Marketing and Social Media – An attribution model will display its attributes

Our agency has migrated from using traditional direct response channels to a host of new media vehicles including social media. While we continue to employ direct mail (particularly to identified prospects and customers), television, print, the three S’s – SEO, SEM, and Social Media are fast gaining in overall marketing usage.

An article in emarketer notes that social media marketing has not gained share even faster due to a lack of marketer confidence in its effectiveness to move the proverbial needle.
It’s not that marketers don’t believe social media is a viable channel. But clients (and rightly so) want to have empirical evidence of the effectiveness of Social Media marketing not to mention SEO and SEM.
I’m currently in San Francisco for the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference. I was at the DMA Agency council breakfast this morning where this topic is a constant at our meetings over the past two years. As marketing agencies add to their tool kit the term ‘media agnostic’ is often used. That is to say agencies are not to care which channel is used as long as it is effective. I pointed out (with a nod to my associate and friend David Adelman of OCD Media) that we are better served being media cognostic. To know about all the various channels and make the right choices for our clients so that we can truly serve them in the most effective way.

Even if a channel falls outside of a core competency our job is to find the appropriate partner and bring that partner to the table on behalf of our clients. But what’s needed even more are attribution models that more clearly demonstrate how all the channel moving parts are working together. These are complicated models and requiring of substantial amounts of research. The payoff is a better understanding of how social media (and other channel) efforts contribute to actual product sales.

Intuitively we know that conversations on Facebook and Twitter centered around products and services increase brand identity and in turn sales. Yet we also know the customer is in control of where that sale occurs whether online or at a retail location. And the customer buying paths are not necessarily linear.
So as we build our own attribution models we expect to have that hard evidence that social media is directly contributing to product sales as well as consumer awareness. Just saying it works and expecting your client to buy that is why the adoption curve has been so slow.

What do you think?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
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8 Responses to Marketing and Social Media – An attribution model will display its attributes

  1. Jim Fennell says:


    I think that part of the reluctance to adopt social media is that brands are not exactly sure how to engage with their consumers through it.

    Recent thought indicates that social media channels are best used in customer service/relations. Harvard Business Press published an excellent book on the topic last month. In essence, social media has empowered the individual consumer to impact the brand conversation as never before. Brands must monitor these conversations and interact with consumers when they can make a positive difference. However, they should not “push” messaging through social media – consumers will disengage and the conversation will end. Advertising should be left to traditional channels.

    I agree that quantifying social media initiatives is imperative but the traditional methods (eyeballs, sales lift, etc.) don’t cut it here either. Fortunately quantification is simpler when viewed from a customer service perspective, i.e. positive vs. negative posts/press, customer issues resolved, etc.

    It’s a fascinating topic that’s bound to evolve and gain more significance. Have a good meeting!



  2. markkolier says:

    Thanks Jim. Attribution models will have to suffice as the best measure of sales engagement over and above the contribution to the brand conversation. Have not read that particualar book as yet but will take a look.



  3. Ad Majorem says:

    Nice post. I\’m not a fan of the term \"media agnostic\" for reasons described at the link below.

    I\’m intrigued, however, by your term \"media cognostic.\" Is this like being cognizant of various channels?


    • markkolier says:

      Thanks for your comment Steve and I agree with your take in your good post on being ‘media agnostic’. And yes being media cognostic is absolutely being cognizant of the various available media channels – and more importantly knowing how and when to employ them whether that expertise comes from within or from an outisde partner.


  4. I first heard the term “media agnostic” in 2003, when the Detroit office of D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles chanced its name to chemistri. All of their talk about not focusing on traditional media channels was pushed by their biggest client, General Motors.
    Since then, D’Arcy (now defunct) and many other ad agencies have still kept pushing TV executions because that’s where they could make their money & other newer channels weren’t in their areas of expertise.
    Many clients also are afraid of social media because they have to give up control of their brands. But Ford Motor Co. has certainly shown, with ROI metrics, that it works and indeed has set the bar high for all brands, auto or not.


    • markkolier says:

      DM B & B – wow you are taking me back in time – I remember D’arcy McManus Masius before they were with Benton and Bowles. We are actually using the term ‘media cognostic’ – the agnostic term just does not seem accurate nor does it feel right. Like your take Jean and thanks for the comment. Cheers.


  5. Mark –

    You are so right on – Brands are not willing to invest in channels which cannot be properly measured…and I can’t blame them!

    As to “how all the channel moving parts are working together..”, that technology exists today in full funnel attribution technology.

    The only limitation is that some of the channels (such as Twitter), do not allow the integration of a 3rd-party view-through pixel…but its only a matter of time.

    I recommend you check out the White Paper called “The Hushed Hidden Gaps of Online Media Tracking” as it demonstrates the measurement of Social Media as part of full funnel attribution (


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