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Social media platforms include built-in analytics. These help you track key metrics like likes, shares, and clicks through to your website. But they don’t give you the full picture of how traffic flows to your website from social channels, or how a visitor becomes a customer. In fact, 87 percent of CMOs at Fortune 500 companies say they can’t prove that social media marketing brings in new customers.

This data is incredibly important. You need to understand both the big picture (what brings people to your website), and the small details (which specific content leads to product sales or other conversions). So how do you get this data?

UTM parameters.

“UTM parameters” might sound really technical, but they’re actually very simple and easy to use. They’re just short text codes that you add to all of the links in your social posts. They provide three key benefits:

  1. They help you track the value of social marketing programs and campaigns.
  2. They provide precise data about where traffic and conversions come from.
  3. They allow you to test individual posts head-to-head in classic A/B testing style.

You don’t need a programmer to set up UTM parameters or get them working across your website and social media channels. You can do it all yourself, if you choose, and we’ll show you exactly how in this post.

Bonus: Download a free guide and checklist to help you convince your boss to invest more in social media. Includes experts tips for proving ROI.

What are UTM parameters?

UTM parameters are pre-defined text codes added to a URL to track important data about website visitors and traffic sources.

Here’s an example of a link with UTM parameters in place:

URL with UTM parameters

The UTM parameters are everything that comes after the question mark. Don’t worry, you can make the link much less ugly using a link shortener, as you’ll see in the next section of this post.

UTM parameters work with analytics programs to provide a detailed picture of your social media success.

There are five different UTM parameters. You should use the first three in all UTM tracking links. The last two are specifically for tracking paid campaigns.

1. Campaign source

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

Examples: facebook, twitter, blog, newsletter, etc.
UTM code: utm_source
Sample code: utm_source=facebook

2. Campaign medium

This tracks the type of channel driving the traffic, like organic social, paid social, email, and so on.

Examples: cpc, organic_social
UTM code: utm_medium
Sample code: utm_medium=fb_ad

3. Campaign name

Give each campaign a name so you can keep track of your efforts. For example, this could be the product name, a contest name, a code to identify a specific sale or promotion, or a tagline.

Examples: summer_sale, free_trial
UTM code: utm_campaign
Sample code: utm_campaign=summer_sale

4. Campaign term

Use this to track paid keywords or key phrases.

Examples: social_media, newyork_cupcakes
UTM code: utm_term
Sample code: utm_term=social_media

5. Campaign content

This parameter allows you 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 of the UTM parameters together in one link. They all come after the ?, and they’re separated by & symbols.

So, using all the sample codes above, the link would be:

But don’t worry—you don’t have to add them to your links manually. Read on to learn how to attach them to your links error-free by using a UTM generator.

How to use UTM parameters

Here are the 4 simple steps to setting up UTM parameters to track your social media results.

Step 1: Set up Google Analytics

UTM parameters collect data to feed into Google Analytics. If you haven’t already set Google Analytics up on your website, you’ll need to do that before you start using UTM parameters.

  1. Add your website as a Property.
  2. Choose your industry category and reporting time zone, then click Get Tracking ID.
  3. Copy and paste the global site tag on your website, right after the <head> tag in your HTML. Make sure to insert your tracking ID in the code.

Step 2: Add UTM parameters to your social posts

There are two options for adding UTM parameters to your social posts. You can add them directly within Hootsuite Composer, or you can use a Google tool.

Option 1: Add UTM parameters in Hootsuite Composer

  1. Click New Post and create your post.
  2. Include a link in the text of your post.
  3. Click Add Tracking.
  4. Click Customize.
  5. Enter the parameters you want to track and their values. Choose Dynamic to let the system adapt the values automatically based on your social network, social profile, or post ID. Or, choose Custom to enter a specific value.
  6. Under Shortener, select a link shortener to create a compact link to use in your social post.
  7. Click Apply. Your tracking link will appear in the preview window.

For a step-by-step walkthrough, check out this video:

Option 2: Use the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder

If you prefer, you can create your UTM parameters using a Google UTM generator, then paste the links into your…