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Tracking social media with Google Analytics

Categories: Metrics Understanding / Comments: 27

ga-hacks.gifThis is not really a hack – rather the application of a simple (yet powerful) filter that allows you to compare visits from social networks side by side next to other referral mediums. The result allows you to have a quick comparison of the significance of social networks to your site in your Google Analytics reports, rather than having to drill down into each referrer. For example:

All Traffic report view after the filter has been applied

Background on social networks and user generated content

(taken from a recent Bowen & Craggs presentation)

Social networks have exploded on the Internet. The vast numbers of people now participating in them has resulted in a huge influence over brand perception. Hence their importance when considering your digital strategy. Some companies such as Dell*, Harley Davison and Starbucks, to name a few, use social networks as a direct feedback mechanism to actively drive their on and offline marketing strategies.

Key facts:

  • There are an estimated 250 million internet users on a social network, from zero 5 years ago.
  • MySpace alone claims over 200 million registered users, more than the population of Brazil or Russia. For Myspace in the US, think Facebook and Bebo in the UK, Orkut in Brazil and India, CyWorld in Korea, Mixi in Japan, Lunarstorm in Sweden and so on.
  • Around 120,000 blogs are created each day – that’s blogs, not posts!
  • In a mid-2007 IBM survey of online adults (aged 18+), the percentage of people claiming to have contributed to a user-generated content site was 9% in Germany, Australia and the UK; 7% in the US and 4% in Japan.
  • Of those who contributed content, 58% did so for recognition and community, not monetary gain.
  • 6 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute – it would take you a whole year to view one day on uploaded content.

*The Dell Hell story that started with Jeff Jarvis in 2005 is now part of Internet history. It first starts as a story of how bad customer service was with a computer manufacturer, but then becomes a success story as Dell first listened to what was being said about them on the web, and then acted with huge investment. Not only did they invest to correct the problem (poor customer service) but they also invested in bringing the voice of their customers closer to the company by setting up their own social networks around Dell products.

So social networks are important – how do we track them?

…continue reading ‘Tracking social media with Google Analytics’

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Comments (most recent first)

  1. Erica says:

    I’m in the process of reading your book and LOVE it by the way 🙂
    Question: Our Social Media team shortens our URLs (for Twitter) using a trackable URL shortening tool (BudUrl). When we look at the “twitter” traffic in GA we don’t see nearly as many visits as we see in BudUrl from the trackable links. They say and I’ve read that you will only see traffic coming from the twitter’s web interface which most people don’t use. Most people use desktop OR mobile clients that are not browsers. My question is, how do we fix this? And is this also happening with Facebook (I really only use my iPhone app for Facebook).

    • @Erica – make sure you read Ch7, “Campaign Tracking” on this. Essentially you need to add these *before* shortening your landing page URLs (page 231). Then apply the filter described here.

  2. Nicolas says:

    Thanks for this useful tip ! However i’d like to tune it so i can add more social networks. What string do I need to add? Only the domain name of the Social network website?

  3. Talk about de-mystifying a really cool part of Google Analytics 🙂 Thanks so much for this, Brian!

  4. Take a look at this tool – – very similar to Google Website analytics but for social network.

  5. Sugarcoat says:

    Half my life is analysis paralysis and this social tracking tip is just another daily task now, great!

  6. Mediarun says:

    Good idea of using analytic filter for tracking social network traffic!!!

  7. Phil says:


    I hope you dont mind if I suggest the following filter improvements…

    Advanced filter: (255 character limit)



    Output medium:social
    ($B1 Required ticked)

    * “ning” was removed as it matches lots of domains ending with xxxning e.g.

    * If their was more space I would add hootsuit & craiglist. Also webmasterworld|econsultancy are industry specific forums so removed, as generic filter.

    * “social network” standardised to “social”

    * feedburner added, but this is only necessary of auto-utm tags are missing.



  8. Daniel says:

    Ok, I deleted the filter, but tomorrow i will be able to send to you the screenshots with anomalies.

    Thank you!!!

  9. Daniel: Please contact me direct with further explanation of this i.e. screenshots with anomalies highlighted.

  10. Good article!

    But I have tested it on my Google Analytics and it doesn’t seem to work 🙁

    The number of visits from social media increases every day, but when I see the entries, always is higher than the number than the filter shows.

    Do you have any idea what’s the problem? Thank you very much.

  11. Brian,

    If the 255 character limit becomes an issue, is the right thing to do create another profile and setup another filter to attach to that profile?



  12. Brillant !
    Social media sources are becoming more and more relevant to underline fact that new tools of bookmarking (sharethis, gigya,…) must be integrated.
    These kind of filter give easy focus on critical mass to get on social media to make the buzz.
    Thanks, and nice to read your posts

  13. Ophir Cohen says:

    Fantastic. I’m going to implement this on a few sites now 🙂

  14. michelle says:

    Great tip – I also use the Grease Monkey plug-in in Firefox for compiling special screen-shots for clients who won’t switch browsers or install plug-ins themselves. This gives me a quick snapshot ability to send social site data to clients at a moment’s notice.

  15. Neo says:

    Good work,good analysis. Now a days, social media networks are becoming more and more important in the field of internet marketing. One day, Web Marketers give equal importance to social media networks and search engines.

  16. Juan Cruz says:

    Not bad Brian. I guess is a great way to have an eye of the evolution of these kind of sites more than to trust the accuracy of the concept it self.
    I will definitely try it. Thanks!

  17. Excellent tip Brian. This is the first time I enter your blog but certainly it won’t be the last.


  18. Susan says:

    Great tip! I tried it out right away using your regular expression to set up an Advanced Segment.

  19. Sebastian says:

    @Brian: The fact, that the segments only apply to the user account and not to a profile is really a missing feature in my view.

  20. Chris G says:

    Very very useful and, as far as I can tell, not available in other analytics solutions, at least not in the side by side way. Rocks. Thanks.

  21. Added bonus of using segments is that you can compare them in one screen.

  22. Joost: yes you can do something similar now with the Advanced Segments feature that is in beta.

    The main difference is that Advanced Segments are on a per GA user basis, where as the filter is set on a per profile basis.

  23. Hi Brian, why did you do this with a filter and not with an advanced segment?

  24. Social networks are our primary focus, this is a GREAT idea and we will implement asap.

    all the best,

  25. Nikki Rae says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks. That’s a really useful one to know. Will try out asap.


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