How To Report on Social Ads

Ask a social media marketer what the worst part of their job is and you’re most likely going to hear about reporting. April 2021’s rollout on Apple IOS to allow users to opt out of app tracking was the bomb that went off to push social media experts to do better when it comes to reporting for clients. So how do we do it? 

  1. Accept that Social Media Publishers are directional
  2. Determine what is going to be your Reporting “Bible” 
  3. Request access to the client’s internal tools
  4. Find themes that drive your performance
  5. Utilize supplemental KPIs in your decision-making

Once you have all these pieces, you can feel confident in your optimizations and account targeting across all social platforms. 

Accept That Social Media Publishers Offer Directional Data

Whether we are using Meta, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn – it is best to understand that publisher data is still going to be over-reported. Social media publishers report on both view-through conversions and last-click conversions: 

  • View-Through: View-through conversions occur after an ad impression and do not require the user to click the ad or convert in the same session. For social platforms, a user does not even have to convert on the same platform but counts as long as they convert with a designated attribution window.
    • Meta even has Engaged-view attribution when a person takes action after your skippable video ad plays for at least 10 seconds within the attribution window.
  • Last-Click: Last-click conversions are when a user clicks and converts on an ad in the same session.

The problem with view-through conversions is the revenue that is reported actually belongs to other platforms, whether it’s SEM ads or even organic efforts. If you report out of all three (ex. Google Ads, Meta Publisher, and Google Analytics for SEO), there will be revenue that is counted twice. SEM efforts, and especially organic traffic, will have diluted results, and you won’t be able to fully understand your true ROAS. 

So how should you treat publisher data? 

Publisher data is absolutely directional and should not be disregarded. It should be evaluated alongside whatever your reporting “Bible” is (I’ll get to that in a minute). 

View-through conversions will still show you a lot about your campaigns. Publisher results will tell you if your campaigns are cost-effective, if you’re targeting the right audience, and if your Cost per Purchase is in the right range. 

It’s also beneficial to understand the customer journey. Tons of view-through conversions without last-click results can show the need for additional brand or education campaigns to move the user from consideration to purchase. 

Most importantly, view-through conversions are how you optimize your campaigns. A fully optimized campaign is going to get you the lowest Cost and the best results because the algorithm will look for people who are most likely to take your desired action, such as making a purchase

For Meta, you would need 50+ conversions a week per ad set to give the algorithm enough signals to become fully optimized. For all publishers, you want to be aware of the elements that move you out of the learning phase into optimization. That means increasing budgets for campaigns as needed, combining up ad placements, or even expanding your audience to give the algorithm room to work for you. 

Here are the view-through publisher metrics you should pay attention to: 

  • Purchase or Leads
  • Cost per Lead or Cost per Purchase
  • ROAS
  • Revenue
  • Add to Carts (eCommerce) 

Checking the above metrics and comparing them to your last-click data will show you exactly where you need to put your money to truly drive revenue for the business and where there are opportunities to scale. 

The Reporting Bible

My bible might not be the same as yours, and it may not be the same for every client, but if you are working with an agency and investing in multiple forms of paid media, you are going to want to have Google Analytics (GA4). This is our reporting bible. 

GA4 allows you to evaluate all your marketing channels on the same playing field, so you don’t have to worry about double reporting when comparing different publishers. 

Most importantly for Paid Social, GA4 showcases last-click conversions and revenue. This is the ACTUAL amount of money that paid social channels drove. You can see down to the ad set and ad level to determine where people are converting. 

Why is this important? Because you want to scale the campaigns that are driving direct revenue if you are looking to impact revenue. 

Ex. An Ecommerce client is targeting two different audiences:

  1. Audience 1 – People interested in skincare
  2. Audience 2 – People interested in botox 

Publishers may show that Audience 2 is the top performer because it has 60 Purchases for a Cost per Purchase of $5 and a Total Spend of $500. Audience 1, on the other hand, has 55 Purchases with a Cost per Purchase of $10 and a Total Spend of $500. Publisher would have you scale Audience 1. 

However, it is all too common for GA4 to show a different story:

Audience 1: 20 Purchases for a Total Revenue of $400 – 0.4 ROAS

Audience 2: 50 Purchases for a Total Revenue of $1000 – 1 ROAS

With this additional information, you would then scale Audience 2 and re-work your offer or refine your targeting for Audience 1 to reach a 1 ROAS. 

Additionally, reporting out of GA4 allows you to compare key metrics across channels, including Cost per Purchase or Lead and ROAS. Whether you are comparing Pinterest to Meta or LinkedIn to Google Ads, you can be confident that your reporting is standardized and not impacted by any publisher factors, like attribution windows. 

Additional Resources = Complete Confidence

While you could stop at your reporting bible, a good team is always going to go a step further. Access to CRMs (ex. Hubspot) and Product platforms (ex. Shopify) allows marketers to truly understand the impact of their spend and revenue. 

For lead generation, they can check the quality of Leads driven, evaluate overarching contact themes to use for audience building or offer creation, and download customer lists for new Lookalikes. eCommerce platforms offer even more in most cases—allowing for purchase behavior segmentation, Average Order Value information, and anything a marketer could use to determine your best customer and new audience profiles to expand to. 

What Are You Reporting On? 

All of these publishers and tools are great, but the most important thing to understand before even launching a campaign is what determines success. You cannot scale or judge performance without having a goal. 

Your goal may be different for your different channels, but you should evaluate all paid social media advertising by the same goal to determine success, whether that is Cost per Purchase, Cost per Lead, or ROAS. 

You also want to make sure that you are evaluating success over different periods. Monthly and quarterly reporting is standard in the industry and a great way to show success against factors of seasonality, offer changes, and the general landscape. 

For the most confidence in making decisions on an account, it is important to consider both year-over-year and month-to-month comparisons. 

Here are a few factors to look for when making comparisons: 

  • Changes in Cost per Lead or Purchase
  • Changes in Spend 
  • Changes in Offer or Product 
  • Key Audience Changes
  • Changes in Bidding Strategies 

With a clear goal, you will have no doubt whether your campaigns are making the impact needed to grow a business. 

Supplemental Reporting

Paid social is unique compared to other marketing channels because there are so many ways a person can engage. Not only can they take the desired conversion route, but each platform can share additional data points that can help you make decisions. 

Here are some additional metrics to consider including in your reports: 

  • CPM (Cost per 1000 Impressions): This is a great metric because it allows you to understand how competitive (aka expensive) your audience is.
    • Huge changes in CPM cost YoY or even MoM for the same audience can show you seasonality for the product and potential increase in the competition’s marketing efforts.
    • It’s a valuable metric to understand how much you need to spend to reach your entire audience or even just a specific percentage.
  • Engagement, including Likes, Shares, Comments, and Saves: Engagement metrics allow us to understand more about the target audience and what they want. Likes do not equal sales, but if 300 people like something, it can convince others that they need it, or at least that they should consider it.
    • We put the most weight into saves, shares, and comments because there is intention behind the action. They can come back later, ask a question, comment about their love for the product, and evangelize about the brand to their friends.
    • If your ads are not getting engagement and not driving sales, it’s a great time to re-think your creative strategy or change up your offer because people simply aren’t interested. 
  • Click-through rate (CTR): When working with creative and CRO teams, CTR is important to understand what kind of content or products are most popular in reaching a specific audience on a specific platform.
    • High CTRs and low conversions could mean you need an updated audience, or the website needs some work.
    • A good rule of thumb is to have over a 1% Link CTR. If you find videos always have a higher CTR than images and have conversions, then you want a creative team to spend more time and effort on creating those assets.
  • Reach: Reach is the number of Accounts Center accounts that saw your ads at least once.
    • Reach is different from impressions, which may include multiple views of your ads by the same Accounts Center accounts.
    • Reach is important to compare how much of your audience is seeing your ads vs. your actual audience size and decide whether you need to adjust your budget or your campaign setup.
  • Frequency: The average number of times each Accounts Center account saw your ad
    • Use this metric to determine when you need new ad assets. 

With all of the resources available, reporting does not have to be frustrating or complicated. It’s a great exercise to prove the worth of your efforts and find ways to shift and scale. 

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