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Facebook Gets Social: Facebook Attribution and the Advance of Cross Channel Attribution for Social

Fairly attributing credit to Paid Social campaigns has been a difficult task with only tools such as Google Analytics to hand. Though platforms as GA are often interpreted to be the "single source of truth",  Social channels can fall short by receiving a only partial representation and inclusion of their touch-points. This being owing to the "walled gardens" that exist.

The current state of play

With platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter refusing Google Analytics (360) access to impression level data, the view of social channels within GA 360 has always remained incomplete. Not only does this lead to difficulties when determining the place and relation of your Paid Social campaign in comparison to the wider media mix, but has also entailed that Paid Social's true value has often been questioned. Primarily as its incomplete portrayal within the platform (especially in comparison to the native figures), has caused it to appear under-performing compared to other channels (to know more read this article).

Facebook and Google's Walled Garden

So, what is Facebook Attribution and what problems does it solve?

The arrival of Facebook Attribution has therefore been welcomed within the attribution landscape as it stands as a new and free measurement tool that allows you to more easily and effectively incorporate social impression data alongside other channels. Facebook Attribution allows you to assign credit across various publishers, devices and channels by leveraging your Facebook pixel and its recorded conversion data. Facebook Attribution, at a minimum, will thus help to view paid activity through a new lens.

Contrary to other Attribution offerings, set up of this platform is straightforward. In fact, Facebook Attribution will automatically classify the source of your traffic using source indicators such as UTM tagging you are likely to already have implemented and in use. Yet, if you are looking for a more sophisticated mode of integration that also incorporates other channels cost, impression, and click data, Facebook offers this too. An incredibly vast array of platforms (including but not limited to Google Campaign Manager, Google Search Ads 360, Bing and Flashtalking) can be integrated using auto-generated templated click and view trackers that Facebook will generate. 

After implementing these tags, and setting up cost file uploads via SFTP transfer, you will be able to view more accurate and enriched data, as well as additional metrics such as ROAS and CPA. Mobile app event data can also be incorporated, provided you have the Facebook SDK implemented correctly.

Facebook Attribution Report Example

So, what can Facebook Attribution do?

Aside from providing the potential to incorporate Facebook and Instagram impression level data alongside other channels, which is already a large step forwards, Facebook Attribution provides a great range of different features that should be taken note of. All of which can assist more detailed and granular attribution analyses than previously possible. You can discover our top four new features below:

Attribution Modelling:

  • Facebook Attribution offers six different attribution models within its new platform. These being: Last Click, Last Touch, Positional, Even Credit, Time Decay and Data Driven. Since previously no Attribution models were available within the Facebook Ads interface, this introduction makes it much easier to now analyse the position of Facebook (and other channels) within the customer path to conversion.

More Granular Lookback Windows:

  • On top of the addition of new attribution models, Facebook has also extended the available lookback windows from 1 day --> 28 day to 4 hours --> 90 days. This comes as a benefit for businesses with much longer consideration windows, for example, or those which place less of an emphasis on view-through conversions (as this can be narrowed to as little as 4 hours).

Incorporate Offline Conversion Data:

  • Another striking advantage is that in-store POS sales data can be uploaded into the Facebook platform and matched against the Facebook user-base, using identifiers such as name, email or telephone number.
  • Not only does this typically have a much better match rate than google owing to extra depth of data Facebook has, but once the upload process is complete this data can be integrated into the Facebook Attribution Platform. The scope of the platform hence goes beyond online data alone, and transfers to the impact of online advertising on offline sales.

Cross Device Tracking Capabilities:

  • By relying on People Based as opposed to cookie-based tracking (think persistent Facebook logins across multiple devices), Facebook Attribution can also more easily patch together a single user’s multiple touch-points across multiple devices, as compared to platforms as GA.
  • By making use of Facebook Attribution’s Cross-Device Path reports, you’ll therefore be able to shed light on your users cross-device tendencies, and the extent to which your users’ conversion paths may be fragmented when viewing them elsewhere

So, what’s the catch?

Although Facebook Attribution is a great step forward, there are, of course, some limitations to consider. Below we have listed a few:

There’s no backdating data after set-up:

  • Facebook Attribution will only begin to collect, process and display data from the day you set it up. There’s no way to see or retrieve historical data at all. We’d therefore recommend you set up your account right away (if you haven’t already!) in order to obtain the most of the platform and its benefits.

The Data-Driven Attribution model applies to Facebook Data only:

  • Despite being the most sophisticated model on offer within the platform, the DDA model currently only reports on Facebook data and does not apply to other channels.

Impressions cannot be incorporated from all other channels:

  • Though we can finally gain Facebook and Display impressions in one place (providing the correct tags are implemented) the picture still isn’t complete. No impressions can be gained from YouTube in-app, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and any other social channel.

You cannot use it for bidding/direct optimisation

  • Since Facebook Attribution is accessible through a different menu from Ads Manager, it is as if it sits in isolation from the Ads Management Platform. The enriched data it provides is thus not directly accessible and applicable within the day-to-day general Ads Manager view. This therefore means that optimising off the back of this data is not streamlined, especially as this data doesn’t yet factor into the bidding options/optimisation goals available to use. Since attribution is nevertheless a long term journey, having a one click solution runs the risk of being too short-sighted, which can be counter to the initial aim. 

Facebook Attribution Concluded

Despite its many great features, no new product comes without its flaws. The release of Facebook Attribution has certainly been a big step forwards in terms of Facebook’s Attribution offering and the insights, visibility and reports one can access. We do, however, suggest that it not yet be taken as the single source of truth. Instead we suggest it be used in tandem with Google Analytics 360 and other tools, rather than as a standalone solution. To read more about our recommendations when it comes to this, consult our article on how to use Google Analytics 360 and Facebook Attribution together

Finally, and most important, it is fundamental to note that there is no perfect attribution solution: every platform has benefits and limitations. On top of that, other external factors such as ITPs and GDPR are big restrictions in considering the attributed value of a channel. That is why we recommend an ongoing testing approach, which enables a continuous evaluation of channels that are the most impacted by the loss of impressions e.g. Social and Display. Geo tests, A/B tests, incrementality lift tests and many others are some of the methodologies that can be used to gain additional insights in cases when data cannot be stitched together and impression data is lost. In order to learn more about these methodologies and the future of attribution, please read here. 

As always, if you have any questions or just want some advice on how best to approach Facebook Attribution, please get in touch with our experts.