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Google Analytics Social Sources: Is Social Engagement Helping You?

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Google Analytics is rolling in reports to help you answer this question.  Well… kind of.  

Check out the Social Sources report:

 Social Sources

First thing you’ll notice are two graphs to compare against each other.  The top is your social referrers (that is, traffic from all the sites that Google buckets out as a social site), which is detailed deeper in 1 – 10 detail list further down the page.  

Let’s drill in one step deeper.  Click one of the listings (ie, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc).

Clicking the social platform you to compare takes you into that profile.  You can change between different pages now with a new selector that appears above, which looks like this:

Click To Change Social Platforms

So what are we comparing?

We’re comparing Visits via Social Referral (blue) with All visits (orange).  So, it’s a quick view of how much social traffic contributed to your overall traffic.  Are you doing a lot of social media work?  Did you have a bump on a Friday, and wanted to see where it came from?  Go to this report.  Set your date range and you’ll be able to see pretty quickly.  

But it gets more interesting.  Click the Activity Stream tab: Activity Stream

Now the comparison changes to show Data Hub Activities (blue) vs. Visits (orange).  These are the same “visits via social referrals” that were in the first snapshot.  So what’s this Google Data Hub?  Google says, “The social data hub is a free platform that social networks and other social platforms can use to integrate their activity streams.”  Sounds like Google’s version of Facebook’s social graph.

So this makes sense.  If you notice in the Activity Stream, there are far less sites than Google was originally reporting.  Missing for me are Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook, etc. Why?  Because they’re not playing ball with Google and the data hub.  Google doesn’t have information about shares and retweets here.  In other words, they’re not behind the wall. They know Twitter is a social network, and buckets it that way, but they don’t have accurate data out of the Twitter firehose.

But what we can see from the sites participating with Google is what traffic you receive from social engagement.  For example, here’s what it looks like filtered to Google+.

Social Activity

By looking at the graph above, I can see that on Monday, May 7, a link from my site was interacted with 4 times (blue), and led to 2 Google+ referrals (orange).  For you data junkies, if you have enough data you can put together your own value of social with your own KPIs per platform.  You can determine that spending most of your time on one network, vs. another, is a wise or dumb move.  Or, you can rely on the “conversions” report right below the sources report (if you use “goals”).  Do you have to be more social for your KPIs? Or do your current circles, say Google+, just not give a damn about the latest kind of content you’ve been sharing?

What Sites Are Data Hub Partners

AllVoices
Badoo
Blogger
Delicious
Digg
Diigo
Disqus
Echo
Gigya
Google+
Google Groups
Hatena
Livefyre
Meetup
Read It Later
Reddit
Screen Rant
SodaHead
TypePad
VKontakte
yaplog!

Where’s YouTube?  Hopefully more will be coming. I haven’t heard of most of these. But if I were a betting man, I’d say when Google really decides to do something bigger with social signals, these are the sites worth pursuing.

All in all, I think this can help marketers really decide if spending their day playing in social networks is valuable.  True – lots of missing social data, but some fuel to start making smarter assumption.