You share a post from your business blog and it receives hundreds of “likes” on Facebook while also being retweeted 2,000 times.
This data, which is an example of vanity metrics, makes you feel good, like you’re getting more attention for your startup.
What, exactly, are vanity metrics?
Vanity metrics are data that include information pertaining to things like your number of social media followers, how many subscribers you have, and what your page views are.
The clue is in the name: “vanity.” It’s been said that vanity metrics don’t tell you anything about your business that you need to know, other than provide you with an ego boost.
But is that true or can vanity metrics be useful?
Here’s everything you need to know about vanity metrics.
- 1 Vanity Metrics: A False Feeling Of Success?
- 2 What Are Actionable Metrics?
- 3 Examples Of Useful Data To Track
- 4 Are Vanity Metrics Always Useless?
- 5 When To Especially Avoid Vanity Metrics
- 6 Related Questions
- 7 Conclusion
Vanity Metrics: A False Feeling Of Success?
One of the biggest problems with vanity metrics is that they can give you a false sense that your business is accomplishing something, such as when you see that you have new subscribers on your YouTube channel.
The reason why they’re a false sense of success is because they can be manipulated.
It’s been said that vanity metrics help you to look good in front of other people but they don’t help you to understand your business’s performance so that you can produce successful future strategies, as Tableau reports.
There’s also the question of actionability.
When you deal with metrics, you should ideally be able to use them to take action, such as by establishing business strategies, and that’s the problem with vanity metrics.
They provide you with info that you can’t control and do anything of value with.
Take the example of getting “likes” for your business post. While having hundreds or thousands of “likes” will make you feel good, you can’t always repeat this so-called success.
You could write an even better post and not receive as many accolades, for instance, and that’s because there are so many factors involved that are out of your control.
Earlier, we mentioned that vanity metrics can be manipulated.
This also makes them less useful than you’d like them to be, and a perfect example of how they can be manipulated can be seen on social media.
Take followers on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, for example.
Since people can buy followers, this number doesn’t always connect to their success in any real way.
Even though having a large following on social media can point to people finding your content or company interesting, it doesn’t mean that all those followers will become your customers.
The bottom line is that vanity metrics don’t give you the real stats you need to know if your business is really successful or how you can improve it – that’s where actionable metrics come in.
What Are Actionable Metrics?
These metrics enable you to do something with their data to improve your business and increase your success.
As we’ve mentioned, while having tons of followers might feel good, it doesn’t always translate into having more subscribers or customers who actually purchase or download your product.
Thus, vanity metrics don’t give you anything real to go on.
Actionable metrics, on the other hand, is information that helps you to make better decisions for your business.
These are focused on helping you answer the following questions, as digital marketing entrepreneur Neil Patel reports:
- How do you gain or lose revenue?
- How do you gain or lose customers?
- What are the key functions and benefits that people are coming to you for?
In order to answer these questions, you need to track your revenue so you know exactly where it comes from, and you also need to ensure you know where your real customers are coming from.
When you know who your customers are, you’ll be able to tailor your marketing efforts towards them so that you can increase your sales and profits.
While you might think that clinching a higher number of website visitors or social media followers is good for your business, it’s important to realize that you don’t actually make money from these people.
It’s worth your time and money to rather focus on your customer base.
Similarly, while you might think that monitoring the conversion rate of your site gives you valuable data, it’s too general.
You need to put your attention on analysing the conversion rate of actual website pages so you can also see what kind of website traffic converts or doesn’t convert on each page.
Examples Of Useful Data To Track
Based on the above, there are some good examples of the kinds of things you should be tracking instead of vanity metrics.
These include the following:
- Your current and active members. This number gives you more important information than how many subscribers you have because you’ll see if people are engaging with your content and returning to your site.
- Your monthly active revenue.
- Retention rate. This rate shows you how well your customer care and marketing efforts are working. Are they making or losing you money?
- Monthly churn. This refers to the rate at which customers stop doing business with you.
- Bounce rate. What matters more than how many views your website or blog is receiving is knowing how many people leave your website after visiting its pages.
- Email click-through rate. This is more valuable than open rate because it shows you how many people click on the “call to action” in your email and visit your website or product.
Are Vanity Metrics Always Useless?
Although vanity metrics are given a bad rap because of how they can focus on giving you data you don’t need, you can make them useful by using them as a starting point in order to give you the data that will really help you.
For example, instead of tracking vanity metrics that give you the amount of YouTube video plays on your channel, use that as a starting point to take your analysis further – it’s more beneficial to you to know the rate of plays over a week or month.
Similarly, when you receive data pertaining to how many downloads you’ve had for your app, focus on the ratio between the download number and how much traffic has gone to your website page where people can download the app.
This will give you valuable information about how successful your page is – for example, is the app description helping people to see that the app can be of value?
On the other hand, if you’re not getting many downloads or traffic to the app page, this could alert you to the fact that you need to improve your website page in order to make it more valuable for potential customers.
When To Especially Avoid Vanity Metrics
Sometimes what happens is that when a business starts out, its team will focus on acquiring as much valuable data as possible to ensure they stay on the right track and reach their market.
But, as they start to grow and build a customer base, what happens is that the company might start relying on vanity metrics more than actionable metrics.
Why? The business is growing in popularity, and this is being reflected on its website and social media platforms.
When the marketing team sees how many followers and “likes” the company has, it might shift its efforts to focus on vanity metrics, such as how much traffic is being directed to the website every month – and staying there.
This should be avoided.
While reporting your team’s success in terms of how much traffic your website is receiving and how many followers your company’s social media pages are getting can be nice, it’s limited.
It’s much better for the marketing team to continue putting its efforts into real growth that the company can achieve instead of being lured by vanity metrics that don’t pack as much of a punch as actionable metrics do.
What’s the SMART idea?
You don’t want to waste time monitoring vanity metrics that don’t help you as much as others, so communicate to your team that it’s marketing objectives need to be centered on the SMART idea.
This means that they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
It’s been found that only 25 percent of people who follow brands on social media might make a purchase from them, as Global Web Index reports.
Vanity metrics might provide you with an ego boost, but they actually don’t mean much for your business.
As we’ve seen in this article, there are better ways to gather more useful data, such as by focusing on actionable metrics.