I have seen many blog posts recently regarding the importance of social media integration and how easy it is. A few lines of code here for a Facebook Like button, a few pieces there for a @follow Twitter button there and so on. But what happens after that? Just leave it there and wait for the traffic?
I’m not seeing many resources out there for more advanced tracking of social media plug-ins and integration which is a real shame as there is so much you can track and measure to work out the effectiveness of your implementation and it will allow you to iteratively improve your integration and get more out of social networks in the long run.
Firstly, I do not see the point of just implementing social media plug-ins into your site because that’s what everyone else does. Facebook gets a lot of information sent back to their servers about your users when they view pages on your site that contain a like button. So any implementation needs to be of actual benefit to you as well as Facebook.
You need to have a strategy. What is is that you are trying to achieve? Do you want to drive awareness through word of mouth? Page impressions? Unique users? Sales? Do you want to be putting effort in to talking to your users directly through an official Facebook page or Twitter account or through installing Facebook comments on your article pages?
There are so many options and ways to integrate social media into your site to achieve so many different goals that by integrating them all without proper and effective tracking results in you not knowing what has caused any sort of uplift in your KPIs.
This blog post hopes to offer insight into a few techniques that can be applied to your social media integration and will be focussed towards the Use of Google Analytics – although similar techniques are available for the likes of Adobe’s SiteCatalyst but you will probably need to talk to your Account Manager about it and get some help implementing the concepts.
The main issue is that without more advanced tracking of your social media integration, you just see referrals from Facebook or Twitter, not whether traffic came to your site from a user clicking a Like button, a wall post or a Tweet that a member of staff posted on the official Facebook page or on Twitter or a wall post or Tweet that a user made.
It is really important to differentiate between these so you understand what’s working for you so that you can focus your efforts in the right places rather that trying to do everything averagely.
Tracking The Facebook Like Button
The Facebook Like button is a really smart piece of functionality. It’s relatively simple to integrate into your site, is immediately recognisable and users *hopefully* know what happens when they press it. If you use Google Analytics, there is a nice little tool available to you to help track urls, the URL Builder – http://support.google.com/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578
This quickly allows you to generate the bits at the end of a URL to track what users do once they arrive on your site. Follow the instructions and you will end up with something like this:
By adding these tokens at the end of the url in your Facebook Like code, when a user clicks the Like button, it is this url that will appear in the user’s Facebook profile and friend feeds. You can do the same for the Twitter widgets and many others – just make sure that you amend the tokens to reflect the widgets that you are using.
Tracking editorial wall posts
Similarly to the above, if you have an official page for your brand, service, web site or product use a similar method to the above. Use the URL Builder http://support.google.com/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578 to generate your tokens and use this new URL to post on your wall.
This will then allow you to start differentiating between two different ways of driving traffic to your site from Facebook. So rather than just looking at your referral list and just seeing ‘facebook.com’, you can look at your Campaign reports and see specifically what is working best for you.
Once you have a benchmark of data, you can start tweaking your implementation of the Like button and the wording used on your Wall posts to start to optimise your efforts. If you decide that you want to start split testing your implementations, you can tweak the tokens for each instance being tested so you can compare the advantages of both.
You could also look at auto-posting versus manual posting and see which works best.
Gut feel does go a long way, but having actual acitonable data goes much further when asking for more resource or setting/achieving realistic targets.
This is all about trying to use existing tools to give you more granular data for you to make better decisions. Rather than trying to implement a Social Media strategy blindly, you can really start to get granular data and make some actionable decisions.