What Are Vanity Metrics?

Written by Mariana Magalhães
09 May 19 | read

What Are Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics, just like the name indicates, are metrics that aren’t necessarily linked with success and productivity but rather, metrics that have vain characteristics.

Vanity metrics look good to onlookers or to users outside the industry however, they aren’t always a true reflection of success and do not measure performance effectively.

I know what you’re thinking…If vanity metrics don’t measure success, why do they exist? They do measure something, however, their measurements might not be directly related to your marketing strategy, or relevant to your team’s efforts at all. Is this sounding a little convoluted to you?

Let’s break down exactly what makes a metric, a vanity metric:

The Metric Is “flashy”

They sound satisfying in theory but don’t actually express success driven from your strategy efforts. It mainly looks good to be seen but it doesn’t actually help you to understand strategic tactics.

Also, If you can easily purchase those metric results online, it’s a vanity metric – Not all that glitters is gold. If being verified and having lots of followers is the standard for some, it doesn’t have to be for your business. Some metrics can easily be manipulated and purchased.

Remember just because an influencer has a lot of followers it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have high engagement and are taking audience attention. Likes don’t measure true performance, however, engagement does.

The Metric Isn’t a KPI

The metric isn’t correlated to a part of your key performance indicators (KPIs).

If the chosen metric doesn’t indicate or measure any level of success, it’s a metric that you probably don’t need: vanity metric.

When considering data from Google Analytics “users per month” doesn’t track a specific goal, “time on page” is bound to be a better indicator of success.

The Metric Doesn’t Provide Clues

Doesn’t give you any context on your future marketing decisions. If you can’t look at a metric and get an idea of how to strategise in the future, then this metric isn’t offering you relevant data – say it with me, vanity metric!

An example of this is the metric sessions. This because you can’t strategise based on the high rate of sessions.

The Metric Is a Topic of Conversation at Your Mum’s Party

If your mum’s relative finds your metric results impressive, then more likely they’re vanity metrics. Very impressive dear, 1000 page views on Facebook, you’re very smart.

It’s very easy to be impressed by vanity metrics and get caught up in the social currency of big glaring-obvious, stand-out, in-your-face-as-soon-as-you-visit-the-profile numbers, you know the ones!

But it’s important you’re accustomed to the concept of vanity metrics and think critically of those metrics so you don’t include these as benchmarks of your digital marketing strategy.

Examples of Vanity Metrics

Metrics that evaluates the number of “fans/subscribers/followers”:

  • Facebook fans
  • Instagram followers
  • Twitter Followers
  • Subscribers

Page Views

While this metric can point to an increase or decrease on page views, this metric is incapable of breaking down what these page views are, where they come from and how they fit into the overall strategy.

That does not mean this metric is completely useless, but unfortunately, it does mean that it only expresses a number/rate that doesn’t necessarily correlate with your marketing efforts.

Keep in mind that the same user can very easily increase the number of page views as well by going back and forth into different pages – and hopefully they do!

While one can say you have a x amount of users, in the example above, this is only applicable on the day that the spike took place. This doesn’t give you any idea as to how loyal your users are, its a snapshot!

Why You Need to Look Past Them

  • Just because vanity metrics quantify something does not mean you should consider them a part of your digital marketing strategy.
  • Additionally, you as business won’t look credible to the eyes of experts and investors when mistaking metrics that are exclusively vanity for metrics that actually represent success.
  • You’re not actually tracking success and this can heavily skew the data of your digital marketing strategy. This because your strategic decisions are being made based on the wrong data that can’t provide a clear direction of where to head next. Meaning you’ll probably head in the wrong direction anyway.
  • You can be prejudicing your strategy by aiming at reaching metric levels that don’t always appeal to every target audience.
image of mac laptop open on a graphics page: google analytics

While it’s always nice to have some following and likes on your social media pages, big numbers can potentially push sceptical customers away.

Some people genuinely prefer authenticity over popularity when it comes to brands on social media channels.

Keep that in mind as well.

Max Webs Solutions seems to agree:
“Once your followers are distrustful of your brand, it can be almost impossible to come back from this. If you do later decide to try to build a more authentic online following, you might find that it is too late. It is far better to have a few genuinely interested and excited fans that can build your brand naturally. Honesty and authenticity are so important for any brand, it is not worth the risk of hurting it in this way.”

Max Webs Solutions

Hootsuite has also indicated that privacy is a growing trend in comparison when compared with an exuberant number of followers/fans.

“By limiting the amount of people who can see your posts, you’re suggesting to the audience that you care more about quality content than reach. Followers will also feel the content you share is tailored just for them, as they’re a member of the private space you’ve set up for them.” (…)

Hootsuite focus is mainly on Instagram:
“We’ve seen this happen with the rising popularity of Facebook Groups. (…) Making your Instagram private can help make your current followers feel valued, but also make new followers curious. FOMO might come in handy if you’re launching new products, for example. You’re rewarding your most loyal followers with an exclusive first look, and giving newbies a reason to follow you.”

Hootsuite

How Should You and Your Business Measure Success?

The Metrics That Actually Matter

The key to nailing relevant metrics is to think of quality, not quantity. Here are some of the metrics that you could be using in your business in order to truly track success and strategise accordingly.

Sessions From Social

Sessions from social sessions that are driven from social media to your website. This is useful in order to keep track of channels strategies that are working versus the ones that aren’t resonating with your audience.

It’s useful to know which social channels are the best for your business as they generate leads. But it can also be helpful to learn what kind of content your target audience prefers so you can further tailor your content to them.

Sessions from social will give you data on the number of people your social media channel is reaching and converting. After all, the main purpose of social media should be to generate leads and users to your website. And secondly, to build awareness of your brand across the public.

Analytics window showing traffic source overview on an Ipad

You can track this metric using Google Analytics and see the conversion path Conversion path is a map of the journey a user takes from first interaction with your brand to conversion.

A conversion path that tracks the sessions from social will allow you to understand where your target audience converts, where they bounce off, which elements on your page they engage with, and if they’re converting by purchasing or filling in a form (contact us or sign up for emails).

For example, let’s suppose you see in the conversion path that a couple of users are bouncing off when reaching a specific page (instead of converting). Ideally, you should critically analyse that landing pageLanding page optimisation (LPO) is a web/marketing tactic that premises the improvement of web elements on a page in order to incentivise user engagement and conversion. Within LPO, there are different methods and techniques one can use in order to correctly identify weaker elements that don’t resonate with the user. For example, heat mapping software allows the marketer to identify where the user looks first and last as soon as they land on the page. what isn’t working and what can you do to improve?

Often, it’s just a matter of reorganising the order of things. Other times you have to revise content and or redesign completely the layout of a page.

Uff, talking about useful data huh?

Returning Users

Returning users might be your best indication of “WE MADE IT”. This because returning users means you’ve officially made it through the awareness stage The awareness stage is one of the phases of the marketing method the marketing funnel. The different stages of the marketing funnel include: Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Trial, Adoption and Loyalty. The marketing funnel, got its name from the funnel-like-shape that decreases in size as the user spends less time and effort across final stages.. Your business is officially in the back of the user’s minds. Just 10 more touch-points to go!

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about regarding the awareness and consideration phase, this has to do with the marketing funnel users traditionally go through.)

To read more about the marketing funnel, we’ve explained in depth in our blog: The Importance of Data in Digital Marketing.

When your “returning users” metric has a high number, that can indicate you’re currently in the consideration phase. This means, that these users state of mind is very much different than the ones that just discovered your brand. They’re familiar with your brand and returning to know more.

The conversion phase users are very close to purchasing your product or services or signing up for the mailing list, depending on your conversion goals!

Sometimes they’ll want to convert but get stuck – also known as “barriers to entry”. Perhaps, they don’t have enough of a budget or are concerned with their delivery options. You’ll need to test out the various elements of your purchasing cycle to ensure it’s friction-free!

For example, some retail online companies offer the Klarna service; a subscription that allows the user to pay later, once they have a chance to test your product/service. You know… the ones with the Snoop Dog ads on Youtube?

You can see this metric through Google Analytics and other data software. With traffic from Facebook, you’ll have to install a Facebook Pixel A Facebook pixel is a piece of code provided by Facebook that allows you to track analytics across your website. One of the benefits of this Facebook pixel includes the fact that you can later retarget leads as returning users for maximum optimisation of your return on investment. to keep track of returning users.

Do keep in mind that this metric keeps track of returning users that come back to your website within the time scale of 2 years. If a user returns to your website after 2 years, Google Analytics will count them as a new user.

Click-through Rate (CTR)

Click through rate will analyse how social media channels can contribute to your overall strategy and brand. After all, if a channel isn’t acting like a bridge to your website or another brand asset, then you need to reevaluate your channel strategy to improve the click-through rate.

Engagement Per Post/Per Follower

This should be one of the main metrics to measure your social channels. Engagement per post and per follower will dictate how interactive your content and your brand is to your followers/users.

This will also indicate how much of voice you have in your industry compared with the rest of your competition.

Always aim for engagement instead of likes, this will truly lead to loyal fans rather than temporary Instagram fame.

person holding a phone looking at the insights on back-end of instagram

Sentiment Analysis

This metric is harder to measure with standard and smaller budgets as analysis software tend to cost the doll hairs (money).

While we’re seeing great advances in this area with the help of integrated AI into data collection, admittedly there’s still work to do to improve this.

Here’s some software that has the ability to include sentiment analysis data into your strategy:

  • Crimson Hexagon
  • Feefo – Ideal for reviews more than sentiment analysis, however, this software has the benefit of directly asking your users how they feel and turn those answers into an analysis report.
  • Cloud Factory

Mentions And Shares From VIP Followers

We’re not going to negate the basic; contacts are important. However, as we just learned, having contacts for likes and followers for the sake of it isn’t the best strategy to benefit your business.

How do we use contacts, influencers and VIP people as part of your strategy? Simply by networking.

A reference, share or a mention from one of those influential users can spread awareness. Just make sure you have content to back this up, and you’re truly confident of your product, otherwise, both your brand and influencer might come across as too commercial. You can track this metric on your analytics software of preference.

Do note down the days that you’ve been mentioned or shared by an important influencer, secondly, look at the traffic from that day onwards.
Did you have a traffic spike? Or did you have a strong week with returning users? For an extra marketing bonus, you can ensure you follow up or retarget Retargeting is a specific form of marketing that uses cookies. Most users don’t convert upon the first discovery of your website. Retargeting allows the company to reach out to visitors via ads or via a social media strategy. to keep track of returning users. returning users with a discount or great deals they can’t miss.

If the results aren’t favourable, then you might want to consider that influencers are not for your brand. We’ve written a blog on How to incorporate micro-influencers into your social media strategy, so feel free to read that to learn more about the influencer world.

For now, just know that you don’t have to get rid of your influencer marketing completely, if you’re vigilant and pick your influencers correctly you can for sure use them as part of a successful digital marketing strategy.

Test Everything

In the Creating A Social Media Strategy blog post, we emphasise how part of your digital marketing strategy includes testing and reflection. We stated one of the ways you could be doing this; take notes of what, when and why you’re posting the content you’re publishing.

You can utilise Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics to keep track of different analytics and data such as engagement.

From here you should purposely test each post and see what resonates with your audience to figure out exactly if your strategy is working.

This is a long process, but it’s one of the few ways you can guarantee your metrics aren’t fallible and your strategy is fully optimised. Trust us, it’ll be worth it when you get the formulae correct.

Of course, as you’re gaining a new audience, you’ll have to continuously test your brand’s personal strategy and improve it as you go. I know it’s a full-time job… You can to automate some of your process for added flexibility.

Creating a content calendar can be particularly helpful in regards to planning content. You can pay special attention to exclusive holidays or special days in your industry. This will allow you to be on top of everything at least 1 month ahead so you know the resources you’ll need to put in place.

Remember kids, testing is truly the only way to know what suits your audience. Everyone is different!

In the words of Marie Kondo, “vanity metrics; they don’t spark joy.”*

*Kondo didn’t actually say this, but we wanted to show you that we are down with the social influencer references.

Happy data analysing!

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