Do You Have a Social Media Marketing Attribution Problem?

Marketers must understand the options available to them as they seek to find the right social media attribution model to best suit their digital strategies.

Properly measuring social media conversions has been plaguing marketers since they started creating digital campaigns to drive sales. Many attribution models exist and data-driven marketers need to think differently about how they interpret the information available to them to optimize and measure social conversions.

Marketers must understand the options available to them as they seek to find the right social media attribution model to best suit their digital strategies, and how tracking from the first engagement in a campaign makes the most effective use of resources.

Marketing attribution, which is the practice of assigning value to each touchpoint in a series of consumer events that contribute to a desired outcome, interprets a set of user actions. Then marketing attribution identifies which combination of touchpoints influence consumers to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion.

The methods marketers use to determine how they credit for conversions and how they're assigned to a sales funnel can deeply impact strategic decisions. With several digital attribution models available, social marketers can easily be misguided and are often misattributing social conversions.

Today there are several different attribution models available for marketers to apply. In reality, however, the digital sales funnel doesn't ever consist of one step. There are usually a series of touchpoints that a consumer can go through to convert. This makes the decision more difficult for digital marketers to choose between which model is best suited to measure their marketing mixes.

When it comes to conversion tracking, three common complicating factors include:

1. Device Switching

The only way one can truly capture interactions with a brand between multi-devices, say for example your desktop, phone, or tablet, is if there is some kind of single sign-on for your user. Otherwise there is no way to track the clear path towards a sale or conversion if some of those steps occurred off a desktop.

2. Time Decay

Analytics software has a difficult time keeping up with attribution data for an extended period of time. Google Analytics only reports on channels customers interacted with during the 30 days before conversion or purchase. Depending on how long a purchase cycle may be, it might not be able to capture accurate data from the entire process.

3. Offline Conversions

There is only so much that can be tracked online. As brands adopt different marketing strategies to drive sales, not all will result in an online sale or conversion, but some will occur offline.

Although there are issues with attribution tracking, marketers focused on understanding the success of social through conversion rates need to make sure they're analyzing the right data to make the best strategic decisions.

First-touch attribution succeeds in tracking conversion in social marketing
Each piece of social content takes on a journey of its own, being shared, retweeted, and republished to other networks. What may start as a campaign tweet can be cross-posted to Facebook, sent in an email, end up in a blog post and finally be found in organic search. Understanding what initial actions drive sales and conversions is one of the best ways to accurately track the social sales process. Often social media marketing doesn't receive the credit it deserves, leaving marketers questioning if their efforts are driving results.

Considering social media content's viral characteristics, first-touch attribution is best suited for capturing the success of social conversions. Brands focused on creating and pushing out social content to different platforms should look to attribute a conversion or sale to the initiating campaign and social property that started the conversion process. Even though supporting steps in the conversion funnel should be given attention as they are an important part of an e-commerce or online strategy, first touch attribution connects the instigator of the funnel with the resulting sale.

Social marketing optimization gives brands insight into what's working, what's not, and which social media channels are performing better based on a campaign's goals.

The rules for social marketers will always be in flux. Whether it's the new tools available or the expansion of functionalities in a social platform, the only way to be good at our jobs is to continue to try new strategies. Through optimizing the process in which we convert consumers in social media, marketers are destined to find the right social channel messaging that leads to achieving the goals of their campaigns.