It’s not difficult to track social media marketing efforts as campaigns, but I haven’t seen too many companies actually doing it yet. Before I lay out step-by-step instructions, here’s a story that gives me hope for the future:
At last month’s X Change conference I sat in on a very popular social media analytics discussion; there were about 20 Web analytics practitioners in the room from a variety of large enterprises. At a certain point our conversation turned toward measuring ROI. The room grew quiet except for one voice.
“I can tell you exactly how well social media is working for us,” said an individual - who shall remain nameless - representing a major consumer brand. He pulled up a Web analytics report on his smartphone and stated, “Here’s a Twitter campaign we ran last month that generated $23,000 in revenue.”
He was able to make this claim precisely because his company tracks their social media links as campaigns. If you want similar bragging rights for your own company, just follow this 4-step process:
First, append campaign codes to the URL you plan to post on social media platforms. Follow your company’s campaign coding standards if an established policy exists. Treat social media just as you would more traditional channels like email and banners.
If you’re planning to post on multiple platforms, I recommend creating one campaign code for each platform. For instance, make a unique code for Twitter, a unique code for Facebook, a unique code for LinkedIn, and so on for each intended destination.
Short links are easier to share, so pass each of your tagged links through a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl. There’s also an opportunity to collect stats at this step. See my related blog post on URL shorteners with analytics.
Once you have a set of tagged short links, go out and post them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Although these first 3 steps may seem tedious, there are some opportunities for automation. For instance, if you use Hootsuite you can tag, shrink and post within a single interface, since campaign coding and URL shortening are built directly into the tool. I’ve also seen companies build simple tools from scratch that allow them to automate tagging and shrinking their URLs, they then grab the links and post them manually. The choice is up to you; just find a process your team can live with.
Now sit back and wait for data. By default your Web analytics tool will give you visit volume for each of the campaign codes that you’ve used. Beyond that, assuming you’re tracking your site’s goal behaviors - purchases, downloads, form submissions, video views – you’ll be able to see the downstream impact of your social campaigns.
In the story I told at the beginning of this post, the company uses their Web analytics tool to track purchases on their commerce site, so they’re able to connect the dots between campaigns to revenue.
If campaign tracking is new territory for you, I recommend that you read your Web analytics vendor’s documentation on this topic. Although social media may not be mentioned specifically, think of it as just another campaign channel. Also, here’s a great step-by-step Google Analytics example and a related post from the Omniture blog.
A final note on URL shorteners: Since it’s possible to get basic clickthrough stats from popular URL shorteners like bit.ly, some people may question whether it’s necessary to append campaign codes at all. Here’s the clincher: URL shorteners track clicks but they do not tie to downstream goal behaviors. If you’re serious about connecting social media efforts to outcomes, you must track links as campaigns.