Improve Your Social Media Strategy with Google Analytics

By Matt LeBeau     |     March 27, 2014

We often get asked different versions of the same question: What’s the single best thing I can do to improve my social media marketing? At Room 214, our favorite way to measure the activity and effectiveness of social media is with Google Analytics. It’s free, extremely versatile and customizable, and it helps compare the performance of each social media platform over time.

How to Activate + Set-up Google Analytics
For those of you that are Google Analytics novices or don’t even know if you have the proper tracking code installed on your website, you can check out the great help resources available from Google. Lately, we’ve also been using Google Tag Manager to set up Google Analytics for clients, which is a great tool that allows admins to control future analytics changes from a central dashboard without ever having to change the website tracking code.

There’s all sorts of other great bells and whistles with Google Tag Manager, but if you’re just starting out, we recommend going with the basic Google Analytics code install.

Understanding Your Social Media Referral Traffic
Assuming you have your code installed properly and your website visitors are being tracked, the first area to understand is your social media referral traffic. To view this data, you can navigate to one of two areas within the Google Analytics interface.
1. Acquisition > Channels > Click on “Social” to drill-down to see each platform
2. Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals

Either area will provide you with the same data and similar visualizations, but the “Channels” route does a better job of simultaneously showing both referral traffic and goal conversions, another important aspect of understanding your social media performance. If you use the “Channels” route, your screen should look similar to the screen shot below, which displays social media referral traffic to the Room 214 website.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 10.34.02 AM

Note that in this screen shot, the date range has been set to 11/1/13 – 2/3/14, and then the “compare to previous period” option was selected so that 7/25/13 – 10/31/13 is also displayed in the same data table and line graph visualization.


Although Google Analytics can show you all of your referring social media platforms, for the purposes of this example, we’re just displaying the top five for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Quora.

What Does The Data Reveal?
If it’s not obvious already, this simple exercise in Google Analytics can reveal some surprising results – for example, although many of us at Room 214 use Quora frequently, until looking at our social referral traffic, we had no idea that it was providing so much traffic to our website. By clicking through on the “Quora” link within Google Analytics, we can then see the specific Quora page that the vast majority of traffic is coming from. In this case, it was a comment posted by Brandon Whalen, our head of marketing, in response to a question about Facebook Parent-Child pages.

Beyond Quora, we can also see that had a huge uptick in referral traffic from Twitter since November, but that overall, our top-referring social media platform is still Facebook, followed by LinkedIn and YouTube. With this data, we can come up with some theories and content strategies for further testing.

For example, although LinkedIn is only our third-highest referring social platform, we haven’t been posting content to it regularly in the way we have with Facebook or Twitter. The question would be, “If we provided the same level of attention to LinkedIn, could we see additional growth in its referral traffic to our website?” We’re in the process of testing that now.

Imagine The Possibilities
While this data is specific to Room 214, we often uncover similar insights and open-ended questions for our clients that can help inform their social strategy. For example, we’ve had a number of B2B clients approach us with the expectation that improving their Facebook presence should be a top priority. However, when we look at their Google Analytics, we might find that Facebook contributes very little referral traffic and that LinkedIn and other platforms like Slideshare, Scribd or Reddit should be higher priorities.

More To Come
We’ll provide an overview of Google Analytics Goals for social media in more detail in an upcoming Part 2 of this post, but if you already feel like your head is swimming, give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss your specific needs. We also have a starter project that covers Google Analytics Audit & Recommendations that can be a great fit for a variety of clients.


About Matt LeBeau

Matt's a seasoned marketer with experience across of a variety of mediums, including digital, social, TV/film, radio, print, outdoor, and events. With a near-obsessive love of strategy and planning, Matt can usually be found pacing back and forth in one of our conference rooms with a dry erase marker in hand. A caffeine junkie and late night emailer (related?) Matt is committed to delivering great work combined with passion, integrity, and a sense of humor.

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