It’s incredible to think about the amount of digital real estate space that’s afforded to social media networks. Logos and link to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit and others are in prominent locations on what are often the most important pages of websites.
The question is this – what impact is that experience providing to consumers and what benefit to your business? The answer for most will likely be that they’re uncertain.
Does every website need to measure social interaction? I would argue that yes, every website should but only if it’s going to be optimized or enhanced and that stakeholders are committed to rethinking their commitment to showcasing these social interaction elements in digital experiences.
Fortunately, tracking social interactions in Google Analytics is easier that you might think.
Google’s Social Analytics’ includes features to measure the number of times users interact (click) on social buttons (e.g. a Facebook “Like,” or a Twitter “Tweet”) embedded in webpages.
Can’t you just use event tracking for measuring user-interactions? Yes, but that can be pretty cumbersome to implement. Plus, Social Analytics presents a really consistent framework, resulting in a simplified reporting process and standardized comparisons of multiple networks simultaneously.
If you’re unfamiliar with social interactions in Google Analytics, or you’re not sure what values to use for the social network, action, or target, you should first read the article About Social plugins and interactions in the Analytics Help Center.
Implementation of Social Interaction in Google Analytics
There are a several ways to get the social interaction data into Google Analytics and it’s going to depend on a variety of factors.
If you’re using the legacy GA.js, sending event data is a little different than using analytics js, but there’s plenty of documentation if that’s the implementation you’re working with. For those using analytics.js, social interaction hits can be sent using the send command and selecting a hitType of
ga('send', 'social', [socialNetwork], [socialAction], [socialTarget], [fieldsObject]);
So that’s the basic code required for tracking social interactions in Google Analytics, but there’s a lot more to know like how those field names will be used!
SocialNetwork is the network on which the interaction will take place, SocialAction is the type of action (Like, Tweet, Send), and SocialTarget is the URL of the item being shared (usually a website URL but can also be text).
Here’s what that might look like in the wild…
ga('send', 'social', 'Facebook', 'like', 'http://analyst.rocks');
While it’s important to know how to implement the code to track social interactions in Google Analytics, there are easier ways if you’re not looking for the granualar level of insight that comes with Google’s Social Analytics offering – particuarly if you’re part of the WordPress community. Plugins abound to enable you to send the required event data.
This website (Analyst.Rocks) uses the ExactMetrics Google Analytics plugin, for example and tracks all outbound interactions (social or otherwise). It’s not a perfect system but is appropriate for the scope and scale of this website.
What do you think? Is tracking social interactions something that would be useful in your broader digital optimization initiatives?