Google Analytics Social Reporting – The Holy Grail of Social Media Marketing?
For as long as I’ve been working the ropes of social media channels, I’ve had this nagging question at the back of my mind – as I’m sure social media strategists, community managers, content strategists, and marketers across the board all have – what is the point? What IS the real value of social media?
Back in 2009, well after clever brands had started to figure out the potential behind Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social channels, we were just beginning to really connect the dots. Erik Qualman’s ubiquitous Socialnomics book and video drove the point home that social was unlike any other media channel we’d encountered before – so “why are we trying to measure [it] like a traditional channel anyway?...[it’s] more an extension of good business ethics.” Showcasing the potential of social, Qualman’s video emphasized the increased awareness, engagement, and sales resulting from social involvement.
Fair enough. If we’re lucky we can connect a promo code to a social campaign and we’ll get the exact ROI, or we can look at our sales revenue B.S. and A.S. (Before Social and After Social), and assert that there is some generally positive correlation. What the exact dollar amount value is of sharing something on Facebook versus Twitter versus LinkedIn is, we may not quite know, but we do know that being social has helped us become a trusted, visible, and popular brand.
Fast forward to March, 20, 2012, and Google has changed the game again with the announcement of their new Google Analytics social reporting features. Lucky for us, this means we can really nail down the social channels that are driving value the most, and which tactics are most effective. Indeed, it almost seems too good to be true... could it be -- the Holy Grail of Social Media Marketing?
What this will make easier
Not only can you see which content and channel directly referred a conversion (“Last Interaction Social Conversion”), but the new social analytics will allow for “Assisted Social Conversion” insights. This will help social media and content strategists determine relevance and effectiveness of content, indicating which is pulling visitors in, and which is actually pushing them forward in the funnel.
With an ever-increasing number of social channels out there to pique our interest and curiosity, it may be tricky to hone in on the channels that are truly strategic to our business, and which are just a time suck. Theoretically, the new reporting should help us determine what types of content to continue to publish, and in which social medium, to drive or facilitate conversions.
Beyond conversions, the new reporting features will allow for direct insight into which broader business goals are being impacted by your social channels. Now instead of trying to connect the dots ourselves between the publication of content and KPIs, Google is doing it for us – Hallelujah!
What’s more, it shows us how visitors from different social channels are behaving (Are Twitter users in it just for a quick blog article snack, while our Facebook fans stick around to sample our “About Us” & “Services” pages?) This tells us how we can better engage our audiences by providing the kind of content they were intrigued by, and which won’t be their cup of tea.
Two of the most overdue perks, in my opinion, are the ability to see which content your users are sharing via social plugins right in Google Analytics, and how people are engaging off your site in the Activity Stream. Now it’ll be easier than ever to optimize social plugins and see what type of content is share-worthy across different channels.
What to keep in mind
Sure not all of these features are brand new to Google Analytics, but they've never before been as easily integrated or packaged for consumption. The insights are more actionable, and there is certainly a lot of potential. Although the new reports may seem like the missing link in Google Analytics , there are 3 critical things to keep in mind:
1. It’s not ALL about the data. While it’s a great thing to publish content that is driving bottom line results, don’t get so absorbed with the numbers that you forget the big picture. As Jason Falls, founder of Social Media Explorer, candidly responded the other night to one of many #BeOnFire questions, he focuses primarily on “producing content [his] audience will enjoy and share…analytics are secondary to that.” With a solid content strategy in place to produce what is interesting, relevant, enjoyable and useful, analytics will come to follow.
2. You still need to define your strategy. While the new social reporting will allow us to connect the dots between content publication and business goals, we still need to define business goals that matter. While it’s easy to get caught up in poring over data for hours (I’ve fallen victim once or twice), defining goals that matter to your business are key to getting the most out of the new social reporting features.
3. There are still some gaps even Google Analytics can't fill. While the Activity Stream will show you where and how your content is being shared socially, it won't account for the visitors gained from shares. For instance, you shared a link via Facebook and I visited the site separately and found the product you mentioned -- yet I am not accounted for as a "socially engaged visitor". So although the social reports will provide deep and widespread insights, there will still be necessity for speculation.
While the new analytics features will certainly be a major help as a thread to tie together the dozens of social channels proliferating on the scene, it seems that this is only the beginning. With the promise of incrementally rolling out the full reporting abilities over a few weeks, it will be interesting to see how this affects usage some of the newer social mediums – namely Google+ or Pinterest.
Will you be adding or using more of the tools in your social toolbox? What other things are you hoping the social reports will help with?
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