When I first started out with social media, many businesses – and marketers – failed to see the marketing value of social media. After all, how does social media help you grow your business? What is the ROI of a Facebook comment or a retweet? Years later and even though social media marketing has become the norm, marketers are still struggling to measure its effectiveness and to demonstrate the value of their work beyond vanity metrics.
And that’s where UTM tracking codes come in; these altered URLs can not only tell you how well your social media is performing, but also help you understand what works and what doesn’t so that you can keep improving your social media, time after time.
In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to use UTM tracking codes to measure and improve your social media.
But first, what exactly are UTM parameters?
UTM parameters are shortcodes that are added to URLs in order to help track them. Used in conjunction with a web analytics app like Google Analytics, these links will help tell you not only where your traffic is coming from (which social networks, in this case), but they can even tell you which specific update drove that traffic.
For example, if you were to post the same update in 2 different Facebook groups and used UTM tracking links, you would be able to find out which specific update drove the most traffic back to your website.
Here’s what a UTM tracking link would look like:
https://60secondmarketer.com?utm_source=social&utm_medium=facebook group&utm_campaign=blog promotion
As you might notice from the above link, UTM tracking links are made up of 3 different elements:
Each element helps you build a highly-specific URL that allows you to track each of your links’ sources:
- Source: the source is basically the source of your traffic; in this case, that would be the social network or a Facebook group. For example, “Facebook” or “facebook group”
- Medium: the medium is the type of your traffic. Since we’re talking about social media traffic, the medium would be “social” or “social media”
- Campaign: this is the specific campaign you’re holding. For example, it might be an ad campaign that you want to track, or maybe you want to test different social media traffic sources to see which ones work best
That said, some UTM builders do allow you to customize your links even further to help you better track your links and traffic.
Why use UTM tracking links?
UTM tracking links help you in 2 main ways:
- They help you track your social media success/calculate your ROI (return on investment)
- They allow you to test your social media strategies and tactics to see what exactly works best
While Google Analytics and other web analytics tools are great at helping you track your social media traffic, UTM tracking links can help you delve much deeper into your traffic analytics.
So for example, while on Google Analytics you see what social network your traffic is coming from, how much time they spent on your website, and how many pages they viewed:
With UTM tracking links you can see even what specific post, or social media group, or specific ad got you that traffic. Which makes it a perfect tool if you want to set up tests to help you understand what exactly drives you traffic.
However, we’ll go into more detail into how you can use UTM tracking links for A/B tests in a bit. First, here’s how to actually create these links (and track their results):
Useful tools for adding UTM parameters to your social media links
The Google Campaign URL Builder
The Google Campaign URL Builder is very quick: all you have to do is enter the website URL you want, add the source, medium and campaign name:
The tool then automatically generates your UTM tracking link:
These custom campaigns are then tracked in your Google Analytics; all you need to do to see your Campaigns reports and see where your social media traffic is coming from is to go to View -> Reports -> Acquisition -> Campaigns.
Another quick way to add UTM links to your social media is to use Agorapulse, a social media management tool.
It’s a bit easier as it allows you to create your links within the publisher/scheduler; so basically, every time you publish or schedule a link on your social media, you can add a customized UTM tracking link to your update. Here’s how:
Once you’ve added a link to your update, select UTM tracking. The tool will automatically generate the 3 popular UTM parameters – source, medium, and campaign – so you can quickly customize your ink. Or, you can add your own custom UTM parameters if you prefer.
Another cool feature is that you can let the tool complete the fields if you choose Dynamic (under Type). You choose what value you want to track for each – social network or profile name – and Agorapulse will select the correct social network/medium/social profile for each post. All of which makes it a great option for when you want to share the same link to numerous social networks.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can connect to your Bitly profile and have these links automatically shortened (which is pretty great as otherwise, UTM tracking links are long and not exactly the best-looking type of link).
Once done, you’ll be able to track your results in Google Analytics, in the same place as before: in Acquisition -> Campaigns.
How to use UTM tracking links to your advantage
As I mentioned before, there are 2 main ways to leverage these links:
To measure your social media ROI
The value of social media has moved beyond likes and comments. Although those are always great to have, what marketers and businesses ultimately want is results: traffic to their website, conversions, leads generated, and so on.
That said, accurately measuring your social media ROI can be challenging; but, UTM tracking links actually allow you to understand how specific posts and networks are performing so that you can demonstrate the value of your social media efforts; for example:
- The performance of each of your social media campaigns
- Which social networks drive the most traffic
- Which updates get people to click
Since you can track these links and their results through Google Analytics, that means you can also track how many leads/conversions your links/campaigns generated, as well as the behavior of the traffic on your website. However, you’ll first need to create goals in your Google Analytics account so you can track conversions (which you can do by going to Admin in your Google Analytics account and clicking on Goals, where you can build and customize up to 20 goals which will help you track specific conversions):
All of this will allow you to track the return on investment of your different social media campaigns and provide more accurate reports on your social media success.
To test and improve your social media strategy
As I mentioned before, another way to use these types of links is to test and improve your social media. If your goal (or rather, one of your goals) from social media is to generate more traffic and more conversions/leads, then you need to find out what exactly helps you generate good results so that you can keep improving:
- Which social networks work best?
- Which specific updates get the most traffic?
- Which types of updates generate the most traffic and/or conversions?
- Which social media groups generate the most traffic?
- Which ads perform best?
There is a plethora of valuable information to be learned here, whether you choose to deliberately perform A/B tests or not. That said, if you do perform some A/B tests, it could help you truly refine your social media strategy:
- Do certain types of posts perform better (posts with videos or images, short/long updates, etc.)
- Test different social media platforms, groups, etc. to see which exactly generate the most traffic and/or conversions
- Test different types of ads (different calls to action, different media, etc.) to see which perform best in terms of traffic and conversions
Keep in mind your goals – do you want more traffic/brand awareness? Or would you rather get more people to convert? As I mentioned before, both can be tracked via Google Analytics, with the help of UTM tracking links for when you want to get truly detailed and specific.
UTM tracking links are super easy to create and use, they don’t take up too much of your time, and yet they can really help you with your social media:
- By helping you measure your social media return on investment
- And by helping you understand how your social media works, which campaigns generated the most traffic or conversions, and so on
That said, there is a small downside to UTM links; namely, that when someone shares one of your UTM links, they will share the whole thing – tracking and all – so you won’t be able to track each click accurately (it will also count the clicks it got after being shared). Still, it’s still a win – the post and/or source still helped you generate these results – but it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to accurately tell what is you and what is with a little help from a share (or more).
Have you tried using UTM tracking links yet? How did you use them to your advantage?
About the Author: Highly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street. She’s a hugely connected and highly influential entrepreneur. She is listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers, named one of 10 top digital marketers by Brand24 and was crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle. She is listed as the number one Influencer in the UK by Career Experts and is a recipient for a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business.