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The future of paid social: How to measure your success

Willem Blom
Willem Blom
Impact investor & Global SVP Growth – DEPT®
5 min read
21 September 2022

With the release of iOS 16 expected in September 2022, marketers are scrambling to develop strategies that will perform best in a privacy-centered future. Nothing as significant as the iOS14.5 and iOS 15 updates that changed digital marketing measurement is expected with iOS 16. Still, Apple and Google are expected to continue to prioritize privacy while also increasing user intimacy and convenience.

Before the release of iOS 14.5 in 2021, advertisers could use a unique tracking system that assigns each Apple device with a random number, the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), to measure clicks and purchases, allowing marketers to track attribution. Advertisers can get access to the IDFA data if Apple device users grant permission to advertisers through Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT). With so few users opting into ATT, marketers must transition from solutions that rely on IDFA data points to the optimization of insights for aggregate data.

With social media often serving as the first touchpoint with consumers, these are important interactions to track so you can develop these consumers into customers. In addition to the IDFA changes, iOS 14.5 shortened attribution windows across all social media platforms. A shorter attribution window can dramatically skew performance if the right metrics aren’t tracked and you don’t have access to the data.

Data-driven attribution

In 2021, Meta began offering four attribution windows 7-day click / 1-day view as the default for all new campaigns. As we know, not many consumers make a purchase upon their first website visit or ad click so a shorter attribution window can make it difficult to properly evaluate advertising performance. So, what’s an advertiser to do?

Advertisers leading in the attribution game today look at a few different data sources to model out how successful their marketing initiatives are performing. Those data sources include reports directly from the advertising platform, the advertiser’s source of truth. For many advertisers, this is Google Analytics (GA), as well as Match Market Test (MMT), backend data, and [for longer duration analysis] media mix modeling (MMM).

Paid social conversions tend to get attributed to organic search, paid search, and direct load channels under the GA lens due to users’ social media user behavior. Therefore, your analytics team must model how much credit to subtract from those channels and more accurately attribute those conversions to channels like social that had a significant impact on encouraging a customer to convert. This is the industry standard for modeling by using incrementality lift tests like MMT.

Maybe now you’re curious about social media in-app purchase performance. Measuring in-app checkout capabilities are good to test with cautious optimism as purchase volume continues to grow. Social media platform users are not yet comfortable relying solely on the information provided in social media apps to make purchases. Consumers choose instead to visit the brand’s website and search other social platforms to research and compare. In-app purchase experiences are not intended to replace the website; but rather to complement it. Brands should carefully curate the products that are made available via in-app purchases as it is in many cases the first impression a customer gets from a brand. Limiting advertising to the brand’s newest product drop or iconic product lines is the best strategy.

Social media channels still serve an incredibly important role in customer acquisition, despite what platform reporting may show.

So, what performs well?

For many brands, paid social ads are the first touchpoint audiences have with the brand. Brand-focused ads can educate the audience about the brand when making a first impression. Throughout a campaign, advertisers may feature multiple types and designs of creative on a variety of channels. It takes continued brand exposure, education, and entertainment to attract and convert consumers into customers. Brands that leverage attribution modeling can test and iterate ads to maximize return on investment.

In addition to creative that boosts the bottom line, advertisers partner with influencers to drive awareness and increase conversions. Influencer marketing is such a great strategy for connecting with target audiences that everybody is doing it now. As influencer marketing becomes mainstream, it can be harder for brands to stand out. Marketers need to more thoroughly vet influencers and deepen investment over longer periods to develop strong connections with the influencer’s audience. To determine the effectiveness of the influencer, of course you need data on how well the partnership performs. Influencers can be held accountable for attribution as measured in website referrals, content downloads and sales, brand awareness and engagement.

Your future starts now

There are many attribution models available to marketers today. Knowing how to interpret the insights from each model and which model to use when is a science. Our team at DEPT® can help make adjustments to your measurement strategy and framework to deliver a stronger return on investment for your advertising. We subscribe to the old adage, “work smarter not harder.” Click here to learn more about our industry-leading paid social media strategies.

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