The Allure Of Vanity Metrics

Once in awhile, we all need a pick me up.  Setting up and running your own business, especially if it’s a side hustle business can be a really long and lonely process.  This is particularly true a couple months into it when the novelty has maybe worn off a bit, you’re getting traction very slowly and you’re still putting in the hard work.

That’s when you need to be able to look at a number or a graph and see it trending in the right way.  You need some proof or something to help you keep going.

Oh, look!  Something you just posted on Twitter got retweeted by 37 people… Oh wow, you just got 9 new followers on Instagram… That YouTube video you posted just broke 100 views… BOOM!!! Best day ever, 50 new Likes on your Facebook page.

Those kinds of things can really give you an energy boost when you need to see some progress in what you’re doing.  I remember a coaching student of mine who went on to build a high six-figure business say that it was a simple retweet by 400 people that pushed her through a pretty dark patch when she was thinking of tossing it all in.

What she didn’t do though was come to think of those retweets as some kind of metric of success.  I shared with her a piece of advice that I’m going to now share with you…

You can’t pay your rent with Facebook Likes.  The restaurant where you just ordered lunch will not take a Retweet as payment of your bill.  You can’t fill your car up on Instagram hearts.

Those things are vanity metrics at best.

This was brought home to me today when a friend shared a story about someone we know who has spent nearly $20,000 on buying Facebook Likes from third world countries to “build social proof”.  Now Facebook is testing not even displaying the number of “Likes” you have on your page to visitors.  In effect, the 2.2m Likes that he bought are effectively worthless.

Not that they were ever valuable in the first place.  The engagement of those people who “Liked” his page was anaemic – having 100,000 people from Nigeria that “Like” your Facebook page about playing video games and how you make online courses about how you got 2m Likes is a complete waste of time.

From a Facebook Page perspective alone it was a terrible strategy.  Facebook see that there are all these people liking a page and then never engaging with it, they simply stop showing it organically to anyone.

More importantly though, from a business perspective, it was a massive distraction.  It was a ton of cost and effort to build up a number that is entirely worthless except for the fact that it can dupe stupid people into thinking you’re an expert in getting Facebook “Likes”.  I just don’t think that preying on stupid people is a viable business model over the long term.

That’s just one example.  I’ve had coaching clients with “dashboards” littered with social metrics and other rubbish – I saw one a few months back with Page Views.

And it is often no coincidence that these same people almost never track the metrics and data that really matter – lifetime value of a customer, lead to sale conversion rates, visitor to lead conversion rates, unique visitor growth, churn rates (if you have a recurring model), etc… I’m not kidding, I spoke to one person two weeks ago with a paid Facebook Group that tracked how many threads were started but didn’t know how many new signups to the service he had in the previous month.

Vanity metrics are attractive because they can mean whatever you want them to mean – you can slice them and dice them to make yourself feel better.  The bigger is though is that they don’t actually mean anything generally where it matters, your bottom line.  In my experience, vanity metrics distract you from doing the things that matter most in your business – creating great offers, developing a pipeline of leads and delivering value to your customers.

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