Tracking the confusing reality of the cross-social experience

As users move across different channels, how do you keep track of the customer experience? Columnist Blaise Lucey explains how to create a cross-channel metric that can travel with the customer.


I found out about comedian Mike Birbiglia’s movie, “Don’t Think Twice,” on Twitter. Someone else had tweeted about how Questlove, the drummer for The Roots, had posted a great review of the movie on his Instagram account, so I clicked the tweet to the Instagram post.

I didn’t see a trailer for the movie or visit the website before seeing the film. I went right from social media to the offline product itself.

This kind of cross-social experience is becoming increasingly common. About three-quarters (74 percent) of consumers rely on social media to make a buying decision.

People tweet questions about products and ask for recommendations on Facebook. They visit Google Reviews, Amazon and Yelp. They look at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. They’ll find an interesting, new product on Imgur or Reddit.

The cross-social journey is the natural user experience as people travel between ecosystems. So where do marketers even fit in when so many customers are discovering and researching products beyond your website? And how can you measure the impact of so much earned media?

Defining the cross-social experience

Research shows that, on average, people spend nearly two hours a day on social media. That accounts for 28 percent of all the time spent online. So if you’re trying to get a customer’s attention, your best bet is to get found on social media.

Most cross-social experiences are organic. Rather than ever being exposed to owned media or paid social ads, social media users rely on earned media to make decisions — 66 percent of consumers trust opinions that are posted online.

My journey from discovering the movie to deciding to get tickets did not take me — once — to the movie’s website. The closest I got was a quick visit to Rotten Tomatoes to check out whether the aggregate of everyone’s opinions indicated that it would be a good (fun) use of my time.

This is a marketer’s worst nightmare. How would the marketing team behind the movie ever know that Questlove made me aware of the film in the first place? And that he made me aware of it because someone else shared his review on a different social network?

As users travel across different channels, the channels themselves lose sight of them; that’s how you end up with so much dark traffic and why 90 percent of marketers can’t actually measure the ROI from social media.

The quick fixes for cross-social

The big challenge of trying to track the results of a cross-social journey is that you have to rely on one analytics platform to measure results from each channel. That’s especially a problem if the platform isn’t always accurate, as we recently saw when Facebook revealed that the social network’s in-platform metrics had been miscalculating the duration of video views for the past two years.

Facebook, Apple and Google are trying to build walled gardens, but people are still freely moving from one channel to another. To really keep track of the customer experience, marketers have to create a cross-channel metric that can travel with the customer.

Here are four easy ways to do that:   

1. Specific promotion codes or coupons

Want to know if someone discovered you on a social channel? Just provide a promotion code.

Whether it’s a discount or exclusive offer, by assigning a code to your social promotions — or specific codes to each channel — you can narrow down how consumers discovered your product or service by counting how many channel-specific codes are redeemed.

2. Landing pages

If you build unique landing pages for each channel and push your fans and followers to those specific pages, you can count the conversions on that page to get a pretty exact idea of which channels are driving the last touch in a customer journey.

That way, if people share a product or a piece of content, you’ll still know where others are coming from when they engage.

3. Trackable links

Using dedicated, trackable links provided by Salesforce, marketing automation platforms like Marketo or Bitly (Disclosure: I work at Bitly) can help you measure where your audience is originating and engaging. You just have to make sure that each channel has a unique link.

Even if someone from Twitter shares a piece of content on Facebook, you’ll still have visibility into that link’s performance on Facebook. You’ll know that the link you originally shared on Twitter is now getting clicked on Facebook.

4. Forms

If you’re not trying to convert right away from a cross-social customer, include a form on your landing page. The form could even have a field asking where the customer originally learned about your product or service.

This gives you the chance to nurture customers who aren’t ready to buy and start building a relationship with them through regular email campaigns.

The eternal optimization of the customer experience

In my workplace, we define customer experience by four stages: brand integrity, multichannel experience, frictionless experience and personalization. Each one of those stages is based, more than anything else, on data.

Without data, you can’t keep optimizing the customer journey — from landing pages and the web experience to content and loyalty programs. That’s why figuring out how to measure the cross-social journey is so important. When you know what kind of content your audience likes and where they found it, then you can invest in the right channels.

Even if you can’t predict where customers will learn about your brand, data can help show you the different journeys they take to get there.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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