Do you know how your newest customers found out about your product or service? Perhaps you have a general idea about how they saw and clicked an ad, or that someone told them about it. But what if you’ve seen an ad multiple times on different platforms? Or was it a combination of newsletter information, social media posts, and word of mouth?

Depending on how long your sales cycles and customer journeys are, attribution modeling can be the solution to all of these questions. Some companies just need a general idea of ​​where their new customers are from, while others need detailed results. There’s an attribution model for everyone to help you make better use of your social metrics.

What is attribution modeling?

Attribution modeling in marketing assigns a value for the customer’s interaction points with the brand that led to the purchase. Models give you an idea of ​​where your customer came from. Attribution models work backwards from the purchase: How did the customer find out from you for the first time which interactions were important and what they saw or did immediately before the purchase. They can be as simple as checking referral sources of a web purchase, or as difficult as requiring a data analyst to do it all for you.

Why Marketing Attribution Models Are Important

Marketing mapping is closely related to ROI and will help you understand if your social strategy is working, which stages of the journey are most important or least important, and where to focus your marketing efforts. The ROI measures sales, while the allocation measures the impact.

In terms of the social media marketing funnel, attribution models credit the channels within the awareness and consideration phases that led to the conversion.

Attribution modeling in social media doesn’t just take the entire social channel into account. It is broken down which social media platform it is, what type of content such as a post, video or white paper and how often the customer had to interact before the conversion. Models also help you understand if your social media campaign is actually working. Fortunately, there are tools that make it easier to understand.

Before you dive in, learn about the different models to see which one is best for you.

The different marketing attribution models

There are three main types of marketing attribution models: first touch, last touch, and multi touch. Within the multi-touch model, there are additional types that assign weights to the various touch points.

In the following models we use the following scenario: Nina was thinking about buying new shoes. On Monday, her friend posted some new shoes they bought on Facebook with a link to the shoes’ product page. Nina visits the manufacturer’s website and receives Instagram ads on Tuesday showing her the company’s shoes. She clicks on one of these ads, has not yet bought, but signs up for the newsletter. On Thursday, she received an email from the company with a voucher that she clicked through and completed her purchase.

First-touch attribution model

The first-touch attribution model is pretty self-explanatory: it tells how the customer first heard about you. In our example scenario, the first-touch model would indicate her friend’s Facebook post as the source of the purchase. This is a simple model, but it also ignores any other interactions that were considered in Nina’s purchase.

It’s best used for campaigns and requirements that want to focus on the top of the marketing funnel.

Last-touch attribution model

The last touch attribution model does the opposite of the first touch. The very last interaction that the customer had before the final purchase is credited. In our example scenario, the final touch attribution model would credit the email newsletter as Nina’s source for the purchase.

Like the first touch model, it’s easy to track but also ignores the previous interactions Nina had. Last Touch is often the standard model and is great when you want to analyze where your traffic is coming from or when this is the metric of campaign success. For example, it can be shown whether the link of a Twitter post has directed the traffic to a target page. This is not the best option if you’re trying to measure the impact of your other marketing efforts before your last touch.

Multi-touch attribution model

Multi-touch models are more detailed, but also more difficult to follow. To measure the multi-touch mapping, the tools must be in place to track and analyze each touchpoint.

The linear multi-touch model gives each point of interaction the same weight. Nina’s interactions with the product: Her friend’s Facebook post, the web visit, the Instagram ad and the sending of the newsletter would all have the same credit weight. While this is an improvement over the first and last touch, it also assumes that each point of contact is the same as the next when in reality it probably isn’t.

The U-shaped model gives 40% for the first touch, 40% for the last touch and 20% for everything in between. This weight modeling recognizes that the first and last touch are most important to the customer, but everything else is still considered. In Nina’s case, the Facebook post and newsletter would get the greatest credit for her purchase. This model works well for short sales cycles and lower priced products where the customer typically doesn’t spend as much time buying.

The algorithmic model gives different weights for different touchpoints, adjusted based on your own data and performance. While it is the most accurate, it is also the most difficult to set up and may not be possible without the help of a data analyst. In our example scenario, Nina’s friend’s recommendation and the Instagram ads may have had a bigger impact on her decision than the email newsletter. The model would adjust to this and you could easily see which parts of the journey are most important.

Set up a social media attribution model

If you’re just starting out with creating attribution models for your social media marketing, it is best to take it step-by-step rather than delving directly into a complex, multi-touch model.

1. Decide on your social media goals

What’s the point of modeling when you have no goals to achieve? Learn how to set and meet your social media goals and find the social media metrics to match them. With measurable goals, the attribution models can tell you whether you’ve achieved them. Without them, the models are just another set of data.

2. Set up the UTM tagging

Urchin Tracking Modules (UTM) allows you to add tags to the end of a URL to keep track of where the link click came from, what type of traffic it is and whether it is associated with a particular campaign. UTM tracking on social media is important as it gives you more information about which networks to credit than just the social media channel.
Sprouts Premium Analytics offers the possibility to edit and add tracking parameters directly in the Compose window.
Tracking rules utm
URL tracking in Sprout also enables rules to be automated. They’re easy to set up and you don’t have to leave Sprout to manage your campaign.

Other options like Google Analytics and the Facebook Attribution Tool are also available to social media marketers. Note that the Facebook tool requires the pixel to be installed, which will also help you with your general Facebook advertising strategy.

3. Use shortened links or vanity URLs

A link shortening tool like Bitly takes a long link and shortens it to a unique one. With a paid plan, you can add a branding plan so that your company name is associated with each shortlink generated. Another big plus: Sprout integrates with Bitly so that all of your links can be shortened automatically.

4. Use surveys

Use a survey when you want to start testing the attribution model. For each generation of leads, add a question asking how they heard about you. That way, you will at least get an idea of ​​what marketing efforts are working, and what kind of attribution model can ultimately help you best track performance.


Marketing attribution models aren’t just for businesses. Small businesses can easily set up their own models to analyze the performance of their marketing. While the multi-touch model is the most accurate, the first and last touch models also have their use in social media marketing. If you want to delve further into attribution modeling, there are many software options out there that just focus on that.

For social media marketers who are just getting their toes in, a management platform like Sprout that lets you set up tracking models is the best way to go. Sign up for a free demo today to see how Sprout can help you with your attribution models.