For the past decade Facebook’s revenue growth has been relentless, driven by a switch from TV advertising and online banners to a platform seen as more targetable and measurable. When it comes to Facebook Ads, marketers are drawn to messaging about a strong return on investment. But are you measuring that return correctly?

Facebook has spent heavily on its own analytics over the last three years, with the aim of making you — the marketer — fully immersed in the Facebook platform…and perhaps also to gloss over one important fact about Facebook’s reporting on its own Ads: most companies spend money with Facebook ‘acquiring’ users who would have bought from them anyway.

Could that be you?

Here are a few ways to think about tracking Facebook Ads beyond simple clicks and impressions as reported by FB themselves.

The scenario

Imagine a shopper named Fiona, a customer for your online fashion retail store. Fiona has browsed through the newsfeed on her Facebook mobile app, and clicks on your ad.

Let’s also imagine that your site — like most — spends only a portion of their budget with Facebook, and is using a mix of email, paid search, affiliates and social to promote the brand. The likelihood that Fiona has interacted with more than one campaign before she buys is high.

Now Fiona buys a $100 shirt from your store, and in Facebook (assuming you have ecommerce tracking with Pixel set up) the sale is linked to the original ad spend.

Facebook’s view of ROI

The return on investment in the above scenario, as calculated by Facebook, is deceptively simple:

Right, brilliant! So clear and simple.

Actually, not that brilliant. You see Fiona had previously clicked on a Google Shopping ad (which is itself powered by two platforms, Google AdWords and the Google Merchant Center) — how she found your brand — and after Facebook, she was influenced by a friend who mentioned the product on Twitter, then finally converted by an abandoned cart email.

So in reality Fiona’s full list of interactions with your ecommerce site looks like this:

  1. Google Shopping ad > browsed products
  2. Facebook Ad > viewed product
  3. Twitter post > viewed same product
  4. Link in abandoned cart email > purchase

So from a multi-channel perspective, how should we attribute the benefit from the Facebook Ad? How do we track the full customer journey and attribute it to sales in your store?

With enough data you might look at the probability that a similar customer would have purchased without seeing that Facebook Ad in the mix. In fact, that’s what the data-driven model in Google Marketing Platform 360 does.

But without that level of data crunching we can still agree that Facebook shouldn’t be credited with 100% of the sale. It wasn’t the way the customer found your brand, or the campaign which finally convinced them to buy. Under the most generous attribution model we would attribute a quarter of the sale.

So now the calculation looks like this:

It cost us $2 of ad spend to bring $1 of revenue — we should kill the campaign.

But there’s a catch

Hang on, says Facebook. You forgot about Mark. Mark also bought the same shirt at your store, and he viewed the same ad on his phone before going on to buy it on his work computer. You marked the source of that purchase as Direct — but it was due to the same Facebook campaign.

Well yes, Facebook does have an advantage there in using its wide net of signed-in customers to link ad engagement across multiple devices for the same user.

But take a step back. Mark, like Fiona, might have interacted with other marketing channels on his phone. If we can’t track cross-device for these other channels (and with Google Marketing Platform we cannot), then we should not give Facebook an unfair advantage in the attribution.

So, back to multi-channel attribution from a single device. This is the best you have to work with right now, so how do you get a simple view of the Return on Advertising Spend, the real ROI on your ads?

Our solution

At Littledata we believe that Google Analytics is the best multi-channel attribution tool out there. All it misses is an integration with Facebook Ads to pull the ad spend by campaign, and some help to set up the campaign tagging (UTM parameters) to see which campaign in Facebook brought the user to your site.

And we believe in smart automation.

Shhhh…in the past few weeks we’ve quietly released a Facebook Ads connection, which audits your Facebook campaign tagging and pulls ad cost daily into Google Analytics. It’s a seamless way to pull Facebook Ads data into your overall ecommerce tracking, something that would otherwise be a headache for marketers and developers. The integration checks Facebook Ads for accurate tagging and automatically pulls ad cost data into GA.

Active the integration - Facebook Ads Connection

The new integration will normally only be available in higher-tier plans, but we’re currently offering it as an open beta for ALL USERS, including Basic plans! For early access, just activate the Faceb|ook Ads connection from your Littledata dashboard. It’s that easy!

(Not a subscriber yet? Sign up for a free trial on any plan today.)

We believe in a world of equal marketing attribution. Facebook may be big, but they’re not the only platform in town, and any traffic they’re sending your way should be analysed in context. Connecting your Facebook Ads account takes just a few minutes, and once the data has collected you’ll be able to activate reports to show the same kind of ROI calculation we did above.

Will you join us on the journey to better data?