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How Social Attribution Can Radically Improve Your Brand's Bottom Line

Written by Michael Knight, Senior Account Manager


Digital Marketing is far from cut and dry. Being able to spend budget and resources on channels that don’t always drive direct value is even more of a challenge. It can be easy to disregard the underlying principles that all channels are integrated and in some fashion work with and for each other to grow a brand. So, whether directly or indirectly, every digital channel plays a key role in recognition, perception, and long-term growth.


Over the past 16-plus years, social media has been a growing trend with platforms coming and going, with a handful who are able to take hold of the market, adapt, and grow with society and culture. Myspace started the social media push starting in 2003 with Facebook shortly behind in 2004.


Since then, social media platforms like Facebook have been changing the advertising and business model in a way that requires businesses to have a social presence to stay in front of current and potential customers. This takes us to our current social media model and how continual organic and paid posting continue to drive new and existing customers back to a business and their products or services.


Social advertising can be difficult to measure, but is a key part to any integrated digital marketing campaign. With the continued push towards pay-to-play social postings, in this guide, we will focus on paid social advertising and why it is important and how it may not always drive direct results, but ultimately improves the bottom line with multi-channel attribution.




Attribution is a way of knowing the value of any campaign and its involvement in the buyer journey. Whether B2C or B2B, multiple steps take place in the journey and funnel that the user took to make a final decision. Social Advertising is no different, but is not always the direct driver of sales.


However, throughout the buyer journey, social ads influence users to either learn more, become a lead, or ultimately make the purchase. The typical buyer journey looks something like this for a company in the Beauty and Fitness industry, like Planet Fitness.

Source: www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html


By looking at the path and overall interaction model, we can see that social is the first touch. This is usually because someone is looking at how they should work out, looking up beauty and fitness articles and seeing what their friends are doing to stay fit and healthy.


This can make it difficult to understand or draw back direct correlation to social campaigns having a direct effect. But in this case, without social they would not have taken the next steps of being more willing to engage with display ads or do further research on a brand, like Planet Fitness, through organic searches and then moving to generic or brand paid search based on their mid-funnel research.


In this model, there are 7 total steps a user takes before completing a purchase:

1. Social Interaction

2. Display Click

3. Organic Search

4. Referral/Paid Search

5. Email

6. Direct

7. Purchase


As we can see, there are a lot of steps that define the path to purchase, or in this case, membership sign-up. Social is not only the first interaction but a multi-assisted interaction put together by our own internal resources and overlapping the Google buyer-journey. With the continued move towards micro-moments, each individual touch point creates value towards a potential customer interacting and purchasing from your brand.


In this overlay, we can see the above social-assisted interactions also sprinkled throughout the buyer journey through specific interactions and influenced moments and micro-moments:

Interaction Model source: www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html

Social Overlay source: www.hanapinmarketing.com




In the first interaction, multiple social platforms are attributed to the final conversion/sale. Pinterest is used for workout ideas and health articles, so by creating Pinterest awareness campaigns, as an example, can direct readers to the website blog that outlines how muscle group classes can tone or help them lose weight. It could also be articles specifically referencing diet and the influence and partnership with scheduled workout routines.


Each social platform has campaign options based on buyer journey and attribution opportunities:



• Discovery

• Consideration

• Purchase/conversion


• Awareness

• Remarketing

• Website conversions


• Awareness

• Remarketing

• Website conversions




Now that there is an outline to social attribution, let’s look at the path in the journey and how social interacts with other channels and the bottom line. How is accurate reporting achieved and how is that reporting conveyed to show value in all campaigns?


First, educate on indirect sales and integrated marketing efforts driving towards the bottom line to help get this process started.


Second, use platform specific reporting to show each campaign types contribution and attribution that the social advertising campaign drove towards a conversion.


-This can be from a lead sign up, share, link clicks, etc.


Third, use Analytics either through Google or another Analytics platform to assess both direct and indirect sales attribution from paid social using two multi-channel funnels report types:


Assisted Conversions outlines all channels and their respective influence on both direct and assisted conversions to the website. By singling out our social campaign, in this example, we can see that the assisted conversion dominates the Facebook campaign influence. This shows that the social_cpc initiates the conversion, but does not correlate to the direct sale.


Source: analytics.google.com/analytics/web/#report/bf-assisted-conversions/


Top Conversion Paths portrays, based on that assisted to direct conversion value, where in the journey the social campaigns touched a user who did ultimately make a purchase. As we can see in the example, social, just like the vabove assisted conversion report, shows that users touched a social campaign early in their respective journeys, but also may have had multiple touch points, based on both social_cpc and referral social traffic in this report.

Source: analytics.google.com/analytics/web/#report/bf-top-conversion-paths/




As seen in the examples, paid social is an integral part of any paid advertising mix. It is crucial to the long-term success of other campaigns and the final website sales.


We’ve looked at a specific example for the interaction path based on beauty and fitness and seen that the journey starts with social and has a long-term impact on the final conversion. We have also seen that social advertising can show up in multiple spots within the conversion path, based on analytics, but typically assists in success versus directly driving it.


By using this information, think about how your business can achieve even greater results by looking at the larger, integrated advertising picture that will improve results and the bottom line by using social attribution to find success.