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GOOD, BAD, and UGLY of Vanity Metrics

Shweta Sadana
Written By

Shweta Sadana

As marketers, we all love data. 

But it’s time to be honest with ourselves and stop judging the success of our social media strategy based on valueless data. 

Likes, impressions, page views, shares, comments, followers, open rates, traffic, time on site, bounce rate, clicks, and more are examples of vanity metrics.

Using vanity metrics to measure your marketing effort is like using an Instagram filter to mask all of your imperfections. Sure, you look fantastic, but that isn’t a true reflection of who you are.

They are however the most commonly used metrics to measure the effectiveness and success of marketing activities in social media, content marketing, digital advertising, public relations, and inbound initiatives.

The BAD: Problem with reporting Vanity Metrics

It’s simple because vanity metrics are easy to collect in large quantities – all platforms provide them; it’s challenging because they’re sometimes confusing when it comes to measuring a return on investment (ROI) or commercial value. 

This second argument is a sore point of many marketers who are trying to figure out how valuable a vanity measure is to a company.

Our social media campaign may appear to be succeeding because of vanity metrics. 

You are receiving a lot of hits, people are loving our posts, and you are getting THOUSANDS of impressions – yet these metrics have no meaning. Why? 

Because they are readily manipulated and do not provide us with true information about our business or the actions of our followers.

A vanity metric like traffic only conveys half the story. Counting traffic is useless unless it is tied to a specific business goal.

The UGLY: Pitfalls of Vanity Metrics

On paper, vanity metrics appear fantastic in terms of numbers. 

When you try to plug in these metrics to describe significant business outcomes like ROI or customer lifetime value (CLTV), however, they lose their luster and become hollow digits that provide little substance to proving your marketing is profitable.

It doesn’t just end here. There are far more serious repercussions of relying on Vanity metrics:

  1. Flawed understanding, leading to poor decisions
  2. Shortsighted decision-making
  3. Failure to engage members, leading to unfollowing
  4. Organizations that don’t live up to potential

Why are there Vanity Metrics everywhere?

Why are vanity metrics still used despite all of these drawbacks?

There are many underlying reasons for the popularity of Vanity Metrics.

  1. A lack of understanding. Too few people are aware of the dangers.
  1. Practitioner know-how. You’re aware of the issue, but what are your options?
  1. Technology. It’s simple to track because of widely available and low-cost tools. Other metrics are more difficult to collect, aggregate, and analyze than vanity metrics.
  1. Ease of use. Vanity metrics are straightforward and simple to comprehend and track.
  1. There’s a lot of pressure from above. Vanity metrics are considered “topline” and are frequently demanded by funders and upper management.

The GOOD: Optimization metrics, not vanity metrics

The term “vanity metrics” has acquired unwarranted bad connotations, similar to “clickbait”, making it easier for marketers to disregard its worth. 

I prefer the term “optimization metrics” because it clarifies their relevance. The goal of a vanity/optimization metric is to assist you to optimize your content for a given channel’s target audience.

While marketing expenditures may have an immediate influence on the profit and loss statement, funds spent today will help to grow the brand as an asset for the future. 

Marketing initiatives not only increase sales and profits in the short term but also help to build brand equity and deepen client connections over time. 

These long-term results can only be seen through effective and relevant content, as well as the examination of vanity metrics over time.

Use vanity metrics the right way

Here are three vanity metrics to avoid if you are a serious marketer and leave them for over-enthusiastic kids on social media. Also, consider alternative three important social media analytics to monitor in your upcoming campaigns:

Drop: IMPRESSIONS

Impressions are the number of people that were perhaps, kind of, may be exposed to your content or scrolled through it at some time. 

Everything is a big guess! 

Think again if you think this number is a good indicator of the success of your social media marketing. Unless you ask everyone who saw your content, you’ll never know how many people saw it.

Drop: LIKES

We feel good about ourselves when we get a lot of “likes” on our posts because they make us feel popular (there’s some psychology to this). The more “likes” our post receives, the better we believe it is performing.

This may be accurate to some extent, and this statistic may scrape the surface a little, but it doesn’t tell us what users did next.

If a like isn’t followed by quantifiable action, it’s basically pointless.

Drop: FOLLOWERS

This is a big one. 

I can’t tell you how many times companies have asked us to gain them 500 Instagram followers in a week. 

Is that even possible? 

Yes. Perhaps if a lot of money is spent on advertising. 

Is this, however, a guarantee that you’ll start obtaining new consumers and sales right away? 

No. It’s unlikely that even half of your followers will see all of your posts and respond to them.

Not to mention the fact that there are a few websites where you can buy followers. This appears to be a simple answer, but if you’re not careful, it can lead to some muddy waters.

Instagram, for example, already has over 95 million bots, accounting for about 10% of its total user base. In certain circumstances, these bots use stolen photographs and names to assume the identity of a genuine person. Sounds illegal, huh?

Instead, keep track of the following social media metrics:

TRACK: Click-through Rate

Rather than counting the number of “likes” on a post, observe how many people go to your website by clicking the link you included.

This will show you which types of material your audience responds to the most and which types of content you should avoid writing.

You can also check how long visitors spend on your website and whether they navigate to other sites to learn more about your company. If you’re unsure where to begin with website traffic tracking, Google Analytics offers some excellent free training classes.

TRACK: Engagement

Comments, shares, and saves provide valuable information about which content works best and which goods users are most interested in. 

It’s more than just “liking” something – these interactions demonstrate that viewers were engaged enough to leave a comment, share with their closest friends, or save for further consideration.

Track: Conversions

When someone follows the call-to-action on your social media post, it’s called a conversion. This might be a purchase, a webinar registration, a resource download, contact information submission, or even consumer feedback.

 It demonstrates that your post is effective and prompts the viewer to take action. 

Setting up goals in a social media analytics platform like Vaizle allows you to track conversions on specific web pages.

analyse social media metrics using vaizle

Using Vanity Metrics to Resolve Content Problems

Assume you’re running a paid Facebook campaign that’s underperforming in terms of traffic (marketing target) and sales (business objective). How can vanity metrics be used to solve this issue?

You know the campaign has a lower-than-average click-through rate if:

  • Impressions are falling behind (number of people reached by the post)
  • Lesser Engagement (number of clicks on the post)

First, assess the impressions, because if you’re not reaching the proper people, they won’t be able to click. You believe you’re reaching the right people, but there aren’t enough of them. 

Now, take advantage of that knowledge to raise your Facebook spending in order to gain more followers.

On the other hand, if impressions are unusually high but no one clicks on the content, it’s possible that you’re targeting the incorrect audience or that your content isn’t interesting enough.

This type of exercise demonstrates how important vanity metrics can be to your marketing efforts. Using vanity metrics in this way will help you enhance your content on the channel, resulting in increased engagement and success for your marketing goals over time.

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