The Google Analytics Social Data Hub – More than Meets the Eye?

Google Analytics Announces Social Data Hub

Get ready for the Google Analytics Social Data Hub

You may have heard that Google recently announced a new Social Media Data Hub. This is the nerdy first step in a series of upcoming social media reports that will probably launch in 2012.

Basically, Google will allow social media sites (Digg, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to send data to Google Analytics. What type of data? Information about who is sharing your content, what content they are sharing, and how they’re sharing it. Basically everything you would want to know about someone talking about your business off of your site.

I’ve read a few of the write-ups and think John Lovett did the best job. You should totally read his thoughts on the new social data hub. Here are a few gems from his post:

Well, I see this as a huge win for marketers, bloggers, publishers and anyone else trying to discern the impact of social media marketing across the multitude of channels and platforms available today.

Google’s new Social Data Hub – coupled with Google’s Social Analytics reporting – has the potential to knock the socks off these unknowing marketers.

If/when Google applies the lens of their analytics tool to this new aggregated data set, look out marketers — you just hit the jackpot!

While the big dogs in social media may take a while to come around, I see this new Hub as a potentially great equalizer for understanding the impact of social media as it relates to referrals for on-site activities which can ultimately lead to conversions and bottom line impact.

If you would like to join the Social Analytics Reporting beta you can sign up here:

If you are a social media platform and would like to send you data to Google Analytics you can review the technical specifications here:

So get really excited! In 2012 we’ll be able to analyze how people interacts with your content and brand on social networks. Very cool.

The Details Others Missed

But I think there’s a lot more to this announcement than meets the eye.

First, the REALLY big news that I feel has been overlooked is that Google will let other data providers integrate their data into Google Analytics. This is the first time that Google has added a non-Google data source to Google Analytics. (I’m counting Google AdWords as a separate data source, but it’s owned by Google).

Now that’s the big news.

OMG! Google's Creating a Social Data Hub

There are some interesting side stories to Google's Social Data hub.

If Google is developing the infrastructure to integrate other well-structured data sources, what’s next? Will they let me import historical data? What about industry benchmark data that I might use to provide context to my website data?

Or how about the ability to import and translate data. For example, maybe I’ll be able to translate product IDs into product names using a standard data import.

Or how about the ability to translate a single campaign id rather than using the standard utm_ campaign tracking parameters (anyone remember utm_id?)?

The ability to import data has been a common request (albeit mostly from enterprises) for a long time. This would be very well received.

The second interesting thing about the new Social Data Hub has to do with privacy. The standard version of Google Analytics prohibits the collection of personally identifiable information. But, according to some of the Google Analytics Social Data Hub technical specifications, Google will require that the username or screen name and the display name appear in the social media data feed.

This could absolutely be PII.

Technical Information about the Google Analytics Social Data Hub

Technical Information about the Google Analytics Social Data Hub

It seems to me that Google may need to change in the standard Google Analytics terms of service.

So at this point we’re left with a lot of questions.

But that’s OK, we’ve got some time to speculate.

NOTE: ideas and opinions above are my own. While I will be joining the Analytics team in January, I have no current knowledge of Google’s master plan

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    1. says

      Interesting point of view on today big Web analytics news.
      You raise a very interesting aspect – is this the first step toward ability to import own data in Google Analytics?
      Sure it is – after all if it can be done by SM platforms why not any kind of data. On top, this is a key features for many companies that GA is missing today – compared to other players.

      But then – knowing it is highly requested by entreprises, will this ability be only for “Premium”? Or for all – but in a limited way?

      I am sure you do know more than you are telling us ;-)


      • says

        @Michael: Interesting point about Premium. I think every new Google Analytics feature will start a debate about weather it is a premium feature or a standard feature. Honestly, I don’t know. My personal point of view; everyone can benefit from social analysis. But a data import is really only needed by sophisticated analytics users.

        Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    2. says

      This is awesome. And yet…

      The PII aspect is interesting…I would want to know what sources and actions led to the most goal conversions, but will I be able to make advanced segments down to the username/screen name? That’s tricky.

      Also, I have a hard time giving my full trust to Google various reasons. In this case I find it interesting that as more and more social services and platforms integrate their data with Google Analytics, Google’s server will have loads of data very explicitly showing how users interact with those social media services and at what scale…which wouldn’t be an issue if there wasn’t Google+. I’m just saying–if I ran a social media service, it wouldn’t sit well with me knowing that Google also has my data. Again, for now I trust Google and really do believe that this move is simply a recognition that as social media continues to grow it will materially affect the bottom lines of companies around the world…in that sense, this is a great win for companies.

    3. Micah says

      Google would need to be careful about this as they recently took out search referrals for logged-in Google users for ‘privacy’ reasons. Adding in this social data, which is highly personal, would need to be squared off otherwise just fuel more fire to anti-trust concerns.

    4. Judah says

      But Justin, what industry analysts will no real experience doing analytics other than pontificating about it fail to see is that you we can already do all this already. In fact, you can already bring in social data in GA – and in fact isn’t social data already in GA (referrers from twitter and digg and so on). The big deal here is less in the functionality – as I have been doing this for years will Ferrari analytics tools – but in the fact you GA is letting you pipe in. The real value here is less to the analysts but more to Google as the GA team is obviously supporting Google’s strategy of 1) “organizing the world’s information” and 2) “getting really rich while having fun doing it in non-evil ways.” I think #2 I made up and is less a strategy but more of an outcome.

      Anyway. I want to have a DAT at Google HQ in the Cafe in Building 41 in March. Can you do that? I’ll cover the cost. :-)

    5. says

      Hi Justin,
      Thanks for this and great point on Google’s direction to allow importing external data into G.A.
      The official site only cites below social media sites as participating in the social data hub:
      Google Plus, Google Groups, Gigya, Reddit, Diigo, Digg, Blogger, Read It Later, Delicious, VKontakte, Livefyre

      Do you think it is just a matter of time for all big players like FB, Twitter to join or is there any reluctancy due to competition? So, if the social media site I want to monitor in GA does not participate, there is no way to end-user to bring this data into G.A.?

      • says

        @Hugh: This data is getting programmatically added to GA via APIs. The iPerceptions data, and to some extend data from other tools, comes from Custom Variables and Events, both of which are JavaScript based.

        @Burak: I think Google will try to get Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But those are some heavy hitters and I think tis will be harder to convince them to send in their data. I do think they will get data from Twitter and LinkedIn, but I don’t think Facebook will participate.

        @Adrian: The hard part is that the social networks can not offer user any information about what’s happening on the site. So there is not a lot of insight (other than basic referral information) into things like transactions.

        @Judah: Good points. While we don’t know what the new social reports look like (yet) much of the probably analysis has been possible using other tools. However, those tools have never provided insight into what happens on a website.

    6. Hugh Gage says

      I suppose you are also excluding the 4QiPerceptions tie up as a data import. I’m not technical so I’m not even sure if it counts but it’s certainly helpful (and very interesting) to be able to use GA to cross segment survey questions with GA’s own clickstream data without any custom configuration.

      If Google are doing it with iPerceptions and now potentially with social networks then maybe they will widen the net, though presumably they see a difference between allowing specified and carefully vetted partners to import data as opposed to the great unwashed GA user base.


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