How to Leverage New Social Reports in Google Analytics

google analytics logoIs social media a big part of your online marketing strategy? Is it a huge “question mark” in your strategy? Either way, you can benefit from spending some time with some new social reports recently added to Google Analytics.

These new reports are located in Traffic Sources Ā» Social, by the way.

The best part about these reports in general, IMO, is that the data is retroactive, yay! šŸ™‚

The “Overview” report shows a nice visualization of the ‘scale’ of your social-referred traffic in terms of volume and revenue. Total visits is reported alongside “visits via social referral” so you can understand that ratio. The visualization shows:

  • Total Goal conversions + economic value
  • Assisted Social Conversions + economic value
  • Last Interaction Social Conversions + economic value

I’m assuming that the definitions of “assisted” and “last interaction” are the same as the ones we learned when Google Analytics added the Multi-Channel Funnels a while back.

WARNING: The default view is for “all” goals averaged together, which isn’t very useful. You’ll overview screenshotprobably want to select a specific goal to make this report more actionable. While the visualization in my example [click to enlarge] is pretty underwhelming, I imagine it would be a lot cooler for a company whose marketing mix was much more heavily based on social traffic.

sources report screenshotThe Sources Report shows 2 separate trend lines, one for all Visits, and one for Visits via social referral. I’m not sure why this warrants 2 trend lines, and I hope Google quickly adds the ability to overlay the two trend lines so relationships are easier to spot. The rest of the report is similar to the regular Traffic Sources data table, showing social traffic sources sorted by visits (by default). In my example [click to enlarge], I’m using the “compare to site average” view to look at site engagement of social-referred traffic compared to the site’s baseline. You can see that social referred traffic on this site is generally far less engaged, which makes sense when you know the nature of this eCommerce site.

Also, a handy feature is that you can mouse over a social traffic source to get a basic explanation of what it is. Handy if you’re like me and can’t keep up with all the (New! New! NEW!!) social networks. This feature only works on social networks that have opted into Google’s social data hub partner network, and they are denoted by an icon. The data-sharing network is a great idea if Google can get all the networks on board to share their information. But, something tells me that will be a challenge when it comes to Facebook šŸ˜‰

The Pages report looks a bit bland at first, with the data table showing which pages on pages report screenshotyour site have been shared. But, if pages have been shared via the “social data hub partner network” sites that have opted in, things get pretty cool. Look at the “Data Hub Activities” column to see which pages have been shared with the partner network. Click on a page/row that has been shared via the network, and you’ll see what I was able to drill down to [click to enlarge].

By using the “activity stream” and the “events” mini-tabs, I’m now looking at the types of social activities (e.g. +1) for a given page (e.g. homepage) when they happened. This is pretty cool stuff, but right away I realize that the value of the data is totally dependent on Google’s ability to convince social networks to share their data. Since the valuation of a social network is usually (at least in part) based on their data, I think Google will have a tough time with this. Like other “2.0” aspects of the Web, the value increases only if people participate.

conversions report screenshotThe Conversions report is similarly boring at first, showing the number of conversions by social site, plus goal value. The fun begins when you toggle the view to “Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis.” This view will look very familiar if you’ve spent time in the Multi-Channel Funnels reports, showing “assisted conversions” and “last interaction” conversions by social site, along with goal value. I love this view in Multi-Channel Funnels, and I love it here.

This view is all about understanding whether a social site tends to convert prospects directly, whether it tends to nurture prospects towards a later conversion, or whether it does both. In the example [click to enlarge], we see that Facebook seems to be doing double-duty, while Pinterest skews more towards nurturing. Obviously, these aren’t big enough sample sizes to base investment decisions on, but certainly worth monitoring over time.

The Social Plugins report will have to be revisited once I find a site with a more interesting sample report. In the meantime, here’s what Google says about it:

TheĀ Social Plug-inĀ reports show which articles on your site are most commonly shared and which social buttons are being clicked to share them (for example, the Google “+1” button).

The Social Visitors Flow report is very similar to the Visitor Flow and Goal Flow reports social visitors flow report screenshotthat have been in Google Analytics for a while now, so I’m not going to talk about this one too much. There are two things I’ll note on this report:

  1. Did you know you can double click the divider between the left navigation menu and the report window to make it collapse? Very handy when exploring any of the “flow” reports.
  2. Please note the sample rate in my example [click to enlarge] is only 4.31% of traffic! On this report, and with Google Analytics in general these days, get in the habit of checking the sample rate before you make any crucial recommendations or business decisions! ‘Nuff said.

So there you have it, my first pass at understanding the new social reports. As with all new reports/features in GA, I expect they will get much more robust over time. I recommend you start exploring them now, get used to manipulating them, and keep your eye on them in the coming months.

The next time your CMO asks “How are we doing in Social?” you can speak up and answer, “I’ll have business insights for you by next week’s meeting.” When was the last time you saw your CMO smile?


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