Measuring Social Media ROI With Google Analytics

Social media is an integrated component of so many companies’ marketing strategies, but very few of us are tracking the ROI of our social initiatives. Since Google Analytics has released social media reporting, it has streamlined the way we can report onsite social media conversions and value.

In this post we will cover best practices for ensuring you have accurate and actionable data inside Google Analytics and also step outside of the tool to complete the full picture and establish onsite and offsite metrics to help us report on our success and most importantly, drive action.

Below is a quick video where Justin Cutroni, Analytics Advocate at Google, and I share some ideas on Social Media measurement, just to open the appetite!

Measurement Challenges: Multiple Data Sources and Offline Impact

There are a number of challenges we encounter when trying to measure and report on our social media initiatives. Our first challenge is that the majority of interactions don’t actually occur on our website and instead happen on the individual social network. For example, when somebody ‘likes’ our content on our Facebook page we can’t get this data into our Google Analytics reports.

This leads to our next challenge which is aggregating data from all these different data sources in order to report on performance and perform analysis. For a small business this could mean manually grabbing data from the different social networks and working in Excel or a Google Spreadsheet, but for larger companies this would become a debilitating process.

Our third challenge is to understand the offline impact of our social media campaigns. What do we do if someone ends up purchasing in-store? How do we understand the value of a phone call? Or what if someone tells a friend or colleague about our brand after seeing a post on a social network? These are much harder questions to answer.

Data Collection: Tagging Social Campaigns

Before we look at reporting we need to start by taking a moment to ensure we have the best possible set of data available. You will need to ensure you are using Google Analytics campaign tags to correctly track people who are clicking through to your website from your social media campaigns.

For paid social ads or promoted posts, my recommendation is to always set the campaign source as the domain of the social network. For example, for Facebook we would use and for LinkedIn we would use as this is what you will already see appearing inside your traffic sources reports. I would then always set the campaign medium as social. Next, you will need to define a campaign name to distinguish the particular paid social network campaign you are running and you can use content to report on the ad variation or call-to-action people are clicking on to then travel through to your website. For example:

Google Analytics Campaign Tagging

It is best to leave the term blank when creating your campaign tagged URL as this can potentially show up in your keyword reports. You will also want to change the content for each ad variation you are running and the campaign name to suit your reporting needs.

You should also consider using campaign tagged URLs for your organic posts on social networks. This is because when someone clicks through to your website within a social network app, like the Facebook app on your phone, the visit will be seen as direct traffic instead of being a referral from Facebook. This means you could be missing a large portion of your social network traffic inside your Google Analytics reports. To tag your organic initiatives you can use a similar tagging method, but change ‘social’ to ‘referral’ in the example above.

Tip: use the URL Builder, a tool provided by Google to help Analytics users tag their marketing campaigns.

Getting Your Data: Social Data Collection and Reporting Tools

Now we have tracking in place for our website and we can see data for all of our inbound social network traffic we need to look at pulling together data from our website and importantly from the individual social networks too. Lets look at a few options for getting all of our data.

The first option is going to be the most painful and that is to manually log into each social network and make use of the data they make available to us. For example, we can head over to our Twitter account to find our total number of followers and browse through our posts to find ones that were retweeted and received comments. We can also head over to Facebook Insights and export data for a particular time period. However this is not practical and with Twitter we are actually missing data about how many clicks our posts have received and we can’t select a data range for reporting. So that isn’t a very good option.

Now we need to look at tools that can pull all of this data for us. There are a huge number of options ranging from expensive to accessible. My preference is always tools that are easy to use and get the job done quickly and these tools are also generally cost effective too.

  1. Hootsuite is a social management tool that also allows you to report on your social media initiatives. Hootsuite integrates with Google Analytics, but unfortunately the reporting on individual posts is limited and does not include the reach (total audience size) of your posts.
  2. Simply Measured is a reporting tool that allows you to pull together data from different social networks and from your Google Analytics reports. You can access reports online or using Excel. The solution is flexible, but does start at $500 per month, so might be restrictive for smaller organizations.
  3. Sprout Social is another social management tool with a more complete set of integrated reporting and also includes integration with your Google Analytics reports. Sprout Social allows you to quickly create a report for a given time period for all your posts for a particular social network. The report includes clicks, responses (including replies, comments and shares) and reach (audience size). It’s certainly not perfect, but it is an accessible tool that will help you be in control of your social network data.
  4. Buffer is a tool that allows you to schedule your social media posts. It is a simple tool and doesn’t provide a full set of management features, but Buffer does make individual post analytics available. Unfortunately, you can’t export the analytics to easy aggregate the numbers, but you will find the potential reach of each post and engagement metrics like clicks and retweets for each post you have published.

The options we have looked at so far give us access to our organic social media data, but what about our paid campaigns? You can look towards enterprise-level solutions for aggregating paid and organic data, but grabbing data from our paid campaigns is fairly straightforward and more importantly available via the major social networks. For example, you can download your advertising data from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with very little effort.

Tip: Once you have downloaded your advertising data you should consider uploading the impression, click and cost data into your Google Analytics reports using Cost Data Upload, but this is a topic for another post as we will focus on pulling together all of our data outside of Google Analytics.

This of course brings me to Google Analytics. We need to extract our onsite data for our social network traffic together with our goal conversions and any ecommerce value we are tracking. Before we really dig into the data, lets look at the metrics that we can use for reporting and analysis.

Metrics That Matter: Actionable Social Reports

There are a number of different metrics you can use to report on various aspects of your social media initiatives. I encourage and urge you to not use every single metric I will cover here, but instead focus on the few that help you drive action to improve your campaigns and drive greater value for your website.

Branding Metrics

For purely branding objectives you might report on number of posts and audience size, but this is boring and definitely not actionable. Consider expanding on these metrics by including posting change rate where you calculate the percentage change based on the number of posts you are creating in a given month. This can then be compared to audience change rate where you calculate the percentage change in your audience size. This will allow you to quickly see if an increase in posts leads to an increase in audience.

Engagement Metrics

To report on engagement you might report on the total number of people liking your posts, but you should really focus on metrics that help you drive action. Start by reporting on the conversation rate for each post, this is where you divide the number of interactions by the audience reach for each of your posts. By identifying your posts that generate the highest conversation rates you can use these topics to guide your future posts and tailor content to what your audience enjoys. You can also report of the total number of conversations, mentions and shares you are starting to paint a more complete picture of how people are engaging with your content.

To better understand your overall engagement with your audience you can report on audience churn rate to see the percentage of your audience that is leaving your social networks. By segmenting your audience churn rate by individual social network and correlating churn to particular posts or post topics you can help shape your future posts to ensure they are appropriate for your different social network audiences.

To understand how social networks are leading people to your website you can report on the total number of social network visitors to your website. Consider adding social network visitor growth rate to easily compare your other social media metrics and identify if changes are resulting in a trickle down effect to your website. For example, you will be able to compare your audience change rate to your social network visitor growth rate to see if you are having a positive impact in driving visitors to your website.

Conversion Metrics

To report on conversions resulting from your social media initiatives you need to ensure you are correctly tracking the inbound links directing people to your website. From here you can use Google Analytics to report on your social media conversions and by using the campaign tagging method we covered previously, you will be able to split your paid and organic efforts when reporting.

We should all be reporting on the total conversions occurring onsite and the value of these conversions. If you haven’t already established values for your conversions, then you will need to take the time to do this, I recommend reading Avinash’s post on identifying values. This will allow you to report on the direct dollar value of your social channels.

There are also methods for tracking offline conversions that are being driven by social media, including coupons and dedicated phone numbers. To keep this post on track, we are going to focus our attention to online conversions, but once you have your offline tracking in place you can simply replace or supplement your offline conversions and value with your online conversions.

Crunching The Numbers: Establishing Social Value

In order to calculate the dollar value of each of our audience members we are going to use Dan Zarella’s formula for calculating the value of a like. This allows us to use our conversion data to calculate an average potential value for each of our audience members. Here is Dan’s formula:

L / Upm x (LpD x 30) x (C / L) x CR x ACV = Value of a Like


  • L is Total Likes
  • UpM is Unlikes per Month
  • LpD is Links per Day
  • C is Average Clicks per Post
  • CR is Conversion Rate
  • ACV is Average Conversion Value

In essence we take our onsite conversion data and combine this with data about our social network audience. This allows us to define a value even if people don’t click through to our website. Then using this value we can calculate the ROI of our social media channels.

Social Media ROI Reporting Template

social media roi report template

So you don’t have to create your own spreadsheet you can use the one I have developed to speed up your social media ROI calculations: You will need to enter some data for each of your social networks and from there it will automatically calculate your ROI.

Tip: If you are struggling to fill in the data, head back to ‘getting your data’ in this post for some tips on getting your social network data.

Now you can see the ROI of each of your social networks. Great! The spreadsheet includes a ‘Total ROI’ section where you will see ROI calculated based on your total audience. There is also an ‘Incremental ROI’ section where ROI is only calculated based on the new audience members you have acquired for the period. This gives you some flexibility on how your report, some of us might consider our investment as part of social media retention, while others might be more concerned about driving audience growth. Choose a section that best fits with your strategy and style of investment.

calculate social media roi

Get the Social Media ROI Reporting Template

Factoring in ‘Friends of Friends’

If you are running ads on social networks you can also use this data to help factor in the effects of your content being shared and your brand being mentioned by your audience. This allows you to establish an approximate value of your ‘friends of friends’.

Start by identifying the total audience size of a recent paid campaign you have run. For example, if you ran a Facebook campaign you will be able to find the campaign reach, which is the number of people who saw your ads. You will also have the number of page engagements. By dividing the number of page engagements by the campaign reach you can calculate the engagement rate, which is the percentage of the audience that engages with your page and page content. We can then apply our paid engagement rate to our ‘friends of friends’ to roughly calculate the number of people we can add to our organic audience.

This is certainly not perfect, but it is a good starting point to help us establish a value for our extended organic audience. Ideally the paid audience data you use for the calculations would have similar characteristics as your organic audience, for example their interests and other demographics. In a perfect world we would also only use page engagement data from our paid campaign that results in likes. If you don’t have a large enough campaign, then go with the data you have available, this might include people viewing photos and other less valuable page interactions.

Let’s say you have calculated your paid engagement rate and find that it is 0.052%. You can then head over to Facebook insights (or your tool of choice) to find your total number of friends of fans. If you have 500,000 friends of fans and an engagement rate of 0.052%, then you have the potential to add an additional 260 fans to your audience. Now you can take the average value of an individual audience member and multiply it by the number of potential fans to find the additional audience value of your ‘friends of friends’.

Further Analysis

Now that we have established an ROI figure for each of our social channels you can begin to focus on improving your results by allocating your resources appropriately. In order to turn your analysis into action you should also begin to explore your social media efforts in more detail by performing content analysis for your individual posts.

Content analysis will enable you to understand the post that are most engaging and most successful at driving value, so you can repeat what works to more effectively leverage and grow your audience. Consider analysing your content by aggregating posts by their theme, tone and content, you can also consider grouping posts that contain links, questions and even different capitalization and punctuation. This will help speed up your analysis and help define the best content strategy for your social campaigns.

Now it’s over to you to start reporting on your social media ROI! I would love to hear your feedback, so please add your thoughts in the comments below.

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