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As a Marketing Manager, you’ll be aware of how important it is to set up custom campaigns to track your social media marketing in Google Analytics. The next question is what to do with the data you are now tracking.

Once your custom campaigns are up and running, you will need to find, and interpret the tracking information on your Analytics page. There is such a huge amount of information available over Google Analytics that it can be a little confusing to start with but it gets easier once you know what to look for.

As long as you named the medium ‘social’ in your campaign tags, your paid social media marketing should appear alongside your organic search data in Google Analytics. Comparing your organic search engine activity with your paid results is crucial if you want to make sure your paid advertising is worthwhile.

When looking at your social reports there are three main metrics that are important. If you can home in on these you can start to get a good picture of how your social media marketing is really working for you:

Sessions via social referral: This shows the number of visitors that have come to your site from your social media pages. It’s a great overall metric to track over a period of time. A sudden spike can show a post or campaign that got a lot of attention, while a drop may indicate a problem.

Contributed social conversions: A contributed conversion is a conversion that was not directly attained through social media, but where social media played a part. An example of this would be where someone has visited your site from social media, left and then come back later and completed a conversion. To track conversions you first need to set up goals so the system knows what type of behaviour constitutes a conversion for you.

Last interaction social conversions: This is where a visitor has clicked directly from social media to your website and immediately converted. As a general rule, the higher this number, the more effective your social media marketing efforts are.

When we are measuring social media data it’s important to be aware that conversions are only part of the picture. Because social media marketing is primarily about engagement, it’s just as important to measure this as conversions.

While it is harder to measure social media engagement than conversions, it is possible using Google Analytics, and one way is to look at how widely the content on your site is being shared across social media.

Outbound vs. Inbound links

When measuring links the first thing to do is differentiate between outbound and inbound links.

Outbound links: These are links from your content to social media networks. These are generally created when people share your content that’s on your website, often using a plugin or widget that allows them to do so. The more people are liking and sharing your website content on social media, the higher your level of engagement. A high number of outbound links generally shows that your readers are engaged with your content.

Inbound links: After a piece of content has been shared on social media, the inbound traffic shows how many people have visited your page via those and other social media links. Inbound traffic is not always accurate, even with campaign tags set up, as it often doesn’t measure those visitors who might copy and paste the url into their browser.

Many of the popular WordPress social media plugins have ways to get around this and they are usually fairly easy to set up. For example, if you are using Add This, it has a feature that walks you through setting up your links to add a piece of extra code on the url that tracks people who copy and paste directly into the URL bar.

This is a very basic guide to get you started understanding your social media metrics through Google Analytics. Measuring and comparing your paid social against your organic lets you see which campaigns are really working for you so you can avoid wasting money on unprofitable strategies and make your paid campaigns more effective.