What are vanity metrics?

Vanity metrics are performance statistics or data that look promising on the surface but do not necessarily indicate the business’s actual performance. In some cases, the vanity metrics look good to the onlookers, but you cannot use them to gauge the performance of your business. They are not an accurate indication because they often lack the context required to create a significant comparison and evaluate facets of the system that are not related to any KPI.

Vanity metrics are often mistaken for actionable metrics. Unlike vanity metrics, actionable metrics help businesses and stakeholders make informed decisions.

Vanity metrics are easy to obtain and in massive numbers because various platforms can supply them. However, they are ambiguous when trying to use them to establish the value of the business or when reporting return on investment (ROI).

In digital platforms, vanity metrics include followers, likes, shares, comments, traffic, open rate, views, bounce rate, and time spent on traffic. For instance, an online service can have 20,000 registered accounts but only 500 active users per month.

Examples of Vanity Metrics

Social Media Followers are one of the most deceiving statistics. In actuality, it does not reflect the actual social or market presence. Unless this massive following translates to sales, it is a vanity metric.

Pageviews are one of the most popular vanity metrics. They can only be helpful to the business if the views and page visits can translate to profits.

Running Total of Purchases and Downloads is a vanity metric that affects platforms such as games, software, apps, and service trials. For instance, you can get 1000 downloads but 900 uninstalls and zero actual users. Rather than relying on download and purchase metrics, consider the usage statistics such as how often customers open the app and the time they spend on it.

How to Identify Vanity Metrics

Is the data portrayed on the outside a reflection of what is happening on the inside?

In online digital spheres, you can easily manipulate data. Social media metrics can be impressive but are unreliable if you have paid to get the high metrics. For instance, you can create a massive following on social media in just two hours by throwing money at ads. Therefore, you cannot rely on such metrics to make critical business decisions.

Consider obtaining data from credible third-party algorithms such as Google or any other source that you cannot control.

Can you manage the effect and cause in your data? For instance, if you earn page views due to content going viral, it is useless if you cannot leverage it.

Vanity metrics may not be beneficial, but you can still use them to estimate some aspects of the performance of a business. Vanity metrics can vary depending on the industry and the unique needs of every business. When employing vanity metrics, the question to consider is whether these vanity metrics will help achieve the business’s objectives.

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