Effectively Implement Social Media Analytics Tracking

Social Media WarsHaving social sharing buttons on web pages is a common sight nowadays. Not one, not two but many different social sharing buttons to facilitate users to share content onto various different social media platform. The most popular social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter. Google+ that was launched by the search engine giant to capture the social media market share, is also building up its community of users. LinkedIn was targeted more for the industry professionals, while Pinterest aims to pin beautiful images to reach out socially.

Every website owner wants to have as many social sharing buttons on their web pages to extend the reach to their audiences. Web developers are happily inserting the social button plugins provided by the respective social media platforms, but at the expense of web page load performance. Perhaps it is time for your social marketing team to evaluate and narrow down on targeted social media platform. This allows you to allocate your limited amount of resources onto those social media platforms that can effectively reach your audiences and bring referral traffic back to your website. At the same time, you do not slow down the website load performance with all these unnecessary foreign plugins.

And that is where social media analytics tracking comes in, to assist you in deciding which social media platform brings you the greatest ROI.

The gist: How do you effectively implement social media analytics tracking for these social media buttons?

It is interesting to note that there are a couple of methods to implement social sharing buttons on your website, but there is advantages and shortfall for each solution:

1. Use of plugins provided by the respective social media platform.
Examples:
Facebook ‘Like’ button
Twitter’s Tweet button
LinkedIn Share button
Google +1 button
Pinterest Pin It button

Advantages: You can effectively track the number of users who has successfully share or post the content onto the social media platform. Google Analytics has provided its social tracking examples for Facebook and Twitter buttons. LinkedIn has a “data-onsuccess” plugin attribute for its share button plugin to allow social tracking when the web page is successfully shared. Google also has a similar plugin attribute: “callback” for its Google +1 button.

Shortfall: Too much plugins affects web page load performance.

2. Use of 3rd party social media buttons plugins
ShareThis and AddThis has aggregated a handful of social media and social bookmarking buttons from every platform. It allows customization whereby you can select which buttons to be shown for the plugin.

Advantages: Your web pages will only have one universal social media plugin, which may not affect web page load as much as having multiple plugins.

Shortfall: The social sharing metrics are tracked separately on these platforms, or you may integrate solely with Google Analytics for social trackings. If you are employing other page tagging web analytics tools like Omniture or Webtrends on your website, these 3rd party plugins do not allow social tracking integration with these web analytics tools other than Google Analytics.

3. Use of social sharing link instead of plugins
This is an alternative solution for highly privacy-sensitive sites and facilitate users who are still using older version browsers, i.e. IE 7.0 and below. Basically this is a hyperlink that opens a dialog box to prompt users to share or publish the web page.

Facebook Share Dialog (function works despite Facebook deprecated the Share button)
Google Share Link
Twitter: Build Your Own Tweet Button

Advantages: Does not affect web page load performance, and works on older browser types. You can even employ CSS sprites to put all the social media buttons onto 1 single image file.

Shortfall: You can implement event tracking, i.e. Google Analytics _trackEvent(), Webtrends dcsMultiTrack() on the social sharing links. However, this event tracking cannot effectively track whether the user has successfully share or post the content onto the social media platform. User clicks on the hyperlink to open up the sharing dialog box but decides to cancel the sharing at the last hour; the analytics will still record as 1 hit despite the web page was not shared.

Conclusion
No solution is perfect, and the implementation of social media analytics tracking is dependable on the technical limitations of your website. Talk to your developers and determine which tracking solution works best for your website.

Cheok Lup is a data driven & hands-on practitioner in digital marketing, who has acquired more than 10 years of expertise in web development, web analytics, enterprise level SEO, paid search, and performance marketing strategies & tactics. He has worked with established global firms – GlobalSources.com, Accenture Interactive, SAP, educational institutions – Singapore Management University (SMU), small-medium businesses (SMBs/SMEs), and start-ups.