How effective are your social sharing buttons on your website? What kind of analytics are most important to pay attention to and how do you track them? Dustin W. Stout, shares insights on understanding social sharing & analytics. ThinkLikeAJournalist.com
Dustin W. Stout is a husband, father of two boys (with a baby girl on the way), social media enthusiast, designer, consultant and speaker. He has also done a bit of acting and modeling. Currently he sits as Co-Founder of the best social sharing plugin for WordPress, Social Warfare.
See the show transcript.
Phoebe : "A big reason why, Brand Journalism community, is we're going to tackle something that gives a lot of us who are blog owners, have websites, issues, and that's this whole concept of the social sharing buttons."
"Let me tell you a little bit about Dustin in case you'd missed 2 episode 237. Dustin is a husband, father of 2 boys, and at the time of this taping, he has a baby girl on the way due very soon. He's a social media enthusiast, designer, consultant and speaker. He has also done a bit of acting and modeling. Currently, he sits as the co-founder of the best social sharing plugin for WordPress called Social Warfare. Welcome to the show. Welcome back. How are you?"
Dustin W. Stout: "Thanks, Phoebe. I'm fantastic. Trying to figure out what having 3 kids is going to look like as opposed to 2. We're pretty excited."
Phoebe : "They say adding the third isn't that much more work. I would know..."
Dustin W. Stout: "That's what they tell me."
Phoebe : "Right?"
Dustin W. Stout: "Yeah."
Phoebe : "I only have 1, but you're going to have to let me know how that goes."
Dustin W. Stout: "Yeah. A lot of my friends who have more than 3 or 3 or more kids, they tell me that same thing. The leap from 1 to 2 was harder than the leap from 2 to 3. Several of my friends with 5-plus kids are like, "Yeah, if you can do 3, you can do 6. Why not?"
Phoebe : "Hey, that's right. Half a dozen. Get going."
Dustin W. Stout: "I was like, "We don't know about that. We'll see."
Phoebe : "Thanks for taking the time out because I know how busy you are as both being co-founder of this WordPress plugin. Brand journalism community, remember, if you want to hear his back story, his career highlight, all the information, I highly recommend you head on over to Thinklikeajournalist.com and look up Dustin W. Stout episode 237. There, we talked about scaling your content sharing efforts and getting others to share your content. Of course, it's going to play in nicely with this episode because this episode is going to be a little bit more hands-on and tactical. We're going to break down understanding social sharing and the analytics that you use. For instance, Google, right, Dustin?"
Dustin W. Stout: "That's right. I'm a big fan of Google Analytics."
Phoebe : "Let's just get right into it. Tell me a little bit about Social Warfare because I'll tell you what? I have a WordPress site and as I'm sure many of our listeners of this podcast do. We struggle. I just had this issue where I have to go back and look which social sharing platform I'm using. When I put it in, and I also use OptimizePress, when I put it in, it just messed up everything. I had to take it off of certain pages. We had to look at it. I think it's in there for the blog post. It's in there for the categories for the podcast episodes. Brand Journalism community, you can check it out because I'm very transparent about what I'm doing on my sites and what I use so that it will help you. I will say that this plugin did cause some problems after some WordPress update. Fill us in a bit on the latest and why you call yours the best."
Dustin W. Stout: "It was really created out of an experience just like yours. Myself and my co-founders, we all build WordPress websites for a living or, at least, I used to until I got into social media consulting and content marketing. We build a lot of websites and all of them on WordPress. As much as we love WordPress, we know the WordPress has one of its greatest strengths, which is a diverse ecosystem of plugins and themes and stuff. Because of that strength, it's also its greatest weakness. In that having different plugins and different themes, things have a whole lot of potential to [conflict 00:03:55] and not work as intended. That's just the nature of the beast."
"We had a lot of experience with social sharing plugins. The state back then of social sharing plugins, and now this is back in 2013, the end of 2013, entering 2014, when I was doing a big redesign of Dustin.tv, I realized that I hated all the social sharing plugins out there. My buddy, Nick, who is our lead developer, and our other friend, Jason, they're both my co-founders. Jason owns a web development company and has built hundreds of sites on WordPress. We all hated social sharing plugins. I was a consultant already, telling people, "Here's what you need to do. You need to have social sharing plugins on your website, but then you need to optimize how it shared all these fun stuff." None of the plugins out there did what I needed them to do."
"Basically, we created our dream social sharing plugin that included a number of features that we really needed in order to not just get the most out of our ... The stuff that we're sharing on our sites, like the hidden Pinterest image, making sure that when somebody clicks our pin button, they get the exact image we wanted them to share and the exact description we wanted them to share that's optimized for SEO. That's where it came. Also, allowed us to get some insights from that and tie into our Google Analytics so that we can not just get more shares but we can learn from the shares that were happening, so that we can continually improve how we handle social sharing on the site. We couldn't find it, so we built it. It's turned out pretty well for us."
Phoebe : "Awesome. Tell us a little bit about how long the plugin has been around and the iterations it's gone through. What are some of the major changes?"
Dustin W. Stout: "Yes. We launched to a small beta group in October of 2014. This was a small group of the people who have I trusted. I knew they were in authority in the blogging world. I had, being a well-known blogger, which is not trying to toot my own horn, but I achieved some level of notoriety. People came to me, asking me advice and my opinions on things so I developed a core group of people who are expert bloggers or up-and-coming bloggers that had some really great things to say. We tested it out. We said, "Hey, here's what we're building. We're testing it on Dustin.tv first. I'll be the guinea pig." We just passed it around. Like wildfire, it just caught on. We realized that people really had a need."
"We launched with that small group. I think it grew to about 300 people within the first few months, just testing it out for us. Few iterations later, gathering feedback. We just launched 2.0 last month, which has been keeping us really busy. It's a major overhaul. Added a bunch of new features. A complete overhaul to the user interface to make it more user-friendly and beautiful."
"The plugin today at its core is still about a number of values that we hold very near and dear to our hearts. That is performance. We want the plugin to load lightning fast. One of the biggest downfalls of social sharing plugins is that they kill your page load times. For a user, landing on a blog post and they want to read the content, if it's taking them 8 to 10 seconds to read the page, they're gone. You lose those visitors. We wanted to make sure that unlike all the other social sharing plugins that kill your page load time, ours is a super lightning fast. It has been. It's proved in many third-party studies to be the fastest load sharing plugin around. Even though we've added feature after feature and integration after integration, we still maintain its super fast lightweight thing."
Phoebe : "That's really important. Let's get into it. Brand Journalism community, you're going to want to head over to Thinklikeajournalist.com and then find Dustin's page, both of them, as I mentioned, he's in episode 237. We've invited him back to go deeper and really explain the importance of this. As you're hearing, if you've had any experience with these social sharing platforms, they can be really difficult to work with. They can work at one time and then you update WordPress, and it just blows it up and you start having all this ... You get it like what happened to me. I got it 2 or 3 times on the page. You're going to want to head over there. There will be a link for you to take a look at the plugin that Dustin has created. If you are so inclined to purchase it, and it's relatively inexpensive to get onboard with this and start using it for your WordPress site. Now, does it work for other platforms as well?"
Dustin W. Stout: "Currently, we're only building for WordPress because that's what we know. We figured we'd stay true to our WordPress core as much as we can, building the plugin out. We do have some other ideas for extensions to the plugin, add-ons, and then maybe some other plugins, but we're going to stick to our WordPress knowledge because that's what we know and make the absolute best product possible. Then, if we grow to the size where we can hire some developers, who their competency is outside the world of WordPress, we're definitely interested in doing that if a possibility comes up."
Phoebe : "Break it down a little bit and talk about how people can track using Google Analytics, really pay attention to what's being shared because when I had you in the last episode, the main focus of that was, of course, scaling your content. You can write as much content as you want, but you've got to get it out there. I want you to go back, tell us about how you have been able to do that. Then, walk us through the Google Analytics part of it, how it's going to sync up with what you folks are doing over there at Social Warfare."
Dustin W. Stout: "Right. One of the things that was extremely helpful for me is being able to customize how the content we share. That ultimately led to me creating optimized Pinterest images for every blog post, which then has now led to Pinterest being my #1 source of traffic, social referral traffic that is. In addition to the traffic numbers, it's really easy for a lot of bloggers and a lot of website owners to get caught up in the traffic aspect. At some point, you need to move beyond just the traffic. You need to dig into the insights from that traffic. That's what I like to talk about when we dig into Google Analytics. It's not just seeing what are the numbers of visits or visitors or page views, but what are those page views actually doing, what are those visitors actually doing once they've landed on your page."
"A great example that I like to teach is we had a couple website owners who are users of Social Warfare, and they were actually using the plugin, they loved it, but they had a whole bunch of buttons on their site. I think at this point, we have about 13 different options of sharing buttons, 13 different networks. I believe on our last episode, we talked about the paradox of choice and how you should actually limit the number of sharing options you give people because psychologically, when you give people more options, they take less action. Anybody who's done a little work in the world of conversion rate optimization knows this. You give them 1 call to action, same goes with social sharing. You give them one or a couple or maybe a few different options, but never more than, say, 4, 5 or 6 options because people get overwhelmed."
"All that to say, these couple users, they had a bunch of options, so I talked them through looking into their Google Analytics and saying, "Where is your most traffic coming from? Let's start there because that's the first clue of where you're having the most success." They showed me and these 2 years, in particular, we're having a lot of StumbleUpon traffic."
"In fact, it was like dwarfing all the traffic from other sites. I thought that was very strange because I didn't know StumbleUpon was still a thing. I knew a few people who use it over in England, in a dungeon. Apparently, it's still a thing. It can drive a lot of traffic. When I encourage them to look deeper into the data and consider removing that button, they were terrified because they said, "That's where all my traffic is coming from. Why would I remove that button?" I said, "Let's look at this report. You dive in your Google Analytics, you look into acquisition. Then, in Google Analytics, they actually have a social tab under Acquisition, where you can see which networks are sending you the most traffic, but once you go into and dive a little deeper into that, you can see the average session duration of that traffic."
"These people, in particular, obviously, StumbleUpon was their #1 source. When we looked over at their average session duration of a StumbleUpon visit, how long a StumbleUpon user stays on their page, it was less than 20 seconds. Yeah, maybe they were getting 10,000 visitors a day from StumbleUpon, but those 10,000 visitors weren't sticking around and they weren't doing anything. They weren't converting. What's the use of that traffic if that traffic is not doing anything but leaving? That was really compelling to them. That's just the first tier of understanding not just where your traffic is coming from but where the best traffic is coming from. One of them, I think, still chose to have StumbleUpon on there because it was a good deal of social proof for them, but they did remove a number of other sharing options and did all the better for it."
Phoebe : "When they did that, what happened? What were the results?"
Dustin W. Stout: "The results were they actually had more shares happened. People weren't bombarded with more options than they can care to choose from. They actually got more traffic driven from having less buttons on the page and their quality of traffic improved. The average session duration or time on site or time on page, those are some of the metrics you want to look at. If you dig into your conversions, if you have goals set up in Google Analytics or if you have e-commerce activated, you can actually see and dive in and see what kinds of conversion rates each social network is getting. That's something you want to pay very close attention to. If you're getting 10,000 visits from StumbleUpon and 0 of them are converting, then that is way less valuable than, say, Twitter that might have 500 visits but 5% of them are converting."
"You really want to look at what your overall goal of the website is. If your entire goal is just to get page views because maybe you're doing AdSense or you have some pay-per-impression-based advertising, then sure, get as many page views as you can. If you have objectives like getting people to sign up for your email newsletter or making a purchase, any one of what your goals can be, you want to monitor how social is performing in those goals and then optimize for those social networks and get rid of anything else that's not performing."
Phoebe : "Really good. In walking us through this, to get started with, say, your plugin, how simple is it? Is it the same as going into the back end of WordPress and just downloading it there?"
Dustin W. Stout: "Yeah, absolutely. If you go into WordPress, you go into plugins, add new, and then you can search the repository for Social Warfare, we actually have a free version now. Social Warfare 2.0 did bring with it a free tier, so you can test it out, but it doesn't get that analytics integration. One of things that we have in our advanced premium options is the ability to turn on Google Analytics tracking. What happens is we do this in 2 ways. UTM tracking. For anybody who doesn't know what UTM tracking is, I highly encourage you to look it up. I believe Buffer has a really great article on UTM tracking. In our Google Analytics article, we talked a little bit about UTM tracking."
"It basically allows you to track different campaigns. When you activate this in Social Warfare, what Social Warfare will do is it will add a little piece of tracking code to the end of the URL when it's shared on a specific network. Each share will have a slightly different URL at the end, which tells Google Analytics where the traffic is coming from once it clicks through. That's really highly technical. It's much easier to show."
Phoebe : "I've got the article, Brand Journalism community, so I'll put it in the show notes."
Dustin W. Stout: "Perfect."
Phoebe : "It really does break it all down to. You're going to want to take a look at it. Yeah, go ahead and give us just that overview of it."
Dustin W. Stout: "Yes. In that article as well, we have a downloadable or a template for Google Analytics. If you use Google Analytics, you can add your email, hit enter and you'll get a link to apply a Google Analytics template that we've created, that easily it creates a couple click dashboard, where you can instantly start seeing the ROI of your social efforts. It's pretty cool thing. I love the fact that Google Analytics made it so easy to share these templates."
"The UTM codes will allow you to see where your traffic is coming from in the form of campaigns and sources and medium, if you're familiar with that kind of thing. The other thing that we also track is button clicks. With, I think, the last iteration of 1.4, we introduced button clicks, which means Social Warfare will actually communicate to Google Analytics how many times your shared buttons are clicked, which is different from the amount of shares, right? Somebody can click a button but not actually share it, or in some networks such as Facebook, in particular, when somebody shares it on Facebook, if it gets 30 comments and likes on the button, on that Facebook button, it will show 30 even though that button may have only been clicked once."
"It's two different things that you can look at to quantify how your buttons are performing. That actually is tracked under the Events section in Google Analytics if you've ever been there, Conversions or sorry, Behavior and then Events. Then you can see right in there, if you're a Social Warfare user, you'll be able to see SWP Facebook share, SWP Twitter share. You'll see exactly how many times those buttons were clicked and be able to see, "Okay, people are clicking this button more. Why is that? Was it because I have them arranged in a certain way? If I arranged them differently, are they going to click the other one more? If I take this away, will this one get clicked more?" It allows you to really take hold of the data and how people are interacting with your site. You can experiment and you can learn from and you can make it better."
Phoebe : "That's the key right there, Brand Journalism community, is that once you create the content, you put it out there and then you start getting some look at what people are doing and how they're responding to it, you've got to follow that and really track it to understand it. That's why I wanted Dustin to come on and give us an overview of this social sharing aspect to really add value on top of the episode that he did before 237, scaling your content and sharing efforts, getting others to actually do it for you, so you're not just creating content. In a silo, you actually get other people to participate and help get it out there."
"I'm going to put 1 other episode, Brand Journalism community, in the show notes. It's episode 152. This one's on how to make SEO easier and understand Google Analytics because Eric does a great job of that, going into and actually showing us inside Google Analytics. I know some people have others who are managing this for them. It can be a little bit overwhelming. It doesn't have to be, and especially, when you hook it up with Social Warfare plugin. That's designed to do this. That is just so cool. All of that at Thinklikeajournalist.com in Dustin's show notes."
"Dustin, we're going to start to wind down, but give us any last parting advice about making this come together for a website. How important it is to not just look at the vanity metrics of, "Oh, cool. I've got 150 people sharing it on Facebook or something like that." So much more than that."
Dustin W. Stout: "Right. Yeah. So much more. As I said, you can get that dashboard template, the Google Analytics dashboard template and see some of the metrics that we follow on a weekly and monthly basis for us. Always dig down ... And there's 2 things to me that are really important. How long somebody stays on my page? How long their ... The way that we've framed it is, how long are they engaged on the page, and how many conversions?"
"Really, at Warfare plugins and my personal blog, there are 2 conversions that I look at, email subscriptions and purchases. If you don't have those set up in Google Analytics, there are plenty of articles out there. In fact, I need to write one myself on how to get those set up, how to set up some goals. If you have an e-commerce-based site, how to set up e-commerce analytics tracking, which is actually different. A couple more steps than regular Google Analytics. Once you get it set up, man, it is so powerful to be able to have that data and gain those insights and actually improve what you're doing instead of just hoping that it continues to work."
Phoebe : "Awesome. Great stuff, Dustin. Thank you so much. This is a really important episode, Brand Journalism community. I encourage you to go over and look at the show notes because, again, there will be a video there, there will also be a link to check out the plugin and some articles that we talked about, understanding UTM tracking. I know we're getting technical on a lot of this stuff. Even if you're not the person who does it for your website, important that you have an overview of it so that you can bring the right people in and make sure that they're doing the right job for you. It's all about creating that content, telling that story, but equally important, getting it out there so that lots of people will see it."
"Dustin, thanks so much for being on the Brand Journalism Advantage podcast."
Dustin W. Stout: "Always a pleasure."
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