How to Use UTM Parameters to Track Social Media Success

UTM parameters are a simple, straightforward, and reliable way to track data traffic online. You are not affected by changes to third-party cookies or the Facebook pixel. And they work with Google Analytics.

If you are sending any traffic to your web properties from your social accounts at all, UTM codes should be an important part of your marketing toolkit.

UTM tags offer three main advantages:

  1. They will help you track the value of social marketing programs and campaigns and measure the ROI.
  2. They provide accurate data on conversion and traffic sources.
  3. You can use them to test individual contributions directly in the classic A / B test style.

bonus:: Download a free guide and checklist to help you convince your boss to invest more in social media. Contains expert tips to prove ROI.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are just short pieces of code that you can add to links – for example, the links that you share on your social posts. They contain information about the placement and purpose of the link so that clicks and hits from a specific social media post or campaign can be more easily tracked.

This may sound technical, but UTM parameters are actually very simple and easy to use.

Here is an example UTM link with existing parameters:

The UTM parameters are everything that comes after the question mark. Don't worry, you can make the link easier on the eyes by using a URL shortener, as you'll see in the next section of this post.

UTM parameters work with analysis programs to give you a detailed picture of your social media results.

There are five different UTM parameters. You should use the first three in all UTM tracking links. (They are required by Google Analytics.)

The last two are optional and are specifically used for tracking paid campaigns.

1. Campaign source

This indicates the social network, search engine, newsletter name, or other specific source that is driving traffic.

Examples: Facebook, Twitter, blog, newsletter, etc.

UTM code: utm_source

Sample code: utm_source = facebook

2. Campaign medium

This keeps track of the type of channel that is driving the traffic: organic social, paid social, email, etc.

Examples: cpc, organic_social

UTM code: utm_medium

Sample code: utm_medium = paid_social

3. Campaign name

Give each campaign a name so you can track your efforts. This can be the product name, a competition name, a code to identify a specific sale or promotion, an influencer ID or a slogan.

Examples: summer_sale, free_trial

UTM code: utm_campaign

Sample code: utm_campaign = summer_sale

4. Campaign duration

Use this UTM tag to keep track of paid keywords or key phrases.

Examples: social_media, newyork_cupcakes

UTM code: utm_term

Sample code: utm_term = social_media

5. Campaign content

You can use this parameter to track different ads within a campaign.

Examples: video_ad, text_ad, blue_banner, green_banner

UTM code: utm_content

Sample code: utm_content = video_ad

You can use all UTM parameters together in one link. They all come after ?and they are separated by & Symbols.

Using all of the example codes mentioned above, the link with UTM parameters would be:

http://www.yourdomain.com?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paid_social&utm_campaign=summer_sale&utm_term=social_media&utm_content=video_ad

But don't worry – you don't need to add manual UTM tracking to your links. Read on to learn how you can append UTMs to your links without errors using a UTM parameter generator.

UTM example

Let's take a look at the UTM parameters used in a real social post.

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Within the post, the link preview means that the viewer does not need to see an inappropriate link full of UTM code. And since most people don't see the address bar in their internet browser when they click on content, most people will never notice the UTM codes.

Link preview with UTM code

Source: Hootsuite blog

But they are there, collecting information that the social team will later use to evaluate the success of that particular tweet compared to other social posts promoting the same content.

Once you start looking for UTM codes, you will see them everywhere.

How to create UTM parameters with a UTM code generator

You can manually add UTM parameters to your links, but it is much easier to use an automatic UTM parameter builder.

UTM generator option 1: Hootsuite Composer

  1. click Create, then post and write your social post as usual. Make sure there is a link in the text box.
  2. click Add tracking.
  3. Under ShortenerSelect a link shortener to create a compact link for your social post.
  4. Under persecution, click Custom.
  5. Enter the parameters to track and their values ​​(up to 100 parameters for paid customers or 1 for free users).
  6. Under Art, paid plan users can choose Dynamic So that the system can automatically adapt the values ​​to your social network, your social profile or your Post ID. Otherwise choose Custom to enter a specific value.
  7. click Apply. Your tracking link will appear in the preview window.

Check out this video for a step-by-step guide:

UTM generator option 2: Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder

You can create UTMs with the Google UTM generator and then paste the links into your social media posts.

  1. Go to the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder
  2. Enter the URL of the page you want to link to, then enter the values ​​for the parameters you want to track.

URL generator for Google Analytics campaigns

Source: URL generator for Google Analytics campaigns

  1. Scroll down to find the auto-generated campaign URL.
  2. click Convert URL to Short Linkor click on Copy url to use a different url shortener. You can always use Ow.ly to shorten your link in Hootsuite Composer.
  3. Paste your link on your social media post and shorten it if you haven't already.

UTM generator option 3: Google URL builder for app ads

When promoting an app, you can use either the iOS Campaign Tracking URL Builder or the Google Play URL Builder.

These UTM generators are similar to the Google Analytics Campaign URL generator, but contain a few additional parameters to identify your app and measure ad data.

Use of UTM parameters

Now that you understand how to create UTM parameters and add them to your social posts, you can use UTM tracking to analyze your social media results in just two easy steps.

Step 1: Collect data on your UTM campaign

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics. (Note: If you haven't already set up GA on your website, see our detailed instructions on how to configure Google Analytics.)
  2. By doing Reports Tab on the left, go to Acquisition, then Campaigns.

Tab capture and campaigns reports

  1. Scroll down to see a list of all the campaigns for which you've created trackable URLs, with traffic numbers and conversion rates.

Step 2: Analyze the data provided by your UTM parameters

Now that you've got all of this data, it's time to analyze it. This is a critical step in enhancing the success of your future social media endeavors.

  1. In Google Analytics, click export in the top menu to download your UTM tracking data as a PDF, Google Sheets, Excel or CSV file.

Export UTM tracking data

Source: Google Analytics

  1. Import the data into your social media report for analysis.

Remember that you should aim for more than just listing the numbers. Work with your team to make sure you are tracking meaningful metrics for your organic social media posts and your paid social media ads.

9 UTM Tracking Tips

1. Use UTM parameters to measure the ROI of social media

By adding UTM parameters to social media links, you can measure and demonstrate the value of your social media efforts. You can show your boss, customers, or stakeholders how social posts drive website traffic. You get a clear picture of lead generation, referral traffic, and conversions. You can then report how social networks are affecting the company's earnings.

You can also use data from UTM tracking to calculate the cost of acquiring a lead or customer. Both are important numbers for employees in the company who make budget decisions.

UTM parameters allow you to work in great detail so that you can track success post by post. You can clearly see the difference between paid and organic social contributions. This way you can calculate the ROI more precisely.

Another great thing about UTM parameters is that you can use them to keep track of all social traffic. Without them, you will miss counting social recommendations from dark social channels like messenger apps.

This is especially important as challenges with third-party cookies and ad blockers make other forms of tracking less reliable.

2. Use UTM parameters to refine your social media strategy

With UTM parameters, you can clearly see which social strategies are most effective and inexpensive.

This information can help you make important decisions about where to focus your efforts (and budget). For example, Twitter might bring more traffic to your page, but Facebook will create more leads and conversions.

You can use this information to set relevant and realistic goals. Then use UTM parameters to track your progress.

3. Use UTM parameters for testing

A / B testing (also known as split testing) allows you to test theories and confirm what works best for your audience.

You can't always assume that conventional wisdom will apply to your brand at precisely one point in time. For example, Hootsuite recently found that unlinked posts work better for the audience on both Instagram and LinkedIn.

Perhaps you've always assumed that social media posts perform better with videos. But does that really apply to your audience?

You can test this theory with UTM codes. Share two identical posts, one with a video and one without a video. Identify each one with a suitable UTM code for campaign content. You will soon see which ones are bringing more visitors to your website.

Of course, you will need more than one test to prove a theory. Once you find that videos are performing the best, you can test what types of videos work best. You can always go into more detail to further refine your strategy.

4. Do not use UTM tags for internal links

UTM codes are specifically used to track data about traffic that comes to your website or landing page from external sources (such as your social profiles). For links on your website (e.g. between blog posts), UTM parameters confuse Google Analytics and can cause tracking errors.

Therefore, never use UTM codes for internal links.

5. Use UTM parameters to track the influencer's marketing results

Influencer marketing is an important social marketing strategy for many marketers. However, measuring the ROI of influencer campaigns can be an ongoing challenge.

Using a unique UTM tag for each influencer you work with is an easy way to keep track of how much traffic they are sending to your site. You can use UTM codes to see exactly which influencer posts are most effective. This will help you decide which influencers are promising for long-term partnerships.

6. Use and document a consistent naming convention

Take a look back at the five UTM parameters and think about how to describe the different categories. Remember, it is important to be consistent. Inconsistent UTM parameters generate incomplete and inaccurate data.

There may be several people working on your UTM social media tracking. To keep everyone on the same page, create a main list of UTM parameters for the higher-level elements such as source and medium. Then create a style guide that explains the rules to follow when creating custom campaign parameters.

Make sure that anyone who needs to use UTM codes has access to this document. However, you may want to restrict the ability to make changes to one or two key people.

Documenting the naming conventions (instead of keeping them all in mind) helps keep all of your hard work on. This means that your company's valuable data is correct no matter who creates a new UTM link.

It is up to you to decide which descriptors make the most sense for your company. However, all UTM code naming conventions should follow a few simple rules:

Stick to lowercase letters

UTM codes differentiate between upper and lower case. That means Facebook, Facebook, FaceBook, and FACEBOOK are all tracked separately. If you use variations, you will get incomplete data for your Facebook UTM tracking. Keep everything in lowercase to avoid data tracking issues.

Use underscores instead of spaces

Spaces are another way to create multiple codes for the same object and skew your data.

For example, organic-social, organic-social, organic-social, and organic-social are all tracked separately. Worse, "organic social" with a space becomes "organic% 20social" in the URL. Replace all spaces with an underscore. Document this decision in your UTM style guide to ensure consistency.

Keep it simple

If your UTM codes are simple, you are less likely to make mistakes using them. Simple, easy-to-understand codes are also easier to process in your analysis tool. They allow you (and everyone else on your team) to know at a glance what the codes refer to.

Check your reports regularly for wonky codes

Even with a standardized list and style guide, human errors can occur. Keep an eye on your analyzes and reports, and watch out for incorrectly entered UTM codes so you can correct them before they skew your data.

7. Pay attention to UTM parameters when copying and pasting links

When copying and pasting links to your own content, make sure you don't accidentally paste irrelevant UTM codes.

For example if you use that Copy link Instagram automatically adds its own UTM code to every Instagram post in your web browser. Let's take a look at this Instagram post:

Use of Copy link The link provided by Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/p/CNXyPIXj3AG/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Copy the link on Instagram

Source: Instagram

You need to remove the automatic "ig_web_copy_link" before inserting this link. Otherwise there is a conflict with your own UTM source code.

If you land on some piece of content after clicking a link (instead of entering the url manually or clicking through a search engine), you will likely see UTM parameters in the address bar. Make sure to remove these parameters (anything after the question mark) before putting the URL in a new social post.

8. Keep track of UTM links in a table

Once you start with UTM codes, the number of links you are following grows very quickly. Keep them organized in a table to make them easier to manage and to avoid duplicate links.

Every short link should appear in your table. Then keep track of the full pre-shortened URL, all individual UTM codes and the date the shortened URL was created. Leave a space for notes so you can keep track of all the important details.

9. Create a campaign preset for multiple posts

In Hootsuite Team, Business, and Enterprise plans, administrators and super administrators can create a campaign preset that stores UTM codes. Any user on the team can then apply the preset to a post in the campaign with just a few clicks.

This saves the effort of entering each parameter manually. It also eliminates the possibility of accidentally using slightly different codes that skew your data.

You can create presets for campaigns as well as a default preset that will be applied to all links published on your social media posts. Once you've set up the preferences, everyone on the team can use them.

Fun fact: UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. The name comes from the Urchin Software Company, one of the original developers of web analytics software. Google acquired the company in 2005 to create Google Analytics.

Easily create UTM parameters with Hootsuite and track the success of your social endeavors. Try it for free today.

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