The next great vanity metric: Followers and Fans are the new Hits.
Nov 18, 2009
If you spend anytime dealing with web analytics, I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “hits” stands for “How Idiots Track Success.” Because, after all, why is a server call a measurement of success? It basically means nothing.
The “hit” is a vanity metric. And it may have been the worst vanity metric of them all…until along came “friends,” “followers” and “fans.” I think we have a new leader.
Maybe a bit more background on the lowly “hit” is needed. The hit is a server metric rather than a business metric. So a single visitor viewing your homepage once may result in multiple hits, depending on how many different items (images, Flash content, etc.) are requested from the server. It then becomes easy to see why hits became — and are still touted by some — as a great indicator of success: vanity! Just look at the thousands of hits, as opposed to the merely hundreds of visits.*
In the new social media world, there’s a new favorite metric: Friends, Followers and Fans. The Three Big Fs. But just like hits, those are vanity metrics. They don’t indicate any real engagement, and they are a far cry from strictly defined Return On Investment (ROI). Not to sound cold, but those new numbers are simply a means to an end, not the end itself.
At best, they are a half-time score, not an indication of a win.
Now I’m not suggesting that giving people an opportunity to follow or friend your brand is a bad thing. In fact, you should probably be doing much more than you already are (no matter how much that is) to engage your target audience in conversation, offer your self-announced fans special offers, and make them an integral part of your brand. I am saying unequivocally, though, if you’re just looking to get “more fans,” you’re setting the wrong goal and you’re measuring the wrong thing.
As I’ve said before, “Forget millions. You don’t need millions. You need to be found by your audience, regardless of numbers. And then compel them to action.” Others have said it, too:
Why do you want 10,000 twitter followers if you only have 250 target customers and influencers in the world? This simply doesn’t make sense.
— Kipp Bodner
Your customers don’t innately want to follow your company or Twitter or friend you on Facebook, or read your blog, or watch your videos. You must make the case to the customer that by NOT connecting with you, they are missing out on something of value.
— Jay Baer
The three posts quoted above go on to indicate what you should be measuring instead: metrics that show engagement, commitment, and conversion. And of those three values, the first two aren’t even about ROI — they’re about ROE (Return On Eyeballs). Only the last gets into ROI. But the ROE metrics are important nonetheless because they create measurable paths; they allow you to discover what content and engagements are most likely to lead to conversions. Then you can focus on improving those, and increase success.
What do you think: Has “hits” been surpassed by The Three Big Fs for most vain of all metrics? How are you combating the appeal of vanity metrics? What metrics are you putting in their place?
*Now while unique visits or page views are, instead, business metrics because you are getting quantifiable results that illustrate how many people visit your site and how many pages they view while they’re there, even those metrics are not without fault because even they don’t equate to real ROI.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.