Back to basics: Measuring your social media efforts with unique acquisition channels

Segregating paid, organic and social activity in analytics clarifies the activity that drives which type of conversion.

Most organizations are spending a considerable amount of money and resources on their social media marketing efforts. These efforts generally take the form of three types of effort – organic, paid and promoted (also referred to as owned, paid and earned). No matter how you label them, you should segregate them into three unique marketing acquisition channels in your analytics reports to correctly evaluate how effective your efforts are.

To segregate traffic driven to your site from various social media properties, you’ll need to configure custom channels in your analytics tool. (For a detailed explanation on how to do this in GA, see the Marketing Land article The Google Analytics Social channel is broken. Here’s how to fix it.

Defining custom social channels

Before starting any configuration changes, first decide not only the names of these new channels, but what they represent for your clients (both internal and external).

I’d recommend setting up the following three channels.

Paid social: Consists of any paid ads you are running on any social media property to drive traffic to your website.

Promoted social: All activity performed by your social media team where no additional marketing fees are required. Typical activities that fall under this channel include typical posting to your social media channels.

Organic social: Any activity that the general public (people not on your payroll) drives traffic to your site from social media. This includes a person clicking on a “Share This” icon on your blog post or perhaps just including a link to your site in a spontaneous social media post.

Once you’ve defined your social media channels, you need to define the medium definitions (for GA the utm_medium parameter value) to be used your generate a custom URL to track (see Google URL Builder). The great news is you don’t need to do anything for organic social.

Here are some typical medium definitions (required by your analytics software) or make up your own. Note you can use more than one to refine your analysis at a later date.

Paid social: Paid-social, Social-PPC, Social-CPC, Social-display, Promoted-post

Promoted social: Psocial, Promoted, Post, Tweet

Remember, these changes to your analytics tool are permanent and will remain in place unless deleted. They will not impact historical data.

Repeating the benefits of custom channels

With this additional information, you’ll be more effective at evaluating which content is performing best and you’ll be able to compare its performance across the organic, paid and promoted social channels.

Back to basics: Measuring your social media efforts with unique acquisition channels


Another advantage is it will be much easier to compare conversion rates and goal achievement between different channels. In this example, a Data Studio report was created to showcase different goal conversions by all defined channels.

Back to basics: Measuring your social media efforts with unique acquisition channels

It is only by segregating paid from organic from promoted social activity that a complete picture of which activity drives which type of conversion. From the above chart, the Paid Search channel generated the most contact forms being submitted, while social (organic) and paid social drove zero forms being submitted. In this case, it’s important to look further into your analytics reports for assisted conversions (does a site visit generated from Paid Social come back to the site later through another channel) to determine the influence of Paid Social on contact forms being completed or other conversion points.

Any questions?

I hope you found this useful, and hope you’re as thrilled as I was to be able to segregate my client’s social traffic into meaningful refined channels. We are now able to put a true value on all our social marketing efforts (paid or promoted) and to calculate a realistic ROI which makes all business owners happy.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Alan K’necht an independant SEO, Social and Analytics consultant , a public speaker, award winning author and a corporate trainer (SEO, social media marketing & digital analytics).

Marketing Land – Internet Marketing News, Strategies & Tips