Study Calls for New Social Measurement Models

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Findings have been released from the latest Adobe Digital Index report that evaluates how marketers measure the impact of website traffic from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, YouTube and Yelp.

Adobe analyzed more than 1.7 billion visits to more than 225 U.S. companies’ websites in the retail, travel and media industries, concluding that marketers significantly underestimate the value of social traffic.

“As an industry, digital marketers have been quick to add social media to the marketing mix but have perhaps not considered new and better ways to measure this complex channel," says Aseem Chandra, vice president of Adobe's digital marketing business. "This study shows that marketers tend to default to traditional direct measurement models. Better measurement of social marketing will lead to better ROI.”

Key report findings include the following:

- The use of last-click attribution, the most common attribution model used by marketers, may cause marketers to undervalue social media’s website impact by up to 94 percent.

- First-click attribution models more accurately capture the benefits of social media in engaging customers earlier in the buying process.

- Significant differences in the results of first-click vs. last-click attribution data for various social media sites may cause marketers to change how they allocate the budgets across social and other digital channels.

Last-click attribution assumes that the marketing channel most responsible for a consumer’s behavior is the channel the consumer last touched before a visit or purchase. First-click places responsibility on the channel the consumer first touched.

Social media creates an environment in which brands can build awareness and engage with prospective and existing customers early in the purchase process. By ignoring the value of these earlier interactions, last-click attribution gives disproportionate credit to the marketing channels customers use late in the purchase process, potentially undervaluing the role of other channels in building awareness, engagement and ongoing relationships between customers and brands.

In contrast, first-click attribution gives social media more credit for these earlier interactions. The difference between last-click and first-click is significant and has the potential to change the way companies allocate social media budgets.

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