A Like Is Not a Like

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Using more specific action values when you call _trackSocial makes the Social Plugins report more meaningful.

You’ve undoubtedly heard jubilant exclamations along the lines of “We got 10 likes on Facebook today!”, but what specifically does that mean?

While any type of social media validation is a good thing, it’s important to recognize the two fundamentally different types of social actions that can originate on your website:

  • liking, tweeting about, sharing, or +1ing the content on your website
  • liking, following, +1ing/circling your organization’s pages that reside directly on the social networks

To distinguish between these two different types of actions when calling _trackSocial in Google Analytics, you can use separate values for the “action” parameter, as in the examples below for Facebook:

  • _gaq.push(['_trackSocial', 'Facebook', 'Like']
    (for directly liking your website content)
  • _gaq.push(['_trackSocial', 'Facebook', 'LikeFacebookPage']
    (for clickthroughs to your Facebook page, which users can then like once they’re there)

There is a less confusion on this point for Twitter, since the “tweet” and “follow” concepts are quite distinct. The same is true for “share” and “follow” on LinkedIn.

The equation is, on the other hand, even a little more complex for Google+. In addition to the +1 for your website content and the +1 that a user can perform after clicking through to your organization’s Google+ page, there is the Add to Circle action that a user can also perform after clicking through to your Google+ page. For this reason, it’s helpful to use a broader social action value such as the following to record clickthroughs to your Google+ page:

  • _gaq.push(['_trackSocial', 'Google', 'ActionOnGooglePlusPage']
    (for directly liking your website content)

If you use sufficiently specific values for your social actions when calling _trackSocial as above, your Social Plugins report will provide a much more accurate representation of the social activities that originate from your website so you know specifically which social media victories you can celebrate.

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