How marketers capture and measure social contributions will rapidly become the secret to giving media its due. Many continue to develop sophisticated cross-channel attribution models in an attempt to address complexities. Adobe this week released a report that analyzes the best ways to measure the impact of social media, and more accurately attribute its value to campaigns.
The research -- compiled from social media analytics experts, and analyzing 1.7 billion visits to the Web sites of more than 225 U.S. companies in the media, retail and travel industries -- revealed three key findings. For starters, the last-click attribution model, the most common measurement used by marketers, undervalues social media's role when it comes to engaging customers earlier in the buying process.
Second, the first-click attribution more accurately captures the impact of social media, increasing its value by up to 94%. And thirdly, this increased value becomes significant enough to change how marketers prioritize investments in social media sites and allocate spend across digital channels, according to the report.
Marketers allocate budgets to the media channel achieving the credit. Those who use the last-click model give it to search campaigns, assuming the Google or Bing paid-search ad drove the conversions. The report argues that the digital paths consumers take are rarely straightforward, and marketers must consider the side steps consumers take before making a purchase or downloading content.
The report takes the conversion back to a "Like" on a Facebook Fan page. Let's say the consumer first noticed that a friend clicked a "Like" button on a retail brand's Facebook post containing a link for a discount offer on shoes. "The consumer clicked the link, visited the retail site, and explored the offer before leaving the site. Then, a few days later, the consumer searched for the site on Bing, saw the paid ad, and purchased the shoes," for example.
While the Facebook post drove the initial visit, without the Bing or the Google ad the consumer might not have returned to make a purchase. Using a first-click attribution model, Facebook would get credit for the purchase because it drove the first visit, whereas Bing or Google would receive credit with last-click attribution.
If the consumer's path to purchase was even longer and involved more channels, attributing credit to each site along the path becomes very challenging.
The report notes that the impact of social media on Web sites is typically higher when measured with first-click attribution models compared with last-click models. Analysis shows that the gap can be significant. Using first-click attribution for the retail Web sites analyzed, the average visitor from social media sites delivered $1.13 in revenue.
In contrast, according to the report, when using last-click attribution, the average visitor from social media generated $0.60. Revenue per visitor is nearly twice as high -- at 88% -- for social media if first-click attribution is used.