Marketing Analytics for Social Media

Pinterest Analytics

Businesses flock to social media as the use of social media continues to grow. Facebook, the largest social network, currently boasts nearly 3 billion monthly active users, worldwide, YouTube has over 2 billion, while WhatsApp and Instagram (both owned by the parent company of Facebook, Meta) have 2 billion users. But, many businesses still have concerns regarding the use of this technology and question its utility as part of their marketing strategy after seeing little return for their investment in social media. Some have avoided implementing a strategy for social media; taking a wait and see attitude before adding social media to their marketing strategy. Of course, social media marketing (SMM for short) works. Running a successful social media campaign, however, relies on using marketing analytics to develop the insights necessary to optimize your SMM strategy.

advanced marketing analytics
Image courtesy of Adobe

Much of this concern centers on discomfort over the ability of firms to assess social media success, especially with respect to measuring ROI (Return on Investment) and the length of time it takes to achieve returns on these platforms, which can take 6 months or more of a sustained marketing effort. Above, you can see the process necessary to derive insights and drive actions that increase performance from marketing analytics in any channel, including social media.

Problems with marketing analytics

Some other concerns related to the assessment of social media strategies voiced by executives in a recent study were:

  • ROI – while 80% of respondents agreed this assessment was important, only 31% can measure it effectively.
  • Social media conversion – only 25% feel they can effectively assess online conversion
  • Mobile media – Few respondents are currently using mobile marketing and, of those using mobile strategies, only about 30% of these can be measured if the consumer is using a mobile app
  • Social video – less than half of respondents are using video to support their marketing strategy.  Assessing these efforts, especially in terms of converting viewers, is considered important, but most (70%) felt they didn’t have adequate assessment tools.
  • A large number of fake and duplicate accounts on every social platform
  • The veracity of the data
  • Relevance of the data to decision-making. Most social platforms offer data on a limited number of dimensions unless you use advertising. Some of this is fixed by using Google Analytics, especially with multi-channel attribution modeling but, since Google doesn’t own any of the popular social platforms, with the exception of YouTube, their data access is limited.

Because the measurement tools necessary to guide the development and maintenance of a social media strategy are elusive, many firms use assessment tools that may provide inadequate guidance; maybe even leading firms to make decisions that fail to support their overall marketing strategy.

Some assessment tools that may NOT adequately guide marketing strategy. We call these vanity metrics because their relationship with outcomes that matter for businesses is tenuous. For instance, the number of followers you have is only very loosely related to performance metrics like revenue.

Certainly, other metrics are commonly used, but MAY not be particularly valuable in guiding marketing strategy. Instead, companies must employ metrics representing KPIs (key performance indicators) that impact meaningful results. Below, you can see a list cultivated on by experts. Feel free to add your favorite KPIs to the list.

KPIs for social media

In addition to these easily measured KPIs, what kinds of metrics MIGHT translate into guidance for your marketing strategy. BTW, not all of these come from your social media platform but require using Tag Management, creating tracking codes, and/or using other platforms, like Google Analytics.

Interaction – assessing metrics like comments to your blog, retweets, comments on your Facebook wall (together, we call this social media engagement), sign-up for your RSS feed or newsletter, etc. Also, look at the number of people who are engaging with your across multiple social media – do they follow you on Twitter and fan you on Facebook, in addition to visiting your blog. These are much better assessments because they indicate involvement with your product or brand. For some of these metrics, you need to set up tracking codes, as explained below.

Brand metrics – having a good listening program is critical for the success of your social media strategy for several reasons. From an assessment standpoint, a critical element of listening is to see what conversations are going on across the internet and how these conversations affect perceptions of your brand. You should also investigate the spread of your message through social networks to track the success of vehicles used to stimulate these conversations. Among the tools you can use for these insights are Sprout Social, Hootsuite, and Buffer.

Social engagement – This assessment looks at your blog to see how visitors interact with it.

  • Unique visitors suggest your success in attracting new visitors to the site versus encouraging new visitors to your site. In some cases, you want lots of visitors, but if it takes more than 1 visit to convince visitors to buy your product (such as in B2B contexts) then you should be looking for return visitors.
  • Time on site
  • Number of pages/ visit
  • Frequency of visit
  • Creating links to your content
  • Bounce rate (which measures the visits that leave after viewing a single page)

Clickstream data – Google Analytics provides a wealth of clickstream data to help you assess your social media performance. For instance, you can look under the acquisition portion of your analytics to determine what sites send traffic to your website. You can also assess the device used, the pages accessed, time on site, and much more related to your social traffic, even tracking visitors from social (or any other source) through to conversion.

New influence metrics – several social networks are beginning to assess the influence of members of social networks. While commonly used to find influencers who might spread the word about your company — helping your message go viral — these tools can also track the influence of your company. Indirectly, this assessment, especially changes to the metric over time, suggest the credibility of your firm.

Tracking performance with metrics

Tracking codes

Tracking codes help you get a better handle on your traffic (and what visitors do on your website). Below, you can see a typical dashboard in Google Analytics. It has some great information about the performance of your social media overall, but it could be better with tracking codes.

GA reportA tracking code adds a bit of information to your URL so you can track performance at a more granular level. The first bit tells your browser where to find the content. For this post, the URL destination is:

Now, let’s build what’s called a UTM or urchin tracking module, which consists of a source, medium, campaign, and, optionally, content to our URL. Let’s add a source as Facebook, so we have

We can stop here but it doesn’t give us much more information than we get natively from Google Analytics. So, let’s add the rest of the information we need to get our final URL:

If we want to add content, we simply insert it between medium and campaign as utm_content.

Note, it’s critical to add the punctuation exactly as I have in this example or the whole thing won’t work. It’s also important that you keep track of the codes you create so you know exactly what each tracking code means. I use an Excel spreadsheet. There are even UTM builders to help you ensure you’re creating them accurately. Here’s the link to the ones offered free from Google.

Now, place your complete URL anywhere you want (except your website), such as in your email messages (in which case you change the source to email), your social platforms, or anywhere else. On most social platforms, once the URL shows up in the preview, you can actually delete the nasty-looking URL and the image sends trackable traffic to your website.

To track your new URLs with tracking codes, you go to the campaign section of Google Analytics to see how much traffic you got from the campaign and track that traffic through to conversion.

Native metrics

Most social platforms don’t provide much in the way of metrics. For instance, you might want to measure:

  • Audience growth is meaningful even though the size of your audience isn’t. This assesses the improvement over time in building a community.
  • Engagement including comments, shares, etc
  • Clicks, although you can also see these on Google Analytics, especially if you installed a tracking code on the URL
  • Reach or the number of people who saw your post (although we have no idea if they actually scrolled down to see your post)

Below, you see a typical report from Facebook regarding a post.

marketing analytics
Image courtesy of Constant Contact

Some tools, such as Constant Contact, offer an easy way to track the performance of multiple social media platforms.

You get a little more information when you spend some money advertising on the platform, such as:

  • Cost per click
  • Impressions
  • Click-through rate
  • Frequency or how many times did the average user see your post since it usually takes more than one exposure to drive conversion
  • Post likes and engagement
  • Assessment of video play, if you posted a video this assesses how long a user watched
  • and, much more

Multi-channel attribution modeling

As mentioned earlier, it commonly takes more than 1 exposure before a prospect converts (current thinking is that 7 exposures are needed). That means someone comes back to your website several times before they buy. If those visits come from different marketing efforts, how do you determine which effort gets the credit for the sale? It’s important to know the answer to this question since you must make decisions about which marketing efforts deliver the most value so you can spend your marketing budget wisely. Also, if your staff or an outside vendor are compensated based on performance to avoid disappointment. And, multi-channel attribution modeling provides the answer you need. Channels, in this case, refer to the source of a visit.

multi-channel attribution comparison of models

By default, Google Analytics attributes all the value of a conversion to the last source clicked. But, in the image above, you can see that several different channels contributed to the sale. That’s why Google Analytics provides 6 other models to apportion the value of a conversion across channels. Most of these are easy to understand, especially when you look at the image next to each name to see how value is apportioned based on where the channel figures within the sequence of visits. You can even customize a model based on your own needs. Avinash Kaushik, the evangelist for Google Analytics, argues for a variation on the position-based model but you need to compare several methods to determine which one works best in your particular situation.

Marketing analytics: Deriving insights

Of course, none of this analysis has any meaning unless you can derive insights from your marketing analytics. And, that takes more than just compiling the right metrics. Instead of just looking at raw metrics, consider breaking them down by segment to determine how metrics vary across various dimensions. For instance, you might want to know which:

  • age group or gender converts at a higher rate
  • countries, cities, or geographic regions convert better
  • products account for the most/ least conversions
  • channels produce highest conversion rates

Also, raw numbers have less meaning than investigating trends over time.

Armed with this more nuanced data, you can make decisions about:

  • which channels are performing well and which aren’t; do some drive top of funnel actions like visits but don’t generate conversion
  • what time of day and day of the week provides superior conversion, although this may take some experimentation on some platforms as the breakdown in time and day isn’t natively available on some platforms
  • do certain images outperform others, for instance, do images containing people do better than those containing product images
  • which calls to action produced superior results
  • in advertising, which targets perform best. For instance, does a group composed of friends of friends do better than creating a group based on some combination of demographics, geographics, and interests

Now you can make data-driven decisions that optimize performance.


Marketing analytics, especially deriving insights from them, determines whether your social media or any other marketing action succeeds or fails. Create an action plan for your marketing analytics so you always have the data you need to make data-drive decisions since analytics isn’t a one-time thing but something you do on an ongoing basis. By creating a dashboard with key metrics for decision-making and using tags to help you monitor perfomrance, you’re well on your way to success.

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