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Social Interaction Analytics: Measuring the Impact of Social Media

     Recently Google rolled out a cool new feature of Analytics called Social Interaction Analytics. Basically what it does is tracks the actions of social plugins like the +1 button, the Facebook Like button, the Tweet This button, and other social media buttons that exist on your site, and records these actions in your Analytics account, allowing you to track and compare this activity in conjunction with other measurable actions like e-commerce revenue, clicks, and page views within the comprehensive platform of Google Analytics.

     While not an exact science (all analytics measurements have a margin of error), it is a nice attempt by Google to help you determine ROI of social media within this somewhat scaled down context. Keep in mind that this is not an all inclusive measurement of your Facebook activity. Google cannot track activity within the walls of Facebook, so the number of fans, contests, and activity you have on your actual Facebook page will still have to be measured separately. However, if you are interested in what people are sharing directly from your site or blog pages and to which social media platform and would like to track this activity within Analytics, you can now do so.

     First you have to determine if you are using the “new” tracking code for analytics. This means the “asynchronous” tracking code that was rolled out a couple years back. Before now, there were a few minor reasons for adopting the code, which we will attempt to explain below without getting too geeky (mostly because we are simply not cool enough to be that geeky), but it was not a required change so many site owners did not bother to migrate their web pages to the new code. The original explanation for the asynchronous code was to assist analytics in tracking activity on your site by running a script element that allows the browser to load the analytics tracking code simultaneously with the other scripts on the page, which in turn improves page load times and allows you site to load quicker. In Google’s words :

“·  Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution

·  Enhanced data collection & accuracy

·  Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn’t fully loaded.”

      The asynchronous tracking code looks like something like this:

                                Asynchronous Tracking Snippet Example

                               _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXX-X’]);


    Basically, it was a way for Google to load the pages that its tracking faster and more accurately for Analytics purposes. However, since most sites didn’t really care about or understand the benefits, or never heard about it in the first place, many sites are still using the “Traditional” tracking snippet in their Google Analytics pages. The traditional code looks something like this:

                              Traditional Tracking Snippet Example

                             var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(‘UA-XXXXX-X’);


     But now there is a great reason to use the “new” code: Google +1 tracking and Social Interaction Analytics and Event Tracking. If you have the asynchronous code installed, it will automatically track +1 interactions on your site or in search results, and send them to your analytics. Since many businesses who already use social media are no doubt curious about the benefits of Google’s +1 button, and the soon to arrive company profile pages of Google +, this is  a great way to not only “test the waters” of Google’s new social features, but be ready to hit the ground running when Google expands its offering on Google +. In addition, by incorporating some additional customized code via the “_trackSocial” command, you can define what other types of social actions the tracking code should be picking up and have them pushed to your analytics account as well.

You can easily check to see which snippet you are using by simply viewing the page source of one of the pages that you are tracking with analytics.

If you see that you are using the traditional snippet and you would like to migrate over to the asynchronous snippet, the easiest way is to talk to your web host or whoever has access to your page source code. The new code is applied the same way the original analytics code was applied and there are debugging tools available to help you check your work. Adding the additional customized social tracking codes requires a little more work since you have to make sure you are tracking the correct type of button (one “like” button does not fit all, unfortunately).

This is a simple overview and we hope to provide additional specific information, including troubleshooting tips and any compatibility issues as we execute this new feature, using our own site and the guinea pig. In the meantime, feel free to post any comments or questions about this blog and we will do our best to answer them.

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