Which Ad Gets Credit? About Facebook and Instagram Attribution

June 24, 2020
Posted in Paid Social
June 24, 2020 Dana Driskill

Which Ad Gets Credit? About Facebook and Instagram Attribution

Do you want to know the easiest way to start a debate among marketers? Start talking about attribution. For years, there have been heated discussions in marketing meetings around the world feverishly defending–or protesting against– terms like last-click, first-click, view-through, click-through, and many, many more. Some brands and businesses favor a last-click attribution model, which only gives credit to the last clicked referral source, even if the brand or business was first discovered via an ad on a different channel. Although there is no hard and fast rule as far as what attribution method makes the most sense for your brand or business when looking at your cross-channel marketing, it’s important to note how attribution works within the Facebook family of brands in order to fully understand performance in those channels.

Facebook (and Instagram’s) default attribution model is a last-click attribution model. But what does that actually mean? Well, for starters it’s important to note that from here on out we’re only talking about the internal reporting within Facebook. It would be wrong to assume that Facebook’s last-click attribution model means that Facebook only reports on the conversions that came from a last-click model, even if they first saw an ad on another channel. What it actually means is that Facebook credits the Campaign, Ad Set, or Ad that was last interacted with when a conversion takes place. OK, so you’ve got that understanding under your belt. But what does that mean in practice? Essentially, it means that the following could happen: your Prospecting campaign–targeting cold audiences–could serve an ad to a potential customer. The potential customer could click on that ad, but not make a purchase at that time. Later, the same potential customer sees a new ad, from a Consideration or Conversion campaign, and then decides to make a purchase. From Facebook’s last-click attribution model, the ad that was last interacted with prior to the conversion will be given credit, which in this case is the Consideration/Conversion campaign ad.

So now that you know the nitty-gritty, it’s important to understand what this means in terms of reporting. Given the example above, if you’re just looking at the conversion metrics, you might see a higher volume of purchases occurring in your Consideration/Conversion campaign and think that your Prospecting campaign is not providing optimal delivery. However, without the Prospecting campaign, you might not even have the audience to deliver the Consideration/Conversion campaign! In short, without first finding a warm audience, by delivering ads to a cold audience, you can’t assume An easy way to test this is to simply turn off your prospecting campaign (we don’t recommend doing this!); your conversions in the Consideration/Conversion campaign will surely drop. This picture becomes even more clear if Paid Social is your only, or main, marketing channel since your Consideration/Conversion campaigns might be retargeting traffic from other marketing channels (such as Google or organic traffic).

There are a few more details that are important to note about attribution within the Facebook family of brands. For starters, Facebook defaults to a 28-day click, 1-day view attribution window. If you’re scratching your head and are confused about what that means, don’t worry– We’re here to help. A 28-day click, 1-day view attribution window simply means that if someone completes a conversion event, like a purchase, 29 or more days after clicking your ad OR 2 or more days after viewing your ad, the conversion will not be attributed to your ad. Because of this 28 day click and 1-day view window, your reporting numbers may shift over time as your campaign runs and your campaign KPIs are not fully complete until 28 days after your campaign ends since conversion credit can still be attributed to ads that have been clicked on up to 28 days after clicking the ad. This is why many Facebook marketers notice the backfilling of reporting metrics. Did we lose you there? Here’s an example of what it looks like when reporting metrics are backfilled: On Monday, the marketer might see that 5 conversions were attributed to Sunday but on Tuesday that same Sunday may now be attributed with 6 conversions.  Take a look at the “Time to Conversions” chart below for an example of how conversions can occur in the days after a click or view. Considering this 28 day click/1 day view window, it’s important to make sure that you follow up on any important reports or reporting metrics 28 days after your campaigns have been completed in order to gather a true picture of your campaign’s performance.

For the reasons stated above, evaluating a singular Facebook campaign without taking into consideration the entire marketing funnel over the entire duration of the campaign’s reporting window can result in analysis or optimizations that may hurt overall performance. We always recommend setting realistic expectations for a Prospecting campaign and checking regularly on reporting metrics in order to see if data has been backfilled. By taking everything we discussed into consideration, you’ll be armed with what you need to know in order to properly assess and report on your campaigns!