Google Analytics recently launched a new reporting function that tracks social engagement on your site. As I started to play with it, I was impressed with the fact that social interaction on a site was now considered a standard report (you could only do this reporting previously with custom code). The more I looked at it, the more I realized, social sites are stealing our data. "Stealing" may be too strong of a word. Before the rise of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter, we could measure almost every aspect of social activity because the activity was performed on a corporate site (i.e. www.yourcompany.com) or a sub-site which shared data (i.e. forum.yourcompany.com).
Now as visitors traverse from your Facebook fan page, to your Facebook Application, to your corporate site, to your YouTube channel they are essentially lost. While social sites are starting to have better reporting on user behaviors, they are 1) still far behind the reporting that web analytics applications provide and 2) not very willing to share user behavior data with a web analytics suite.
Future iterations of web analytics applications such as WebTrends, Google Analytics, and SiteCatalyst need to work with the likes of Facebook and YouTube to show integrated reporting that shows the following:
- Complete click paths from corporate to social and back
- Content viewed from on a corporate site AND on a social site
- Interaction across channels
- As well as allow marketers to create user segments on reports on their site and on social sites
If social sites are asking to share traffic/visitors with distributed "Like" and "Tweet" functions, they should be willing to expose visitor data the same way that Amazon and eBay will share whether or not associate traffic has purchased. The social sites have brought us excellent access to global communities, but have taken the Web Analytics world back a few steps by forcing to guess what our visitors are doing on our social presence.