TikTok Says Discovery Isn’t Clicks—Click-Based Attribution Models Fail to Capture the Platform’s Impact

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TikTok says discovery isn't defined by clicks

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Photo Credit: Gilles Lambert

TikTok says click-based attribution methods can’t define its impact on purchase or discovery. Here’s the latest.

The company says the web’s traditional click-based attribution method doesn’t account for the platform’s role in discoverability because of the complex way in which users interact with content on TikTok. The platform says users interested in a brand or app delay their visit rather than disrupt their browsing—but that doesn’t mean TikTok wasn’t the originator of their interest.

TikTok says its a powerful channel for influencing users early in their purchase journey, but click attribution undervalues that discovery role. The platform estimates that 79% of purchases driven by TikTok content are not captured through common attribution methods used by web advertisers to monitor their campaigns. The company suggests using both click-through and view-through attributions in TikTok campaigns to understand how users are interacting with content.

It also suggests using longer attribution windows to discover the true impact of ads placed on the platform. “Our internal research has shown that the optimal view-through window differs greatly by industry (16 days for travel, 19 days for consumer packaged goods (CPG), 3 days for gaming),” the blog post with the study reads. TikTok says it currently offers a 7-day maximum view-through window and recommends using this for all advertising campaigns on the platform.

TikTok’s role in the music industry for discovery can’t be understated, either. The TikTok-to-Spotify pipeline is a very real phenomenon that occurs when a song goes viral on the platform—with that success directly translating to a boost in Spotify streams. While the virality of a TikTok song can fade as trends move like ocean waves, the boost provided to Spotify streaming can have a much longer tail.

It also creates a positive feedback loop in which Spotify’s algorithms notice an uptick in people streaming an artist and register the engagement. From there, its algorithms begin adding the viral song to editorial playlist placements as users add the song to their own personal playlists, boosting engagement across the board.