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Social Vanity Metrics: The Top 4 Worst Offenders

We’ve all got a boss – whether that’s an actual boss in your company, or a client that pays the bills. The problem with many, is that they love a vanity metric. A metric that boosts their ego, that makes them think they’re doing a great job, but that really doesn’t tell them anything about what’s really going on. 

We see it all the time, and here are the top 4 worst offenders!

Facebook Likes

No article about vanity metrics would be complete without Facebook likes. It’s unbelievable that in 2015 we’re still talking about Facebook likes as a viable metric. Simply measuring Facebook likes misses a plethora of important information such as their value, their quality, the context of those likes, their ongoing engagement and so on.

If you’re not measuring the ROI of your Facebook marketing based on more than just Facebook likes you have a major issue. Top questions to ask someone who is asking for this as a key metric are:

•    What value do the likes give?
•    How many of those that have liked have gone on to become customers?
•    Why do these people like the page?
•    Do those who like the page engage with content?

These key questions need to be answered and the results that they give are much more valuable as metrics. If you have a social media reporting dashboard for instance, surely having the value of a like and the overall revenue generated has to give a much clearer picture of performance.

Interaction Comparisons

It’s now really hard to compare content performance and benchmark your Facebook performance versus competitors. Before post amplification came along, you could simple calculate the engagement rate as the sum of interactions on a post divided by the number of likes to give an ‘engaged audience per post’ metric which could easily be compared between pages. Now though, all businesses are encouraged to promote their posts, meaning that the engagement rate metric has mostly gone out of existence in a competitive sense.

Measuring interactions was seen as the next best thing, but raw volume levels of comments, likes, and shares, are nothing more than a vanity metric. They unfortunately cannot give you a measure of real performance. There are a number of factors to consider here, such as:

•    How much money was paid to reach that audience?
•    Does your competitor promote their posts to reach that level of interaction?
•    Does the level of interaction on a post correlate with real business benefit?

Without being able to answer these key questions, it’s impossible to know whether your level of interactions on a post has any relevance at all to your business.

Social Ad Reach/Impressions

One we’re getting asked for more commonly it the impressions and reach (unique impressions) from our social media advertising efforts. Whilst I understand that it’s a common question from a client using any advertising channel, the number of impressions (or the amount of eyeballs who have seen the ad) doesn’t really matter.

With social advertising your clickthrough rate is often lower, meaning that your number of impressions and reach is generally higher than other digital advertising forms for the price. However, users aren’t clicking generally aren’t engaged in the ad, and may be paying it no attention at all with everything else that is going on within the social media platforms. 

Ultimately, whether your ad has had 100 or 100 million impressions doesn’t really matter – what does matter is your conversion rate and your average order value from the ad budget spent.

Total Twitter Impressions

Again, we are regularly being asked for this metric at the moment. Total Twitter impressions shows you how many people potentially saw your tweets over a certain period of time.  The theory is that if this is increasing, then your Twitter activity is doing better. Without comparison this metric is pretty useless as well, and does nothing but inflate egos and potentially hide issues. A comparative metric such as impressions per post would be much better, as total Twitter impressions is completely reliant upon how many tweets you push out, amongst a myriad of other factors.

As mentioned above, without looking at the real business value of an impressions from Twitter, any view on impressions is hard to validate. Your goal may be brand awareness, in which case impression per tweet makes some sense, but you still miss out a lot of crucial information in terms of who those people are, and if they’re engaging with your tweets and your business.


If you’re measuring and reporting on social media performance you’re probably doing a better job than a lot of companies out there. But, make sure that you’re not simply reporting on vanity metrics. In reality you need to be reporting on a range of metrics that make sense as a set, rather than any one standalone metric.

Ones I’d recommend together for say Facebook would be:

•    Total revenue from Facebook traffic
•    Clickthrough rate per post (to the website if applicable)
•    Reach per post
•    % of audience who took action

A simple set like this, when used together, will give you a much better view on your overall performance when taken over time than any one metric can.

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