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The Complete Guide to Tracking Social Media Like a Pro with Google Analytics


Analytics / February 13, 2018

No, you don’t need an expensive social media measurement or tracking tool to tell you what’s going on with your posts and campaigns on social media sites. All you need is… (drumroll) Google Analytics. And stop it right there if you think web analytics is only for superheros and eggheads. Nerdy people sometimes like you to believe Analytics is difficult so they seem really smart. Don’t believe the hype.

The truth is: Google Analytics is dead easy. Once you start actively using Google Analytics to understand your social media statistics, you’ll never look back. We’re here to show you how it’s done, so you can hone your social media strategy and run smarter campaigns.

What’s even better: all the tools we’re going to use here for social analytics are free.

What you can learn

By tracking each post and campaign with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to compare posts, see how many people clicked, where they came from, what device and browser they’re using, and even demographic data about your visitors. And you will be able to link individual social posts and ads to actual conversions and revenue generated. It seems like magic. But it isn’t. It’s just practice.

Step 1: Make sure your site is actually gathering Analytics data

If your organization is not actively using Google Analytics, ask for the login and make Analytics is working properly before you go through the trouble of creating tracking URLs. You simply want to see that Analytics is gathering data. In the left hand navigation, go to Audience > Overview. You want to see some activity in this chart (and not a flatline):

If there is no data coming in, check with the person who manages your website to be sure the Google Analytics code has been correctly added to the site header.Tracking organic sessions with time using Google Analytics.

Step 2: Identify your landing page

Once you’re sure Analytics is up and running on your site, you’re ready to begin tracking one of your posts or campaigns. Start by copying the URL you are going to link to in your post. For this example, we’re going to use:

Step 3: Create your tracking URL

You’re now going to create a special URL that tells Google Analytics key information about your post or campaign. To create this URL, simply plug information into Google’s free and very easy Campaign URL Builder and it generates your tracking URL.

Here is the information you need to know about your campaign (with examples) to create a tracking URL:

Website URL: The page your post or campaign is driving to (e.g.

Campaign Source: The social media network you’re using (e.g. Twitter, Facebook)

Campaign Medium: The type of post or campaign (e.g. post, display_ad, cpc_ad)

Campaign Name: Give each campaign or a unique name or date (e.g. flash_sale, may_4_2018)

Campaign Term: Any keywords used in a campaign (more applicable to paid search)

Campaign Content: Use this to differentiate ads (e.g. ad1, ad2)

Take note that if you’re entering two or more words in the Campaign URL Builder, you should add an underscore between the words, like this: spring_campaign. If are running multiple ads in one campaign, be sure to create unique Campaign Content names so you can identify each individual ad in a campaign.

Here is the URL builder filled in with information about a sample Facebook post. You can see at the end your campaign URL has been automatically generated.

Campaign URL builder to track social media posts with Google Analytics.

So, the URL Campaign Builder turned this URL:

Into this:

You can click on Copy URL to copy your tracking URL and then paste it wherever you like:

Campaign generated URL for tracking social media posts using Google Analytics.

This new URL still points to the same landing page (you should always enter it into your browser just to test that it is working correctly), it simply contains some bits of information that get picked up by Google Analytics to identify your post or campaign.

Shorten your URL

In some instances, for example with Twitter, you may not want to use a long URL with a lot of parameters. If this is the case, you can create a short version of your tracking URL. It works exactly the same way; the complex tracking information is simply hidden.

To shorten your tracking URL, click on Convert URL to Short Link, which looks like this:

Shortened URL for tracking on social media by Google Analytics.

Keep track of your URLs in a spreadsheet

Once you have tracked a dozen or so social media campaigns or posts, you may start to lose track of what’s what. It’s ideal to have a system that tells you what you tracked, how and when.

Once you have created your tracking URL in the Campaign URL builder, we recommend putting that link in a spreadsheet with information about the specific post or campaign it tracks. You’ll thank yourself later.

Create your post & use the tracking URL

Create your post or campaign, and include the tracking URL as your landing page URL (make sure you test the URL one more time in your browser, just to make sure nothing got changed or deleted when you copy and pasted the tracking URL).

Post containing inserted tracking URL with all tracking parameters visible.

But when you add a URL to a Facebook post, you can paste your tracking URL so it calls up the landing page in the preview, and then delete it. The tracking details will remain after you have deleted all that unsightly JavaScript. Your post will then look like this:

Tracking URL visibly removed from social media post but tracking features remain unaffected.

However, you must paste the entire tracking URL exactly as it is when you create Facebook Ads or types of social media advertising campaigns:

Pasting entire tracking URL when creating ads for social media campaigns.

With Twitter you will want to include a shortened URL because URLs are visible and contribute to your character count:

Shortened tracking URL used for Twitter to satisfy character count.

Tracking & measuring your campaigns

Now comes the fun part. After you campaign has been running for a few hours or a few days, log into your Google Analytics to see your metrics.

Here’s where to go to see your results:

  1. In the left navigation open the Acquisition menu, click on Campaigns and select All Campaigns:
    Google Analytics location for list of social media campaigns that were run.
  2. In the All Campaigns report, you will be able to see each of your posts or campaigns, identified using the details you entered into Google’s Campaign URL Builder. On the first page, campaigns or posts are broken down by their Campaign Name — the unique name you assigned to an individual campaign.
    Data for list of all campaigns run being tracked by Google Analytics.

We can now see the Campaign Name for the URL we created in the Campaign URL builder. Because we tested the URL to make sure it was working properly, it was tracked by Analytics. Now you can see our Campaign Name “spring_collection” at the bottom of the grid:

List of campaigns tracked by Google Analytics.

In this grid you can see all kinds of juicy data relating to your post or campaign: sessions, bounce rate, goal conversions, etc. (If you don’t see any goal conversions, but would like to, you need to learn how to create goals in Analytics — it’s easy!)

  1. If you click on your campaign, you will be able to start seeing different types of data for your various user sessions. Click on the secondary dimension dropdown at the top left of the grid to view different types of data. We’re going to do User > City to see where our visitor came from:
    Navigating Google Analytics to find where social media users reached by campagins searched from.

This is now telling us we had two visits, one from an known location, and the other from Guelph.

List of source, medium and relevant cities for social media posts found in Google Analytics.

There are lots of different bits of information you can look at and learn from here. Play around, particularly once your campaign has gathered a few days or weeks worth of data. It will help you learn what works, what doesn’t work, how to target your campaigns and myriad other bits of useful information.

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Jeff Johnson

Director of Paid Media @ Bloom


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