I have been using the term Vanity Metrics in training courses and strategic marketing planning days with clients for some time now. It is a phrase that invariably brings a wry smile to the faces of those in the room as they understand the subtle meaning of this combination of words that quite poignantly describes an experience they have seen over recent years.
It’s very easy to get swept along in the big numbers. As marketers, business people, sales executives and business owners we are constantly driven by the desire to increase the numbers: sales volumes, sales revenue, customer enquiries, new business leads. The premise is that the higher the number and the faster you achieve it the better your business is performing. But this isn’t always true.
Sometimes we might get a lot of new customers, but they aren’t the right customers because they take too long to serve and the match of their need against the features and benefits of our products and services is weak. Sometimes we sell lots of products, but it’s at a discounted price and this eats into our margins and makes us less profitable. The list of situations where big numbers don’t equate to a great result is endless and yet we continually strive to do the numbers.
Consider when you are socially networking. What are we all trying to do? Yes, pander to our egos, as we strive to gain more followers, friends and connections in order to present our increasing popularity to the world. The more we do it the more we crave it. I am up to 1,000 followers then 10,000 then 100,000. Does that make me a better social networker creating great commercial opportunities? Is the quality of the engagement I have with this rapidly expanding audience any better than it was with a small handful of loyal followers? Is it a good thing that I now have thousands of visitors coming to the front door of my website but I have no idea how many actually come inside, properly inside, to view my products, services, propositions and people in order to build their trust in my business that might lead to a sales enquiry?
Vanity Metrics is the real menace of true measurement because we are simply swept along with the big numbers. Our bosses ask for the big meaningless numbers because firstly they don’t know that there are better, more meaningful and insightful numbers deeper inside, but crucially it’s our fault because we don’t take the time to learn ourselves about what is actually more important. Vanity Metrics starts with ourselves.
When you find yourself thinking about the number of visitors you have to your website stop yourself and ask whether that means anything at all to you. The next time you check how many Likes you have on your Facebook page or how many followers you have on Twitter stop yourself and wonder if it would be better to find out about whether the last dozen tweets caused any reaction or engagement, and if so how could you make them even more effective. If you know the answer to these questions without even checking, then you really do have some work to do!
Vanity Metrics is simply the tip of the iceberg. What you really need to do is start with your high level business objectives (and I bet those don’t include increasing the number of Likes on your Linkedin company page?). Then work out what data might be helpful to demonstrate how well you are taking enquirers and customers along their customer journey through your products and services. Each step in the journey is something you can measure and the aim is to turn information and data into intelligence that will better inform your decisions, reduce the risk in getting things wrong, help allocate precious resource and ultimately drive more profitable business your way.
I am not convinced those Vanity Metrics are going to be much help to you. Let’s do quality measurement, not quantity.
If this is all new to you and you hadn’t even realised you could/should/would be measuring your digital marketing and social media performance, then let’s talk.