Marketing is often about creating fantasies for customers and audiences. The biggest illusion of all is looking at the wrong data—vanity metrics. Instead, focus on actionable metrics tied to your business goals and get a real sense of your marketing strategy ROI.
What vanity metrics achieve is the false inflation of your marketing campaign’s accomplishments. This is because we’re focusing on the wrong numbers. By looking at vanity metrics like page views, follows, and subscribers, we’re not paying attention to actionable metrics like bounce, engagement, and acquisition rates. These are data points that truly measure the success or failure of marketing goals and strategies.
Nitty Gritty of Vanity vs. Actionable Metrics
So why would anyone focus on vanity rather than actionable metrics? Here are two reasons:
Diving into the vanity numbers is much simpler. Every platform you use makes those numbers readily available because they’re easy for social media to mine. It’s also because social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t know your business goals, such as measuring your strategic conversion rate. Instead, they will try to impress you by reporting the 232 new followers you gained in the last 30 days. But if those new followers are 40% bots, does it matter?
Positive is Better than Negative.
Vanity metrics have that name for a reason. They look good. If you’re the person reporting to the CEO or a VIP client, you want to look like the campaign you sold them on is performing as you said it would. If it’s not achieving the business goals, the number of likes is a positive way to spin the results.
How to Quit the Habit
First things first, admit you have a vanity (metrics) problem. If you’re still reading, congratulations. The hard part is over. Next, let’s identify how you can shift your focus to data that really matters. Since this is a blog, we’ll start there.
Blog Post Page Views Don’t Matter, But Bounce Rates DO
This one hurts as someone whose job it is to blog, but it’s true. Not that our team isn’t grateful that you’re here, but if this is the only page you visit on our website, we (I) didn’t do my job very well. By only reading this article, our bounce rate increases, and that’s bad. However, if you visit another page, we can track what brought you here and where else you go.
It may sound a little intrusive, but that data is crucial to our business goals and can be essential to yours, too. How can you keep people on your website from a blog? Use compelling Calls to Action and link to other content on your website.
“What vanity metrics achieve is the false inflation of your marketing campaign’s accomplishments.”
Email Acquisition Over Subscribers
In July, Kudzu Brands did something drastic. We slashed our email subscriber list in half using a re-engagement email campaign. Why? Because we took a close look at the data and saw that the Click Through Rate was abysmal, we did something about it. Now, our sense of what readers want has improved, and so has the content we deliver.
Another way to improve your email actionable metrics is by honing in on where your subscribers originate. Are they predominantly signing up on a pop-up on your homepage or a services page? Or are they using a subscription option from your Linktree account from Instagram? Use these data points to fine-tune your content and delivery mechanism.
Stop Fretting About Followers, Focus On Engagement
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, people are obsessed with the number of followers they have. The obsession with the vanity metrics here can become all-consuming. However, it’s worth considering just how much content is available on all the social media platforms and the algorithm changes. Facebook, in particular, is notorious for changing how and when you see a business page’s posts.
The takeaway is to note what content receives comments, likes, and shares. Analyze those posts and determine why you think people are responding. Even A/B test your captions or ads across platforms and see if you can replicate the same level of interest.
Concern Yourself with Website Conversions, Not Traffic
One vanity metric that will get everyone talking around the water cooler is a 60% jump in website traffic over the weekend. And, yes, that would be exciting. However, delve deep into the possible reasons behind the spike:
- An influencer mentioned your brand on their socials
- Someone on your team ran a marketing campaign with incorrect UTM parameters
Remember, none of these matter if the spike doesn’t result in conversions. Continue to keep your eye on the traffic for meaningful, actionable metrics.
“Another way to improve your email actionable metrics is by honing in on where your subscribers originate.”
In the Looking Glass
“Vanity is the quicksand of reason,” wrote George Sand. Though this was not his area of expertise, he certainly had a worthwhile insight. As you move forward with planning and achieving your marketing goals, avoid the mirage and the desert of empty data.