We have Google Analytics installed on all the Buffer blogs (Social, Open, Overflow, and certainly also Happiness in the future). I imagine you might have it installed, too.

And though I could be in a much better habit of checking GA often, I am grateful to know that all the stats are there for me, whenever I choose to look.

The next question, then: Where should I be looking for helpful social media stats in GA?

There’s just so much to look at, with so many new and unusual titles. I’ve done my best to research and ask around about the best advice for social media marketers using Google Analytics. Here’s what I found to be the five most useful reports that you can set up quickly and let run forever.

The 5 Best Google Analytics Reports for Social Media Marketers

Exclusive Bonus: Get free access to a complete social media dashboard for Google Analytics! Install in one click!

1. Traffic by social channel

See your most valuable networks, plus the up-and-comers

Buffer Social Network Referrals

Where to find this report:

Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals

What this report tells you:

At-a-glance, you can see which social network sends you the most visits to your website. For instance, Twitter sent the Buffer blog 79,096 visitors last month.

You can view the data in a pie chart to see how the networks break down as an overall percentage of social traffic to your site. For instance, Twitter accounted for 56 percent of social traffic to the Buffer blog. Twitter and Facebook combined accounted for 81 percent.

You can expand the results to show 25 or 50 channels, then change the date range to include a comparison to last period. Voila! Now you can identify networks beyond your main ones that are beginning to send you more and more traffic. For the Buffer blog, we’ve noticed StumbleUpon and Hacker News seem to be on the rise.

Advanced:

If you click on the individual network name in this report, you can see a breakdown of all the links of yours that have been shared on that network.

Tumblr shares of Buffer blog posts

2. Social media traffic

See how much social media contributes to your overall visits

All traffic channels to the Buffer blog

Where to find this report:

Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

What this report tells you:

You can see your traffic sources at a high-level:

  1. Organic search (people clicking through from Google)
  2. Social (Twitter, Facebook, social visits)
  3. Direct (people typing your site in their browser or bookmarks)
  4. Referral (people clicking links from other sites to get to you)
  5. Email
  6. Paid search
  7. Other

With this info, you get a great sense of the importance of social media for bringing people to your site. If you ever need justification for focusing on social media, this report is it!

For the Buffer blog, we see 15 percent of our traffic from social, which accounts for nearly 150,000 visits each month.

Advanced:

Under the Acquisition > All Traffic category, you can click to view the Source/Medium, which will show you a granular break down of the search, social, and referral traffic. For a quick hack into your mobile vs. desktop traffic, look at how each social network URL is abbreviated. Twitter on mobile is represented by t.co, and desktop is twitter.com. Facebook on mobile is represented by m.facebook.com, and desktop is facebook.com.

In addition, to see the mobile vs. desktop traffic breakdown, you can add a Secondary Dimension to any view (by clicking the Secondary Dimension button at the top of any table). Type in “Mobile” and select “Mobile (Including Tablet).”

3. Landing pages

Landing Pages report for Buffer blog

Where to find this report:

Acquisition > Social > Landing Pages

What this report tells you:

Use this report to see your website pages that get shared most often on social media. For the Buffer blog in the past 30 days, our most-shared story is Andrianes Pinantoan’s guest post about Canva’s growth strategy.

Advanced:

You can click any link in this report to see the specific breakdown of networks where this content was shared.

4. Multi-channel reports

Multi-channel Funnel for the Buffer blog

Where to find this report:

Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Overview

This report will work if you’ve got Goals set up for your website. (See below.)

What this report tells you:

The Venn diagram you’ll get on this report page shows the various paths that people take to convert through your website or blog. For example, on the Buffer blog, a good majority of people convert after coming to the site from organic search. A smaller—but still significant—portion convert after coming directly or clicking on a link from social media.

The overlap in the Venn diagrams represent visitors who might, for instance, click a link in a tweet first, then come back to the site directly later on to go through the conversion flow. And Google Analytics tracks all this, all the way through!

Advanced: 

Further down into the Multi-Channel Funnels, there are some neat reports:

  1. Top Conversion Paths
  2. Time Lag
  3. Page Length

For Top Conversion Paths, you can see the frequency with which visitors take certain routes to conversion. For instance, I can see in my report that the most common path is a person visiting my site directly two times before converting. The top social path is a visit or two from social first, then a direct visit.

You can change the view here also by clicking on “Source/Medium Path” at the top of the chart to see the specific social networks involved in the conversion flow.

Top Conversion Paths for the Buffer blog

For Time Lag, you can see how many days come between first visit and conversion.

For Path Length, you can see a breakdown of how many paths are involved in each conversion typically. For my blog, the vast majority (75%) convert after one visit.

5. UTM campaign results

UTM campaign referrers for the Buffer blog

Where to find this report:

Acquisition > Campaigns

What this report tells you:

If you’re running a social media campaign, you can append the URLs you’re sharing with a UTM parameter, a bit of text that goes at the end of your link. Google’s free URL Builder is perhaps the simplest way to set these up.

If we were running a campaign for a bufferchat, we could change this link:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/free-marketing-tools

to this:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/free-marketing-tools?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=bufferchat

When setting up the new URL in Google’s URL Builder, just make note of what you’re calling the “Campaign Name,” as this is how you’ll find the results in your Google Analytics reports.

The value here is that you’ll then be able to track how many visits this campaign sent back to your website as well as what happened to these visitors once they landed. How long did they stay? Did they convert? Etc.

Advanced:

Within the Campaigns report, you might notice the term “buffer” popping up. When you share a link from Buffer, we automatically add a UTM parameter to the shortened URL so you can easily track the impact of your social sharing via Buffer. You can override these campaign settings by creating custom UTMs in your Buffer dashboard.

How to Set up Goals and Advanced Segments

The above five reports are excellent and great and wonderful, and to make things really powerful you can go through a few quick steps to add Goals and Advanced Segments to your traffic stats to make things even more targeted and useful.

For Goals, you can tell Google Analytics which actions on your website you value most, whether those are conversions or Time on Page or any number of other metrics.

How to set up Goals:

  1. At the very top of any Google Analytics page, click Admin.
  2. In the far right column, click on Goals.
  3. Choose a goal template.

Goals set up

Google Analytics breaks these down into four different categories:

  1. Revenue
  2. Acquisition
  3. Inquiry
  4. Engagement

(I’ve personally used the Revenue category to track sales and the Engagement category to track newsletter signups.)

The next steps here will vary based on the category you choose. If you’ve got any specific questions on the details here, drop a comment on this post and I’ll see if I can dig up an answer!

For a quick overview, I love this advice from Kristi Hines:

The easiest goals set up type is URL destination – this is where you tell Google Analytics that a goal has been completed when a visitor lands on a particular page on your website. For example, you would set up the thank you page for a form submission or the final order confirmation page for a product purchase as a URL destination. For ecommerce websites, you can set up goal funnels that track all of the steps visitors take in your shopping cart process for more detailed reports.

At the end of the setup, you have a chance to verify the goal to see if all is in working order. If all’s good, then you’ll be able to start seeing your traffic in relation to the goals you’ve set up, which can be hugely helpful in identifying which channels and paths are most valuable for what you’re hoping to achieve with your site.

How to set up Advanced Segments:

  1. From your main overview page in Google Analytics, click the “+Add Segment” button above your main traffic graph.
  2. Click the red button to “+New Segment.”

Advanced Segments set up

You can name your segment and choose the factors that you want to segment by.

The value here is in singling out a portion of your traffic based on particular options—only traffic from Twitter, say, or only Facebook mobile traffic. You can create these social media segments by adding the URLs for these networks to the Traffic Sources > Source in the segment settings.

For more on Advanced Segments, Convince and Convert has a useful overview on the topic.

Bonus: Free Social Media Dashboard

Google Analytics Social Media reports dashboard

I’ve found that knowing about Google Analytics reports and using them can be two very different things, so I’d love to make it as easy as possible to get these reports into your social media marketing workflow.

Click here to receive a free social media dashboard.

It’s a free dashboard that adds straight into your Google Analytics once you click. From then on, you can access it quickly by clicking on Dashboards in the left column from any GA page.

What the dashboard includes:

  1. Real-time visitors to your website from social channels
  2. Which social networks are sending you the most traffic overall
  3. Your top landing pages for social traffic
  4. How your social traffic fits with traffic from search, direct, and referral
  5. Your most shared pages on Twitter and Facebook
  6. Your social media campaign results

Over to you

What have you found most useful with Google Analytics for your social media marketing?

Which reports do you find yourself checking often?

I’d love to learn from you on this! I feel I’m still quite green when it comes to Google Analytics and that there’s tons of untapped potential there. If you have any tips you’d be willing to share, it’d be an honor to learn from you!

Image sources: Pablo, IconFinder, UnSplash

Looking for a better way to share on social media?

Schedule, publish & analyze your posts across the top social networks, all in one place.

Start a 14-Day Free Trial
Written by Kevan Lee

Director of marketing at Buffer, the social media publishing tool for brands, agencies, and marketers. We’ve got a new podcast! 🍟

  • Brandi

    ——— SSSSSSoooooo Extra Cute profit with blog.bufferapp ——- ——— Keep Reading

  • Great look at the places we should be looking for social stats in GA Kevan.

    It’s very important that marketers not only look at social performance but also website performance too, allowing them to see not only how their social messaging performed but what happened after the social click, once the user got to the website. Putting these two together is critical as success from your social messaging doesn’t mean it success once they get to your site automatically.

    Having the ability to add Google GTM parameters to your Buffer posts is an awesome way to track that traffic from your particular social posts rather than just looking at all social traffic. This allows a much better picture of how your own social activity translates to website activity. I with the Awesome plan offered this ability but it’s one of the items that make the Business plan well worth it.

    I always keep an eye on inbound traffic from social within GA. This alerts you to new networks that may be driving significant traffic to your site, which may be new opportunities for you to utilize and drive even more visitors. It also tips you off to spikes cause by others. If a big name shares a link to your site on LinkedIn, you may never know. Watching GA can help to alert you to these spikes.

    Even if you have never used Google Analytics it’s worth setting up (it’s easy) and poking around. You’ll be surprised what you find and can take away from the data you’ll see.

    Thanks again for putting this together. Awesome info as always.

    • Great stuff here, Ben! Agreed on all points. I’ve found a lot of value in simply having GA installed and knowing that it’s pulling data for me, even if I might not be currently in a place to do much with it!

      • Definitely. Even if you don’t touch it for a month or two, it’s great to have there capturing the data for when you do need it. With plugins like Google Analytics by Yoast for WordPress, installing it is super simple.

        You certainly don’t need to be Google Analytics certified (reminds me I need to renew mine again) to gain great insights from it either. The shared dashboards, like the one offered in your post, mean anyone can take advantage of informative layouts others have build without needing the expertise to build your own.

  • Hi Kevan,

    If there’s one area that there can be an “information overload” these days, it’s metrics. I find it rather fun to poke around in the numbers and to see what I can do to bring the numbers up.

    But, I’ve found it’s important to decide what metrics matter, schedule checking those, and resisting the urge to check everything all the time.

    I’ve been experimenting with a schedule like this just for the last few weeks, and I’m still deciding what exactly to check on my weekly run though. This post will certainly help!

    I’d forgotten about Google’s url builder. I’ll have to start putting that to use again.

    • Awesome! Great to hear this, Vernon! Let me know if you end up with any useful workflows. I’d love to learn from you!

      • My personal approach to improvements is not to do anything radically – I have a great system to which I adapt little things all the time.

        Each week I have a weekly review (based on Getting Things Done, David Allen), which I’ve done for years. I’m a programming hobbyist, so I do everything with a little scripted checklist. One of the most useful books I ever read, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande really got me into using checklists for everything.

        I’ve simply added my website and social media metrics to the mix. So, every Friday, I record a handful of things like the weeks income, Google Analytics, Facebook stuff and Twitter stuff. Just the very basic metrics and only looking at the one week.

        What I’ve done for the last few weeks is just add a line of what would be a 1% improvement as a prediction for next week. That way I can focus on just improving slighly as I go along.

        It will take me some time to see how useful the system is. But I enjoy doing it so far.

        I have a checklist for all sorts of very unrelated things in my work. Saves your brain for the good stuff…

        • Great stuff, Vernon! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  • You know a blog post is great when you can use it to schedule 7-10 tweets that each give out unique information. Thank you for the valuable advice, and allowing me to share useful information on my Twitter feed Kevan! 😉

    • Great! Thanks so much, Avtar! 🙂

  • Thanks Kevan for this post. One of the concepts I have researched a lot about while dealing with Web traffic and social relation is the concept of ‘Dark Social’.

    And looking at Buffer’s report from GA, I think that is something which can be attributed in your web performance as well (12% Direct Traffic).

    Is that something which you & your team has researched within the internal metrics at Buffer? I would love a post on that as well & your experience with the experiments i have mentioned in the below post which i have written

    Here’s something we have written at Digital Insights over the topic which might help you and Buffer readers (Shameless Promotion! but might be helpful)
    http://blog.digitalinsights.in/direct-traffic-attribution-and-dark-social-traffic/05288387.html

    Let me know 🙂

    • Hi there Omkar!

      Thanks so much for this great comment. Definitely, I’d be interested in digging into dark social a bit more – and to write up anything we find! It’s not something we talk about too much just yet, though I’m excited to read through article on it and learn from you. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Awesome post Kevan! And thanks for the mention. 🙂

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Kristi! Thanks for creating such useful content! 🙂

  • Logan

    Thanks for sharing the GA social media dashboard, Kevan. It’s awesome.

    • Woot! Thanks, Logan!

  • Fay

    ———-.i like me blog.bufferapp ——- —————– Keep Reading

  • Gayle

    ———- that’s a full enjoy with blog.bufferapp……. _________ Continue Reading

  • MorrisJOverby

    ………………..Reset your job with blog.bufferapp Find Here ……………………

  • JohnASilcox

    Reset your job with bufferapp Find Here

  • Hello Kevan,
    Really amazing post on Analytic. It is a truth that we can analyze traffic and all other factors at Google Analytic coming from search engines and different types of devices, but it is also necessary to track all other major social accounts in order to get all over information related to our business and hence to improve in our strategies according to the stats if required.
    Thanks

  • LisaRSanders

    Your first choice bufferapp Find Here

    • RandyJTierney

      Your Mind is Butter ..by blog.bufferapp… Find Here

  • Somaked

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+ bufferapp+ *********Reset your job with modvive < Find More='' ……..''

    3

  • This is awesome! I recently posted on my blog about determining the right amount of technology to use for content marketing and social, since small businesses can sometimes take on too much. GA is a must-have and I love how you break down into detail how to better utilize it as a tool; thank you! (Popping over to the post to link to you now.) I’m also a Buffer fan and constantly learning from you guys!

    • Hi Tracy! Great to hear from you! Thanks for the comment. Really happy there was some useful stuff here for you. I’d love to hear if any of these reports make it into your workflow!

  • Complatict

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜ +bufferapp+*********….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

    14

    • MyraCWashington

      All time hit the blog.bufferapp Find Here

  • Overy1954

    < ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+bufferapp+ ********* ….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

    15

  • thank your sharing

  • On #5, did you know you all are muddying up your channel reports in GA? Read this post from Annie Cushing: https://www.annielytics.com/blog/analytics/how-to-trash-your-google-analytics-account-with-campaign-tagging/

    • Thanks, Conrad! I found this article because of your comment.

  • Great post! One thing I would caution against is setting your medium to ‘tweet’. If you want that traffic to show up in your social reports, it needs to be set to ‘social’. If you go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and click on ‘(Other)’ (GA’s junk drawer) you’ll find these mis-tagged visits. You can learn more in my campaign tagging guide (https://www.annielytics.com/guides/definitive-guide-campaign-tagging-google-analytics/). You can also re-route your mis-tagged traffic using channel groupings, to see social traffic you’ve been under-reporting. You can learn more about channel groupings in my guide on that (http://www.annielytics.com/guides/definitive-guide-to-channel-groupings-google-analytics/).

    I hope this doesn’t come across as pedantic. These are both critical to understand for an organization that works as closely with social channels as Buffer does. And I’ve been a longtime fan of Buffer (and even work in the same office as two of your teammates!).

    • Amazing tip, Annie! Thank you so much for mentioning this. I’m bumping your comment here so that others can see it also and learn from it! Thanks so much for taking the time out to read and reply (and for the Buffer support) 🙂

    • Matt

      Hi Annie -those links don’t seem to be working…

      • Sometimes parentheses get incorporated into the URL (usually at the end). Just remove them, and the URL will work.

  • Matt

    Why does the referral traffic in the social report for social media channels differ than the referral traffic in the All Traffic report?

    • Hi Matt! Great question. I hope I’m understanding it right – are you seeing a difference in the numbers between the Acquisition > Traffic > Channels report and the Acquisition > Social > Overview report? We’ve noticed before that sometimes the places that Analytics deems to be social networks might not exactly mesh with what we’ve anticipated (StumbleUpon for instance), so occasionally our Buffer numbers will be a bit different in this way. Also there’s a really great comment on the thread here from Annie Cushing about how using the utm_medium affects the reporting of social traffic. Definitely let me know if this feels on the right track for you, Matt, or if I can add any further context!

      • Matt

        Hey Kevan yes those are exactly the reports I’m referring to but my numbers differ for traffic in obious social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I’m thinking that the reason can have something to do with the way the traffiic is counted in both reports (counted differently). Check out this article: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3094765?hl=en. Anne’s links don’t work for me so I couldn’t read what she was sharing. I will reply to her comment on the thread.

    • Matt, I never use the All Traffic report for social reporting. I hate it because the data is fragmented into individual subdomains for each network (e.g., facebook.com, m.facebook.com l.facebook.com, etc) as well as the sources you tag using campaign parameters (i.e., utm_source=facebook.com). Alternatively, the Network Referrals report (under Acquisition > Social) aggregates data by social network not source, making it much cleaner and less fragmented. Hope this helps!

      • Matt

        Thanks Anne, I noticed that as well. But what stumped me is that even if you add up all the individual subdomains and campaign data to get a total, that total still differs from the Network Referrals report. I think the answer lies in the way traffic is counted: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3094765?hl=en

        • That’s in reference to the difference between MCF and Attribution reports, so that’s not relevant here. There is no lookback window for Attribution reports to worry about. It just comes down to if Google recognizes your Source/Medium as a Social Network. One way to do this would be to apply a secondary dimension of Social Network to the Source/Medium report. If you see something that you think should be social in nature with a Social Network of (not set), you’ll know Google didn’t recognize the medium and/or source as a social site. Screenshot: http://www.screencast.com/t/na1X5HFr.

          • Matt

            Thanks!!

  • Jacyk13

    Hi Kevin. I am a big fan (recently subscribed to your emails!). This article is extremely helpful. I installed the social dashboard and I’ve been using it for a few weeks now. I noticed that the real time visits from social widget stopped working. Can you tell me what the dimension is supposed to be, in order to ensure I am only seeing the real time traffic from social (and not just, real time traffic).

  • Claire

    Thanks so much for this really useful guide. The Social Media Dashboard is great and we’ll definitely be making use of it.

    Just wondered if you may be able to help at all. As a Google Analytics “Newbie” trying to find my feet, for some reason it will not allow us to set any goals for the site at all and I’m not sure why? Do you happen to know what we might need to amend to rectify this? It seems our web designers may not have set it up correctly or something is amiss. Unfortunately I’m not having much joy on Googling this issue either.

  • Chris Lasonde

    Thanks for this very informative post. I noticed in the dash that in a number of the widgets you’re using ‘URL Shared’ in the display column. I see that Google has made that dimension/metric deprecated. Do you know anymore about that? Is there another way to see that information in a dash or is Google doing away with that?

  • Ranjan Ravi

    Tracking each posts with UTM code is unique & something i found useful.

  • Taglynx

    Are you guys tagging and tracking every link you post? We use Taglynx to create analytics-ready links as well as to provide click data. Check it out: http://ta.gl/YpzeDh

  • betty

    AWESOME POST! I would like to suggest the Google Analytics Counter Tracker plugin by WordPress, it is great in keeping tracks of your website visitors, giving you the statistics and graphical representation. you can check it out @ https://wordpress.org/plugins/analytics-counter/

  • Thanks Kevan Lee, this is great! As an SEO newby in-training, you’ve provided a concise summarized view with appropriate graphics to remind me of what’s to see and do with Google Analytics.With so many analytic and webmaster tools available and the seo plug-ins to remember, this will certainly be very helpful as I continue my seo learning adventure taking shape slowly at houstonseoconsultant.org