Full Funnel: Google Analytics Measures Social Media

We all love social media. We all use it all the time.

As analyst and marketers we’re trying to define the business value of social.

But the measurement is challenging. We’re trying to change that with Google Analytics and have introduced a set of Social Media reports to help measure the value of social.

I like to relate the new social reprots to the various stages of the conversion funnel. The goal is to help marketers understand how social impacts all phases of the funnel, especially the lower funnel: conversions, transactions and revenue.

Google Analytics Social Media Reports

The new Google Analytics Social Media Reports (listed on the right) map to the various stages of the funnel (listed on the left).

Let’s look at the reports starting at the top of the funnel and working towards the bottom.

Acquisition Reporting

The Social Sources report lists all traffic from different social sources. Google Analytics maintains a list of social networks and will automatically categorize incoming traffic based on the URL.

NOTE: This list has over 450 social networks from around the world and includes all the big ones, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

This report has the standard web metrics like visits, pages per visit, avg time on site, etc.

Google Analytics Social Sources Report

The Google Analytics Social Sources Report will automatically identify traffic from social networks.

So far, so good.

But the Social Sources report holds a lot more.

When it comes to social, many activities happen off the site. But integrating the offsite actions with on-site behavior has been a manual process. That’s why Google launched the Social Data Hub.

This giant database (for lack of a better term) let’s any social network send social activity data, that occurs on a social network, to Google Analytics. The data has not been available until now.

You’ll also notice that there is a little icon next to some of the social networks in the Sources report.

I call it the “sleeping Mickey Mouse.”

This indicates that the social network is a Social Data Hub partner and is sending social activities to Google Analytics.

Social Data Hub Partners

The Social Data Sources report shows traffic from social sources AND data from Social Data Hub Partners.

If you click on the icon and you’ll see a list of social content URLs. These are URLs, from your site, that people are sharing on the social network.

There are a couple of things to notice in this report. After you click on the data hub icon there will be a link to an activity stream at the top of the data graph AND a link to view the social network and actions at the top of the data table.

Google Analytics Social Sources Report

You can view social activities on a data hub partner using the Activity Stream tab.

If you click the “Originating Social Network and Action” link you’ll get a list of all the actions happening on the network that you selected.

Remember, these actions are defined by the social networks, not Google Analytics. GA simply takes the data that the network sends. It’s quite possible that you’re getting data from a social data partner and there are activities that you don’t understand. You need to take the time to explore these networks.

Social data from the Delicious bookmarking site.

Social data from the Delicious bookmarking site.

For example, you might not be familiar with Del.icio.us, the social bookmarking site. As a result you might not have any idea what the social actions mean. Take the time to investigate these networks, play with them, and learn the various actions.

If you click on the Activities tab at the top of the data graph you’ll get a huge dump of activities on the social site. These activities are divided into two sections: Conversations and Events.

Google Analytics Social Sources Report

Social activities are divided into two groups: conversations (which are longer content) and events (which are shorter actions).

  • Conversations are social activities that include free form text; things like a ‘comment’ or ‘share’.
  • Events are social activities that do not include free-form text; thinks like a ‘bookmark’ or ‘+1′.

It’s easier to understand the data if it is separated into two groups. If it was in in a single table it would be a horrendous mess and too complex to understand.

Remember, you can view the activity stream for the entire social site OR for a single piece of content. This type of segmentation means you can approach your analysis different ways.

A quick note, the new Social > Pages report is similar to the Social > Sources report. The primary difference is that the Pages report starts with the Social content URL and not the Social Source. It a similar report, but starts with a different piece of data.

Engagement Reporting

The social engagement reporting focuses on two thing: how people use social media tools on your site and what happens to traffic from social media once it lands on your site.

GA previously launched social plugin code that let’s site users track how often someone clicks on a Tweet button, Like button or any other social button. This data is also in Traffic Sources > Social > Social Plugins Report.

Social Plugin Reporting

You can track how visitors interact with social plugins on your site using the Social Plugins report.

If you decide to implement this code you can measure which content people share most on social media and which social networks they choose to share it on. You can use this knowledge to guide you in content creation decision and which social content is appropriate for which networks.

And remember, Google+ actions will be automatically tracked. You don’t need to do any additional coding. And please, no jokes about Google+… People do use it :)

There is one thing to be aware of. The social data can not be filtered. So if you have filtered profiles the social plugin data will not be filtered out.

In addition to measuring which social sharing tools people use there is a Traffic Sources > Social > Social Paths report. This report shows all social traffic sources and the path visitors take through the site. This makes it easy to identify drop-off points.

For example, looking at the data below I can see about 30% of traffic goes to a couple of landing pages. But most of this traffic exits the site from the landing pages. Looking at other landing pages, I’d be better served directing the traffic to a different starting page that is stickier.

Google Analytics Social Flow Report

The Social Flow report identifies visitor paths through the site based on originating social network.

If you like our flow visualization report then you’ll like the social flow report.

Conversion Reporting

This is where things get really good: bottom of the funnel measurement.

What is the value of social media? Everyone is asking this question. Social Media experts beg us to forgo ROI measurement and invest in relationships.

Old-school marketing folks demand an ROI from this new and evolving channel.

Who’s right? I always like measurement :)

Almost all social conversions still happen on a website. That means we can measure them with GA.

We need to measure how many conversions come directly from social media.

We also need to measure how many conversions are generated with the help of social media. We call these assisted conversions.

That’s where the Traffic Sources > Social Media > Conversions report comes in. It not only measures direct conversions (ie conversions where social media was the LAST referring source) but also conversions where social media generated a visit prior to conversion.

Use the drop down at the top of the report to choose a specific conversion you want to analyze. You can also use the link at the top of the graph to change the view from Direct Social conversions to Assisted Social conversions.

Google Analytics Social Conversions Report

The Social Conversions report shows direct conversions and revenue from social as well as assisted value.

My favorite metric in the world is in this report. The Assisted to Last Conversions ratio. Remember, if this ratio is around 1.5 or greater it means that a given source of conversions is primarily an upper channel source. But if this number is around 0 then the source is primarily a lower funnel channel.

Assisted Social Conversions

The Assisted Social Conversions report shows how upper funnel social activities lead to conversions.

Remember, these social sources are auto-identified by Google. You’ll start to discover all sorts of social sites that you never existed. That’s because they were previously grouped as referrals.

If you’re using campaign tracking to identify your campaigns you can find that data in the Multi-Channel Funnels reports.

One more thing.

Many of the social dimensions and metrics are available in the GA customizations. For example, you can use the social dimensions in the new Dashboard. This makes it easy to build out customizations that make your life easy.

I built a small Social Media Dashboard to keep track of which social networks drive traffic to my site, which onsite site social tools people use, and how social traffic impacts my conversion.

The Dimensions and Metrics will eventually be in the API as well.

So there you have it. My overview of the Google Analytics Social Reports.

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    1. says

      Great article Justin. I’m having trouble finding “Social Sources” in my GA dashboard though (Standard Reporting). In fact, I don’t have a “Traffic Sources > Social Media” section as you mention here a few times.

      The only “Social” report I see is under Audience, where it has options for Engagement, Action, and Pages. Am I missing something?

    2. says


      Maybe I’m missing something but Google Analytics Social Reports seem to have a weak point. Most URLs that appear in tweets and other social media (at least in our case) use URL shortening services such as bit.ly. I guess that GAS Reports have no way of knowing if bit.ly redirections have a social origen or not. If I’m wrong please tell me.

      Regards, Peter
      PS. By the way, great post! :)

      • says

        @Peter: All shortened links can be resolved back to their originals. So no need to worry there :)

        @Michael: This is currently rolling out. You should see it in the next couple of weeks.

    3. says

      Great News! Currently all traffic from Social media sites are categorised under Referrals as source unless you tag the links. This is going to be a huge time saver!


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