Don't let vanity metrics on social media distract you from making money

Vanity metrics might give your ego a boost every time you get a new follower or like on Facebook, but how much is each of those actions actually contributing to your business? Keep reading to find out which social media metrics are valuable, and which are better off being ignored.
Likes, followers, views, comments, pins, shares, stumbles, and other top-level actions can all be considered vanity metrics. You might get a buzz every time one of those counters increases, but do you know which of those customers go on to buy your product, or which pieces of content convert the most people from viewers to buyers?
By focusing on specific pieces of content, you can get a better idea of what converts customers. Maybe your recent how-to article was extremely successful in getting people to buy your product, or a recent podcast episode resulted in more than the usual number of email subscribers. When events like these happen, it’s important to see if you can repeat them with similar pieces of content.
A common theme in social media is that what works on one platform might not work on another. So keep track of what content works where, and how the conversion rates vary between Facebook and Twitter, for example.
Do you even own your own data?
Another argument against vanity metrics is that they all revolve around someone else’s platform. Why drive customers to Facebook or Twitter for the sake of vanity metrics when you can redirect them straight to a sales page or email signup form?
A better approach would be to build a community of your own. That could be a community that interacts through your newsletter, a private forum, or some other online (or offline) meeting place that allows you to engage them directly.
An argument in favor of a little vanity
Doug Kessler argues on Social Media Explorer that vanity metrics can sometimes be the best option.
One extremely valid point is that in the very beginning of starting a business, you might not have anything else to go on. It would be foolish to ignore “vanity” metrics in the first few months of starting a business, especially as they are the only metrics you’ve got to determine whether or not you have potential customers and public appeal. Once you’ve hit critical mass, then you can start to dig into specific posts and pieces of content to see how well they perform in terms of ROI.
When you boil it all down, what you want is a metric that tells you more about a specific customer behaviour. Are they buying? if not, why not? Do tutorials make customer more likely to buy? Are Twitter followers more profitable, or Facebook fans?
If you’re using a metric just so you have something to report, then you might be better off without it. Metrics are designed to give you some insight on customer behaviour, or where there are blockages in your sales funnel – and if they happen to make you feel good, then consider that an added bonus.
Lead image by David Goehring via Flickr