We all know the power of social media for driving well-targeted traffic to website. Social channels are great platforms for connecting with niche-related industries, generating brand awareness, finding new leads and learning more about potential customers.

Possibilities are limited only by our imagination.

As we also know, no digital marketing strategy would be complete without a tracking system in place. The number of clicks, likes and re-tweets are a good indication of the success of digital marketing efforts, but not enough for understanding how much they contribute in generating qualified traffic to our site.

What we want is to be able to calculate how many leads, conversions and eventually sales are generated by social media campaigns. What we want is to be able to calculate social media ROI.

To do this, Google Analytics comes to our rescue (surprised?). Google Analytics provides information on the role of social channels and specific platforms in referring users to a website’s traffic.

Let’s dig deeper…

Acquisition > Social > Overview: The social value

Social media menu google analytics

The social media menu provides information regarding the role of social channels in referring users to the website. By default, the Social Overview report shows total conversions and conversion value, that is the sum of all ecommerce and goal metrics.

These values are displayed in the social value graph and the numeric report (image below). Both reports compare total goal completions and ecommerce monetary value to those generated by social media.

Specifically, Google Analytics distinguishes two types of social conversions:

Last Interaction social conversion = people that converted in the same session that has been generated by the social referral.

Contributed social conversions = people that returned from a social referral and convert during a following session.

Based on the example below, 5.1% of all traffic came from a social referral [calculated as (785/15,381)x100]. In terms of conversions, 37% of all visitors converted [calculated as (5,742/15,381)x100], 4.3% of which was coming from social media marketing [calculated as ((191+59)/5,742)x100].

The effect of social media marketing might seem pretty low (4.3% on the total number of conversions); however, if calculated based on the number of visits generated by social media  (785), the percentage of conversions becomes 31%, in line with the site’s average.

Image result for social graph google analytics
Source: Kissmetrics

Acquisition > Social > Goal Overview

As stated in the previous paragraph, the social media menu can focus either on goals completions or ecommerce  conversions. When focusing on goal completions, a better understanding on the role played by social media marketing comes when each goal is displayed individually. This is because the impact of social referral might vary significantly among goals;  to give an example, social media marketing might work well to bring people to webpages such as photo galleries, blogs or vlogs, but not in driving users ready to purchase at the first visit.

To display single goals:

  1. Click on Conversions drop-down menu (top-left)
  2. Leave only the goal of interest checked

As result, the social value graph and the numeric report show only the conversions -total or social- associated to the goal of interest. Based on this narrower focus, the percentage of social media referral that contributed to goal completion can be calculated as shown in the above example:

  • First, calculate the percentage of visits that converted:
    • Sessions / Conversions = Goal conversion rate
  • Then, calculate the percentage of social sessions that converted:
    • Sessions via social referral / (assisted+last) social conversions = Goal social conversion rate

If the social marketing is performing well in driving qualified traffic, it is expected that the social conversion rate would be similar to the total conversion rate. To give you an example, if the goal conversion rate was around 10%, we would expect the goal social conversion rate to be in the range of 8-12%.

The same can be applied to quantify ecommerce conversions:

  • Total conversions/Total sales = Total ecommerce rate
  • Social conversions/Social sales = Social ecommerce rate

Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals

The Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals menu shows how much each social media channel contributed to the number of all sessions. The line charts allow to compare the number of sessions generated by social referral to the number of total sessions. As the two graphs can also be displayed in different scales, comparing the impact of social referral to generating sessions can be quite tricky.

Image result for social network referral charts

The table at the bottom is much more useful as it shows traffic generated by single social channels. In addition to sessions, the table can display quantitative data such as:

  1. Pageviews
  2. Average session duration
  3. Pages/Sessions

From each channel, it is possible to extract qualitative data such as:

  1. Types of pages visited
  2. Types of traffic

Acquisition > Social > Conversions

The Acquisition > Social > Conversions report shows the monetary value associated to social network referrals. Compared to Acquisition > Social > Goal Overview, the social conversion report shows the monetary value that resulted from conversions generated by every single social channel.

Conversion menu of Google Analytics

As before, the default setting shows all the social conversions. The best approach is to either focus on ecommerce values or on specific goals by selecting a specific conversion from the Explorer tab. The new graph will display the total number of conversions or the monetary value that all social channels generated. Beneath the new graph each social channel displays the number of conversions or monetary value that generated individually.

To better understand the number of conversions that each channel generated, it is necessary to combine the values of the Acquisition > Social > Conversions with those of the Acquisition > Social > Overview.

The percentage of conversions that each channel generates is calculated dividing the number of conversions from the Conversions menu with the number of sessions from the Overview menu. In short, we divide the number of conversions by the number of sessions (Conversions /Sessions) for each channel. The first value is found in the conversion menu, the second one in the overview menu.

However the story does not end here. It is important not only to understand how many conversions each channel generates but also how much monetary value each channel brings as fewer conversions might not mean a lower monetary value.

Therefore, in addition to the percentage of conversions, it needs to be calculated:

  • How much monetary value each session generates
  • How much monetary value each conversion brings

The first value is calculated by dividing the conversion value by the number of sessions for each channel. In short:

  • Average Conversion $ / Session
  • Average $ / Conversion

The last insight comes from looking into Assisted Versus Last interaction. The table shows how many users purchased on the first visit, that is when they are referred to a social media channel, or on a following visit.


The social media menu is a great Google Analytics tool, extremely useful to better understand social media marketing. Besides making it easier to understand how each social channel works to bring users to your site, the social media menu offers that insight that helps you generate more social leads and conversions.

However, the points covered here are just an introduction; ongoing analysis into the social media data will help you uncover the power of social media behind marketing and what resonates with your social users. By looking more into social media data in Google Analytics, you can make your content marketing more potent and generate more sales.

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