Oftentimes, brands treat paid social media as they would traditional direct response channels – looking exclusively at bottom-funnel results without considering social’s unique strengths.

In the end, of course, all of your digital marketing platforms should drive quality results for your business. Yet in today’s world where consumers are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 digital ads each day, it is increasingly important for marketers to form a 360-degree analysis of paid social media as part of their broader digital ecosystem.

Here are 3 key data points that can help you determine the efficacy of your paid social media efforts.

Metric 1: Engagement Rate

We live in the age of the infinite scroll.

Social media users, in particular, are in a constant state of content consumption. Marketers’ challenge is to serve ads that feel native to a user’s feed, so as to not create an intrusive experience, while also being “thumb-stopping” enough to break the ceaseless scrolling.

Studies show that you have less than 3 seconds to capture a user’s attention. That’s 3 seconds to present your brand, make a case for the user’s time, and establish recall.

Social advertising, like billboards or taxi toppers, is an emotional forum, and users are more inclined to engage with ads that speak to them on a deeper level than “buy my product”. That’s why today it is important to measure a user’s affinity for your brand through emotional metrics like engagement rate or view rate, which indicate what percentage of the impressions you served resulted in a meaningful user interaction.

Coupling engagement with social-specific metrics like comments and shares can help you index higher on the things your target audience cares about and craft effective messaging to ensure your voice is not lost in the cacophony.

Metric 2: Session Quality

The savviest advertisers know that paid social media campaigns are an excellent way to pressure test your site, experience or product without relying on inherent demand (or lack thereof) to deliver an audience.

Since you are effectively buying audiences and not intent, paid social media advertising allows you to collect feedback or test UX changes in a controlled atmosphere. That, in turn, helps you gain learnings more quickly than if you relied on organic-search or direct site traffic.

Once your prospective audience is acquired on Facebook and brought to site, you can use average session duration or bounce rate to speak to the quality of the landing page experience and determine how a particular page is faring against your site average or other specific pages.

Beyond this, using social to generate results allows you to scrutinize the actions users take after arriving on your site. Using a “behavior flow” metric, you can determine where in the funnel users are dropping off the site or where they are most keen to explore next. With this information in hand, marketers and webmasters can make more informed design or UX changes.

Metric 3: Assisted and View-Through Conversions

Unlike paid search or SEO, paid social media is not an intent-based platform but an audience-based platform.

Users who see your social ads are not actively seeking out your product, but based on targeting/brand alignment, are people who could be interested in your product. As a result, the inherent relationship between the advertiser and the user isn’t active search to desired result, but passive interest to further consideration to desired result. Therefore, a longer consideration window and additional touchpoints are often required.

Advertisers too often rely exclusively on last-touch (or last non-direct touch) attribution models to determine whether or not to invest in specific channels, but this is a problematic way to approach social media analysis.

First, a last-touch model fails to take into account the user interactions that took place prior to conversion. The user might have first been introduced to your product via Twitter, clicked through to your site, taken an additional week to weigh their options, conducted a search and finally converted via a paid search ad.

In this instance, last-touch attribution would not consider that the purchase intent was cultivated on social a week prior to conversion. Instead, it would attribute the sale to paid search. Yet without the initial assist from a Twitter ad, the conversion may not have happened at all!

Second, last-touch attribution does not take into account users’ propensity to open a separate tab or window after seeing a social ad. Given the interruptive nature of social advertising, it is often difficult to convince a user to click out from their session. That’s why apps like Instagram are building in-platform shopping experiences to reduce the friction between discovery and purchase.

In the absence of in-platform purchase options, marketers must look closely at a user journey that doesn’t contain that connecting click. In a last-touch model, all the credit would be attributed to a direct site visit, without giving weight to the social view interaction that inspired the purchase.

The Final Word

In the end, as users’ attention span decreases year-over-year and digital ad inventory becomes more saturated, paid social media advertisers will need to expand their view of which factors actually drive business results. Last-touch attribution offers insight into the very bottom of the funnel, but it’s important to consider how social touchpoints can play a role in the customer journey.

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