How to Solve Attribution with Instagram and Facebook

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Published on
April 26, 2017

Want to make the most of your social branding and marketing strategy? Then you need to be on Instagram. Sure, Snap made waves with its IPO but if you’re looking for the Millennial (and post-Millennial) social sweet spot, the photo and video-sharing app is your best bet.  

Instagram Hit 700 Million Users

Look at the numbers: As noted by Equities, Instagram added more than 100 million users in the last six months, bringing its total worldwide up to 700 million. (Instagram announced on April 26, 2017 they hit this milestone!) What’s more, 80 percent of these users are from outside the U.S. and 400 million check their feed every day, giving your ecommerce store the potential for true global growth. And it doesn’t stop there: Estimates peg the growing “influencer market” as nabbing more than $1 billion in advertiser spending every year, with this number set to rise through 2020.  But designing a great Instagram marketing strategy takes more than an eye for pictures and a solid budget: Here’s what you need to know about maximizing your impact and accurately tracking your attributions.  

Strategic Planning

Business 2 Community puts it simply: The best time to create an Instagram strategy was yesterday. But if you’re just getting started, don’t worry. A few quick tips can help make sure feed is more flawless than floundering.

  • Photo First Sure, there’s text below the image but on Instagram your campaign lives or dies on the photo. So what are you snapping? Is your product center stage or are you looking to evoke a sense of culture or place? Pick a lane, be consistent — and if you get enough followers, consider allowing the submission of user-generated content.
  • Plan AheadEven if you’ve got a full-time social media team, take advantage of scheduling tools which help manage post distribution and timing. This gives you room to track and leverage any sudden social trend and removes the need for eleventh-hour posting.
  • Edit Yourself — Instagram filters are great, but can quickly take your photos from “compelling” to “crazy” if you lay it on too thick. The same applies to captions. Filter and write sparingly — let your content speak for itself.

The Facebook Factor

With your photos, scheduling and editing sorted out, you should be ideally positioned to make best use of Instagram’s impact for your ecommerce store, right? Not quite.  Here’s why. Back in 2012, social giant Facebook bought the fledgling social platform for a combined $1 billion in cash and Facebook stock. As a result, everything advertisers do on Instagram is linked back to Facebook — for example, all ads on Instagram are handled via Facebook Ads Manager settings, making it impossible to run a singular campaign through the photo-sharing app. No matter what you do, some of this content is also pushed through Facebook.  

 This also extends to impression and conversion statistics. The easiest way to measure this data is using a “Facebook pixel”, a one-line piece of code that gets embedded on your ecommerce site. This pixel reports when users go through or see an ad, and this data is then aggregated and reported by Facebook. The challenge? There is no “Instagram pixel”, meaning companies are struck trying to separate Facebook and Instagram-specific data to inform marketing efforts.  

Attribution Error?

Track Instagram Ad Spend

The Facebook-centric nature of current Instagram ad reporting tools means that companies are often faced with potential attribution error: Did impressions and conversions come from targeted Facebook ads, Instagram posts, or both?  While Facebook doesn’t offer the ability to separate and Instagram and Facebook campaigns, there are several ways to reduce the signal noise and get a better view of social ad performance. First, limit where you want your ad to display using the Facebook Ad Manager. Remove it from users’ timeline and right-hand side display, uncheck as many boxes as possible to produce a more Instagram-heavy set of metrics when marketing data is reported. Another option? The Facebook API recently began reporting Instagram and Facebook ads bins separately — using ecommerce reporting tools with the capability to tap this API gives you a better breakdown of Facebook versus Instagram ads.  Finally, there’s the problem of link shimming: In some cases, traffic to your site will be redirected using “shims”, which display as l.facebook or l.instagram in your Google Analytics account. These shims are effectively gateways which protect consumer data but result in “disjointed” referral data. Here, the right ecommerce tool can help collect, parse and unify disparate social sources to produce a more accurate picture of your advertising impact.  

Solving for “X”

The silver bullet for Facebook’s current implementation of Instagram ads? Right now, there’s no such thing. Ideally, the social giant will continue to refine its ad experience and differentiate the two platforms — this potential combined with the huge impact of influence marketing makes it critical to develop a social-first strategy for your ecommerce store — but it’s also possible to improve your immediate impact. Start with a solid Instagram strategy that focuses on powerful images and minimal text, then limit the scope of dual-track ads wherever possible. Finally, make use of tools which tap Facebook’s API to discover the impact of your Instagram efforts.  

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