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Tracking “Dark Social” with Marketing Attribution

By October 27, 2023October 30th, 2023No Comments

Everybody knows that you can’t track “dark social” with marketing attribution, specifically software-based attribution, right? Right??

Well, in some ways that’s wrong, and in some ways that’s right. There’s certainly “dark social” that can’t be tracked. The stuff that can’t be tracked are things like face-to-face conversations with people that discuss your product, phone calls between people that discuss your product, conversations that are happening in Slack communities, and a few others things.

But, if you notice that something is missing from that list. The thing that’s missing from that list above is interactions that are happening directly on social media platforms like LinkedIn. And the types of interactions that we’re specifically referring to here are likes, comments, shares and direct messages.

Wait… surely, we’re not saying that those things are trackable by software-based attribution, right? Everyone knows that’s not possible.

Nope… we’re surely saying that it’s possible to track those things by software-based attribution. And, we’re going to show you how.

Who is this right for?

Before we get into the how, let’s start with the who. Who should care about this and invest in this?

This solution is not designed for organizations that are kicking the tires on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. This solution is designed for organizations that are going all-in on, and heavily investing in, social media platforms like LinkedIn. That’s because this solution also requires investment.

Organizations that are investing a lot in platforms like LinkedIn need to have more advanced tracking and reporting capabilities to help understand which of their investments and activations on LinkedIn are working, and which are not.

Note: We aren’t pitching this as a way to validate that LinkedIn efforts are performing, but rather which investments and activations on LinkedIn are working better than others. We know that LinkedIn is a viable marketing vehicle when leveraged properly.

Expand and Leverage your Tech Stack

In order to create this solution, you’re going to need to add to your tech stack. And, in this specific use case, you’re going to need to add a platform called Oktopost. Or, you may already have this platform, in which case, you’re just going to need to make sure you’re using it to its fullest potential.

The rest of this solution is going to incorporate Marketo Engage and Marketo Measure. This solution may work for other combinations of marketing automation and marketing attribution, but we haven’t built this solution with those yet, so we can’t verify that this works in the same way. So, we’re focusing this article on the solution that we have built previously, and we know works.

Oktopost needs to be integrated with Marketo Engage. And, specifically, you need to be leveraging the custom activity feature of that integration.

This feature was originally designed for lead scoring purposes. What this feature does, is to create a custom activity record in Marketo Engage when someone likes, comments or shares one of your posts. It can even create a custom activity record when you or your brand page receives a direct message. The original intention was to incorporate these custom activities into your scoring model. So, you would add 1 point to the behavior score for a like, 5 points for a comment and 10 points for a share… or something like that.

But, these custom activities can also be used to create Marketo Measure Touchpoints.

A couple years ago, Bizible (now Marketo Measure) was acquired by Marketo, and then a few months later both Marketo and Bizible were acquired by Adobe. After that happened, a new integration was created within Marketo Measure that allowed you to integrate Marketo Engage and Marketo Measure directly. One of the features of this integration was to allow you to create Marketo Measure touchpoints from activities logged in Marketo Measure. That includes custom activities. And, that’s where this solution comes into play.

Custom Activities for the Win

Let’s set the stage.

Oktopost is tracking likes, comments, shares and direct messages in LinkedIn. It’s integrated with Marketo Engage, where it creates custom activities to track these interactions. Marketo Engage is integrated with Marketo Measure, which allows you to create Marketo Measure touchpoints from activities… including custom activities.

Voila! There it is!

You have the ingredients. Now, it’s time to bake your cake.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that Oktopost and Marketo Engage are integrated, and you’re leveraging the custom activity feature. This link will get you all of the information you need to make sure that is all set up properly.

Next up is to make sure that Marketo Engage and Marketo Measure are integrated. That should take you about 10 minutes to complete. Here is a handy link to those instructions.

Once that is complete, you’ll want to navigate to the “Activities” tab under the Marketo Integration section.

There, you’ll set up the rules that allow you to create touchpoints from these custom activities. This link will help you get those set up. But, ultimately, your rules should look something like in the screenshots below.

Once these rules have been set up, you now have everything in place to create TPs from the interactions that are happening on your social media platforms.

Consistency is Key

Now, there’s one last piece to this puzzle. You have to actually use Oktopost’s posting capabilities to be able to track this. And, you have to do it consistently. Oktopost’s tracking capabilities–which are the linchpin to this whole solution–only work when using Oktopost to do the posting on your social media platforms. If you don’t use that, and use it consistently, this solution doesn’t capture all of those interactions. So, you have to be consistent in making sure you’re posting through Oktopost.

Let’s Talk Limitations

There are some limitations to this solution. Let’s get those out into the open so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not this solution is right for you.

First off, one of the limitations around this is that, if a person that is interacting with your posts on LinkedIn is not already in your Marketo Engage database, Oktopost can’t create the custom activity records. That means that tracking likes, comments and shares won’t happen if someone isn’t inside your Marketo Engage database. Now, there is some functionality in here that is similar to how Munchkin code cookies the browser and then can fill in information from the anonymous record. It’s currently unclear to us if historical likes, comments and shares, prior to a form fill, will be backfilled by Oktopost and Marketo. We haven’t had a chance to test that out yet. So, that’s something to keep an eye out for, to see how that functionality works.

Similarly to the above, most folks on LinkedIn have their LinkedIn profile tied to their personal email address, and not their professional email address. This won’t be a problem if they’re in your Marketo Engage database under their personal email address… like if they filled out a LinkedIn lead gen form with their personal email address. But, this difference in email addresses could cause some misattribution if you have two different records in your database–one with the professional email address and one with the personal email address. In this case, you may need/want to merge the records once the Opportunity is created.

These are the two primary limitations of this solution. They’re things that you do have some level of control over though. So, how you handle these is totally up to you.

That’s it!

That’s it… that’s the whole solution. That’s how you shine a light on the portions of “dark social” that can be lit up.

This gives you full visibility in your software-based attribution for interactions such as likes, comments, shares and direct messages.

For organizations that are truly leaning into social media platforms through activations other than just the traditional paid ads and sponsored posts, this is a great way to be able to incorporate the interactions that you’re driving through these efforts. Because those efforts aren’t going to generate clicks, web page visits and form fills. At least, not at first. Eventually, they lead to people raising their hands and wanting to talk to sales. But, until that point, the only evidence you’ll have that these are working are through those exact likes, comments and shares that you’ll now be able to track.