How to value social media traffic

Google+. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. What’s really working for you? Do you know? How would you know? It turns out the answer is easily within reach. Here’s how to set up a very quick dashboard to see what’s truly working for you.

First, I will assume that you have set up goals and goal values in Google Analytics. If you haven’t done so, you need to do so before you go any further.

Next, you’ll want to create some advanced traffic segments in Google Analytics. Let’s make one for each major social network. Obviously, if you participate in other networks besides these, make them as appropriate.

Manage Advanced Segments - Google Analytics

Start by opening up Dimensions, choosing Traffic Sources, finding the Source tag, and dragging it over to the right. Set the matching condition to regular expression, then insert in all of the URLs that traffic can come from that you can attribute to that network. Here’s an example using Facebook:

Edit Advanced Segment - Google Analytics

As you can see, Facebook sends traffic typically from facebook.com as well as their link shorteners fb.me and on.fb.me. Once you’ve set up this segment, hit save, then rinse and repeat for other networks you care about. In my own analytics, I’ve done this for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.

Now go to your Goals page and drop down the Advanced Traffic Segments menu. Choose up to 3 custom segments. In this example I picked Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can see quite clearly what’s working based on the number of goals achieved.

Goal Detail - Google Analytics

If you did indeed set Goal Value, now you have a valuation of the traffic from each network that shows exactly how much each network has been worth to you based on your goals.

Goal Value - Google Analytics

This is what the corner office wants to see. This is what the board of directors wants to see. This is what investors, advertisers, partners, and anyone who is interested in spending money with you wants to see. If you’re able to make social media work for you by generating actual revenue, then everything that comes along with it – brand, reputation, trust, SEO – comes along for the ride.

It becomes very easy to justify additional investments in social media when you can show this baseline number – and that’s what it is, a worst case scenario. This is the absolute minimum value of social media, not counting the influence of brand engagement, not counting the value of conversation, not counting customer retention. This is the barest hard dollars you can find using social media, which in turn means that you’re almost certainly doing better than this with all of the stuff that this benchmark doesn’t measure.

Set up these segmentations after you’ve set up your goals and you’ll be able to see exactly what’s working for you and where you should be spending your time and resources.


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  • http://www.erikwennerstrom.com Erik Wennerstrom

    This is great, Chris. I will be setting mine up today.

  • http://twitter.com/wowlibrarian CatherineBuckMorgan

    Thanks very much, Chris. I set this up today, and the results are very useful.

  • http://www.bigpictureweb.com jlbraaten

    The bare minimum is good, but have you seen Multi-Channel Funnels? I have the preview and boy oh boy does it open up a brand new world of attribution goodness for social media. Have you done much with Google Analytics’ MCFs yet?

  • http://keepupwiththeweb.com Sherryl Perry

    Thanks Chris. I’ve bee meaning to do this and your article was just the push I needed.