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The Social Network Dimension: An Unsung Hero

The Social Network Dimension: An Unsung Hero


Too many times I see other users try to view social traffic using the Source or Source/Medium dimension. For most social networks this wouldn’t be horrible, just perhaps a bit inelegant. But Facebook is a drama queen.

The Many Faces of Facebook

This diva network can show up as as a cornucopia of sources in any report that uses the Source dimension:

  • facebook.com
  • m.facebook.com
  • l.facebook.com
  • lm.facebook.com
  • business.facebook.com
  • touch.facebook.com
  • hs.facebook.com
  • mobile.facebook.com
  • web.facebook.com
  • partner.facebook.com
  • our.intern.facebook.com

These are the result of Facebook’s use of link shims, which are designed to protect Facebook visitors from clicking through to malicious sites and protect users’ privacy. You can read more about them from this Facebook developer’s post and this post that addresses how they show up in Google Analytics, if you’re so inclined.

What I’ve seen clients and coworkers do is fire up the Source/Medium or Referrals report and look at the first instance of facebook.com and assume that’s representative of their Facebook traffic. For most sites, it’s not. But there’s no easy way in the Referrals or Source/Medium reports to get an aggregated view of your Facebook traffic.

Social Network to the Rescue

The Social Network dimension remedies this issue by aggregating all of your organic social traffic, as well as traffic from shared links you tagged as social. So if you are tagging your links using Google Analytics’ campaign parameters, as long as you set utm_medium to ‘social’ it will show up in the Social Network dimension. So you can easily compare the performance of each of your social networks. If you don’t know what campaign tagging is or you’re tagging links you share in your social accounts as anything other than ‘social’ or you’re not tagging your links at all, all is explained in my campaign tagging guide.

Social Network report Google Analytics

Also, if you tag the links you share on Facebook with a medium of ‘social’ and source of ‘facebook.com’, your tagged traffic will also show up in the Facebook social network.

Facebook referral in Social NetworkTagged links also show up in the Facebook social network.

Even if you just tag utm_source=facebook (and don’t include the ‘.com’) — a practice I personally don’t recommend — it will still show up in the Facebook network.

Facebook campaign tagging in Social Network Even if you don’t include the ‘.com’.

Where To Find the Social Network Dimension

The best place to access the Social Network dimension is within the Channels report (Acquisition > All Traffic). If you drill down on the Social channel, you’ll get to a report that uses the Social Network dimension. (See the first screenshot in this post.)

You can also access it via the Network Referrals and Conversions reports (Acquisition > Social). But these are, in my opinion, inferior reports to the Channels report. You can watch the video walkthrough I did on these reports to learn more.

Social Ads Caveat

If you’re advertising on social networks (promoted posts, tweets, etc), do not tag these links as either ‘social’ or ‘cpc’. Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn’t include a Paid Social channel. Ergo, I recommend using a custom medium (like ‘paid+social’) and creating a custom channel. You can learn more in my post about campaign tagging for paid ads.
Published at Mon, 28 Nov 2016 13:00:21 +0000

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