Thinking beyond vanity metrics

Nov 14th, 2022

We know all too well that the figures and numbers that make up some reports don’t mean as much as they seem to on the surface. This article will look at vanity metrics and what they mean – are they as bad as they seem?

They look great, but there’s not much substance to the figures otherwise known as vanity metrics. Traditionally, they do not help you understand your own performance in a way that informs future strategies.

Vanity metrics can potentially be a social media marketer’s downfall, on the surface you can see improvement across KPIs such as:

  • Follower increase
  • Page views
  • Post likes/ comments

These are great, and can look really positive, but if you cannot replicate or report on the ROI generated from the platform(s) – they can be essentially worthless.

The term that springs to mind is causation and correlation and vanity metrics can detrimentally impact how you report. This is due to the fact that yes, technically more followers/ engagement could lead to more ROI; but if there is no evidence of a solidified causation, it could just be a happy coincidence.


I’m not here to rain on any social media marketer’s parade, vanity metrics (like the ones listed above) are the “currency of social media”. More likes and follows can influence brand awareness, and engagement is the holy grail for platform algorithms across the board.

Think about your audience as being curators of their personal newsfeed, they may have taken the time out of their busy schedules to engage with your brand. If you say something meaningful to them, they might give your page a follow, which implies that what you have to say matters enough to them to be a part of their carefully crafted timeline.

Vanity metrics can absolutely give you an indication of a brand’s performance, and allow you to replicate popular post types if you see a pattern emerging with what people engage with.

However, you have to tread carefully with such metrics, your goal should always be about quality before quantity. Vast amounts of followers don’t always equate to meaningful engagement.

Again, if you can’t measure how a metric impacts the overall business objectives – don’t report on that metric.

When it comes to a metric, context means a lot. If you report on social media follower increase (for example) in isolation, it becomes meaningless due to the lack of context.

Actionable metrics are linked to your business’ success and can give you clear indicators as to how your audience is behaving.

So how can you change a vanity metric into a coveted actionable one?

On the surface high numbers equal high prospects – and possibly client – numbers. In order to find the causality from social media engagement to typical actionable metrics such as:

  • Conversions
  • Revenue

You need a solid plan in place of what success looks like, without planning your KPIs/targets you will just be fumbling around in the dark.

KPIs are different for each business, and metrics can be the same. I have described below my number one vanity metric that can be transformed into an important actionable one.

Audience behaviour after a link is clicked

Using native analytics can show you how many people have clicked on the link you’ve shared, but then what? The platforms won’t give you any indication on the behaviour after the link is clicked.

My absolute favourite metric is link clicks. At Click Consult we pride ourselves on our thought leadership, and most of our social posts link to a blog like this one.

You need to set up URL parameters known as UTMs, these are short text codes that you add to URLs (or links) to help you track the performance of a webpage or campaign.

They’re simple to set up, and there are plenty of tools out there to help you create one. I generally use our social scheduler (Hootsuite) to add a UTM. The steps to follow are below.

  1. When using the content box, once a link is added you can ‘add tracking’.
  2. You will then be taken to ‘Link Settings’ where you will need to press ‘Customize’.
  3. Choose from the drop-down menu which analytics platform your company uses (for us, it’s Google Analytics).
  4. You are then greeted with the above options, we primarily use source, medium and campaign for social posts.
  5. The source depends greatly on which platform you use. If you are posting content/ the same link across different platforms, I suggest choosing the ‘DYNAMIC’ option and clicking on ‘Social Network’ – this automatically changes the utm_source to whatever network it has come from.
  6. The utm_medium is a general source from where the campaign comes from, so in the above example we say ‘social’. The utm_campaign is just a brief title/description of what campaign is being shared.

After all of this you only need to press “apply” and Bob’s your uncle! The UTM is trackable in Google Analytics (or your platform of choice), and can give you clear indicators of time spent on page, conversions and revenue directly attributable to social platforms and posts.

How is the audience engaging with your site, and what behaviours can be tracked? Identifying patterns in behaviours on your website can lead to improvements – as long as you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Link clicks aren’t the only vanity metric you can use to gauge the success of your brand on social media. You can discover through native analytics and software insights (such as Hootsuite), how people are talking about your brand, general brand awareness and overall customer sentimentality that can inform your content plan going forward.

Having a strong social media circle isn’t enough to get practical insights into what’s working. If you’re sharing an article, make sure it is accurate, engaging and makes sense. Your content needs to be equally as – if not more – strong as your social media efforts, in other words – quality over quantity!

An additional way to encourage engagement and the all-important link clicks, is to complete a competitor analysis, what are others in your industry doing to increase positive brand sentiment? How are their customers interacting? This is not to promote plagiarism or to copy your competitors but to take inspiration for what your intended audience wants to engage with.

The final piece of advice I have to give to you, is not so much a metric but a helping hand to your strategy. Complete an audit of your social platforms, and keep them up-to-date and fully optimised.

With almost every sector being a ‘competitive marketplace’, you need to stand out from the crowd.

Get in touch with our social media team to make your product or service shine!

let's chat
Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin Youtube