Though we all have vain tendencies, few leaders would describe “vanity” as a cornerstone of their business strategy. (Unless we’re talking about the world of reality TV, where vanity is currency.)
Digital media, however, makes the quest for humility more Herculean than it’s ever been. People and businesses now measure their worth by their number of “likes,” followers, and downloads. It’s intoxicating to see these numbers grow, and many companies rely solely on these metrics to gauge the success of their marketing initiatives.
Unfortunately, the numbers lie. While a higher number of followers or visitors may lead to greater awareness of you and your brand, awareness does not necessarily translate to engagement.
Chasing vanity metrics not only wastes time and resources, but it can also lead to a false sense of confidence that your content is resonating with your audience. If your business is pursuing any of the following “vanity goals,” it’s time to take a look in the mirror and reevaluate the real strategy behind your KPIs.
1. Number of comments:Given the prevalence of trolls and spammers online, the number of comments a piece of content receives isn’t a good way to measure success. The quality of the comments matters more than the quantity. How are people reacting to the piece? What do they have to say? Comments that facilitate a two-way conversation with your readers are the ones that provide real value.
2. Number of registered users: For most sites, this number is constantly rising. Therefore, an increase reveals nothing. If you’re concerned with this figure, measure it over a set period of time. Measuring the growth rate is much more relevant.
3. Number of followers: A huge Twitter following is the centerpiece of every uninformed digital strategy. It’s not a bad thing to have a ton of followers; it just doesn’t mean as much as @justinbieber would like to believe. More important than the number of followers is who they are and whether they’re acting as brand ambassadors.
4. Number of retweets:Again, this number on its own isn’t a perfect indicator of success. You want to establish an online community that carries your brand forward, but as Alexandra Skey says, “Community isn’t about size — it’s about the strength of the tribe.”
A more telling measurement is your retweet ratio: the number of retweets you receive relative to how many tweets you share. This helps gauge the effectiveness of your social content, along with how well your tweets are resonating with your followers.
5. Number of downloads:People are quick to download things that intrigue them, especially if they don’t have to pay. But 26 percent of apps downloaded are only used once. It’s the frequency of use and customer satisfaction that actually matter. It’s better to have a small, dedicated user base than a huge number of apathetic downloaders.
6. Number of page views: An increase in page views usually doesn’t translate to higher revenue. The metric of interest is found in comparing the number of page views per new and returning customer. That way, you can determine if your new visitors are actually a different kind of customer. Similarly, you can track the time spent on your website, which is a better indicator of engagement (and, therefore, potential revenue).
7. Email open rate:Unfortunately, when it comes to measuring open rates, there’s a lack of universal measurement across email service providers. Even if there were, knowing that the recipient opened your email doesn’t tell you how that person responded to it.
A Better Set of Goals
When you judge your success by vanity metrics alone, you aren’t getting a clear picture of what truly resonates with your audience, which makes it difficult to forge the real connections that lead to interest in your brand, sales, and customer loyalty.
Meaningful content goals are those that are deeply rooted in your company’s values. They should be actionable (such as starting conversations with potential customers around a published article), and they should push you to constantly provide value to your audience. You should not be creating more content simply because you feel you should.
To create a set of meaningful goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want your content to achieve?
- Who is your audience?
- What does your audience find valuable?
Your immediate strategic goals shouldn’t be based on a number. Instead, strive to create a relationship with your audience by providing content they care about.
Over time, Twitter followers will trickle in, and new leads will find your website, but these are just added benefits of a content-first focus. More importantly, you’ll be solidifying your credibility as a thought leader, building your brand, and earning customers’ trust.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through thought leadership and content marketing programs. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator of Contributor Weekly. Connect with John on Twitter or Google+.
Originally published on Dec 23, 2013 3:48 PM, updated Feb 5, 2016