Sunday, 14 November 2010

Track click-backs from 'Share this in Twitter'

In this previous post I've explained how you can track the visits to your site, generated after someone shared the link of your page in Facebook. 
In this post, I'll explain the same thing for Twitter: say you have a link or a button on on your site or in an email, asking to people to share your site or offer with their friends in twitter. It's nice to know how many times your site is shared using this system. But it's even better to know how many new visits this sharing has generated. And if you can find out how many of these visits come to your site, it's easy to find out how many it added to your site goals like registration or downloading a demo.

I'll use Link Tracking for Google Analytics, but if you're using another Web Analytics tool, I'm sure you can 'translate' the campaign tracking for your own tool.

Twitter has a URL which let you share a link. The URL is the following:

After the parameter 'url=' you insert the URL of the page you want to share. 

When publishing a link, Facebook actually publishes 4 things: the page title, the description meta-tag, the url and an image (in case it can find one on the page).
Twitter is more basic: it lets you share a URL and you can include some text, in case you want.

It's important to note that you can share any URL you like, it doesn't have to be the URL of the page the share button is on. This gives you obviously the opportunity to make a specific landing page for people who come to your site from twitter.

Let's see how we can track the click-backs from twitter campaigns:

Step 1. Define the page that you want to use as landing pages
Like mentioned above, you can use a specific landing page. This gives you the possibility to use a specific promotion or a graphic or content reference to twitter.

Say we want to share the URL of my previous blogpost:

Step 2. Add Campaign tracking to the URL
To track the click-back, we're using the link tracking of Google Analytics. 

The UTM's we're going to use are these:

So the URL we want to share is the following:

Step 3. Use a URL shortener
It's important to use a URL shortener for Twitter. You can only share 140 characters on twitter, and URL shorteners are a handy way to cut your tagged URL's short. The URL we want to share, as stated in number 2, is 151 characters, which is already 11 characters too long for twitter. Using for this example, we shorten the 151-character URL to  just 20 characters:

So if we want to share this URL in twitter we're going to use this URL:

Step 4. Add text to the message
A nice thing we can do with the Share-URL of twitter, is including a piece of text. 

You just need to include an extra parameter in the query string. A query string is the part of the URL which comes after the '?' of the URL. TO include text, which will be published on twitter, you need to use the text= parameter. After the parameter you can include the text you want. Black spaces are indicated with '+'.

When you paste this URL into your browser you get to see this:

Step 5. Publish the URL on your page or in an email

Easy, right? Here you have a button to share this post in twitter, and of course it's tracked to see how many people come back to visit this post after you've shared it on twitter. 

Related posts:

Track Click-Backs for Facebook:

Comparing Analytics for ShareThis, AddThis, AddToAny and SocialTwist

Monday, 1 November 2010

Analytics for ShareThis, AddThis, AddToAny and SocialTwist

You recognize the services offering Social Bookmarking and Sharing by the buttons you see announcing 'Share this in facebook' on many websites nowadays. When you use these services, you share a URL of a page on your favourite social network or email service. There are a lot of free services which cover an amazing number of services and in this post, I compare the Analytics features they offer.

The services I'm comparing in this post are:
  1. SocialTwist
  2. AddToAny
  3. AddThis
  4. ShareThis
All these 4 services offer all of the following features:
  • They include a huge list (some 300+) of social networks where the page can be shared.
  • They all do bookmarking and emailing.
  • They all come in a lot of languages.
  • The are all free.
One of the main differences is their approach to Analytics. When used the right way, these services can provide very good social media metrics: you can see how many times your site or page is shared and in which social media. You can track how many people click these shared links and how many visits your site gets back.
A lot has been discussed on social media metrics. Consider this a solid and important first metric when defining your KPIs for Social Media: how do people share your content and does it drive traffic to your site. It's not yet a metric which tells you qualitatively how people value your brand or site, but it's a first useful step.

Here are my findings of how the above mentioned 4 services offer Analytics.

1. SocialTwist
You can find the analytics for Social Twist ('Te!! a Friend') within their own site: you create a login to get the service and the stats are found within the platform. For the free subscription, you just get to see the times your page or site was shared in 'Social', 'Bookmark' or 'Email', without any breakdown. And you get to see what is the most used service, but not more. You can upgrade to a 'Pro' account (100$ each 1000 referrals) and you can get more detailed analytics. Social Twist doesn't offer integration with Google Analytics or any other Web Analytics platform. You can't measure traffic coming back from the times your page was 'shared'.

2. AddToAny
AddToAny doesn't have any statistics on their own platform, but they do have an integration with Google Anlytics. The integration is automatic: as soon as you have a Google Analytics script on your page, you get the 'Shares' tracked as events. AddToAny doesn't offer a way to track if people get back to your site after it was shared.

Little parentesis: AddToAny is the only one of the 4 who let's you share on Tuenti. Tuenti is a ver important social network in Spain, and it's quite amazing that the other services just doesn't offer this option on their platform. Why?

3. AddThis
AddThis is good on analytics. You have a very nice interface on the AddThis site using your login. You get different features: top shared content, tops services used, geography.
You also get to see Click-backs: the number of visits who come from people clicked a shared URL of your site.
There is a pretty easy integration with Google Analytics, and you can also integrate it with Omniture.

On top of that, there is a freely accessible application which shows the most used services over the world, you can breakdown and compare countries, and every service has a little 'resume' which shows you where it is popular. A lot of data, which you can access here. Do you know what services are mostly used in your country?

4. ShareThis
Social Twist and AddThis give you some data, AddThis is better since it offers some analysis. But ShareThis is the one who goes all the way and provides real insights based on 'Shareing' behaviour.
First of all, ShareThis does everything that AddThis does: their own site has an analytics dashboard, and you have integrations with Google Analytics and Omniture.
They have something called 'Social Reach', which is very similar to what AddThis calls 'Click-Back': it measures how many people click on the links which are shared via ShareThis.
But the really BIG thing is this: ShareThis is the most used service of sharing, and is now starting to use all this data to give something as precious as competative analysis. You can actually compare the data from your site with data from similar websites: for instance, I can see how my blog is doing compared to other small blogs.
Second, I can check how my site performs versus other sites from my catagory (for example, you can compare against 'Automotive'). And ShareThis is even working on a 'know-your-audience' feature, which indicated that your site is popular for sharing for people interested in, say, 'Music' and 'Family'.

2 Important Remarks

1. Data integration is important, so I completely understand that some people will argue that another analytics interface might not be what is needed right now.
2. Note that all 4 features are external services. So when using them, you are giving access to your site to an external provider to obtain data. The competative analysis features from ShareThis can work in your advantage, since you can compare your data with competitors. But it is important to think about provacy and sensative data you are actually giving away for free.

So what's next?
If you'd ask me, we're missing a feature which measures Click-backs or Social Reach crossed with the conversion of our site goals, like brochure downloads, access to a demo, or buying a product. It's nice to know your site is shared in social media, it's better to know that people click on the shared link to come back to your site. But no doubt, it will be massive to see how many of the people coming back to your site via facebook convert in prospects. Since the sharing scripts are implemented on almost all pages, and they track which pages are shared, it can't be too difficult to let site-owners define what the goals on their site are and integrate them on the analytics dashboards.

¿Who will be the first to provide this feature?

Related post:
Track click-backs from Facebook

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