Shining a light on ‘dark social’

While working on a social media article for the February 2015 issue of Boating Industry I heard the same complaints from several people: We can’t track social media leads.

That’s a major problem for the nascent field of social media marketing, without being able to track the ROI, businesses are basically dumping money and time into social media without any guaranteed return. We all know that marketing on social media is important, but without good tracking, it’s impossible to gauge just how important.

Lauren DeVlaming at Dominion Marine Media called those mystery leads from social media “dark social.”

“Some people just aren’t going to remember that they saw you on Twitter first, they’re not going to remember it happening that way,” said DeVlaming. “That’s what we call dark social; which are shares and leads that come from social but aren’t attributed to social.”

Businesses with a great location have a tough time tracking these leads too.

“We’ve got a two-acre facility right on the water and Federal Highway, which is the main highway. So a lot of people just pull in,” said Marty Finklestine at Complete Marine. “We really don’t know where everyone is coming from.”

Both DeVlaming and Finklestine suggest asking in person, but memory can be fickle when you’re excited about a new boat!

There are a few great tactics to track social media leads efficiently to bridge that gap and really measure ROI with some more educated numbers.

Social Media Landing Pages

Linking all your social media to a special landing page (or pages if you want to differentiate between platforms) is a great start to some real social media tracking.

Your website staff should be able to whip up or duplicate a landing page you already have and run it under a different URL. Many companies just add –social or –FB for Facebook to the landing page. Then when checking your analytics, you can see exactly how many people landed on your social media page.

Going one step further and embedding a special lead generation form on this page adds a second layer of tracking to see exactly how many people converted into leads.

This can also be done with smart analytics setups, but it’s more complicated and requires some proficient coding.

Special Phone Numbers

Along those same lines, businesses can fairly easily create a secondary phone line for social media. Just direct that line to your normal receptionist or sales manager and take note of how many calls are coming in.

This is ideal for social media sites like Google Plus or Instagram that can show up just about anywhere and are harder to track.

 Special Codes

Everyone has seen those coupon codes floating around on social media, and they can be a great way to test your social media fans’ conversion rate.

Just tell your followers to show their phone with the coupon or print it out for a discount or bonus item.

Your fans will be happy about the discount and your business can track those coupon codes via a POS system or a simple tally sheet to see how many people came in via your social media post about the deal.

Analytic Funnels

Businesses with robust web departments can track their users from the moment they jump from social media to a website to a lead generation or contact form.

This definitely requires some specialized work in the back end of Google Analytics, but it can be well worth it for businesses who really want to get granular with their data.

Google Analytics has a default report to track where people come in and leave, but it has deeper capabilities that are even more specialized.

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