Vanity Metrics: The Snake Oil of Marketing

Some time ago we partnered with a production company to start a new show on TV which promised to boom the business.  We hired a highly awarded producer and host, one of the most knowledgeable and connected in the industry. The show came out and it was a hit!  In fact, it won a best new series award from the network after its first season. We set up a separate website so we could track the traffic and we watched the traffic real-time when the first episode aired – nothing.  It was very clear with each passing episode that we had developed a highly visible marketing tool that couldn’t generate enough sales to even pay for one episode, let alone a whole season, or be profitable in any way.

This is a perfect example of a vanity metric.  A vanity metric is any metric that makes the business look good on its face but isn’t achieving any meaningful results for the business, mainly sales and service. For most of us, our vanity metrics come in the form of social media likes, followers, and other highly visible metrics through social channels.

Let me give a better example of a vanity metric that you’ll probably relate to.  Have you ever gone to a company’s page and liked it, but never returned to their page again?  It would not be surprising if you had, it happens all the time. This is a problem because you might look at your Company’s likes and think of that as a positive thing, but it could just be an army of Likes and that’s it – not engaged customers who are interacting with your content or connecting with the company through its other channels.  That information has very limited usefulness for directing future marketing

How should we look at these data points then?  Just throw them away? No. However, it’s important to clearly define what the goals of your various marketing campaigns are and that will tell you the metrics to focus on and be sure those goals are accomplished. If the goal of a campaign is to get a targeted audience to click through content onto a landing page then the funnel is clear – how many impressions were sent, how many clicked through, and from there you can further analyze their time on page and behavior.  If the results were poor – the content needs work. If the results were good then you may consider investing more into that campaign. That’s actionable metrics.

The trap many fall into is the feel-good of likes and followers.  It feels good to see the likes growing and growing, but that doesn’t pay the bills.  It requires a disciplined approach to identify the goals and metrics that will measure performance against those goals.  This is a shift in thinking for many dealership marketers, particularly smaller dealerships who don’t have sophisticated marketing programs in place.  Luckily, it doesn’t take a huge sophisticated marketing program to ensure that the resources put into your marketing efforts are paying off, just a focused approach on the goals and the measures against those goals.