The unhealthy obsession with vanity metrics…

Noticed a slip in likes and comments on your social media posts recently? If you’re running a business page, there’s no doubt you will have experienced the choke hold Facebook’s infamous algorithm has increased on your activity – with many businesses now considering it a waste of time and choosing to drop their efforts altogether.

If you’ve considered joining them, well it’s easy to understand why. That time you spent creating, curating or simply sharing to your feed is being ignored – or at least that’s the way it feels! But, if you look beneath the likes, comments and that fancy looking engagement rate, there’s so much more to consider.

Below, we deconstruct the merit of vanity metrics and put you back on the path towards a healthier, more intentional way of running your socials, so let’s get started…

Written by Liam Bland

What are vanity metrics?

In short, vanity metrics is a blanket term used by marketers to describe data that isn’t indicative of real business goals. For social media, and Facebook specifically, we’re mostly talking reactions; your likes, love hearts etc and for some, comments too. If this is what you’ve been judging your performance by, then odds are you’ve been feeling pretty low for some time, as Facebook continues to make changes to the way it serves content.

It can make you feel worse still by looking at competitor pages and noticing their engagement is better, even though there’s little difference in your content. But without the context of how long they’ve had their account, what strategies they’ve used in the past, or even how much they’ve spent on ads, beating yourself up really isn’t worth the time. Instead, we need to focus on what’s important and build a plan, so that we can climb past our competition…

Starting from the top…

So, what is important? Forget the metrics for now, vanity or otherwise, because we need to go back to your business goals. What does success look like to you? We’re not looking for a philosophical answer here, we just need to create realistic targets for the short and long term. That way we can be more intentional, create goals and start designing a roadmap to the promised land! This won’t just benefit you on social media, this will benefit you across the board – but, this is a blog on social media, so I digress…

Let’s take a cosmetics company for example, success to them is ultimately selling products. However, they’ll also have a list of smaller aims too, like building their network of resellers and increasing awareness of their brand/products. Whatever they are, and whatever yours are, it’s here we need to look at a list of metrics so we can start to reverse engineer our goals and turn them into a tangible plan…

Which metrics really matter?

Because the importance of each metric will vary depending on your goals, it goes without saying that this list is in no particular order…

Website Clicks:

How many people have clicked links through to your website, or whatever you have linked in posts. Odds are, if your business goals require people to leave social media, this’ll be one of the first on your list.


How many people have shared your content to their social feeds. Though this keeps your message on social media, it does help you to extend your post to new circles and potential customers.  


How many people have used the save icon to bookmark your post for future use. On Instagram, you can collate saved posts into collections and post on your profile, something we see bloggers and influencers do a lot to collate their favourite brands and sponsors.


Put simply, how many people have slid into your DMs. Direct Messages for the ultra-serious. But spam accounts aside, this is one of the most valuable metrics to keep track of – because anyone messaging should have genuine interest in your product or services. 

Replies to stories:

Somewhere between post comments and a DM, replies to stories are any action someone takes on your stories content. This can be a message about what you’ve posted or, more commonly, its an action taken on one of your stickers.

If you’ve used stickers in the past you’ll know how effective they can be for replies, and if you haven’t, well, where’ve you been? For those who are new to the tool, Stickers are things like polls, questions and quizzes you can attach to stories content in order to generate more engagement.


The holy grail of awareness metrics, UGC, or user generated content are social posts that are about the brand, published by your customers. For instance, if you’ve just bought a new outfit and spent half an hour going Vogue, taking pictures in every room in a search for the perfect angle, posting them to socials would be considered UGC.

Of course, depending on your niche, UGC might look different, but it’s no less important because they allow you to take a back seat on sales, letting the conversation build around your brand and you didn’t even have to do anything!

So how can I use them to improve my socials?

Now we know which stats you should be looking out for, they’re not much help if you’re not going to use them to influence the content you post. What you need to do is go back to your business goals, pick out the metrics that measure their success and start to design your content around them.

Let’s break that down in an example; we’re the owners of a fashion store that sells online and wants to boost sales from our website. One metric we’ll want to consider for sure is website visits, so is the answer simply to create posts that take users to our website? Yes. And no.

Aside from including links to your website in posts, you’ll have to be creative in how you post because nobody (or very few people) are clicking through to purchase your products if you’re constantly on a sales drive. That’s why we suggest a more balanced approach inspired by some of the other meaningful metrics.  

For instance, we could create a post centered on DMs that’s says something along the lines of ‘First 5 people to message ‘OFFER’ in our DMs get a very special discount code to spend online’. We could create a hashtag, #NetFashionFriday to promote UGC. Though not specifically centered on sales, they offer variety to our page feed and stay true to our overriding aim of pushing people to the website.

The irony of our ignoring vanity metrics…

The funny thing about changing the way you post to a more intentional strategy like the one above is, after a while, you’ll probably notice your vanity metrics rise too. After all, your content will be more professional, less hit and hope and will create engagement centered to your brand goals. The short answer for boosting likes and followers, without paid advertising, is to increase the quality of your posts – it’s just ironic that our plan to focus on other, more important metrics, helps us do that.

In conclusion…

If you’ve been put off the upkeep of your socials by dwindling engagement, don’t let it dishearten you, there’s more important metrics to consider. Sometimes all it takes is a different approach and you’ll see followers, likes et al grow anyway. If you’re going to obsess over stats, do it over those that actually impact your business goals!

That being said, it’s worth offering a small counter to this. At the time of writing, Facebook typically shows your organic content to 5.2% of your followers, so having more obviously means serving your content to a larger audience. Similarly, getting more likes on your posts will show them to a larger audience. Focusing on them isn’t totally without merit – but at what cost?

It’s much better to spend the time and expense (particularly if you’re thinking of buying followers) on campaigns that work around the goals your actual business is working towards. Are followers and likes really worth more to you than sales?

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