My Friend Wanted Social Share Tracking
My friend Alex was just dying to track social shares on his opinionated fashion, gaming, haiku, review, rant & trolling blog AGREEorDIE. He was dying for this because his site recently went INSANELY viral due to his uniquely awesome eldredge tie knot and trinity tie knot how-to instructional videos. If you’re a male and want to look particularly stylish with a tie one day, I highly recommend trying them out! Ideally he wanted to track actual shares, rather than just clicks on social sharing buttons. I mean, who really cares if someone clicks on a sharing button, but doesn’t actually go through with the social sharing? I sure don’t and I figured I would enjoy having this information for my web sites as well. So I decided to find a solution for us both. I wanted it to be easy, accurate, free and I didn’t want to sacrifice how my social sharing widgets were display or show some attribution link either. I also didn’t want to be restricted to any particular social media sites either. Well Google Analytics may already provide this data by default for Delicious, Disqus, Google Plus, Pocket, and some other more obscure Social Data Hub Partners that doesn’t come close to cutting it since it excludes the majority of the most important social media sites out there (i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Twitter, etc.).
Google Analytics Doesn’t Make It Easy
Initially I toyed with integrating Google Analytics Social Interactions – Web Tracking (ga.js) with the various networks that were most important to Alex and I. This proved to not be easy and therefore didn’t meet my stated need fully. I followed the instructions and ultimately was unable to get it to work for any network (not that I spent much time on it, since I wanted this to be easy). I then tried using pre-existing code that had been setup for exactly this purpose, that is the Google Analytics Social Tracking Demo. This too, did not appear to work out of the box and so I moved on thinking there had to be a better way to meet my need. I mean seriously, this has to be a common need for a lot of web sites, why should it be difficult? I could have gone the easy route using social icons and just tracking click events on them, but again I didn’t care if people clicked on them, I only cared if they actually shared content. It was also important to me to include the social share tally next to the share buttons, the icons alone simply were not acceptable.
The Easy, Accurate, Free Option: AddThis
So I kept looking for a better option. I had used AddThis in the past and I didn’t necessarily appreciate the service. It used to be rather inflexible and didn’t add much value above and beyond saving some time getting separate social widgets to render well next to one another. To my surprise and delight, I found that AddThis had come a very long way since I had last used the service. It was now the solution to all of my problems. Alex and I were able to customize our sharing widgets with full flexibility and enjoy a truly easy way to integrate social sharing tracking with Google Analytics! I was even able to do this without including the infamous AddThis share button! Thank you AddThis for making my life easier!
Google Analytics Social Plugins Report + AddThis Data
The Code That Did The Trick
The Penguin Initiatives AddThis code renders as follows:
The following is the AddThis code I used for Penguin Initiatives to accomplish this:
- You can use whatever social network share widgets you prefer using the AddThis Client API
- To use the Penguin Initiatives AddThis code on your site, replace the following strings:
Alex’s AddThis code renders as follows:
The following is the AddThis code Alex used to accomplish this on AGREEorDIE:
- Note this doesn’t include an AddThis button and has an RSS Feed appended to the AddThis code
- To use Alex’s AddThis code on your site, replace the following strings:
INSERT_YOUR_RSS_FEED_URL_HERE INSERT_YOUR_GOOGLE_ANALYTICS_UA_ID_HERE INSERT_YOUR_ADDTHIS_PUBLISHER_ID_HERE
Advanced Segments for Social Shares
I’m somewhat of a Google Analytics advanced segment fan, which is quite evident from my recent Comprehensive Google Analytics Advanced Segments Template Collection post. For this reason I was compelled to find a way to create an advanced segment for social shares. I desperately desired the ability to identify where the visitors are coming from that share my content socially, as I appreciate this segment of visitors much more than those who don’t help spread the word about my blog. I want to know where they’re coming from, so I can focus on gaining additional visitors from these important sources. Unfortunately, Google Analytics does not allow you to segment by social source at this time. Regardless, I am working with AddThis support to identify a viable solution to this dilemma. One way or another, I will find a solution and once I do I will update this post and my Comprehensive Google Analytics Advanced Segments Template Collection post with said solution.
Social Share Tracking Only for Now
For now, I hope that you find the ability to easily & accurately track social shares for free, by social network, in your Google Analytics account to be useful. If you have a different and/or better way of accomplishing this, please share your wisdom in the comments.
Now please allow me to more thoroughly enjoy the social share tracking I have enabled, by sharing this link with your friends & colleagues via your favorite social networks using the social sharing widgets below!