The social media ROI (Return On Investment) is an elusive concept to many digital marketers. It’s defined, measured and calculated differently across different industries, companies and agencies.
But what almost all brands and businesses have in common, however, is that they use social and other marketing channels to drive traffic to their website. This is, almost universally, a key metric for brands that use social media – and there is certainly an ROI associated with that (some companies are even able to assign a dollar value to website visitors. The simplest way to do this would be to divide total website revenue by total traffic in a designated time period. But if you’re not selling directly on your website, it gets trickier but is still possible to assign value. Read this post to see how to do it.)
If you think of digital marketing as a funnel, social media is at the top. This is the place where you cast a wide net, prospect and make introductions. Next comes the website – your brand’s own digital hub. On your website, it’s all about you, all the time. You control the message and the flow of information.
Think of social media as a networking event, and website traffic as the coffee dates that follow. You recruit on social, you sell on your website.
So how can you leverage this symbiotic relationship between social media and your website to enhance your social media ROI and overall strategy? Check out our action plan below.
Determine which pages are getting the most social referral traffic
Once you’re logged into Google Analytics, go to Acquisition on the left sidebar, then under social select “Landing Pages.” This will spit out a list of the top pages with social referral traffic and how many sessions these referrals resulted in, among other metrics.
You can also click on the drop down arrow under “Secondary dimension” and select “Social Network” to drill down into which networks referred which pages.
Now take a look at the top pages and ask yourself why these pages ranked where they did (note: the homepage and other prominent pages such as about pages will almost always rank in the top for most sources of traffic). Are the links you see at the top the same links that you’ve been sharing consistently on your social channels?
If the answer is yes, then try to ask yourself why these pages ranked in the order they did. Look back at your social posts across your networks that drove traffic to these pages. Consider the anatomy of these posts, both content and otherwise, that may have sparked a greater response compared to other updates. Beyond topic and wording, study post length, sentence structure, timing (both day of the week and hour), media (photos, graphics and video), hashtags (or lack thereof) and punctuation (question marks and exclamation points particularly).
On the contrary, if you look at your top pages and realize that these are pages that you either haven’t shared on social media, or shared very infrequently, this could indicate one of a couple of things:
- Someone else is sharing your content on social media and it’s gaining traction. If this is the case, try to find out who it is immediately and leverage that relationship!
- A post you shared once or twice was wildly successful. Try to find out which post it was and why it went viral. Was it just a really good post? Or did someone influential share it?
- People are being prompted to share your content on social media via an outside source. This could be an auto-share button on an email marketing campaign, a prompt from a live event or really, anything where your social presence is promoted.
Notice that all three of the above options are reliant upon one or more influencers or brand ambassadors who are driving traffic to your website. This is where your relationship building and engagement strategy really come into play. More on that here.
Analyze social referral engagement on site
When you really think about it, your top social referral pages say more about the social content that was used to promote them than the pages themselves. After all, when people decide to click on a link in a social media post, the only information they have is what’s in the post itself, which they use to make an educated decision on whether or not the link “promises” content that will be valuable to them. Whether or not they actually did find the content useful or appealing can’t be gauged by mere social traffic volume.
So how do you know if your social media referrals actually liked your website content? Engagement metrics.
In addition to Page Views and Sessions, the above chart will automatically show you the Average Session Duration (how long your traffic stuck around on your website) and Pages/Session (how many pages, on average, your social media traffic viewed on your website).
So, if your Average Session Duration is less than a couple of seconds (especially if the page in question is an article or blog post), you can reasonably conclude that your traffic didn’t find what they were looking for. If your average Pages/Session hovers around 1, it means people weren’t so inspired by your content that they wanted to stick around and see more.
Keep in mind short durations and low Pages/Session aren’t always a bad thing. For example, if you’re trying to get someone to submit their information or make a purchase, you want them to do it quickly with as few distractions as possible. But if you are just looking to expose people to your site, in general you want a longer average time on site and a higher Pages/Session.
Try clicking on Average Session Duration or Pages/Session. Now your web pages have been resorted in order of longest Average Session Duration or highest number of Pages/Session.
This is the time to analyze your actual website content to determine why the top pages succeeded. Why did people want to stick around? Is there a topical or other consistent trend you can spot across the top pages? What types of pages are they (blog posts, news articles, product/issue pages, etc.)? Is there a consistency in the layout of the pages? Page length? Photos, graphics or media? The more you can identify what your top pages have in common, the more information you’ll have about the kinds of content your audience responds to, so you can plan your social and web strategy for the future.
Test your findings
The information you’ve gathered above will help you make educated guesses as to why content performs the way it does, and why people behave the way they do on your social channels and your website.
But until you test your hypotheses, they will remain educated guesses. Take one of your conclusions and set up a Google Analytics test to know for sure if you’re correct. Perhaps you found that much of your tweet text sending people to what turned out to be your top social referral pages contained questions. Now you want to know if it’s the topic of your tweets or the question structure that is responsible for their success.
Throughout the course of a couple of weeks or longer, depending on your tweeting frequency, schedule several tweets in the following categories:
- Questions linking to top referral pages
- Non-questions linking to top referral pages
- Questions linking to non-top referral pages
- Non-questions linking to non-top referral pages
You can use Google Analytics UTM Parameters to track your results uniformly across categories. This post I wrote for Social Media Examiner explains how to do it and this post from the blog contains a free tracking template to expedite the process.
The data that you’ve gathered by following all of the steps above teaches you how to bridge the gap between social media and your website. Once you understand when and why people visit your website from social media, and why they behave the way they do on your site, you can adjust strategically to motivate them to do whatever it is you need them to do to prove your social media ROI. Whether that’s making a purchase, becoming a lead or something else, learning how to effectively direct the flow and behavior of traffic between social media and your website is what’s going to ultimately turn tweets into dollars.
How do you use Google Analytics in your social media strategy? Tell us in the comments below!