What Google Analytics New Social Reports Offer & What They Can’t

When Google Analytics announced their new social reports at SES New York last month there was a lot of online buzz declaring Google was “squaring the circle” of social media ROI by putting in place a more robust collection and filtering mechanism for more than 400 sources of social media data (including the most familiar suspects along with several more obscure sources most of us wouldn’t have thought to specify in an advanced traffic filter).

I could have joined the fold of people speculating about the new features, but I prefer to write about platforms I actually work with, and the insights coming out of using those platforms to solve real world problems, and didn’t yet have access to the new features. Now I do. I reasoned that an ounce of my own personal experience is worth much more than many hundreds of pounds of someone else’s.

Platform Speak vs. Reality

After examining the new features of Google Analytics on my own blog, I found the platform speak, as explained in Google Analytics Social Overview page, (“where social traffic sources and pages identify communities interested in my content”), doesn’t match up with my experience of what the platform provides.

Even the measure of a social “assisted conversion” only tells us that a social media takes part in certain conversion events, but doesn’t tell us by how much – at least, not yet.

What Google Analytics is actually providing with these new reports is similar to a “faceted mirror.” There are a lot more bits and pieces of information, some of it useful, much of it not, providing me with more information, but not telling a story. Perhaps only an analyst, particularly, someone who is a subject area expert, can leverage the information that Google Analytics provides us.