Given the rapid increase in people using social networks to share and discuss content on the internet, it's no surprise that the majority of websites now have social media sharing buttons integrated alongside their content. However, measuring the success of these buttons is by no means straightforward.
Most buttons have metrics alongside them when embedded as widgets; for example when a “Tweet” button is located on a website it is often accompanied by a number, which refers to the total number of times that button has been used. However, this doesn’t reveal how much traffic this button has driven back to that page – this is where the use of tracking code is extremely useful.
By creating campaign tags for webpages in Google Analytics, it’s possible to customise social media sharing buttons so links shared by users are tagged with tracking code. This means that when a user’s friends or followers click through to a webpage as a result of seeing it shared within social media, that visit can be tracked back to the source, therefore defining the value of the share. An example of such code would be the following:
In this instance, the code will track the total number of visits to “page x” from the link shared through the Twitter button. As such, the value of that “Tweet” button over time can be defined by what proportion of traffic to webpages is driven by social media buttons and sharing. This could of course be replicated across other social media buttons too, such as Google+ or LinkedIn, providing the widgets provide scope for webmasters to customise them. Whilst some social networks are likely to shorten these URLs automatically when it comes to users actually sharing, the coded URLs could be disguised within a shortened URL (either owned or from a URL shortening tool) to make them more user friendly.
This can be of huge benefit to both in-house marketers and external practitioners providing social media services within an agency – it essentially provides a rationale for integrating such buttons in the first place. In addition, it can define whether more emphasis should be placed on encouraging visitors to share web content – if this is particularly successful for a certain website it could result in significant increases in traffic via social networks. This is also relevant to SEO agencies from a discoverability perspective too.
(image: tracking codes / shutterstock)