3 Vanity Metrics You Waste Time On (And What To Focus On Instead)

 
 
On paper, it’s easy to see metrics as just a bunch of numbers — but metrics are fundamentally reports on people. Your nonprofit’s donation page getting 10,000 hits last month is a more abstract concept for our minds than realizing a stadium-full of people came across your donation form (neat!). Similarly, it can hurt to consider that 9,385 of those people saw your donor form and chose to walk away without supporting your cause (ouch).

Therein lies the risky business of getting caught up with vanity metrics — the numbers can feel emotionally satisfying, but they don’t necessarily indicate that your marketing efforts are moving the needle in tangible ways toward your organization’s goals. 

Contrast that with actionable metrics, which are metrics that drive growth, solidify your competitive advantage, and help you or your team make future marketing decisions rooted in reliable, replicable evidence. Actionable metrics include:
  • Active users / participation
  • Lead generation
  • Cost of acquiring new supporters
  • Supporters’ responses and loyalty to the organization
  • Retention / repeat usage
  • Conversion rate (ie. through an email campaign/funnel)
Wilson Raj, Global Director of Customer Intelligence at the powerhouse data analytics company SAS, frames actionable metrics this way: "Marketers need a metric that helps them understand whether they are gaining [supporters], or losing them. They need a metric that helps them track whether they are gaining or losing revenue. And also metrics that give insight into why [supporters] are choosing your [organization] — or why they’re not.”

Below, we look at 3 vanity metrics that your organization may be guilty of overanalyzing… and the accompanying actionable metric you should shift more of your focus toward instead!
 

1. Social Media Vanity Metric: Facebook/Instagram/Twitter Followers

Getting a "follow” on your social media pages from new people feels great! Plus, it’s one of the easiest (and most public) numbers to track. Except… there are nearly 100 million bot accounts on Instagram, 270 million fakes on Facebook, and 23 million on Twitter. Fake follows will inflate your follower count, making that number lose much of its significance.

Even if it’s a real person that happens to follow you, there’s no guarantee that they will actually view, comment on, or otherwise interact with your content. Newsfeeds are getting more and more flooded each year! With social media followers, it’s not a matter of who drops by, but who actually sticks around to listen to what you have to say.

Actionable Metric: Engagement Rate

Instead of micro-monitoring fans and followers, track the engagement rate on your posts instead. Your engagement rate takes into account any likes, comments, retweets and shares your posts get. You can use the native analytics offered in each of these platforms to track this metric, learn which posts resonate with your target audience, and replicate that success.

Engagement Rate Resources:
  • EdgeRank: The algorithm that Facebook uses to decide what content appears in each user's newsfeed. If your content doesn’t score well, the algorithm considers it boring and buries it, while pushing content with higher engagement to the top.
  • Instagram Engagement Calculator: Influencer Marketing Hub created a calculator that allows you to check the engagement percentage of any user, along with estimated earnings per post (should you choose to partner with an influencer), total likes and comments.
  • How To Calculate Your Twitter Engagement Rate: This how-to shares the formula to calculating Twitter engagement, as well as benchmark percentages for what’s considered a poor, good, high, or very high engagement rate.

2. Website Vanity Metric: Blog Page Views

Getting eyeballs on your blog is definitely a good start, but this metric alone doesn’t give you the clues you need when deciding what content to replicate (and what to steer away from).

Did your visitors actually read your content? Did they find it valuable? How long did they stay? Where did they come from? These are more useful concepts that can help inform your team’s content marketing decisions.

Actionable Metric(s): Bounce Rate & Social Shares

Your bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit your site, but leave without clicking into any other page (ie. related blog posts). The goal? To lower your bounce rate as much as possible! 

You can help bring your bounce rate down by including strong calls-to-action (CTAs), links to related topics of interest, and offering downloadable content upgrades throughout your blog. By reporting a declining bounce rate, you essentially have evidence that your blog is retaining a stronger readership.

Along that same idea, social shares are proof that your readers find your content valuable enough to share with their network(s). Having social share buttons available on each of your blog posts benefits the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of your site, as each share helps leave "digital footprints” of your content across the web.

3. Email Vanity Metric: Open Rate

This one is a bit similar to #2 above in that it’s a good starting point to measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Still, it’s only scratching the surface of your audience’s behaviour and cannot tell you the whole story. 

It’s great that your subject line intrigued readers enough to open your email, but again… did they actually read it? Did your message motivate them to take action the way you intended?

Actionable Metric: Click-Through Rate (CTR)

The higher you can get your CTR, the more powerful lead-generation your email campaign can report. Your email’s call-to-action will provide a big clue as to whether your messaging is connecting with your target audience.

Craft a strong CTA that directs users to download something, watch a video, or head back to your site. Make sure your link is trackable through link management and analytics tools like Bitly (or if your using Donor Engine, our internal tool). This way, you can monitor performance insights like:
  • Unique clicks vs. repeat click
  • Incoming traffic on any given day
  • Where (geographically) clicks are coming from
Vanity metrics may be getting a bad rap these days, but there’s no need to discount them completely. A better approach may be to work on improving actionable metrics while periodically checking in with your vanity numbers. Together, these can provide your nonprofit with a more holistic view of your audience’s behaviour.

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