Tracking the effect of social media can be a challenge, particularly in regards to attributing conversion rates and sales in areas such as eCommerce. A study just released by Adobe puts social as the source of 2% of traffic to U.S retailers, in comparison to 40% coming directly, and 34% from search.
That’s probably accurate in terms of direct traffic sources to those websites, but it’s not the whole picture. And I have a particular example to illustrate it.
Time – an enemy of attribution?
Back in 2004, a film named Fröken Sverige was released, starring Alexandra Dahlströhm. It was the same year Facebook launched for Harvard students, the year after the arrival of Myspace, and two years before Twitter arrived. It was also the first film to star Dahlströhm since her debut in 1998, in a great Lukas Moodyson film.
In March, 2007, I joined Twitter.
During the next two years, I met a lot of great people online, and followed up by meeting a fair number of them in person. One of the people I started following and occasionally chatting with was @Sizemore, who is best described by his About page as writing for TV and film.
He’s a great example of someone who I would have never probably met if not for social media, and whose tastes are generally not too far from my own – and when they are, there’s normally still things of interest in there.
So I noticed when he praised Fröken Sverige in 2009.
And added it to my Amazon wish list, plus bookmarked it as a film to buy. But at the time, it was pretty expensive. It was also impossible to find on streaming services, and I even checked whether it could be found on any sharing sites.
Now more than 3 years later, I happened to be going through old lists and decided to see whether it was available for a more reasonable amount. A secondhand copy was on offer at a decent price, and a few days later it arrived – it’s now sat next to my laptop to encourage me to finish work so I can finally watch it!
So that film took 9 years to arrive in my house, 3+ years after a personal recommendation from a website, and probably 4+ years after I happened to start following Sizemore on Twitter.
There’s no cookie or tracking software which can account for that. And yet, that purchase would not have happened if I hadn’t signed up to Twitter and spent time actively using it.
Can the gap be closed?
Is there any way to close that knowledge gap for a retailer, without either largely removing the privacy of a consumer by tracking and cross-referencing everything they’ve ever seen (Which could be a potential end goal for Google and Facebook)? This particular example stuck in my mind, but the same process is happening much more often and is going uncredited by me, let alone analytics software.
Or should we accept that some circumstances are just unknown, and online word-of-mouth is at least more visible than the offline equivalent?
With current technology, I’d suggest that the trending growth of social media traffic and attributable conversions is an indicator of how it’s really changing, but that it underestimates the impact by a considerable degree. It’s easier for clients who have traffic-based businesses, such as media companies – they just need people to visit their site, which is an instantaneous decision.
It’s also why I always recommend combining a variety of traffic sources, and making allowances for how accurately each can be traced.
But I wonder if any conversion rate specialists have other answers? We’ll be posting a follow up on Wednesday with some answers to this challenge.