How to use UTM tracking in Google Analytics to track your social campaigns

Roughly a 4 minute read by Kate

Utm Tracking Header

We often get asked by clients how to best utilise UTM tags and Google Analytics for their social campaigns, so they can effectively track their activity and understand more about the behaviour of their referral traffic. We’ve put together this top-level guide to help make sense of the utm_what-does-this-mean URLs you see scattered around the internet.

What are UTM tags?

UTM tags are URL parameters added to the end of links in order to pass certain information to Google Analytics.

Why would we use UTM tags?

They’re useful to ‘tag’ traffic from certain channels. By default, Google knows if you’ve come from paid search/organic/referral based on certain rules it understands; anything it can’t understand gets attributed into direct traffic.

This makes it important to use UTM tags for channels which aren’t automatically tagged, most commonly email campaigns and social campaigns.

This is particularly important if you run advertising campaigns on social media, as Google Analytics can’t differentiate between organic and paid social traffic. UTM tagging ensures you can track ROI on every penny you spend and see exactly which content is performing best.

What data can we send to Google Analytics?

We can define the following using UTM tags:

source (required)

This will be the company/site source of the traffic. e.g. facebook or twitter. To keep tags as succinct as possible, we might abbreviate to fb, tw, etc.

medium (required)

The medium is the marketing channel; this should be ‘social’ for social media posts, or if the post has advertising spend behind it we can differentiate by using ‘cpc’.

campaign name (required)

This should be the overarching name of the campaign, such as a menu launch or Christmas. For day-to-day content that doesn’t belong to a specific campaign, we can use ongoing-content, or you may use this for all content that doesn’t have its own dedicated ad budget.

For variations within a campaign, you can use the content field, as explained below.

campaign term (optional)

The ‘term’ parameter is primarily used to track keywords in AdWords campaigns, but you can also use it as an additional filter to identify types of activity. For example, we use ‘social’ and ‘ppc’ to differentiate between the two sides of social marketing we do.

campaign content (optional)

You can use the ‘content’ parameter to record more detail about your individual posts, such as the date posted, platform and the topic of the post.

So, if we wanted to promote this blog on Facebook with a standard status post, we’d use:

Source: fb
Medium: social
Campaign: blog-posts
Content: 10-nov-fb-utmtrackingsocial
Term: social

Once you’ve decided what you’d like the values to be, head over to Google’s URL builder to make your URL. This is what our example would look like:

By doing this to all your social posts, you can see what types of content and themes are driving the most traffic to your website, as well as seeing which blogs convert the best so you can write more of them!


Once you’ve set up your UTM tagging system, you’ll be able to see your traffic within the Social default channel grouping.

This will allow you to see how your social traffic is interacting with the site and see which content your fans are really engaging with - and how many sales you get of course!

We also recommend creating a segment for your social traffic in Google Analytics (medium equals social) so you can analyse the data more easily around other areas of Google Analytics.

Here’s a handy link to a import this segment into your Google Analytics account.

Anything else to know?

Apart from the above, we have a few golden rules we abide by to keep our tracking running smoothly…

Avoid spaces: If you leave spaces in your parameters, these will be auto-filled with ‘%20’ symbols. Your tracking will still work, but URLs will look messy and it could cause problems when you’re trying to search/filter in Google Analytics. We advise using hyphens to separate words.

Use lower case: UTM parameters are case sensitive, so we recommend always using lower case to make sure all your traffic is captured in Google Analytics correctly.

Be consistent: The crucial key to UTM success is devising a system that works and sticking to it! Putting the work in now to set up and maintain consistent rules across your UTM tagging will save you serious reporting headaches later down the line.

That’s all there is to it! If you need further help with social media or Google Analytics tracking in general, just drop us a line.