As advertisers and agencies begin to get a grasp of attribution and its role in multi channel marketing, a new kind of attribution is beginning to emerge in the social media space that measures the value of social media based on influence, actions and interactions.

The need to track, measure, and attribute away from last click metrics in search, display, and digital has gained massive momentum over the last year. 

Social media has always been ‘behind the pack’ when looking at attribution and monetisation. However, the increasing demand to be able to monetise social media and gain insight and understanding is at the forefront of the social media mind.

After all, brands are always ready to invest in channels that can be measured.

Many social media agencies were in fact early adopters on the road to accountability and measurement with some social media platforms were built around very intelligent ECRM systems, a fact often overlooked by many search and display marketers.

Value and distraction

The issue has been that, somewhere down the line, social media went a little off-track. An influx of social media agencies, experts, statistics on usage and growth, fancy PowerPoints with visuals, pictures, and high res images, did more for the social media ego than it did for the social media channel.

Budget holders like a nice presentation, but prefer to see data and results.

Data and the value of social media

We live in a data-driven world and operate in a digital ecosystem driven by accountability and measurement. Although many social people would prefer to work in a silo, the reality is that social media is now part of this huge ecosystem.

For social media to really take command of master budgets it needs to show how it contributes more to revenue. This can be done through working with other channels and by attribution modelling.

The client in the room, the guy or gal with the budget, wants to see the data, the evidence, the conversions, and the path and purchase value. In the social media world you need to show them the influencers.

Reality check: the ability to attribute gives you the ability to spend more

Last year's Econsultancy and Bigmouthmedia’s Social Media and PR report found that nearly half (47%) of companies worldwide still said “the jury is out” on the value of social media.

They still felt they were not able to measure the return on their social media investment and put a value on it relative to their other marketing activities. 

It will be interesting to see how the statistics have changed this year. If they have not changed significantly then social media agencies should be worried.

There is an urgent and imminent need for the social media space to address measurement and value in social media, beyond just talking about it.

Social media attribution. Too much noise and not enough measured contribution?

Facebook is entering a second wave of revolution as people move beyond just seeing it as a branding platform to a fully measurable and central point to focus advertising and media planning activity around consumer interaction.

Most of the metrics in social media are based around fans and Likes, and the key challenge for many is moving away from sentiment to action.  

Many clicks from social traffic don’t include data that is normally tracked through other campaigns such as search and display. 68% of Facebook users say that they follow friends’ advice when it comes to discovering and buying new brands/products. This means going ‘beyond the like’ and understanding the true value that social media interactions bring to the table.

One constant in the world of social media advertising (Facebook) is media spend. Each year we see projections rise. UK adspend on social media has increased 200% this year according to IAB.

Social media has to prove its worth beyond the hype, and show how it can be used as an engagement channel as part of the overall media mix and within its very own ‘social media mix’.

If the majority of interactions begin in social media then shouldn't this channel be leading a lot more planning and buying efforts?

The issue has always been that social media metrics do not always ‘follow’ suit with traditional ad-tracking technology and techniques such as those used in search and display.

Web referrer schemes don’t really fit too well with social media. Think about the large growth in mobile social data usage where web referral data is not passed on. 78% of people consume Facebook and Twitter content via mobile, so there will always be plenty of debate around the measurement of social media

Social media marketers are now beginning to show how ‘earned social media’ interacts and influences:

Placing a value on social media interactions

Social media agencies and technology companies are beginning to take great strides in formulating solutions that measure the value of social media channels, working with the Facebook social graph and connect as examples.

It is now essential that advertisers can understand not just who clicked on your advert or liked your products, but also have insight into the social effect of ads and web content.

They need to know who engaged, converted and interacted with their brand. More so, in order to secure further budget it is essential to be able to put a value of those interactions across generations of activity.

Attribution models in social media are based on the move away from last click attribution, just like with search and display models. They are different in terms of how they work, the data collected, yet still build upon multi-touch based approaches similar to the most advanced of attribution models. 

Social media attribution (although very singular - Facebook) looks at clusters of engagement and segments of user interactions to distinguish between converting and non-converting customers or fans and their corresponding degrees of separation.  

Social is rarely the last click and by capturing the way content is shared through a network marketers can identify the overall revenue generated no matter when the conversion takes place or by whom and attribute this to the initial user and the original ad.

See the example below (click image for larger version):

Source –

Social media attribution places a value of social interactions using cluster based/type technologies that tracks actions (likes, purchases etc.). From this both the viral nature of actions and conversions and the key influencer.

You may find that one person, for example, drives the majority of conversions through his ‘friends’ purchasing decisions.


Large strides are being taken to measure and show the value of social media interaction, particularly within Facebook.

The companies that will stand out and survive in social media will have both the technology and insight to help them understand, attribute, and measure spend by showing the value of social media. 

They will be able to do this in three areas:

  • Within a social network - ‘singular social media channels’ such as Facebook.
  • Part of an ‘extended social network’ i.e.Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so forth.
  • As part of full media attribution across all digital channels, search, display and video being its closest links to measurement and value.

Collectively this should give marketers the ability to calculate the true monetary return on investment of their social campaigns, before feeding this back into an intelligent ECRM system and adapting and targeting media spend as part of a continuous cycle. 


Published 28 September, 2011 by Andy Betts

Andy Betts is a digital marketing strategist working with agencies and direct advertisers. He blogs here, and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Nick Stamoulis

"Social is rarely the last click"

And that right there is why it has proven so hard to accurately measure the value of social media marketing. How many times did a visitor see your company's Tweets or Facebook posts before they did a branded search for your company in Google?

almost 7 years ago



Thanks Nick

I agree - it will never be completely measurable. It is ever so more difficult to measure and attribute between multiple social channels. In fact - it is easier to measure socials relationship with search and seo in some ways.

I do think that measuring value within a specific channel (ie Facebook) is a great start though and gives budget holders that little bit more confidence in how their budget is being spent and allocated

almost 7 years ago

Tom Griffiths

Tom Griffiths, Digital Team Lead at Browser Media

I think the point that the "companies that will stand out and survive in social media will have both the technology and insight to help them understand, attribute, and measure." is key but what I'd apply is the 'so what?' mentality.

What I keep seeing is social media tracking - whether brand sentiment, customer action, or audience clustering - without the strategy. It's like brands of old setting up Google Analytics and getting loads of data but not knowing what to do with it. Planning agencies can work with the data, digital agencies can work with it, but there is a gap for an agency that really harnesses the 'technology and insight' and marries it with consultancy / strategy that can then feed the data back upstream effectively.
Aside from 'my brand's bigger than your brand', there is a gap between using data to optimise a campaign and using it to develop a future strategy.
All stats and no thought makes Facebook a dull campaign.

almost 7 years ago



stats are dull - its social media and nothing is going to totally trackable. Thats an impossible task. I am a big believer in specialism and there is definately a gap between technology,insight and strategy (it is not as cicular as it should be) - this is the same for many forms of digital media and not just social. The point I am making is that there needs to be a balance between measurement and strategy. I think you agree :)

almost 7 years ago


Anna OBrien

Measurement is hard in any channel. Why do people like to pretend social media measurement was going to be any different? There was a great academic work down on finding an unusual, but practical measures for hard to measure things ( the name of which is currently escaping me). For example, instead of asking users hat exhibit at a museum was most popular, the researchers instead measured the amount of the wear on the floor in front of the display.

In many ways I find any type of media measurement to be the same. Yes, standard metrics will tell you part of the story, but it's the clever metrics that can really help bring value and worth to a campaign.

almost 7 years ago


Debbie Bruce

I think the appeal to most people about social media is that it eliminates all the rules that apply to business and politics. I understand the attempts to monetize and measure, but then it becomes less social and more media.

almost 7 years ago



thanks for the comment Anna - what your measure is just a valuable as 'if you measure'. would love some more ideas on 'clever metrics'

almost 7 years ago



Hi Debbie - I do agree that it elimates some of rules that apply to business. However - it is also born of core physcholgical and marketing driven principles. Technology and reach has made it difficult to conform to political agendas. That said - that, in itself, creates a political ecosystem with a 'new set of rules' and far less governance. I would hate to see it go less social but at the same time it is 'media' and hence some aspects have to be measurable.

almost 7 years ago

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