Marketing Attribution: Where to Get Started


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Whenever a major platform outage occurs, such as the six hour Facebook and Instagram blackout in early October, it serves as a reminder to marketers to diversify their referral traffic sources. But understanding how traffic sources contribute to broader marketing goals remains challenging, especially with emerging audience opportunities such as social commercial and livestreaming.  

Getting attribution right has plagued marketers for years. When new audience channels emerge, they can provide a starting point for reevaluating what kind of traffic is ultimately feeding its customer journey towards sales. Does the data reveal a pattern in campaign media, with specific assets and channels leading to stronger conversions? Does it also map to how customers want to experience a brand?

Attribution Worries Continue to Haunt Marketers

Marketers appreciate the importance of attribution but questions linger on how to best approach it. A 2016 Econsultancy survey found nearly three quarter of respondents felt matching customers across multiple devices was a strategic priority yet “only 14% of marketers in the same survey said their company had the capability to handle such matching.”

Since then various consumer trends have emerged, buoyed by increasingly capable mobile devices. Retailers saw the rise of showrooming, a customer behavior of researching products and services in a store before finalizing the purchase online and webrooming, when customers conduct initial research online before seeing the product in person at a retail outlet. Competition has increased, especially as Amazon casts an ever-wider shadow, to keep customer attention and land a purchase.

The advent of social commerce is set to introduce still more new consumer behaviors to marketers. Social commerce will be just the latest challenge for marketers to establish attribution from when evaluating referral data in analytics. Proper attribution can help marketers allocate resources where they’re needed and will inform the evolution of your customer journey maps.

Related Article: Multi-Touch Attribution Has Come a Long Way

Where to Start With Social Media Attribution

People use social media to research brands and their offerings, so social media may be a useful attribution point to start with.

To start setting up attribution measurement, rank which social media platforms are referring visits that result in regular conversions. 

Ranking can highlight how much outside influences have affected different social media platforms. Apple’s ATT privacy protocol’s impact on social media platforms, for example, has varied according to recent quarterly earning reports. We found Facebook was impacted while Twitter and YouTube remain relatively untouched by the protocol. Examining the size of your brand’s commitments to those platforms can help determine if any concern about referring data is warranted.

The next question to ask is if the given referral traffic aligns with your desired audience demographics. You may be receiving a number of visits and conversions from Twitter, but if your strategy calls for younger demographics, boosting investment in TikTok over Twitter may be a better move.

Related Article: What the Game of Thrones Finale Can Teach Us About the Future of Marketing Attribution

Beginning to Analyze Attribution

The next step is to think about how to measure multi-touch attribution. With social media you are examining what is being used alongside social media to obtain the conversion.

You can use analytics or regression modeling to help reveal indicators in your data. Google Analytics, for example, allows for a conversion path analysis. It places conversion events into three touchpoint categories to help analysts determine which channel provided the greatest attribution.

As we discussed in a previous post on regressions, marketers can examine data for correlation, in this case data from streaming programming against conversions on channels. This can answer the value of second screens, as in many cases customers are using social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube to learn more about a product seen in a streaming program or mentioned on a podcast. Such an analysis can potentially determine if there is a significant conversion lift during streaming. 

Keeping Social Media Traffic Clean

One side note to keep in mind: Social media audits are essential for keeping data clear of automated bots in the follower count, as well as assessing who has consistently reshared brand content. It’s impossible to completely separate the genuine human activity from bot activity, but keeping a clean channel can protect downstream analysis like sentiment analysis from bad social results such as damaging data quality and stakeholder trust.   

Orchestrating attribution against a customer journey is complex. But a few basic starting points can simplify a brand’s opportunity to connect with customers and gain insights into which channels result in the most conversions from those connections. Choosing a starting point, such as social media, can bring a competitive edge and reduce attribution fears.

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business digital analytics consultancy. He reviews data from web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability.



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