Social Media Attribution Windows: A Platform by Platform Comparison

Josh Thompson, Senior Social Media Specialist

I want to share a secret with social media marketers: you’re not doing enough to sell your work, and attribution modeling is the silver bullet you’ve been waiting for to measure performance.

Social media attribution windows are an increasingly critical topic, one which marketers are working to find tools that can help them better justify their efforts. Social attribution windows give us the ability to track user actions within a length of time (view or click) and connect with the source.

Attribution measurement is a rapidly-evolving and competitive space, but it’s plagued with several significant problems: it’s incredibly complicated from a macro level, often convoluted at a micro level, and overall just plain difficult to understand if you lack extensive experience in digital marketing.

This lack of experience means that many marketers don’t understand how individual social channels measure attribution and aren’t putting in the work needed to know how their channels impact one another. Social media work runs a significant risk of having its results marginalized when the platform’s attribution models are ignored, given the indirect (but powerful) impact social has on things like consideration and customer nurture.

If you’re a social media marketer and you don’t have a solid grasp on attribution windows and modeling, it’s vital to understand the concept. Whether it’s defending your social media budget or getting proper credit for your social channel’s performance, attribution is something you need to understand well enough to discuss with your stakeholders.

To help build the concepts, I have broken out attribution window details and how to locate them for four of the largest social media platforms.

Attribution Windows on Facebook and Instagram

The two largest social networks have a total of seven different attribution windows for advertisers. The largest window (28-day click, 1-day view) is the default setting that appears in the ads manager. To take advantage of this feature, you will need the Facebook tracking pixel installed first.

Facebook Attribution Options

You can change the Facebook attribution window by following these steps:

    1. Go to your ads manager account and select the Columns drop-down menu.
Facebook ads manager columns
    1. From the drop-down menu, select Customize Columns near the bottom.
Facebook ad manager customize columns
    1. Finally, click the blue Comparing Windows link, choose the various attribution windows you want to compare, and then click the blue Apply button.
Comparing facebook attribution windows

Attribution Windows on Twitter

Twitter has even more attribution windows to measure performance based on post-engagement and post-view actions.

Twitter Attribution Options

You can change the Twitter attribution window by following these steps:

    1. Go to your ads manager account. Click on Tools, and then select Conversion tracking from the drop-down menu.
Twitter conversion tracking
    1. Select any of the blue Edit links under the Modify Event column.
twitter modified events
    1. Adjust the post-engagement or post-view attribution windows, and then click the blue Save conversion event button.
Twitter conversion events

Attribution Windows on Pinterest

Pinterest has by far the most attribution windows out of all of the social channels. Don’t get overwhelmed with the choices. Use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as references for the best Pinterest attribution window. Having a consistent attribution window across social channels will help equally measure performance.

Pinterest Attribution Options

You can change the attribution window in Pinterest by following these steps:

    1. Go to your Pinterest ads manager account, click the Export button, and then select Custom export from the drop-down menu.
Pinterest attribution window location
    1. Click on the Pinterest Tag Settings at the top, and then select the drop-down menu for the various attribution windows.
Pinterest tag settings

Comparing Social Platform Performance

Marketers have worked hard to understand the best ways to attribute social channels since the tools could measure performance on their websites. Asking how much credit social platforms deserve for driving sales of a product might be relatively new, but marketers have been refining the process of understanding digital attribution across other channels for years.

Utilizing the individual social platforms’ analytics tools is the first step to measuring performance and learning which click and conversion window is best for your company. The next step is to cross-reference with other web analytics platforms like Google Analytics to see how all of the social channels contribute to performance with their marketing efforts.

You’ll need to ensure Urchin Tracking Modules (UTMs) have been added to your ad URLs to track on Google Analytics accurately. That will provide a holistic view of how the platforms are performing based on the user’s website actions (sessions, add to cart, purchase, etc.).

Google analytics sources

How To Choose The Right Social Media Attribution Window

We’ve discussed the importance of social media conversion windows and how to locate them in the platform. Now, let’s determine the best attribution window for your business.

In a perfect world, you’d have access to a data scientist who could build a custom attribution model that best fits your organization. If that’s not an option, third-party platforms like Google Analytics are capable of building out custom attribution models to align with your business model.

We recommend selecting an attribution window that’s consistent across the social platforms and shows the actual impact of each channel.

Our recommendation is to start with a 7-day click attribution window. That means the social platform will take credit for the conversion event (lead, add to cart, purchase, etc.) for anyone who visits your website in the last seven days after clicking your social media ad.

Your team can adjust attribution windows based on the data tracked monthly, but you need to be making informed decisions along the way that data can’t do on its own.

What’s Next?

As you leverage attribution modeling to show the value of social media marketing, you’ll almost certainly find yourself in spaces where data attribution becomes messy or complicated to parse out (especially in eCommerce or verticals with numerous touch points).

As your understanding of attribution grows, so will your desire for a toolset that allows you to better track and measure attribution across your marketing stack.

Social media marketers should look to Facebook’s Attribution Tool or similar soon-to-be-released tools from Google. These platforms allow you to quickly move around different social attribution models to assess the efficacy of your channel work and will help you better understand the role social media plays in your primary KPIs.

For a deeper dive into all things attribution, be sure to check out our Digital Marketer’s Guide to Attribution to learn more.

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