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Use Google Analytics to measure campaign success

It’s simple to use trackable links, together with web analytics, to gauge the success of our campaigns – through print, email, social media or elsewhere.

I’ve recently been considering what analytics we should build in to Social Media sharing mechanisms in EdWeb, our Content Management System. If you’re a University web editor and want to contribute to our planning on this, please consider the proposals and feedback so that we can meet your requirements.

Social media sharing and visitor feedback in EdWeb

As a firm believer in evidence-based decision making, I wanted to learn about measuring the ROI, or ‘success’, of social media campaigns. If we don’t know how people are interacting with our pages on social media (by sharing, reviewing, viewing or interacting with our content), how can we know if it’s worthwhile? If we’re contributing to our site’s goals (we’re driving quality visits, visitors directed from social media are interacting with our site) – how do we prove it?

Limits to analytics – ‘Dark Social’

I recently watched a Hootsuite webinar on social media trends for 2017, and was struck by the idea of the “Dark Social”: sharing of social content that cannot be measured by analytics, as people are using copy/paste on addresses (or similar), rather than using buttons to share content. Studies put “Dark Social” at or above 70% of all sharing; it’s essential to make it easy for people to share trackable links to your content.

Hootsuite webinar – Social Media Trends to Put Into Practice in 2017 (registration required)

Analytics friendly campaigns

Taking a closer look at the link that Hootsuite provided to this webinar is a great example of how to measure the effectiveness of a campaign:

Look at the URL segment after the first question mark – this tells us that Hootsuite are measuring their campaign by adding parameters to understand traffic:

  • which “campaign” is being run: “2017 trends”
  • how the link was received: a follow up email, I didn’t attend the webinar at the time
  • where the link was click: through email

If Hootsuite had provided only a link directly to this webinar, then they wouldn’t know whether I reached the page by search, browsing, an email link – or any other method.

Placing parameters in links allows Hootsuite to measure how many views are generated by each campaign; but it also creates a distinct address that can be used in their analytics to ‘segment’ visitors (view their traffic separately) – they would segment those who visited the URL containing “utm_campaign=2017_trends…” and start to make comparisons.

Google Analytics segments

Hootsuite can compare the relative effectiveness of their campaigns, or compare the effect of ad campaigns to other traffic, and understand:

  • are people following such links more likely to register with the company?
  • do people following these campaign links share/watch more content?
  • do they “convert” and buy products from the company?

In a University context, we could consider whether people clicking on our links are more likely to register with us; watch our video content; or apply, than those that reach the site by search (or browsing). This way we can understand whether our campaigns are reaching the correct audience; or whether nobody is reading it, or we’re bombarding users with content that they don’t want.

Use trackable links for your campaigns

If you’re planning an advertising or social campaign and you want to know whether it is meeting your goals, I urge you to use trackable links so that you can prove success and make a case to repeat – or extend – your campaigns in future. Our guidance materials will tell you how to set up a trackable link, and use it in analytics to view resulting traffic.

Trackable shortened URLs on the support wiki (EASE login required)


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