Seeing the heart reactions roll in is a satisfying feeling, isn’t it? But it’s easy to get caught up in all the likes and follows, thinking you’ve achieved success. Although it is important to measure your social media marketing efforts and determine the impact you are making, you need to ensure that you are measuring the right thing.

So, are the metrics you’re looking at actionable, or vanity?

Well, when it comes to vanity, this is the aspect of data that’s nice to see — these are your views or impressions — but it doesn’t tell the full story of whether or not your posts are succeeding. Actionable metrics, on the other hand, shows what the next move in your strategy should be.

Here, media update’s Maryna Steyn zooms in on the metrics that really matter.

The danger of vanity

The reason why vanity metrics are so misleading is because a high number of views or impressions on a post, for instance, can be confused as the number of people who have read your post. But in reality, it’s only the number of news feeds your post actually showed up in.

Not a lot can be done with this number in terms of strategy. It doesn’t show you if you gained any customers and neither does it tell you if your campaign is actually reaching people. Essentially, this type of metric doesn’t tell you what your next steps should be.

However, if you look at, for example, the number of comments on your post, this indicates how many people actually interacted with your brand. It’s a number that can be counted and reported on. That information can then be used to either alter your social media strategy, or confirm if you reached your goal.

See the difference?

If it’s all vanity, why do these metrics exist?

Whether it is your number of likes, followers, views or profile visits, these metrics exist because it helps gather important information. Reactions, for instance, do tell you if someone likes your content, and follows do indicate that some people were interested enough in what you do to want you to show up in their feed. But any metric can be misinterpreted.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a set list of vanity metrics you can use to tick off a list and say ‘don’t look at these’ as anything can be either a vanity or an actionable metric — it just depends on what your goal is.

So, when you start your next campaign, you need to clearly define what your objective is. Let’s look at an example:

As a small business, you might want to increase engagement on social media. In order to measure if you have achieved this goal, you need to look at your measuring tools — or the metrics on the social media platform.

If you use LinkedIn, for example, the metrics you have on the business account are clicks, shares, reactions, followers, visitors and impressions. So, which one of these metrics will show increased engagement?

Well, in this case, you’re most definitely looking at reactions, shares and comments. These will be your actionable metrics as they show you who is enjoying your content enough to hit that ‘like’ button. They also indicate whether your posts are worth discussing by revealing who’s making comments. Additionally, you can see whether your content is shareable by tracking the number of shares on your LinkedIn posts.

How to spot vanity metrics — and turn them into action

Now that you understand the gist of it, here are some tips and tricks to spot if a metric is all vanity or action.

Step 1: Take all the metrics you are looking at on your platform and create a list. Write down your campaign objective so you don’t forget to keep it in mind.

Step 2: Look at the metrics one by one and work through the following questions. Be careful not to frame the results in a better light than it actually is — if you’re not reaching your goals, then this is exactly why you need to do this exercise.
  • What does this (like, share, follower count, impression, view) measure?
  • What does this mean for the campaign objective? Be honest.
  • What does this say about my social media marketing / content?
  • What actions can I take because of this result? This relates both to steps to improve a current strategy, as well as steps to build on a successful campaign.
Step 3: Are there any metrics you could not give an answer for? These are your vanity metrics. Which metrics could you ask all four questions for? These are your action metrics and should be the metrics you track for a specific campaign.

Using these three steps, you should be able to look at the right data and make decisions based on fact rather than optimism.

Have you fallen into the trap of vanity metrics before? How did you recover? Let us know in the comments below.

Want to stay up to date with the latest news? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Are you a fan of LinkedIn? Enough to become an influential being on the platform? Then you will definitely want to check out our article about LinkedIn influencers: Your FAQs answered
*Image courtesy of Canva