Vanity Metrics v. Actionable Metrics

A lot of marketing and communications teams are simply measuring the wrong things. Instead of focusing on the few metrics that matter to their business, I still see a lot of people counting Fans as their primary success metric, or measuring brand sentiment as a Key Performance Indicator. In my next few posts, I’d like to help explain some of the pitfalls I see in social media performance measurement, and provide some suggestions for folks who want more actionable metrics from their social media marketing programs.
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In general, there are two types of metrics: Vanity Metrics, and Actionable Metrics.

Actionable metrics provide real meaning because they help you take actions that improve your business.

Vanity Metrics, on the other hand, sound impressive, but don’t actually help you improve your business. Examples can include:

  • Number of Fans or number of users
  • Web site hits
  • Unique visitors

For most businesses, those metrics simply do not inform rigorous business decisions or strategy. Instead, look at data per customer to understand the actions that will lead to better business outcomes from your social media marketing. Think about metrics such as:

  • Engagement per customer
  • Lifetime value of a customer
  • Cost of acquiring a customer
  • Retention rate, by cohort (customers segmented by the time they joined your service)

Don’t just measure things because they are easy, or because the numbers sound good. Take the effort to choose the handful of metrics that truly matter to your business, then focus on implementing reliable reporting of those metrics across your team for better collective decisions.

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