The End of Vanity Metrics: How to Make Your Social Media Data Actionable

As one of Melbourne’s top social media marketing agencies, we understand the trap of vanity metrics and just how easy it can be to fall into, particularly when it comes to a channel like social media. Social media is accessible to everyone and many companies struggle to really harness its converting power and properly link their social media campaigns to the fulfillment of business objectives.

That’s why we’ve decided to put together this handy, simple guide to share some of the knowledge we use to ensure our social media campaigns perform for our clients and put an end to the scourge of vanity metrics.

Use Good Metrics

One of the best gifts you can give yourself when it comes to digital marketing, regardless of the channel you’re leveraging, but especially in social media marketing, is learning how to use data effectively. Contrary to what many people think, data isn’t just about checking your traffic or your engagement counts. In fact, any metric, when observed without context like this, is the very definition of a vanity metric.

Metrics become valuable and insightful when they subscribe to four specific criteria:

Understandable: Good metrics are easy to understand. The story the data is supposed to be telling you should be clear, so you can spend your time using the data rather than understanding or explaining it.

Comparative: Metrics don’t exist in a vacuum. Your traffic numbers are important because you view them in the context of your conversion rate and can deduce how much revenue you made (or didn’t make) as a result of an increase or decrease in traffic. This comparison is everything.

Ratio/Rate: A good metric is usually a ratio or a rate because these are inherently comparative and thus inherently insightful. For example, 1M downloads on an app sounds great, but what percentage of those users are active on a daily basis? What does the growth rate look like?

Actionable: This is arguably the single most important criteria. If a metric isn’t actionable, it’s just a vanity metric. What makes an actionable metric? It changes your behaviour. It springs you into action by clearly defining what the next steps should be, whether further analysis or optimisation. 10K visitors doesn’t mean much, but if you know you had 30K the previous month, now you’ve sprung into action.

Have a Plan
If you don’t yet have a measurement plan, otherwise known as an analytics plan, don’t make another move until you’ve taken care of this. As analytics guru Julian Erbsloeh puts it, “In a nutshell, a measurement plan is a document that translates your top-line business objectives into metrics and dimensions you can measure on your website.”

Your analytics plan should be laid out according to the different stages of the funnel you’re looking to target and each stage should include:

An objective: The thing you want to achieve.

At least one KPI: What you’ll measure to know if you’re achieving your objective.

A target: The level you need to get to or maintain for your KPI(s).

A segment: The slice of data you’ll observe for this objective / KPI.

An analytics plan is a fantastic tool because it not only simplifies business issues and turns them into metrics that can be tracked and optimised for, but it also simplifies your analysis process by cutting through the noise, as well as providing a framework for your tracking implementation. Start by asking yourself what the business problems are that you want social media to solve and go from there.

Visualise the Entire Journey

Here’s a thought experiment for you. A user visits a website five times, their journey towards conversion looks a bit like this: Social Media > Organic Search > Paid Search > Direct > Organic Search. Now, which channel should get credit for the conversion?

Arguably every channel played some part in the journey towards conversion, so here’s another question: which channel will Google Analytics give credit for the conversion?

This is where attribution models come into play. An attribution model is a rule or set of rules governing which channel gets credit for a conversion. By default, Google Analytics assigns 100% of the credit to the last non-direct click. What this means is that whilst social media played an important top-of-funnel role in this particular conversion path, simply looking at the Google Analytics data on the surface won’t give you the full story. 100% of the credit will go to Organic Search.

In this scenario, simply looking at Google Analytics’s default view could lead to you scrapping your social media campaign entirely. It’s quite possible that you’d soon see your conversions go down and not even realise why. Use tools like the Multi-Channel Channel Funnels reports and the Model Comparison Tool to get the full picture before you implement.