Casting an analytical eye on social media

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It seems that within the sometimes ethereal world of social media, conglomeration of analytical data was missing. Disparately, one could see how many “likes” your brand got, or how many retweets you got and how often folks +1′d but it wasn’t all on the same dashboard.

In light of this hole in the industry and the recent launch of Google+ it came as no surprise when Google Analytics launched Social Engagement Reporting (SER). What SER allows us to do is measure the impact of social media mentions in and outside of the website — the thinking being that web analysts can start the understand the difference in behaviour between visitors who share content and those who don’t. It also paints a picture of what kind of content is being shared so that the associated brand can produce more of it. In this regard the “Social Pages Report” indicates which pages onsite are driving the most amount of social interactions.

The Social Interaction Tracking or “TrackSocial” code looks like this:

_trackSocial(network, socialAction, opt_target, opt_pagePath)

Where the “network” refers to the social network widget that is being clicked on be it Twitter’s “Tweet”, Facebook’s “Like” or Google’s “+1″. “socialAction” refers to what is being done: Is it a tweet, a “Like” or a “+1″? Probably the most important variable is the “opt_target”, which normally defaults to the URL being shared.

This shows you how specific content is being shared. For example: If your article on “Google+ is the golden ticket to the chocolate factory of social media” is being tweeted, liked or +1′d. This can also give you an accurate indication of whether your content is going viral or not.

The apparent masterstroke is where Google +1′s TrackSocial will report aggregate data like the Geography of the person who +1′d and their demographics like age and gender (something Facebook did really well). This seems to be the start of conglomerating a lot of social media data into one dashboard.

As Google starts to combine this data you can be sure that it is going to affect natural as well as PPC results. The more an article or page becomes +1′d the more demo/geographic Google gets and the higher it will rank. Ads with a higher +1 rate will also have a higher Quality Score – meaning those advertisers will end up paying less for their ads to rank higher.

One cannot help but imagine what would have happened had Google acquired Twitter when the rumours were abounding in 2009, or in the very least, nurtured the agreement with the microblogger that expired in July. We might have been able to see a lot more useful Analytics data coming down the pipe. With services like Radian6 and Meltwater Buzz offering specialised social media analytics services like sentiment analysis, it still seems as if TrackSocial is doing the wrong half of the job really well.

That, for me, is the crux of where TrackSocial isn’t getting it: The true power of social media reporting lies in the human aspects of the network – how people express their human nature by engaging with online content. Social media, whilst being trackable and open to analysis, is more sentiment than science.

Image: webtreats

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