In Episode 9, Anna Simmonds, social strategist and Head of Social at Social INK, confesses she’s a recovering follower addict. In business, it’s easy to be seduced by “vanity metrics” – definition explained in the episode – and lose track of what your actual goals are.

You did set goals, right? Here’s a quick dive into what metrics to avoid, which metrics actually matter, and how to choose the right KPIs (key performance indicators) for your digital marketing. Chasing the wrong metrics can waste a lot of time, money, and actually take you several steps back, instead of forward. Setting the right goals is vital to growing your business online.

And yes, we know, follower count looks good. If only digital marketing was that easy!

Connect with Anna on LinkedIn and get more actionable digital marketing tips by hitting subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes!

Show Notes

  • What are vanity metrics? [01:05]
  • Why community is king [02:25]
  • How to encourage community online [03:32]
  • Which metrics actually matter [05:58]
  • Why strategy isn’t end-all-be-all [06:45]
  • How to choose the right KPIs [07:31]
Vanity can break your #DigitalMarketing. @AnnaDoesSocial talks about which #SocialMedia and other metrics actually matter when you’re growing your business. @AllAboutDigMar

[00:00:02] This is the All About digital marketing podcast.

Anna Simmonds [00:00:09] Hey everyone. Anna here, Anna Simmonds to be precise and this is going to be an episode all about vanity metrics. So I’m Head of Social at Social INK and I get to spend my days tinkering with everything from strategy to actually creating and publishing content. And all the creative and technical bits that come into that. All of that gets to fall on onto my desk.

Anna Simmonds [00:00:38] I do have a little bit of a confession to make. I’m a recovering follower addict. But it’s, I mean, it’s true. It was for for a personal project that I had, 10-15 years ago – the first blog I started. And the truth is, follower count doesn’t really matter. Or at least, it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Vanity metrics are vanity metrics because they look good. They don’t get results. It’s easy to think: I’m successful on social media and my business will get results on social media because I’ve X amount of followers. It’s something that we find many businesses start with. They – before they even have an idea of what their purpose is on social media, what they want to get from being on social media, they say: oh, I want five thousand subscribers. You know, I want ten thousand likes on Facebook. Make it happen. So just to list them out, vanity metrics can be things like: registered users, the number of total users, it can be the amount of downloads, raw page views across your your entire web site, or on a particular article. It could be followers on social media. It could be likes on your posts. Even the number of email subscribers you have could be seen as a vanity metric because none of these numbers mean anything unless there’s results to match. And if you chase the vanity metrics, you can end up wasting all your time and energy on the wrong things. It’s been a popular story recently, it’s a real life example of the fact that having a certain amount of followers doesn’t guarantee business success. Arianna Renee is an influencer. And despite having two point six million followers she couldn’t sell 36 T-shirts.

Anna Simmonds [00:02:25] And that is an absolutely diabolical conversion rate. But it all comes back down to the fact that community building isn’t optional anymore. So there are two assets you need for a business to succeed online and particularly to succeed on social media. Those two things are trust and attention. You need an audience that trusts you. Whether that’s believing in the quality of your product or embracing the values of your brand. And that isn’t something that you can fake. At least not for very long. Trust is something that is very hard to rebuild if you ever break it. The value of trust is why everyone talks about being quote unquote “authentic”, because the other asset is attention. Break trust and you lose attention. Those two assets are everything. So forget quantity. Forget the number of like, forget the number of followers.

Anna Simmonds [00:03:23] Community is all about quality. No one wants to be in a room with 10 people they don’t like let alone a thousand.

Anna Simmonds [00:03:32] So why would you make your community online be a bunch of people possibly even thousands of people that aren’t relevant to your business. People online expect that. They expect to be able to reach out to a group of people with a similar mindset, similar interests, similar needs. That’s why – that’s essentially what influencers are. They have a product and that product is their community. A so-called, you know, “accidental community” can happen but it is best when it’s encouraged. And one of the biggest needs of a community is the give and take concept, just like a good friendship. There should be balance. So if you clearly establish your brand values and communicate them they know what to expect. You know that the people repeatedly engaging with you have the same views. Point is, create opportunity for two way conversations between you and your audience. It’s really important to respond and engage on social media and even more important is starting conversations yourself about the things your business cares about or are relevant to your business. You don’t want to be the friend that only hangs out when someone else arranges it. Right? And when you talk to people you’ll be able to get feedback. But even if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a community yet, you don’t have people asking questions. You don’t have that feedback. There’s still going to be ways that you can respond to your audience and what they expect. I’m sure you can name at least one business that has cut back on their plastic use and consumption. We ourselves at Social INK, we worked with City to Sea recently to support their fantastic #PlasticFreeTravel campaign. And they have companies like Premier Inn and Heathrow Airport pledging support. Why? Because those companies want to not only support a good cause but they want to make it clear to their audience that they’re taking action.

Anna Simmonds [00:05:25] So you could just take action on causes that you support, or make changes in your business because you think that’s what the industry wants or what your audience wants. But when you do that, that’s an opportunity to actually communicate that clearly and tell people about it. Make it clear that they do have an influence on the products and services that you provide. That you do think about them. And encourage their input so that you can keep changing and improving and iterating depending on what people actually want.

Anna Simmonds [00:05:58] So if things like followers and downloads and raw page views and all those other good things that look great aren’t actually what matters… What does matter? It’s about active users. You want to look for engagement. So metrics like comments and shares, and mentions, and people linking back to your web site, and replies. And then it all ties into your business goals. So – purchases. If you’re trying to sell tickets for an event, did you sell tickets to an event?

Anna Simmonds [00:06:32] If you’re trying to get a thousand signatures on a petition, did you get a thousand signatures on a petition? And you’ll be able to, as you get more and more engagement on your posts and you build up your community, you’ll get a feel for how to talk to these people in a way that guides them towards your products and services. And you’re only going to do that by actually talking to them. You can’t sit in a boardroom and strategise and strategise and strategise.

Anna Simmonds [00:07:04] You need to experiment and publish and iterate and analyze and experiment. And it’s,

Anna Simmonds [00:07:12] it sounds like work because it is. But it means that you don’t have to worry about being perfect. But what you can be is authentic to your brand, of value to your audience, and you can be effective, and you can get results. But that’s not going to happen without actually trying.

Anna Simmonds [00:07:31] So your KPIs, your key performance indicators, should be all about actions that people take and those actions should be tied into your business goals. Otherwise you’re just making a pretty profile that will grow your business. So I hope that’s convinced you not to chase any vanity metrics. It’s better to have 100, 200, even you know – even just a few dozen people, who are truly engaged with your business, than to have thousands of people and have crickets on all your profiles. But we would love to see you in our All About Digital Marketing Facebook group, if you just search for All About Digital Marketing. So that’s a really great place if you do have questions about specific posts or specific ideas. Or you know, if you have a campaign and it’s not getting the results that you want you can go there and talk to people who are in the trenches with you. If you go to, we have all the episodes there with shownotes, we have the transcripts, we have links. We’ll pop on additional resources, etc. So that is all for this episode on vanity metrics.

Anna Simmonds [00:08:42] Thanks again for listening and catch you next time.