Every social media marketer is different. They have their own methods, practices and sets of skills. But there’s one thing that every social media marketer has in common–they all want to keep track of how they’re doing and if possible, optimize their performance.

This usually means measuring the value of the links they’re sharing on social media. How many link clicks are they generating? How much traffic are those links generating? Are those clicks turning into conversions?

It also means optimizing the performance of the links they’re sharing on social media. This typically involves getting more relevant link clicks and therefore, more high-quality traffic.

That’s where UTM tracking and URL shortening enter the picture. These two terms may sound a bit technical and perhaps slightly intimidating, but they don’t have to be. In fact, these tips could change your social media game if you learn how to master them. And that’s exactly what this post is going to help you do.

What is UTM tracking?

Let’s start with UTM tracking.

To really understand UTM tracking, you need to understand the meaning of UTM elements and the different UTM parameters you can track.

UTMs, or Urchin Tracking Modules, are a tracking device to help you get really specific with your traffic source. UTM tracking involves adding unique UTM codes to your URLs to easily identify exactly where your traffic is coming from. When you use UTMs correctly, it adds more specificity to your reporting while keeping everything relatively easy to track in tools like Google Analytics. Knowing what type of content led to the traffic could even help you get a better sense of why they decided to click on your link.

While the amount of UTM parameters you can add to an URL is virtually endless, you want to keep things brief and descriptive so you can actually track them effectively. There are three basic parameters required in standard UTM tracking:

  • utm_source – Helps you track which platform the traffic is coming from such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • utm_medium – Helps you understand what type of traffic it is–whether it’s paid, organic, referral, etc.
  • utm_campaign – Helps you track the specific campaign that resulted in the traffic.

You can add further parameters to narrow down on the specifics.  For instance, perhaps you want to target a specific keyword for your campaign. Here, you can add the “utm_term” parameter to test how effective the keyword is in driving traffic to your site.

Or let’s say you want to compare two different ad creatives. This means you need to add the “utm_creative” parameter to see how each variation is performing.

To get a complete picture of how a UTM-tagged URL looks, let’s say you’re going to share the following link:


You want to share this link on Facebook as part of your paid social media campaign for Halloween. You’re also tracking the term “Halloween sale” and testing two different ad creatives–one with dogs in costumes and one with simple Halloween décor.

Your tagged URL for the first ad creative will look something like this:


How to build and track UTMs

As you might have guessed, it would be time-consuming to develop these UTM codes manually. That’s exactly why we have UTM builders.

These tools simplify the process of UTM creation. You just need to enter the relevant parameters and they will build the entire URL in an instant. Aside from the GA Campaign URL Builder, you can also use tools like UTMFTW, which has a Chrome extension to help you build UTMs on the fly, UTM Tag Builder or UTM.io to save time creating unique UTMs for your campaigns. UTM Tag Builder also features a built in link shortener which solves the problem of those long links.

form fields on UTM tag builder

There are a lot of ways to use UTM codes–whether it’s for a one-off campaign or a long-standing one. For instance, your organic social publishing strategy could also benefit from regular UTM tracking. Using a social media publishing tool with a built-in UTM tracking system will come in handy. That’s exactly where Sprout enters the picture.

UTM Tracking in Sprout Social allows you to seamlessly assign unique tracking data to all the links you publish through the platform. So instead of having to use a separate URL builder, Sprout will automatically generate the relevant UTM parameters every time you publish.


utm tracking dashboard on Sprout

In addition to the default parameters like campaign name, source and medium, you can also add custom parameters depending on what you need to track.

custom parameters on Sprout

Sprout lets you keep track of all your URLs using UTMs in one place, so you don’t have to rely on external documentation. This consolidates your UTM tracking efforts into a single platform and helps you streamline the process more effectively.

How to make the most of UTM tracking

UTM codes provide you with an accurate insight into your performance, but their benefits do not just end there. Here are a few ways you can make the most of UTM tracking for your business:

1: Analyze content performance

One of the top uses of UTM tracking is to measure how your content is performing. Find out which topics are resonating with your audience, which content formats are most engaging and where your audience is most receptive.

Instead of relying on hypotheses and assumptions, you can now identify which types of content are most ideal for driving valuable traffic. You can then use these insights to make adjustments to your content and publishing strategy.

2: Measure conversions

UTM tracking also provides you with quantitative data to measure conversions. Setting up goals in Google Analytics will help you understand how your content is converting. Besides using this data to prove your return on investment, you can also use it to optimize your existing strategy and increase your ROI.

3: Promote cross-functionality for social teams

Your social team may be supporting multiple departments within your organization. UTM codes allow you to set up unique campaigns based on the respective goals of each team. This enables your social team to be more cross functional and allows different departments to seamlessly access the data they need.

For instance, your customer support team may not have much use for your overall traffic and click-through data. But they’ll be very interested to see how much traffic you’re sending to the FAQ page and customer support page on your site and what kinds of posts are driving users there.

4: Measure advocacy marketing impact

If you’re trying to build a strong social media community, you may have an active Employee Advocacy program in place. The problem is that it can get a bit challenging to organize and track the progress of these programs since they cover posts from many different individuals.

UTM tracking can help you take an organized approach to your advocacy marketing venture. Attach unique UTM codes to the links your brand advocates share so you can see how much value they’re adding to your business.

5: Measure influencer marketing ROI

Influencer marketing may be hot right now, but marketers often have some trouble tracking the performance of their influencer campaigns. A Mediakix survey found that measuring and improving influencer marketing ROI is the biggest issue for 78% of companies.

chart of top issues working with influencers per Mediakix survey

UTM tracking can address this problem as well. Assign unique UTM codes to the links your influencers share so you can track their individual performance. This is a great way to get an accurate picture of your influencer marketing ROI and narrow down on your most valuable influencers.

6: Optimize your social advertising efforts

UTM codes are a must if you’re running paid social campaigns because you have to know how well your investment is paying off. Include unique UTM parameters to your ad landing pages so you can measure conversions. This will also give you a better idea of how your paid campaigns compare against your organic ones.

Now that you know some of the creative ways you can use UTMs for your marketing, you might be wondering how you can more easily communicate these long URLs. URL shortening is the perfect solution for making complex URLs more readable and memorable, not to mention helping them fit within social platform character limits.

URL shortening for social media

One of the goals of your social media campaign is to get clicks for the links you share and drive traffic to your landing pages. So in addition to optimizing your featured images and captions, you should also spruce up your URLs to get more clicks. URL shortening is the perfect solution for this, as it improves the appearance of your links and makes them more enticing to click.

URL shortening is especially important when you have to share lengthy and complex URLs (read UTM-tagged links) on social platforms with limited space. Take a look at the following link, for example.

example of lengthy url with utm codes

If you were to share it as is it would use up a majority of your character allowance, and the extra parameters make it harder to see the main keywords that indicate the topic of the post. But with URL shortening, you can tidy it up and turn it into something more concise and appealing.

You can see how much of a difference it can make when you shorten links for Twitter. The same applies to any other social media platform.

How to shorten your links

The good news is it’s not very difficult to shorten links for social media since there are a ton of useful tools at your disposal. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1: Bitly

Bitly is the default shortener used in the Sprout app, so most users are already familiar with it. You can shorten links for Twitter and other social media platforms for free without having to sign up. All it takes is to copy and paste the link and voila! You now have a shortened link.

But if you want access to the more advanced features like campaign management, real-time stats and branded link creation, you’ll need to create an account. The Branded Short Domains feature is one of the key highlights of this tool. It allows you to replace the “bit.ly” part of your link with your brand name.

So for instance, instead of “bit.ly/blog-post”, it would display as “sprout.social/blog-post”. This looks much more trustworthy and appealing to click. In fact, according to Bitly, these custom links can increase click-through rate by 34%.

custom domain suggestions on bitly

2: TinyURL

TinyURL is a free link shortener that’s very easy to use. First of all, you don’t need an account to use the tool, which makes it hassle-free. All you have to do is paste your original link in the box and create your shortened link.

You also have the option to customize the shortened link by adding relevant words in the “custom alias” field. However, the tool may not accept every option when customizing your link and you may end up with a randomly-generated link that doesn’t really work for you.

shortened url created with custom alias on tinyurl

The main setback of using this tool is that you can’t easily track the links and their performance. While it’s a great option for quickly shortening your links, it lacks some of the advanced features available with Bitly.

3: Sprout Social

Although the tools mentioned above are great for basic URL shortening and some level of tracking, Sprout offers an even better solution to shorten your URLs. When you add a link in the compose box, Sprout gives you the option to shorten links for Twitter or other social platforms with a single click.

sprout social url shortener gif example

The best part is that Sprout simplifies the process of tracking how these shortened links are performing. So you don’t have to switch between multiple platforms to create UTM-tagged links, shorten them and then track their performance.

For an easier, more accurate UTM tracking and URL shortening experience, start your free Sprout trial today.

Share click-worthy, measurable links

It’s not enough to create links that you can track; you have to get people to click on them first. So spruce up your UTM tracking efforts with link shorteners and drive more traffic. Make the most of these tips and ideas to start sharing links that are measurable and enticing to click.