Credit Where Due: Unlocking Social Attribution

For all of the recent advancements in the industry, social marketers still struggle with attribution.

For all of the recent advancements in the industry, social marketers still struggle with attribution, and while that difficulty is understandable (can you explain your weighted attribution model and why you chose it?), successful attribution is paramount for campaign optimization and maximizing return on ad spend.

Sure, Facebook offers a suite of useful tools for tracking consumer interactions (including tracking in-store sales), which are rapidly becoming more refined and effective, so what’s the problem?

Those tools happily assign all credit for the conversion directly to the Facebook ad that sealed the deal. This method suits Facebook just fine; after all, it is seeking to increase ad revenue to keep those eye-popping quarterly results afloat.

But that approach hardly benefits marketers running full-fledged cross-channel, cross-device campaigns with varying goals and objectives.

These marketers understand that consumers view multiple ads across a variety of channels, research products and pricing and then make purchases, and they need to weigh each interaction along the purchase funnel and assign them the credit they’re due based on campaign structure—which puts us right back where we started: struggling with attribution.

That’s not to say that Facebook’s tools aren’t helpful–they certainly can be, depending upon a marketer’s situation. For example, Facebook offers marketers a standard conversion window that tracks user activity (one day for users who viewed the ad; 28 days for users who clicked the ad), which can be useful in tracking further interactions (just remember: Facebook credits its ad for any conversion). Yet marketers must take the next step to better understand the real impact their advertising efforts have on their brand and their customers. To do so:

Use the Facebook pixel rather than a cookie or click-based pixel: Many advertisers taking their first steps in social may believe it should be measured with the same ruler as their paid search strategy. However, it’s important to consider the channel and understand that the actions and intentions on paid social are different.

On search, users actively research products or services that they seek, and advertisers bid against their competition to appear. On social, advertisers bid on users whose demographics and digital behaviors qualify them as a viable candidate for their product, and the ad must create interest for the user.

Additionally, social networks matured in a multiscreen environment and, therefore, offer multi-device and multi-session conversion tracking capabilities.

Refine the use of Facebook’s tools: Consider shrinking the conversion window to reduce channel noise that can cause artificial inflation in attribution models. Ecommerce retailers may focus optimizations and evaluate success with only a one-day click window. While this may seem limited, one day is enough to attribute for cross-device conversions while balancing out for other remarketing efforts.

Or marketers can consider a blended approach (X percent 28-day click, Y percent one-day view) to help account for customers who may only need to see one ad and then either directly navigate or search their brand to convert, rather than clicking the actual ad.

Determine which weighted attribution models match needs based on campaign goals: This white paper from Kenshoo provides a nice introduction to attribution models, including the benefits and use-cases for each. Match the models as closely as possible to the campaign goals to determine the right one.

Consider a third-party technology providing advanced attribution capabilities: Some marketing technologies offer advanced attribution capabilities that adjust campaigns automatically, optimizing based on near-real-time input, but not every campaign warrants that level of investment. Closely examine campaign scale and spend to determine if it makes financial sense.

Revisit attribution models to ensure that they meet the needs of current campaigns: Whether using a third-party marketing technology or not, it’s important to check whether the assigned attribution model is producing as expected; if not, it’s time to adjust, swapping to a new model that might be more in line with expectations.

Whether using publisher-provided tools or third-party technology, marketers can better account for the value of social ads in the conversion funnel through the use of weighted attribution models and the right tools.

While the process may seem intimidating or confusing, breaking it down into these steps provides a solid blueprint for kicking off the effort to gain a better understanding of the value each consumer interaction has in any given conversion, whether it occurred on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or offline. The reality is all of the ads from those publishers and more (like search), likely played at least a small role.

Shane Ragiel is a social media marketing manager and social lead at Chacka Marketing in Tampa, Fla.