How do I track campaign source for my app installs?

Tracking mobile attribution, or where your users came from before they installed your app, isn’t as simple as web attribution because the mobile experience (specifically the App Store and Play Store) is owned by Google and Apple. These companies’ respective ecosystems and rules demand a more complicated tracking system, but the data is ultimately available to you.

Send mobile install data to Mixpanel from:

Android

For Android, Google provides you with a referrer property so that you know where your installations came from, and you can send that data to Mixpanel (with the exception of data from Facebook and Twitter).

Set up automatic referrer tracking on Android.

iOS

Tracking attribution on iOS is, unfortunately, not as straightforward. Users enter the Apple App Store carrying data about where they came from, but the App Store strips all of that data once the user arrives. That means users who download your application don’t come with any data showing where they were before arriving at the App Store.

Third-party attribution companies (like Appsflyer, Tapstream, MAT, and Adjust) help fill in these blanks. Third-party attribution companies set up partnerships with Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, etc., to track all device IDs that interacted with those ad platforms. When a user opens up an application on his or her phone for the first time, these third-party SDKs match the device ID of the application to the information they’ve been given from, say, Google AdWords to determine that the user downloaded the app in question from a Google AdWords mobile campaign. These third-party attribution companies can then send an event to Mixpanel containing this attribution data.

Set up Mixpanel with a mobile ad attribution partner.

Install data from Facebook and Twitter campaigns

On both Android and iOS, attribution information is increasingly difficult to come by for Facebook and Twitter campaigns. These companies have clamped down on third-party attribution sources sharing data with any analytics tool - unfortunately, some analytics tools take the data they collect from their clients, aggregate it, and sell it.

Mixpanel firmly does NOT sell ANY data. However, Mixpanel is a third-party analytics tool, which means we are currently unable to access Facebook and Twitter install data (i.e., third-party attribution sources cannot share Facebook install data to Mixpanel). Facebook also blocks the referrer property that Android allows you to send, which means you won’t get any Facebook referral data from Android either.

So with this in mind, how can you get Facebook and Twitter mobile attribution data into Mixpanel? Well, normally, a third-party attribution source maps together the attribution information and then sends a postback event to Mixpanel server-to-server. But some third-party attribution sources (like Appsflyer, Tapstream, and Adjust) offer a different process that would allow you to get Facebook and Twitter attribution data into Mixpanel: they take the attribution data and beam it back to the client device, and from there, the developer can choose to send that data to Mixpanel.

If you do choose to take this route with a third party attribution partner, this means the onus is on you as the developer to send Facebook and/or Twitter data to Mixpanel - it won’t happen automatically.