In today’s digital marketing world, almost every action, initiative, and process is quantifiable. Marketers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the available tools and metrics designed to measure the impact of their campaigns in the market, which at first glance appears to be a good thing. But the problem with having too many measurement metrics and collected data is that it is easy to lose track of which are truly important and can provide real value and insights to marketers (actionable metrics), and which are there simply because they look good on paper – i.e. vanity metrics.
The problem with vanity metrics
Too often, marketers get lured into the false sense of the perceived value of vanity metrics: social media followers, likes, subscribers, page views, and various other flashy analytics that do not speak directly to your current strategy and overall future business goals. Most importantly, they do not aid a deep understanding of current performance nor do they influence future decision-making. While vanity metrics do have their place within certain marketing strategies, they should certainly not be the primary source of data used to inform major business decisions.
For example, say you are running a social media marketing campaign for a new coffee brand hoping to create its own space within the saturated coffee market. You run a few paid ads, release some video content, and launch a social media competition where one lucky subscriber wins a month’s supply of free coffee – pretty straight-forward. Now you’re expecting sales, but they don’t happen despite the apparent success of the campaign based on interaction – but what have you really gained?
Sure, your content and posts get likes and attract new subscribers, and your adverts and competition campaign gather relatively high online traction: this is all very well, but these metrics speak specifically to your campaign, and not much to the brand overall. It helps with brand awareness, but the insights gathered here are not enough to inform major strategies for the brand: demographics, target audience behaviour, likes and dislikes, etc.
Simply put, you can’t use vanity metrics in isolation as your only measure of success. The number of likes or shares a post gets does not necessarily mean your brand has acquired a new lifelong customer – it only speaks to the impact of the post. If you want more detailed data to inform the overall strategy and brand positioning, you have to dig a little deeper.
Metrics that matter
What is crucial for marketers to understand is that detailing the specific objectives of your marketing initiatives will determine which metrics will provide the most value. If your goal is to build brand awareness, then certain vanity metrics will give some indication if you are succeeding, whereas if what you want is to drive conversions then your metrics will focus on actionable insights.
Here are a few actionable metrics that speak to an overall brand impact that we feel marketers should focus on in lieu of vanity metrics:
1. Engagement rate > Number of followers
The number of followers you have doesn’t necessarily translate into engagement (i.e. bots). Engaged users who interact with your content lead to more promising leads than those who simply follow your page. If you have fewer followers than your competitors but your engagement rate is higher then you are providing more value to your customers and are, in reality, having more of an impact on your target audience.
2. Click-through rate > Number of subscribers
Your click-through rate follows similar objectives to your engagement rate as a click-through is proof of audience engagement. Having thousands of subscribers who do not engage with your content enough to click-through amounts to very few tangible leads. If you have a high click-through percentage it shows that your audience is eager to engage with your content and is, therefore, more inclined to move closer to the conversion funnel.
3. Bounce rate > Number of page views
This important metric shows how many of your viewers remain on, explore, and click to other pages on your website compared to the percentage of users that leave your page immediately without any other interaction. This indicates an active interest in your content and shows that you are providing value to your visitors. The number of page views will always increase (the graph only goes up), so to simply rely on the number of page views metric doesn’t show if you are truly reaching your audience, or if people quickly leave your site for your competitors. The lower your bounce rate, the more engaged your audience is.
3. Conversion rate > Number of conversions/leads
Your conversion rate speaks to the general efficacy of your CTAs and gives you the insight to recreate the formula going forward to attract leads. Whereas the number of conversions metric is specific to each campaign and therefore unable to give you any insights into your overall strategy (i.e. one post may get 100 likes in 100 days, meaning despite 100 likes in isolation appears good, your conversion rate over time needs work). Again, percentages show more than numbers.
4. Active users > Page visits
Having high page visits only shows the amount of traffic to your site, it fails to show what your visitors do while on your site and for how long they stay there. An active user metric shows the potency of your campaigns and content to ensure repeat visitors and active users on your platform. Having less active users compared to page visits is common, but having a low active user number each month shows that your content and marketing initiatives need to work to retain your audience.
With all the available metrics, measuring the ROI of your marketing can quickly become very performance-based, and many brands are leaning more on the performance side because it’s easier to quantify and probably justify to stakeholders when talking hard numbers. But this can make marketers forget that traditional brand-building campaigns can generate just as much value if done right.
A brand-building marketing stunt can be as effective when weeks later a customer remembers your campaign and chooses you over your competitors, rather than having this person bombarded with ads. While these traditional brand-building initiatives may not provide immediately measurable metrics, they will do over time as the bigger picture of your branding falls into place. This will be derived from physiological, poignant, and emotionally-engaging content that speaks to the brand as a whole, not a specific product or campaign.
Think of some of the most memorable advertisements you have come across: your lasting impression is likely to remember the brand itself and not the particular product. Sports apparel campaigns are a good example of this: it is often not the actual trainer or sweatband you want and crave, but the projected lifestyle, experience, and emotional hook which grabs you. This is the power of brand longevity. Think of it this way: you don’t define yourself as a ‘MacBook Pro’ or a ‘Lenovo Ideapad’ person, but rather either an Apple or Windows person. See now?
Thanks to the impact of the advancements in tech, marketers are able to quantify and track the performance of every digital marketing endeavour down to the integer. But having a lot of variations in this regard does not necessarily speak to a campaign’s potency and the ultimate goal of conversions. Indeed, each campaign will require different metrics to track its success. Vanity metrics have their place in marketing, but they do not provide insights into the overall success of a brand to reach its audience. Actionable metrics are there to provide valuable insight into the efficacy of each digital marketing initiative, but also show how marketers can improve and add to these in the future.
That being said, let’s not forget the power of traditional marketing and brand building endeavours which look beyond the numbers and aim to make a lasting impression in people’s minds.