Best Practices

Prove Social Media ROI by Tracking Your Campaigns With UTM Values

17 May, 2018
6 min read
David Hartshorne

Managing a social media marketing agency has its ups and downs. You know how soon the 'new client adrenaline rush' disappears when reality strikes and you realize you have to prove your worth, month after month.

Providing a raft of social media activities is one thing, but how do you actually prove they're beneficial to your client?

You’re not alone. According to eMarketer, the toughest challenge for social marketers is measuring ROI.

In this article, you'll learn how to track each social media campaign in Google Analytics with UTM values, so you can prove that your clients are getting a return on their investment.

Let's start tracking.

What are UTM values?

UTM values are the strings of text you may have spotted after a URL. They start with a '?' after the primary URL address. For example, a UTM-tagged URL might look like this:

The UTM values help to track your web traffic in Google Analytics. If you were to click the example link above then Google Analytics would identify that you arrived at the website page (Writing Techniques) from the Enchanting Marketing email campaign dated 13 March 2015. Without the UTM values, Google Analytics wouldn't know how you arrived, and would add you to the ‘direct traffic’ bucket.

Note: UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Why Urchin? Well, that's the name of the software company that invented them, before they were acquired by Google in 2005.


How to add UTM values to a URL

Adding UTM values to a URL is made easy with Google's Campaign URL Builder. Let's take a look at an example:

Custom URL builder by Google

Each parameter in the URL helps to identify your web traffic in Google Analytics:

  • Campaign Source (required*) – Used to identify the traffic source; e.g. Twitter, newsletter, etc.
  • Campaign Medium – Used to identify the marketing medium or channel; e.g. social, email, ppc, etc.
  • Campaign Name – Used to identify your campaign; e.g. product launch, special offer, etc.
  • Campaign Term – Used to identify the paid keywords in advertising; e.g. DSLR camera, etc.
  • Campaign Content – Used to differentiate ads or content format; e.g. video, image, etc.

Note: *Campaign Source is the only parameter marked as required. But to get any meaningful data, you should use Source, Medium, and Name.

As you enter values in each field, your campaign URL takes shape:

Long URL with custom UTM values

The downside - now that you've added UTM values - is the length of the URL. You'll notice there's a handy 'Convert URL to Short Link' button underneath the campaign URL. Clicking the button creates a shortened '' link like this:

Shortened URL with custom UTM values

Unfortunately, Google is discontinuing its URL shortening service, so you'll have to consider another link shortening service, like Bitly.

Note: You don't have to shorten the URL, but with such a long link it's easy for characters to get missed or chopped off when copying and sharing, especially on Twitter.


Top tips for creating UTM values:

  1. Be consistent with your UTM values  

Google Analytics would record utm_source=twitter and utm_source=Twitter as two different sources. Most people recommend using lowercase, but whatever you decide, stick to it.

  1. Use dashes, not underscores

Matt Cutts recommends using dashes rather than underscores as separators in your values. For example, use facebook-post rather than facebook_post.

  1. Keep values simple and direct

If you use too many words to describe your values, they can become unwieldy. For example, compare these two alternatives:

  • utm_campaign=have_a_drop_down_menu_in_the_navigation_kill_it_with_fire
  • utm_campaign=navigation-menu

The first is descriptive and long, while the second one is more succinct.

  1. Use a link shortener

As mentioned above, once you've added UTM values to your URL it can become somewhat lengthy. A link shortener helps to keep URLs tidy and manageable.

  1. Track UTM values

It's good practice to track your UTM values for all your campaigns in one central location. You could use a spreadsheet like this or a UTM tracking tool like Terminus. Make sure you create a guide for your team, so they know how to populate the fields.


How to use UTM values in your social media campaigns

Now you know how to add UTM values, let's see how you can use them in your campaigns. Remember, the UTM values are going to help you understand more about your website traffic in Google Analytics. You want to know:

  1. Source - Where is the traffic coming from?
  2. Medium - How is the traffic coming to my website?
  3. Campaign - Why is the traffic coming to my website?


How to use the Source UTM value

Google recommends using the Source field to describe the 'referrer' or the platform that's sending the traffic. Don't be tempted to think of the referrer as the person sharing the link, because that will change, depending on who has posted the content.

Therefore, for social media, use the social platform in the source field:

utm_source=twitter, utm_source=facebook, utm_source=instagram

Where's the traffic coming from? It's coming from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.


How to use the Medium UTM value

For the Medium field, Google suggests using the general name of the marketing medium; e.g. email, web, blog, influencer. For social media, you can use the term 'social':


How is the traffic coming to my website? It's coming via social media.


Alternative option:

Kristi Hines suggests using more specific names for the Medium field. For example, using the Profile Contact from LinkedIn:


However, I prefer to use the term 'social', and use other fields to differentiate further. (See below).


How to use the Campaign UTM value

The Campaign field is more flexible than the others. Google recommends using it for specific product promotions or strategic campaigns. For example, Sendible might use the campaign name 'smart-posts-promo' when launching their Smart Posts feature:


Why is the traffic coming to my website? It's coming via our new Smart Posts campaign.


How to use the Content UTM value

The Content field is optional, but it can provide additional information if required. For instance, you might want to differentiate the types of post in Facebook; e.g. a regular post versus a promoted post:


Or you may want to specify the content format; e.g. Facebook video, Facebook image:



Putting the UTM values together

Here are a few examples of how the UTM values might look for Sendible's Smart Posts Campaign:







How to track UTM values in Google Analytics

There are two places where you can find the UTM information within your Google Analytics dashboard:

  1. Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium
  2. Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns

Tracking UTM values in Google Analytics

You can select from the three main UTM values - Source, Medium, Campaign - via the Primary Dimension:

Primary Dimension in Google Analytics

Using the primary dimensions you can answer the questions above - where, how, and why - about your traffic.

But how do you prove your ROI?


How to prove your social media ROI

The best way to prove your ROI in Google Analytics is to use Goals and Conversions. You can create goals to track different outcomes such as newsletter subscribers, contact form submissions, new leads, and customers.


Setting up goals and conversions

The most straightforward option is to create what’s called a Destination Goal. So-called because the goal is tracked every time a particular page - preferably a Thank You page - on your site is reached. (If you don't use Thank You pages, you’ll need to create Event goals.)


Step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Click 'Admin' at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar menu.

Step 2: Under 'View' click 'Goals'.

Step 3: Click the 'New Goal' button.

Step 4: Select the 'Custom' option, rather than a preconfigured template, and click the 'Continue' button.

Step 5: Under 'Goal description', enter the name of your goal; e.g. 'Contact Lead'.

Step 6: Select 'Destination' as the type of goal and click on 'Continue'.

Creating goals in Google Analytics

Step 7: Under 'Goal details', set the 'Destination' equal to your Contact Thank You page URL, e.g. '/contact-thank-you/'.

Step 8: Set 'Value' to 'On' and assign a monetary value to your goal. Setting a $1 value for each goal is fine.

Step 9: Set 'Funnel' to 'On' and enter the URL of your Contact form, e.g. '/contact', then set 'Required' to 'Yes'.

Setting up Goal details in Google Analytics

Step 10: Click on 'Save', to create your first Goal.

Now, when you check your Campaigns you can select which Conversions (Goals) to display:

Checking Conversions attached to goals in Google Analytics

Or you can head to the Conversions menu and check the Goals there:

Alternative Conversions view in Google Analytics

Using Conversions and Goals along with your UTM values, let's you track:

  1. Source - Where is the traffic coming from?
  2. Medium - How is the traffic coming to my website?
  3. Campaign - Why is the traffic coming to my website?
  4. Goals - What is the ROI of my social media campaigns?


Setting up dashboard reports

Another way to track your UTM values and ROI in Google Analytics is to create a Dashboard. This gives you a quick, visual format of the data you want rather than trawling through different menus.

Each Dashboard is made up of Widgets. For example, you could create a Social Traffic Campaigns and Conversions Widget to display your top campaigns ordered by most sessions with the number of goal completions from each campaign.

Step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Click on the 'Dashboards' tab in the left sidebar under 'Customisation'. Then click the red 'Create' button.

Dashboards in Google Analytics

Step 2: Select the 'Blank Canvas' option and name your dashboard 'Social Media'.

Step 3: In the 'Add a Widget' box, under 'Standard' select the Table option.

Step 4: Under 'Display the following columns' select:

  • Campaign / Sessions / Goal Completions

Step 5: Select the option to 'Show a table with 10 rows'.

Step 6: Create two filters:

  • Don’t show / Campaign / Containing / (not set)
  • Only show / Social Source Referral / Containing / Yes

Here’s what the widget settings will look like:

Setting up the Dashboards widgets in Google Analytics

You can add up to 12 widgets to your Social Media Dashboard. If you'd like more, try this selection from Dustin Stout:

  • Social Traffic Sessions
  • Social Traffic Time on Site
  • Social Traffic Pages per Visit
  • Social Traffic Popular Content
  • Social Traffic Campaigns and Conversions
  • Social Traffic by Network (Pie Chart)
  • Social Traffic Conversions by Network (Pie Chart)
  • Social Traffic & Conversions (Table)

Example view of Dashboards in Google Analytics

Using a dashboard with your chosen widget reports gives you a quick way to access your data and makes it easy to report on your social media campaigns.



When you start tracking your social media campaigns with UTM values along with Goals and Conversions, you'll be able to prove your worth to your clients. The key is to make sure you and your team are consistent so that your data is accurate.

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