Visual Social Isn't Vanity, it's Vital

Deanna Baisden
Deanna Baisden Content Marketing / Social Media Specialist , SyneCore Tech

Posted on September 18th 2013

Visual Social Isn't Vanity, it's Vital

social and visual

In the world of social media, the term "vanity metrics" gets thrown around quite a bit as an effort to describe what has been labeled as superficial metrics (the # of page likes, followers, downloads, etc.), and therefore have been labeled as a waste of time to monitor. 

 "Vanity metrics look good but fail the "So what?" test."

"Vanity metrics are things people love to quote and obsess over, even though they're almost entirely useless to your business."

"Vanity metrics are all those data points that make us feel good if they go up but don’t help us make decisions."

Quite honestly, I’m tired of hearing about it.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a hierarchy of importance when analyzing your social media strategy. A share or comment creates a much higher level of engagement than a simple like, and should be valued more. 

 The Social Engagement Hierarchy

4. The like/favorite/rating

3. The comment/reply

2. The download/contest entry

1. The share 

The share becomes the highest level of engagement because not only does the user value the relation the content has to their lifestyle, but they trust that their own network will gain as much value from it as they did. 

But does that mean the number of likes on a piece of content, or the number of likes/followers on a particular account, does not matter? Absolutely not.

Put yourself in the position of a potential customer. Say that customer is looking at two different Facebook pages for local coffee shops. They've never been to either, but notice that one page has 1,200 likes and the other page has only 300. 

Which coffee shop are they going to think is more popular and therefore be the one they should spend their time and dollars on? These numbers matter. 

Content + "vanity" metrics go hand in hand; if your audience regularly connects with your content, they will most likely connect with your brand. If they connect with your brand, they more than likely going to show that connection through a page like or a twitter follow. 

Just because companies have mistreated these metrics as key performance indicators doesn't make them any less important to monitor.

Don't blame the metric, blame the operators.  

I’m becoming equally annoyed when it comes the simplistic undermining of measurement with regard to the various visual social channels.

At a recent networking event I attended, I raised the question of why it's difficult to access metrics from visual channels (particulary Instagram) on a large amount of analytics platforms. 

The answer I received? That Instagram is great for branding, but because it's not interactive it won't drive traffic, sales, or leads. 

And because of that "we don't monitor Instagram analytics because they are just another vanity metric."


Let’s take a brief look at the stats supporting Instagram:

instagram statistics

Not too shabby for an application that has been around for just under three years.  

It's safe to say that visual content is the driving force behind developing effective social media strategies and is an overall cornerstone of social media content production. Heck, the Facebook Timeline was designed to make it easier to post and see photos...including Instagram photos!

Likes, comments and hashtags on Instagram, are not pieces of vanity metrics but rather a space for active conversation and community development. 

And with the high possibility of Instagram getting ads sometime in the next year, this audience is only going to become more and more important for companies. 

So why isn't everyone utilizing the importance of these metrics? 


Piqora & Nitrogram get it.





Wieden + Kennedy gets it.

Wieden + Kennedy instagram
Not only is W+K the largest ad agency on Instagram, but they are also responsible for the launch and success of the official Oreo Instagram account. With the release of the Whisper Fight campaign during the 2013 Super Bowl (which they both developed and monitored) they were able to build a following of surpassing 50K in just over a day. 

oreo instagram campaign

Baublebar gets it. 

baublebar website instagram

Using the #baublebar branded hashtag, the jewelery company features brand advocates throughout their site, encouraging the development of earned media.


It’s often advised to brands and companies utilizing social media to always makes sure that whatever channel(s) you are utilizing, the content is adjusted to reflect the needs and desires of that particular social audience; the audience you are reaching on Twitter isn't neccessarly the same audience you are reaching on Facebook. 

If this is the case…then shouldn’t the Instagram audience, Vine audience, Tumblr audience, or any other audience in the visual social space be of importance as well? Don't they matter to your company? 

Let's Review: 

  • All social media channels can be utilized incorrectly, at which time they become “vanity metrics”
  • Instagram is a social media channel
  • If not used properly, instagram can become another victim on the evil list of "vanity metrics"

Unless, of course, you take the time to measure and understand the levels of engagement you're getting on these visual social outlined in the Social Engagement Hierarchy.


drop mic

Deanna Baisden

Deanna Baisden

Content Marketing / Social Media Specialist , SyneCore Tech

Content devourer with a passion for the creative, Deanna is on the constant lookout for her next big adventure. Having earned her B.S. in Marketing Communications and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, she spent the following year trekking the globe directing university programs in both the United Kingdom and China.

At Synecore, she utilizes her diverse range of experiences from event marketing to project management to develop compelling digital content. When she’s not socialing on media, Deanna can be found blazing new trails with her equine comrades and scouring concert venues throughout the Midwest.

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