You’re so vain: don’t fall victim to vanity metrics on social media

We’ve all been there. Our Facebook page has finally started gaining likes and we’re ready to tell the whole office we’ve finally made it.

If our social media accounts are gaining likes and followers, surely this must mean we’re doing well, right?

Not necessarily.

Here’s why you should think twice before declaring yourself the office social media guru as soon as you gain some followers.

We’re often led to believe that the number of Facebook page likes and Twitter followers are the statistics we should be paying attention to, but the truth is these are often what entrepreneur Eric Ries defines as vanity metrics.

“The number of social media followers your social profiles have attracted is one of the most vain of all the vanity metrics you can attract, yet it often consumes far too much of the company’s attention,” says growth marketer Sujan Patel.

As their name suggests, the issue with vanity metrics is that although they may make us feel good, they offer no real insight into understanding our audiences and their behaviour.

Unfortunately, vanity metrics are more often than not the kind of statistics that those in executive positions are interested in hearing about. That’s why we so often see evaluation reports proudly displaying things like campaign reach.

Sure, your campaign may have reached 1.7 million Australians, but how many of them actually engaged with your content?

If we really want to learn from our actions, we need to be focusing on what are called actionable or engagement metrics.

Caleb Wojcik describes actionable metrics as “stats that tie to specific and repeatable tasks you can improve and to the goals of your business.”

On social media, actionable or engagement metrics can be comments, likes and shares per post, as well as your engagement rate per follower.

The best way to determine what types of content work best for your organisation is to test. “Do videos do well with your particular Twitter audience? Test them and find out! How about infographics on your business’s Facebook page? There’s only one way to find out – and that’s to test, test, and test again,” says Sujan Patel.

Importantly, to be able to define the metrics that are vital to your organisation, you first need to take the time to define your goals and objectives.

For example, the government run Stay Smart Online campaign’s primary objective is to inform the Australian public of the latest online threats. Ultimately, they aim to reduce the amount of cyber-attacks and incidents.

It makes sense, then, that they should measure the success of their Facebook page based on the number of shares and comments each post receives.

We’ve spoken about how government can use social media to connect with citizens before.

To truly do this, though, government communicators need to start delving deeper than the vanity metrics and start measuring what matters.

Do you measure engagement metrics already? If not, it may be time to reconsider your measurement and evaluation strategy.    

Sarah Ferlitsch

Sarah Ferlitsch

About Sarah Ferlitsch

Sarah graduated from the University of Canberra with a bachelor of Communications in Public Relations.

Since joining contentgroup, Sarah has worked for a number of clients including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, SafeWork NSW, Austrade, the Attorney-General’s Department, Brand Canberra, Transport Canberra and In The City Canberra.

More posts by Sarah Ferlitsch

Like what you've just read? Sign up to our mailing list for weekly updates.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Public Sector Content Communication Weekly Updates

Like what you've just read?

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive our best blogs direct to your email each week

We will not share your email address to third parties

Like what you've just read?

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive our best blogs direct to your email each week

We will not share your email address to third parties