOne Link Tagging Tool

Update: You can use a number of URL shortening services such as TwwetBurner and SnipURL. Both of these services also provide some basic reports on the number of clicks your shortened URLs generate.

Good luck!

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    Comments

    1. says

      Justin,

      Thanks for the link to our twitter story. To confirm, I did email the link to the rest of my staff. However, I’ll often retweet something I find interesting and of course this tracking method would be helpful to that as well.

      I actually only use twitter on my Mac.

      Best wishes,
      Bryan

    2. Qiana says

      This is great, but i’m wondering how you track Twitter content like an automated RSS feed, which can be set up using something like TwitterFeed?

    3. says

      Hi Qiana,

      I have not worked with Twitter feed before, but my understanding is that TwitterFeed rebroadcasts your site RSS/ATOM feed to Twitter. So anything you post to your blog gets added to Twitter.

      I don’t think the info in this blog post would help much in that scenario. The technique above is really to measure how a twitter campaign can drive traffic to your site.

      You could still use the technique in this post, but I think you’re talking about two distinct marketing mediums: a blog and Twitter.

      I am by no means an expert at TwitterFeed, so please feel free to enlighten me if you’re using it!

      Thanks so much for the comment,

      Justin

    4. says

      Justin, this is a great tip. Simple and easy for anyone to do. I was reluctant at first regarding twitter, but like you said, after a little research I saw the value in it. Its a “virtual watercooler”. Good stuff.

    5. says

      Thank you for sharing Verwee. I updated the post to indicate that the link tagging technique can be used with TweetBurner as well.

      The advantage to tagging your links is that you will be able to measure conversions from Tweeting, not just traffic.

      Thanks for the comment,

      Justin

    6. says

      Using Twitter as a web marketing way isn’t new to me, but adding a tinyRUL and/or tracking parameters is a great idea. I’m sure I’ll implement it some day. Thanks!

    7. says

      Very interesting, this post. Never thought of analysing the Twitter traffic to this extent.

      I’m not sure if it’s worth the trouble of manually adding tracking parameters though. Did you find it gives you any interesting insights to the reading habits of your Twitter followers?

    8. says

      limeshot,

      The value of this technique lies in the viral nature of a tweet. If actweet is removed from Twitter and send to others thisctechnique will always attribute traffic and conversions to the Tweet.

      If you’re not worried about tracking those that may receive your Twitter marketing via email then you can just monitor your Twitter traffic as referral traffic.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Justin

    9. says

      Great idea for tracking posts to twitter and elsewhere. Somewhat similarly, you can also create a filter in Google Analytics to have it provide full referrer data. I’m not quite sure what kind of referral URL comes from Twitter as I’ve only just created a filter to do this. :)

    10. says

      Is there any reason, TinyURL would obscure utm codes from Google? We tested a TinyURL link with utm codes on one site and Google tracked it successfully. We did it again with another site, and it never registered with Google.

    11. says

      Hey Jason,

      Based on my experience, no. TinyURL should not strip off the campaign tracking parameters. I would take a look at the site. My guess is that there is a problem with the site stripping off the parameters or doing some type of redirect.

      Hope that helps,

      Justin

    12. paul gailey says

      an alternative for greasemonkey users i advocate is to use the excellent script that combines the google analytics url builder and the is.gd url shrinker:
      blog.avangate.com/twitter-analytics-love/

    13. Felicity says

      Will this still work if I shorten the url using Hootsuite? I like the HS feature that allows you to set tweets to send later, but still want to be able to track the hits in Analytics. I’ve heard that because of the way ow.ly works, Analytics can’t track it correctly — because it is a “temporary” redirect, rather than “permanent” like tinyurl. Is that true?

    14. says

      Felicity,

      I’m not sure about How.ly. I’ve never used that service, but as long as it passes the person on the the URL you specify then the campaign parameters should persist.

      Thanks for the question,

      Justin

    15. says

      Felix,

      Thanks for the comment. But I’m not really sure what you’re asking. Do you mean you want to track traffic coming from your RSS feed to your site?

      Justin

    16. says

      Justin,

      Snip-n-Tag 1.5 is out, and you can now use your own tr.im or bit.ly account. Also, it now supports tag-only and shorten-only behavior.

      Cheers,
      Tyson

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