Leverage Google Analytics campaigns and goals combined with the SharpSpring marketing automation platform to gain a complete perspective of your social media campaign performance
Paid social media campaigns are one of the most cost-effective, efficient and productive types of marketing campaigns today. They allow brands to quickly reach vast numbers of qualified consumers well beyond the limitations of their current organic social media audiences and customer bases to tap into new markets, build brand awareness and generate demand for products and services 24/7. A paid social media campaign does all of this in a manner that is accountable, measureable and lends itself to quick and continual optimization – an important but often overlooked aspect of many paid social media campaigns.
The goals of this post are really twofold:
- To encourage all marketers with budgets of any size to leverage the power of paid social media campaigns. Why? It’s possible to get six months’ to a year’s worth of results in as little as a week with even moderate budgets as compared to organic social media activity!
- To describe a bulletproof strategy for social media campaign measurement to ensure marketers have the ability to track and prove ROI, to ensure campaigns remain accountable and provide information to improve future results.
But wait, isn’t the benefit of social media that it’s free?
Brands of all sizes have rapidly flocked to social media in recent years in search of followers, likes, shares, retweets and other such engagements. Consumers are online, they’re mobile and they’re spending their time on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and increasingly Twitter. Marketers have adapted and are beginning to understand the real ROI of engaging with their customers on their terms, within their networks of choice. But wait. For all the resources dedicated to growing fans, writing and engineering thoughtful organic posts and investments in social listening and staffing to respond to and engage with customers in near real time, how many marketers still struggle to point to real, measureable business results? Organic social is incredibly important, in fact necessary, to any modern company’s success. But ROI from these efforts often remains, arguably, elusive. Perhaps your team can relate?
While many of these same companies have dipped their toes into the paid advertising side of social media, far too many are still hesitant to dive in and leverage this massively effective channel for increasing their brand awareness, generating qualified sales leads and closing deals. This blog post is for those marketers who have yet to experiment with paid social media advertising, as well as those with some limited experience but who perhaps recognize shortcomings from their previous campaigns and want to do more, have more control, measure impact and optimize their ad spend to get truly remarkable results!
Ingredients of effective social media campaign measurement
This post is primarily focused on social media campaign measurement, but it’s important to lay some basic groundwork in terms of campaign setup and other assumptions. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume we’re using ultra-effective Facebook look-alike audiences in that channel and leveraging Twitter Cards with follower targeting on Twitter. For both channels – Facebook and Twitter – let’s also assume we’re leveraging built-in settings for optimizing toward website clicks and conversions. Optimizing for conversions in these channels is important since, as we’ve already discussed above, we’re aiming for real business results here! We’ll also assume that for each campaign, by channel, we’ll set up no fewer than three ad variations to support testing and optimization. Of course, implementation of some items like custom audiences (Facebook) and conversion optimization via Facebook and Twitter, although fairly straightforward, does require some additional setup, but if your website is running Google Tag Manager or something similar, your marketing team should be able to install the tags and get you up and running quickly. More on that in another post! Lastly, we’ll assume your team has built a thoughtful landing page where you’ll collect lead information while perhaps offering a useful download or other item of value. Lengthy IT projects are no longer required to create a landing page. Now there are many options available to marketing teams for creating robust, nicely designed and even responsive landing pages with custom forms and logic. We’re partial to SharpSpring, our marketing automation system, but there are many other high-quality form builders and landing page services on the market.
Measuring business results with SharpSpring
For the remainder of this post, I’ll discuss two major components of our social media campaign measurement strategy. I’ve separated the two categories of measurement out of necessity at first – they were measured by two distinct but interoperating platforms. But over time, it has become helpful to maintain this separation as the output is often of interest to two distinct parties: your business customer, and marketers who run the campaign and optimize it to improve results.
SharpSpring, as mentioned previously, is our marketing automation platform here at Six Degrees. It’s a relative newcomer to the marketing automation scene but has grown incredibly quickly over the past year, and for good reason. Despite not having the history – or baggage – of some of the other platforms on the market, SharpSpring is highly adept at providing a powerful suite of marketing and sales tools to manage and optimize the complete sales life cycle. Since this post is all about measuring our social media campaign results, we’ll dive into a key feature within SharpSpring: campaigns.
Campaigns are very easy to set up in SharpSpring and are a foundational element in your marketing efforts, including lead generation via paid social media campaigns. From the moment a campaign is created in SharpSpring, it’s ready to begin listening for inbound leads, organizing them for easy reporting and calculating key metrics such as cost per lead.
Setting up your first social media campaign in SharpSpring
Step 1: After logging into SharpSpring, click the green “New” button in the upper right corner of the SharpSpring interface.
Step 2: Click “Campaign” from the drop-down menu.
Step 3: Type a name for your campaign and click “Add Campaign.”
Step 4: Select the campaign type. As you can see, the “Campaigns” feature in SharpSpring is useful for tracking all kinds of marketing campaigns, from organic to paid.
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Step 5: Enter a “Group Tag” if necessary. While not a required field, groups are very useful when monitoring several campaigns across similar channels (e.g., Twitter and Facebook campaigns together) and you can always come back to enter or create a group later on.
Step 6: You can specify a start and end date for your campaign or leave the default open-ended (no date range) option selected. I prefer to leave the dates open-ended.
Step 7: Here’s where performance tracking gets interesting! SharpSpring is flexible, allowing for the entry of cost metrics in multiple forms. For the purpose of our social media campaign, we’ll enter a daily budget (to be updated more frequently) or total budget in the “Other Costs” field as indicated:
As leads come into our campaign, SharpSpring calculates a cost per lead (CPL) in real time so that reports are always up-to-date.
Step 8: Now it’s time to set the tracking rules, which is how our campaign will be “aware” of our new leads flooding in from our social media campaign! There are a couple of options here. First, you could list the URL of your landing page. This is pretty straightforward. However, it limits some of your ability to send multiple lead sources to the same landing page. My preference is to leverage UTM codes, specifically the UTM_Campaign code which you may be familiar with if you use Google Analytics or AdWords. The benefit of using UTM_Campaign is that you can send virtually unlimited sources to a single landing page and have leads from those sources tracked distinctly. Plus, you’ll be able to leverage the same parameter in our Google Analytics tracking later on (win-win). In this case we’ll use the UTM_Campaign parameter and mimic the name of our campaign as follows:
By appending this custom URL to the end of your destination URL in the ad campaigns, you will signal SharpSpring to assign the lead to the specified campaign ID.
Step 9: SharpSpring provides the ability to include this campaign in other forms built within the system. That way, users of those forms can self-select this campaign as the “How Did You Hear About Us?” option. I prefer to stay away from user-identified sourcing whenever possible. If we set up our paid social media campaign properly, we’ll be sure to capture all of our leads and accurately measure our results!
Step 10: Click the green “Save Changes” button.
That’s it! You’ve created your first campaign in SharpSpring and are ready to begin receiving new leads into the system.
The moment new leads from your social media campaign begin hitting the SharpSpring system via your landing page, SharpSpring will identify the UTM code and ensure the lead is associated with the campaign you created. Campaign reporting will immediately become available for this campaign and metrics such as number of leads, cost per lead and more will be calculated in real time. Beyond the tracking of new leads, marketers can also take advantage of the powerful marketing automation features of SharpSpring to trigger a form fill notification to lead qualifiers or sales teams, automatically kick off a drip email campaign to new leads, assign them to a salesperson and track the leads’ progress through preprogrammed opportunity stages!
Social media campaign optimization
In the previous section, we set up campaign tracking in SharpSpring, a marketing automation platform, in order to measure business results from our social media campaign in real time. Monitoring the performance of our social media campaigns on an ongoing basis will be of great interest to a variety of stakeholders, including company executives, sales and even accounting staff. But as digital marketers, we naturally want to optimize our campaigns to achieve increasing levels of performance over time. This is where social media campaign measurement using Google Analytics comes in.
Springboarding on our use of the UTM_Campaign parameter in our SharpSpring setup, we’ll leverage this and other “UTM” codes along with built-in support for Google Analytics goals and campaigns to help monitor performance of our individual social media ad campaigns. After some simple setup, marketers can gain unprecedented visibility into their campaigns right down to performance by platform (i.e., mobile or desktop), geography, target audience segment, and perhaps most importantly for this discussion, even ad unit. Knowing how your individual ad units perform across channels is a key element to improving campaign performance. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of campaign management so typical of many paid social media marketing out there!
Setting goals in Google Analytics
Let’s work backward for a moment to set up our awesome social media campaign measurement for optimization in Google Analytics! A fundamental part of digital marketing success is goal-setting, and our use of Google Analytics will be no exception. It’s simple to set up a goal in GA, and well worth the minimal effort.
In setting up goals in Google Analytics, think about the path users take when they click on one of your social media ads. They’ll land on your landing page first, and ideally complete the lead form and click submit. If you’ve got a standard two-part landing page process (i.e., a landing page and separate thank-you page) we’ll use the URL from the thank-you page to set up the Google Analytics goal. Make note of your thank-you page URL – we’ll use it in Step 5 of our goal creation process outlined below.
Step 1: Log in to Google Analytics and click “Admin” in the main menu.
Step 2: Click “Goals” located under the “View” hierarchy (obviously you can select the view within which you’d like your goal tracked here).
Step 3: Click the red “New Goal” button.
Step 4: Click “Custom” at the bottom of the “Goal Creation” wizard panel, input a name and select “Destination” as the goal type. Click “Next.”
Step 5: Paste the path to your thank-you page, excluding the root domain as indicated in the help text under the text box. If you’re like us and use WordPress or another CMS where a thank-you page URL (i.e., slug) doesn’t include a file extension, I’d suggest selecting “Regular Expression” in the drop-down menu preceding the URL text box. In doing so, you can enter a root path (e.g., “/thank-you-page”) and then append logic to tell Google to include potential variations of this path to cover situations where there is a trailing forward slash. The regular expression for our thank-you page path example above could be “/thank-you-page(|/)”, which tells Google that variations with or without the trailing forward slash are acceptable.
Step 6: You can click “Verify Goal” to see sample goal metrics based on recent traffic to your destination URL. Unless you already launched your campaign, this should only show goal metrics if you’ve tested your lead form (and haven’t excluded your IP from being tracked in analytics). Next, click “Save Goal.”
Believe it or not, this is all the setup that’s required in Google Analytics to proceed with our social media campaign measurement for optimization!
Setting up custom campaign URLs to enable Google Campaign tracking
In order to take full advantage of the Google Campaigns area to fuel your optimization efforts, we’ll want to ensure you have properly formatted URLs. We talked briefly about this in the section on setting up SharpSpring, but we’ll expand on our initial URL parameter to further support optimization efforts for our digital marketing specialists.
Creating custom URLs for your campaigns is easy, and made even easier with the URL Builder provided by Google. While it’s easy to create these links, you’ll want to make sure to document them along with your other campaign creative to make it easier to analyze later on. You can easily create these custom URLs by hand. Just make sure to 1) separate key-value pairs from your main URL with a question mark (“?”); 2) separate each key-value pair from one another with an ampersand (“&”); and 3) format key-value pairs with an equal sign (“=”), as in the following example:
In addition to the UTM_Campaign parameter we used in the previous section, we’ll add the following UTM parameters to fuel our optimization reports later on. Tip: Keep in mind that these parameters are case-sensitive, and Google Analytics features some default values. So, if you want to avoid seeing “Twitter” and “twitter” on separate line items in the future, be sure to use the proper case for at least the “required” parameters below!
- UTM_Campaign – Required (e.g., name of your campaign; I’d recommend avoiding spaces!).
- UTM_Source – Required (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).
- UTM_Medium – Required (you can use CPC or the more standard “Banner” value for your social media campaign).
- UTM_Content – Not technically required, but this is where the magic happens for optimization (e.g., AdVersion001, AdVersion003, AdPurpleGraphic, AdGreenGraphic, AdFemalePhoto, etc.).
Social media campaign insights to fuel optimization
With our goal established and our custom campaign URL set, we’re ready to collect important metrics about the performance of our ads (you’re running more than one version of an ad per campaign, aren’t you?) and use this information to optimize our campaign to generate better results!
Go back to the reporting section in Google Analytics and click “Acquisition,” then “Campaigns.” From here you can use the search feature to narrow your results down to this specific social media campaign. To see results broken down by ad variation, select the “secondary dimension” and input “Ad Content” (this refers to the custom URL parameter you created earlier labeled “UTM_Content”!).
As you can see from the above example, the Google Campaign report lists our new social media campaign but further breaks it out by ad version. This is incredibly useful in optimizing our ad creative! Based on the results above, it appears that version 3 of our ad may be underperforming version 2, which secured a 20 percent conversion rate and generated two leads. Naturally, we may want to let this campaign accumulate a bit more data, but if the trend continues, we’ll want to evaluate the differences between versions 2 and 3 and create a new version to test against version 2 (while pausing version 3).
Examining ad-level performance is important because if we looked solely at the higher-level campaign metrics, which is often the case, we would have seen a conversion rate of 12.5 percent! This would be misleading at best, and outright useless in informing our ability to make improvements to the campaign to drive performance higher.
Beyond this basic ad-level reporting, Google Analytics enables us to pivot on other primary and secondary dimensions to examine performance across devices and platforms, geographies, and even across social channels! For example, does version 2 of our ad perform best only on Twitter? Or is the performance consistently best across Facebook too? With Google goals and campaigns set up, we can easily answer these questions!
Comprehensive social media campaign measurement any marketer can employ
Paid social media campaigns are a valuable tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal! But in order to track, verify and justify the marketing spend, it’s imperative to have sound measurement techniques in place. With a couple of platforms and an hour or two of initial setup time, it’s possible to establish world class social media campaign measurement that will satisfy and delight business stakeholders and marketers alike. SharpSpring is an incredibly powerful marketing automation platform and we only just scratched the surface today with its power. Recording the lead and assigning it automatically to an appropriate campaign for measurement is just the initial step in that lead’s life cycle, and SharpSpring can make it easy to automate and/or support the remaining process through successful sale. Google Analytics is a powerful, free analytics tool used by many businesses today, so implementing this simple goal and campaign tracking is often a natural extension of the current platform. Setting up this structure for measuring paid social media campaign performance will go a long way toward maximizing your investment in this exciting new channel!