What Google Analytics Social Reports Mean for Social Media Marketers

Google Analytics has recently announced an upgrade focused on more advanced social media tracking, which has been widely covered by Justin Cutroni, Mashable, and others. Here is our take on what Google Analytics announced – and the three most useful features of the Social Reports for the increasingly ROI-focused social media marketers.

1. You can now measure indirect effects of social media. Well, almost – you can only do that if you sell online or have a clearly defined online conversion. Still, it is an important step forward. Social media frequently contributes to creating brand awareness or generating interest, which may not necessarily lead to a direct response sale. Therefore, measuring social media ROI based on direct sales used to make marketers nervous about potentially neglecting a big part of their social media efforts. With the update, Google Analytics measures how each of the social networks assists sales and conversions – by driving visitors to the website, who only buy after coming back later on.

Google Analytics Social Report of Assisted Conversions

2. You can now see which social networks help to generate revenue, and which ones are better at creating awareness. With the fascinating feature that is called Assisted to Last Conversions ratio, Google Analytics tells which social networks assist conversions, and which drive direct response sales. Any social network with score of above 1.5 is performing better in the upper part of the conversion funnel – creating awareness and engaging the customers. Any social network with a low Assisted to Last Conversions score helps to generate sales and conversions, thereby contributing to the lower part of the funnel. An example of such difference is in the screenshot below (courtesy of Search Engine Watch).

Using the above example, it would make sense to customize content for brand awareness on Twitter and Google+ – and then post the discounts, offers, and calls to action on Reddit. It would also make sense to test different landing pages for these networks, in order to see if Twitter does not drive immediate sales because of the type of the network – or because of a poor landing page.

3. You can now see what is going on on Google+ and other social networks. Google’s Social Data Hub programme covers social networks that choose to share their data with Google Analytics. Using this data, they then provide a very granular data for activities on each of the social networks. An example here is from Google+ – and it is extremely helpful for marketers who are looking to develop their social media strategies within the network for maximum ROI.

Despite these great improvements, there are two issues that are not addressed by the Google Analytics update – namely, Facebook and Twitter. It is great to finally see that Facebook as a network assisted $100K in sales and directly generated another $20K – but let’s face it, it does not help to understand what social strategies drove those sales. Facebook Ads? Own Facebook Pages? Organic sharing? Like buttons on your website? The Facebook Page posts with a special fan discount? Or the funny cat images with a link to a landing page?

It is obviously challenging for Google Analytics to obtain this data. They are not exactly friends with Facebook. There are probably huge technical challenges of deeply integrating with Facebook and Twitter. One could say that they should not even try to do that – Google Analytics is a web analytics suite and tracks the web portion brilliantly. However, for most marketers the website is becoming only one of the many locations where online action takes place.

Despite these challenges, it is extremely exciting to see that Google Analytics and, more recently, Adobe Marketing Suite are putting their power muscles behind measurable and quantifiable social media ROI. In the launch of Google Analytics update at SES New York, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushvik said that [paraphrased] “Using the Google Analytics Social Reports, you will be the innovator in your company, advocating social media ROI.” It is great to see that innovators will finally be supported by industry giants – both morally and technically.