A Digital Marketers Guide to Social Contest Tracking and Reporting

Are you tracking your social media marketing?

Social media analytics goes a long way to improve ROI and campaign performance

Life as a brand marketer moves pretty fast. There is often pressure to get your campaigns into market very quickly, while juggling multiple projects and deadlines. You wouldn’t be the only brand manager to find out, after running a digital campaign such as a contest promoted through social media, that you missed some key points of data along the way.

The simple act of tracking where your campaign visitors are coming from, and who they are, is a valuable opportunity to improve your campaign results (and your client’s ROI) during the campaign. What’s more, studies have shown that when you benchmark your campaign performance your campaign effectiveness will improve over time. It’s worth investing a little time in campaign analytics.

Suppose you are running a contest online and promoting it through social media marketing. A list of which data to track for a typical contest marketing campaign should include:

  1. Visits to your contest landing page or microsite

  2. The source & medium where these visitors came from

  3. Sign-ups and completions of each step in a multi-step contest submission

  4. Basic demographic information about each participant (ie. age, gender, IP address, etc.)

  5. Conversion rates overall and for each traffic segment (tackled in a separate post)

In this post, we’ll show you how to use Google Analytics to track not only visits to your contest page (#1) but how to easily set up URLs for the links you use to promote your campaign and track data for visitor sources (#2). In future posts we’ll tackle the rest.

Why track your marketing campaigns?

Obviously your client is going to want to know how many visitors, sign-ups, contest entrants, etc. you achieved with your campaign. You’ll be able to get the total number of contest entries just by pulling the list from the database of your contest app or contest page. Isn’t that enough?

Marketers at the top of their game want more data. If you are tracking where your visitors are coming from and whether or not people from each traffic source are converting on your sign-up page, then you can make on-the-fly improvements to your campaign and get better results overall, rather than just waiting until the contest is over and then looking at the data.

For example, suppose you are running a contest and you’ve promoted the contest through print, email, Facebook Ads, Facebook posts, and Google Adwords. Visitors from these sources will appear in Google Analytics as follows:


Actual Traffic Source without Tracking URLs

How it appears in Google Analytics (source / medium)

Typed URL from print (or scans QR code)

direct / none

Clicked a link in an email

direct / none

Clicked Facebook Ad to landing page

referral / facebook*

Clicked Facebook Post

referral / facebook*

Clicked link to your site in Facebook’s Mobile  App

direct / none

Clicked Adwords Ad (banner or text ad)

organic / google

* These can show up as various sources such as m.facebook.com (Facebook’s mobile web page) and l.facebook.com (Facebook’s laptop/desktop version), depending which devices they use and if they are using http or https status.


If you are monitoring the campaign, you won’t be able to tell which visitors came from print versus email. You won’t be able to distinguish which Facebook traffic came from your ads or your posts. And in this example your Google traffic is showing up in Analytics as organic traffic, not paid traffic (cpc), which means it’s indistinguishable from actual organic search visitors.

Is it worth the money you spent on Facebook ads? Or the time you spend engaging on Facebook? Did the Google Adwords spend pay off? Did anyone actually use your print piece to get to your contest online? You just don’t know. Let alone know the effectiveness compared to your past campaigns, or your competition.

But if you could see, for example, part way through the contest that your Facebook Ads were converting at half the cost that visitors from Adwords were, you could divert your Adwords budget into Facebook, thereby getting more sign-ups for your budget. If you could immediately tell that all of the direct traffic was coming from print, you could re-jig your email marketing strategy or messaging and improve traffic from email. Maybe you are emailing to 5 different lists. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see your success rates on a list-by-list basis?

You can get all of this data, and it’s easier to do than you think.


How to track your marketing campaigns?

Google Analytics is the tool of choice for most companies, so we’ll use it as an example here.

Google Analytics tracks page views and user sessions (aka visits) by default, but can also be used to track events such as video views, partial web form fills and more. But the list of key data points above can be tracked simply by adding parameters to your landing page URLs.

When a visitor comes to your web page, Google Analytics records that pageview along with a ton of data, most importantly for our purposes Analytics tracks the source and medium of that visitor. The “source” is the domain that the visitor came from, and the “medium” is a classification for different kinds of traffic. There is also a “campaign” parameter that can be used to further segment your traffic.

Many tools like MailChimp and Hubspot have features that let you create tracking URLs, but anyone can use Google’s own Tracking URL Builder here.


A simple URL looks like this:


A Tracking URL looks like this:



These UTM parameters (everything after the ‘?’) force Google Analytics to write this data into the visitor’s pageview. So, when I look in Analytics under Acquisition > All Traffic, I will see any traffic from the above Tracking URL as:

source / medium = newsletter / email

and in my Acquisition > Campaigns report I will see this traffic under

Campaign = agency-newsletter


Using Tracking URLs for the campaign promo example above, we’d get this:

Actual Traffic Source with Tracking URLs

How it appears in Google Analytics (source / medium)

Typed URL from print (or scans QR code)

mailer / print

Clicked a link in an email

contest-promo / email

Clicked Facebook Ad to landing page

facebook / cpc

Clicked Facebook Post*

facebook / referral

Clicked Adwords Ad (banner or text ad)**

google / cpc

* using a simple URL when posting links to Facebook will report people who click the link as facebook / referral by default, but you can use UTM parameters to distinguish different campaigns if you want

** Note you can automatically apply tracking parameters to all Adwords traffic by enabling Auto-tagging in Adwords.


I’m still using the same landing page for all of these, they just have different tracking parameters appended to them:






Things to remember

Standardize your campaign parameters

Google Analytics simply records whatever it’s told. So plan your tracking parameters in advance and keep them organized. Best practice is to use a standard set of parameters company-wide. If you and your team you use a different set of parameters every time an email goes out, you won’t be able to easily report on fun things like traffic growth from email month-over-month. Analytics is case-sensitive, too. “Email”, “email”, “e-mail” and “E-mail” will report as four separate media!

Keep track of the URLs you’ve created, so that the correct one can be used for each purpose. If you accidentally post this URL (https://qoints.com/?utm_source=contest-promo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=agencies) to Facebook, visitors clicking that link will actually report as having come from your contest promo email even though they’ve come from Facebook.

Use parameters in unique combinations

You may be tempted to use unique parameters for all of the variables for each source, but keep it simple. As long as each traffic source has it’s own unique combination of parameters you’ll be able to report on it separately.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

























These parameters let me report on all paid traffic, or all email traffic, or all traffic from the whole ground-hog-day campaign as well as reporting on each one separately.


Start now

Remember, any data is better than none. Start simple and go from there. Being able to moderate your campaign strategy in response to real-time analytics data is a powerful way to drive stronger ROI for your campaigns. Here at Qoints we’ve proven the value of benchmarking against other campaigns, and tracking is the vital first step.

Happy tracking!