Social Media Attribution

When I first started consulting on social media back in 2005, I was introducing blogs, wikis, podcasts and the newly -emerging social networks such as Facebook.

Both with my academic colleagues and with clients, one of the persistent questions was “How do I know I’m getting any benefit from these social tools?”

Seeing the impact of your social marketing relies on attribution, which is similar to the older metric of ROI (return on investment). Both are sometimes difficult to quantify.

ROI is a very dollars-and-cents measurement. You invested $1000 for an ad buy and it produced $5000 in sales. (Some might call that ROAS – Return on Ad Spend – but I’m being simpler here.) .

In a more detailed article on Buffer, attribution is said to assign value to the channels that drove an outcome. That might mean dollars but it might not. Attribution could measure a purchase or a web visit or a download.

It is a bit of reverse engineering or backward design because you re looking at something like someone signing up for your service or just a newsletter and tracing back to determine what channel or channels can be attributed to that event.

A simple example that doesn’t concern ROI is my own tracking of the referring sites for posts on this site. I can see if traffic to a post came from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, one of my blogs or just a search engine. When someone finds me via Google, I can see what search terms they used. Those results can be surprising. I might get a surge of traffic from a search or link on a site to “Erik Satie” or from “flat web design.”

touchpoints

Attribution is generally broken down as being in three modes: Last-touch, First-touch and Multi-touch attribution. (Take a look at this diagram from digitalthought.me about more on multi-touch models called Even, Time Decay, Weighted, Algorithmic, etc.

The first-touch attribution credits the first marketing touchpoint. For example, you run an ad and monitor how many contacts you came from that ad.

Last-touch attribution credits the channel that a lead went through just before converting. Maybe you ran an ad on Facebook which someone later tweeted and the lead came from the Tweet that linked to your site for a purchase, so Twitter gets the attribution.

Last-touch is easier to measure, but both single-touch models fail to show the complete and sometimes circuitous customer journey. That’s why multi-touch attribution is used. This gets much more complicated and more difficult to track. More complicated than the scope of this post. But as an example, the time decay attribution gives more weight to touchpoints closer to the final conversion event. If your original ad is the starting point but the final purchase came after a tweet that was retweeted and then posted as a link in someone’s blog a week later, the blog gets more credit (as a personal endorsement) than the ad although obviously none of this would have happened without the ad.

Back to that question I started getting in 2005 – it is important to remind clients that social media used for marketing and as engagement and brand-building may not always generate leads or sales directly but rather indirectly.

Attribution is more complicated than this primer, so you might want to check out these sources:

Crisis Response and Social Media Strategy

t-rex in the rearview mirror

Ready for a crisis when it appears?

Often when we think of a social media strategy, we think of marketing. Create a plan, make a content calendar, and build campaigns.  But organizations also need a strategy to respond to a crisis using social media (SM) and ones that emerge in SM.

Many organizations and boards use an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach for dealing with a crisis. But that ERM was probably overseen by an audit committee or some group other than a social media team. In fact, the SM team might not even be in-house. The traditional ERM might have originally considered things like disaster recovery (fire, flood, hurricanes) and had its purview expanded to oversee things like cyber readiness. A well prepared organization’s risk mitigation should also have pre-reviewed  SM responses ready.

Betsy Atkins, writing in Forbes, suggests that you prepare for your ten most likely risks. Having prepared such strategies and taught students to do so, I know that though there may be some industry typical risks that are obvious, you really need a list customized to your organization.

For example, Atkins suggests that for a restaurant, those risks might include a wide range from food poisoning, to a #metoo issue, or a breach of customer info, to an armed attack/active shooter.

She notes that the difference between Starbucks’ speedy response on an alleged racial bias issue contrasts poorly with the poor responses by United Airlines concerning passenger abuse removal scandal followed by a puppy suffocation death.

In a time when customers are more likely to tweet their anger with your organization or post a bad review, you need to respond very quickly and as proactively as possible. I was a MoviePass customer and I saw many complaints on social media about service and all received the same boilerplate “contact us privately” kind of response. I knew they were in trouble. Beyond the person who posted their complaint, there were many more readers of it who had the same issue or would have in the future and they saw that the company was avoiding any public response.

Is there any crossover between the marketing side of SM and the risk management side? There should be. Since I work frequently in higher education, I was interested in an article about how George Washington University is using campus influencers  to market for them. Using students, alums, campus leaders is not unique, though much of what you see online is probably accidental rather than intentional marketing. These participants received a package of GW “swag” and were asked to post about GW at least three times a month using the hashtag #GWAmbassador and attend at least two events at GW (tickets provided) each semester if they live in the D.C. area.

The article was vague on details but said that “officials” would provide these ambassadors with “expectations” about how to promote the given material. I hope those expectations are carefully worded and thorough in their coverage since you have designated these people as ad-hoc members of the marketing team. Are they disclosing that they were given the ticket to the event they are posting about?  If they wear their GW hat and sweatshirt at a gun control rally and post a photo without the official hashtag are they still representing the university at some level?

The campaign sounds okay, and the few examples I saw in Twitter seemed innocent enough. Are they ready to respond to a crisis emerging from it?