The art of looking beyond vanity metrics
B2B marketers beware: Marketing vanity metrics are easy on the eyes but only skim the surface when it comes to actual value. Although vanity metrics may make you feel good about your marketing efforts, these surface-level metrics only reveal part of the story.
But, fear not dear marketer! If you turn your attention to the metrics that matter, you can improve your marketing strategy and communicate the important insights to leadership.
Before we get into it, here’s a quick definition of a vanity metric: a vanity metric is data that looks good at first glance, but provides little insight into business success, company revenue, and ROI.
So, which data points are the common culprits? Examples of marketing vanity metrics include:
- Page views
- Facebook likes
- Twitter followers
An alternative to marketing vanity metrics
In order to communicate the value of marketing initiatives, marketers must hone in on actionable metrics: metrics that can guide decision-making. These types of metrics are often referred to as engagement metrics. Engagement metrics can tell you more about what’s working, what’s not working, and what information you need to test further. In fact, 91% of marketers named engagement metrics, such as social media interactions, time on site, and bounce rate, as the number one way to measure success.
But let’s face it, executives and board members can get stuck on marketing vanity metrics. So, how can you manage the ever-increasing expectations around marketing vanity metrics? Today, we take a closer look at three common marketing vanity metrics and explore the different ways to steer the conversation towards more meaningful metrics. Let’s jump right in!
1. Social media followers
Many marketers rely too heavily on their social media followers to measure their social media success. And we get it! All marketers want to see an increase in social media followers, but, these numbers don’t necessarily equal an engaged audience.
Think about it this way: you may have thousands of Twitter followers but if only one of them engages with your social content regularly, what is your following really worth? On the other hand, you may have a small but dedicated following on LinkedIn with your social posts often leading to big sales. Yes, your LinkedIn audience is smaller, but it turns out these users engage more with your content, ultimately bring in more value. Just by digging into the data, you’ve zeroed in on actionable information to guide your social media efforts.
The next time higher-ups inquire about your social media following, be sure to shift the focus to more important engagement metrics. It’s important to note that your marketing and business goals will dictate which metrics are most important to your executive team. Here’s what we recommend:
An easy way to show brand awareness on social media is through the number of brand mentions or tags you receive. During your next marketing campaign or product launch, keep a close eye on branded keywords. Next, keep an eye on the competition’s branded keywords to reveal how often social media users interact with competing businesses. Use this information as a benchmark to measure and understand your own performance.
When tracking lead generation, focus on conversions for maximum impact. As you review conversion data in your preferred analytics platform, take note of the social networks that deliver the highest number of qualified leads.
If your goal is to generate website traffic from your social presence, look closely at metrics that demonstrate real social engagement. For instance, check out where your social media leads enter your website, track the pages you visit, and where they drop off. Also, take a look at the specific posts and channels that garner the most clicks so you can scale your success and serve more content that resonates with your followers.
If you use social media as a customer support channel, the number of followers you accumulate won’t give you any information about how you are doing. Instead look at metrics like the ratio of questions asked to questions answered or responsiveness. Then, work to improve how many cases or complaints you solve.
Event or webinar registrants:
If your goal is to generate event participation, break your reports down by social channel. This shows you where users are the most active and engaged in your webinar or event. Simply include campaign tracking information in your social links.
Not all content is created equal. For instance, a high conversion on gated content signals a high-quality piece of content. Use this metric to strategize on future content offerings and bring those insights to leadership.
The list above is a good starting point to show the senior team how your social efforts meet specific business goals. Roll up your sleeves, and start tracking!
2. Total app, product, or software downloads
Total downloads. This number can be impressive on the surface but it isn’t a clear way to gauge the impact your marketing efforts have on product adoption. Instead of looking at total number of downloads, look to yearly and monthly download trends to reveal if downloads are increasing or decreasing over time. Then, look at this timeline in comparison to a timeline of major marketing campaigns. That way, you can pinpoint which efforts had an impact on downloads and which did not.
Another issue with total downloads, is that it doesn’t paint a complete picture of product usage or adoption. Instead, look at these key usage metrics for a clear understanding of how your customers and prospects engage with your offers:
- Uninstall rate
- Renewal rate
- Trial conversion rate
- Time users spend using the software
Although higher-ups and executives may only express interest in total downloads, it’s your job as a marketer to paint a more complete picture for them. For example, you could explain that total downloads are up after a recent marketing campaign, but usage metrics stayed level. This indicates that your campaign was faulty in some way. Maybe you didn’t give an accurate description of your product, or maybe it was too difficult for users to figure out. These are important insights to highlight to upper management.
3. Website pageviews
A high number of pageviews is an ego boost, but pageviews are another metric to be wary of. When you report this data to management, it’s important to provide pageviews along with actionable engagement metrics to fully show user behavior. Focus on how users engage with your website content rather than how many pageviews each webpage garners. Important engagement metrics include:
- Time spent on site
- Unique users
- Bounce rate
- Pages per visitor
- Conversion rate
Some questions to think about when reviewing website analytics:
- Which pages keep people engaged, and which ones do users abandon quickly?
- Which elements and CTAs convert best?
- Can you identify which traffic sources perform best and why?
- Or, can you determine which campaigns generate the most traffic and why?
- Is your website content mapped to your sales journey in a way that makes sense?
- Can you pinpoint at which stage of the buyer’s journey users leave your website?
Take an in-depth look at these engagement metrics to really focus your online marketing initiatives on engagement over pageviews. Use your findings to build best practices and reduce bounce rate to ultimately keep users coming back for more great content.
Final thoughts on marketing vanity metrics
While higher-ups may ask for marketing vanity metrics, it’s your job to refocus on data points that correlate to sales and revenue, improving your business' KPI's.
Know that you can still report on vanity metrics to management, but don’t spend much time there. Instead, focus the conversation on more actionable, advanced metrics, highlighting the value they offer your company.