By Rob Birgfeld on November 5, 2009
Today I found myself at a session at Ad:Tech New York that I figured wouldn’t have a thing to do with social media. I figured wrong. In a session called The New Consumer Funnel: Engagement Mapping and the Death of the Last Click Reporting Standard, I was introduced to some new research that could potentially mean a lot to those searching for social media ROI. The findings presented by Esco Strong, director at the Microsoft Advertising Institute, suggested that the “last click” — as in the final click before a conversion or sale of a product — currently gets all the credit for that successful conversion or sale. This model is fundamentally flawed. Before we get to how this revelation affects social media efforts, let’s back up a second for a little context. When evaluating return on a marketing investment, most marketers look at a “conversion funnel” of 14 days, at most. More often, they base their metrics simply on the “last ad” (search engine ad, display banner, etc.) that led directly to a sale. According to this Microsoft Advertising Institute study, however, users interact with an average of 2.2 other ads from the same brand over two days before the conversion. Doing the math, let’s expand the conversion funnel to 90 days, in which case the user is exposed to an average of 18.5 ads over a three-month period. Strong’s operating theory is that all of these interactions play a role in the final conversion, and they should not be discounted when quantifying ROI. According to Strong, 94% of touch points in today’s “last click model” are thrown away and not given any credit for a sale. So what does this mean in the world of social media engagement? We’ve got a way to go to connect the dots here — but like Olivier Blanchard has suggested in his brilliant Basics Of Social Media Roi presentation, it’s critical for businesses to develop a baseline and timeline as part of their social media strategy. If you’ve seen a rise in conversions from search marketing, display advertising or content marketing since you began your social media efforts, chances are that shift is about more than adjusting a few keyword groups. Social media engagement — done the right way — can and will continue to affect customer perceptions of your brand. Social media is a key piece of that 90-day funnel to a sale and should get as much credit (if not more) as the other players in an integrated marketing campaign.