Reproaching social media marketing’s vanity metrics is now almost a cliche. Unfortunately, many marketers continue to use them, and their limitations still hold true. Managers, directors, and executives don’t want to hear how many ‘likes’ or clicks a post received when they’re expecting business results.
Here is the problem: When ROI is framed in terms of the traditional social marketing metrics, trust is lost.
So how do paid media marketers - social marketers, in particular - build trust in the organization with the metrics they report?
We’ll answer this question, but first, let’s look into the history of mapping technology for context.
Maps and Mapping Technology
A couple decades ago, if you wanted to travel to a place that you had never been before, you had to rely on paper maps and your directional skills. You could go to AAA or another map store and purchase a map of the region you’re interested in, and then you would have to spend a few minutes orientating yourself with the area. Beginning with where you were and then where your target destination was, you had to figure out a path that would take you from point A to point B.
As the internet developed and became more ubiquitous, companies like MapQuest made important progress in mapping technology. You could tell them point A and point B and they would map out and give you step-by-step directions that you could print out. This is a big step forward, but it wasn’t without major limitations. What if there’s traffic on that route or a major accident? What if the road is closed for construction? What if you miss a turn? If there was anything unexpected, you’d be completely thrown off course. The directions were static.
Now, there are apps like Waze and Google Maps that have a lot more capabilities, such as re-routing to the best route available based on real-time conditions. The progress is obvious and it has changed how we think about traveling. Getting to a place we’ve never been before is no longer a worry.
Today, we have complete trust in our maps and the mapping technology behind it.
The history of maps is a lot like the history of marketing attribution. Businesses have always wanted to close the loop on marketing by connecting it directly to revenue. In closing the loop, they could better understand the customer and optimize the journey.
Decades ago, marketers knew how much they spent on marketing (point A) and they knew how much revenue they made (point B). Then, they had to figure out on their own how they got from point A to point B. It was largely a best guess.
Then came single-touch attribution. It’s progress, but it drastically oversimplifies the reality of today’s marketing. In a buyer journey that can often require dozens of touchpoints over many weeks or months, it’s not accurate to describe the journey and attribute the revenue credit using just one of the many interactions.
Accurately measuring the impact of B2B marketing is actually even more complicated than mapping a journey across the city. There’s multiple marketing channels, decision-makers, and more. In the world of maps, it’s like mapping a journey from point A to point B, but switching from walking to flying to driving to taking public transportation multiple times over, all while figuring out how to carpool.
And we’re back...
Ok, back to the original question as promised: How do social marketers build trust in the organization with the metrics they report?
In other words, how do we get to the Waze or Google Map-like stage in our social marketing measurement?
Social marketers can build trust in their metrics by using proper marketing attribution. (Attribution, quickly, connects marketing to revenue. If you’re unfamiliar, you can read more about attribution and how it’s different from other marketing measurement tools here.) Proper marketing attribution comprises a framework of three traits:
Multi-touch: it considers the entire journey, not just one touchpoint
Omni-channel: it uses common metrics for every marketing channel
Centralized: the sum is equal to its parts, no double-counting
With these three attribution characteristics, marketers can be sure that the metrics they report are accurate and meaningful. In short, they’re metrics your manager and executives can trust.
By using this data, you will be able to prove the value of your work, meaningfully answer questions from leadership, and grow your role in budget and scope.
At its simplest, multi-touch attribution gives fractional credit to multiple touchpoints along the buyer journey. This runs in contrast to single touch attribution, which give 100% of the credit to a single touchpoint (usually either the first touch or the last touch).
The issue with single touch attribution is that it creates channel bias. Because you choose to only use one touchpoint to represent the entire buyer journey, the rest of the marketing touchpoints receive zero credit. For example, in a first touch attribution model, the marketing channels that engage the top of the funnel receive all the credit. Therefore, they seem like they’re extremely impactful, while the rest of the marketing channels look ineffective. This is channel bias.
Multi-touch attribution and multi-touch models eliminate the impact of channel bias because they track multiple touchpoints throughout the entire buyer journey and spread partial credit. In a W-shaped model, 30% of the credit is given to each the first touch, the lead creation touch, and the opportunity conversion touch. The last 10% is dispersed equally among the remaining touchpoints.
With an attribution model like W-shaped, credit is given throughout the entire funnel, meaning no marketing channels are over or undervalued due to a channel bias in the model.
Switching from Single-Touch to Multi-Touch Attribution
At Bizible, when we switched from single-touch attribution to multi-touch attribution, the insights from the data caused a significant change in our Social strategy.
When we used single-touch attribution (a first-touch model), Social was being credited with driving 43% of our leads and 35% of our revenue. Without changing our marketing, but switching to multi-touch attribution measurement (a W-shaped model), we found that Social was actually driving 42% of leads, but only 27% of our revenue. That’s nearly a 30% difference in revenue (35% minus 27%, divided by 27%).
Social’s impact on revenue was being overstated because we used it as a top-of-the-funnel channel while also using an attribution model that was biased in favor of the top of the funnel.
With this new insight that Social wasn’t having the revenue impact that we previously thought it was, combined with the new ability to measure our marketing at each stage of the funnel, we adjusted our Social strategy to engage our audience at each stage of the funnel. We now promote content like blog posts and ebooks at the top, case studies at the middle, and then demo and trial-related content at the bottom.
Now that we’ve expanded how we think about and use Social, it drives 30% of our leads, but 31% of our revenue. Fewer leads, but more revenue. It’s a much more efficient use of our ads, the sales team is happier, and our ROI has improved.
Multi-touch attribution gets rid of channel bias, which creates data that managers trust and the marketing team can use to improve ROI.
Social does not exist in a vacuum. Just like in the mapping metaphor, cars must be aware of buses, trains, pedestrians, bikers, taxis, etc.
The second pillar of the framework is having an omni-channel view of your marketing measurement. In Social, you must use, track, and report on the same metrics that other channels are using. Likes and clicks don’t hold up when other channels are talking about pipeline and revenue.
Imagine a budgeting meeting, where the director of marketing or CMO is trying to decide how to allocate the budget for the next period.The events marketer reports driving 100 leads, which turned into 10 open opportunities worth $100,000 in pipeline and one customer worth $20,000 in revenue from two events that cost a total of $10,000. The search marketer reports driving 200 leads, which turned into 15 open opportunities worth $150,000 in pipeline and two customers worth $10,000 in revenue from their $10,000 in marketing spend. If the social marketer reports driving 5,000 social engagements with 75% positive sentiment and nothing else from $10,000 in marketing spend, what’s going to happen? To effectively optimize budget allocation, it needs to be possible to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
When it comes to teamwork and culture, 1 + 1 = 3 is a dream. When it comes to measurement, that’s a nightmare.
The third and final pillar of the social measurement framework is that your attribution has to be done centrally. When attribution isn’t centralized, you run into the problem of double counting.
Double counting is a problem that hits Social particularly hard because social marketers like to use social-specific measurement systems, be it Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, or a third-party social measurement tool. When you use social channel-specific conversion tracking as the basis of your attribution, none of the channels communicate with each other. Facebook Insights doesn’t check with AdWords Analytics before counting a conversion. So if you have a Facebook touchpoint on Monday, then an AdWords touchpoint on Tuesday, and then the visitor converts, both Facebook and AdWords will claim the full conversion. At the end of the month when you consolidate your marketing data, you’ll think you had two conversions, when in reality there was only one.
When your conversions don’t add up, you lose trust. Managers will ask questions and teams will point fingers at each other. That’s not how marketing measurement should work. Attribution should work for the marketing team, not cause problems.
Through centralized attribution, the channel data communicates with each other and allows for fractional credit to be allocated dependent on the attribution model. The sum is equal to its parts, which builds trust.
When we started using a smarter, more advanced attribution solution, and made changes based on the new insights, our performance improved. While Social’s contribution to our total leads dropped by 25%, it contributed to 10% more impact on revenue.
When marketing teams are able to optimize Social for business outcomes, not the marketing activity itself, they are able to prove a lot more value and build more trust and respect within the organization.