Brands: Why vanity metrics aren’t serving your strategy

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Kristina: How can brands easily update their strategy to include better data than traditional ‘vanity’ metrics?

Barbie Koelker, VP of Marketing, SpikeTrap: Look for tools that help answer the “why” behind every “what” KPI and connect the narrative across the digital ecosystem.

As people have physically distanced, they’ve become more digitally connected. Conversations that once took place in-person or on a limited number of channels now sprawl online with increasing velocity. Seemingly small stories can trend quickly, and audience reactions on one platform can reverberate across others, leaving community teams struggling to keep up with ever-shifting audience sentiment.

As such, it’s no longer enough to simply monitor mentions and engagement on a per-platform basis. Such measurement is limited by boolean queries and lacks the contextual information needed for marketers to identify a brewing crisis — let alone work their magic. Rather, it’s critical to follow conversations as they flow from one channel to another, monitoring the topics truly affecting audience sentiment while keeping an eye on brand safety. Doing so will enable marketers to more meaningfully engage with their audiences. The vanity metrics we love to cling to will follow.

Kristina: Are those older metrics — follower counts, clicks, etc. — useful at all?

Barbie: Traditional marketing metrics report on what happened, but not why they happened. Over time, data may reveal that one behavior tends to lead to another behavior at a particular rate, and as marketers we may A/B test creatives and messaging to improve that rate. In this way, traditional metrics are helpful as a top-level assessment into monitoring shifts in behaviors. They do not, however, provide the insight marketers need to make those A/B tests more fruitful.

Market research helps marketers glean some contextual information from their audiences, but the process can be slow, unwieldy, and prone to sample bias.

Why did click-through or conversion rates improve? Why did one post gain traction while another fell flat? Why does X resonate with my audience?

To answer these questions meaningfully, marketers need more than vanity metrics. To answer these questions accurately, marketers need an unbiased and comprehensive view of their audience. To answer these questions every day, marketers need real-time measurement and insights.

Kristina: What can brands look at to get a better gauge of consumer engagement?

Barbie: Brands must first ensure they are capturing a complete picture of engagement, and then assess engagement quality.

As mentioned previously, reporting dependent on boolean searches of brand mentions only captures a small faction of audience engagement. People often talk about a brand or entity without naming it explicitly, and attempting to keep up with ever-shifting language usage — and waiting for new reports to crunch — is an exercise in exhaustion.

To solve for this, brands can leverage conversation analytics with entity recognition powered by natural language processing (NLP) AI to capture a more complete view of audience engagement.

With this foundation, brands can then begin to look at more telling indicators of consumer engagement, including conversation impact ratio, sentiment, and community brand safety. Impact ratio is a measure of the share of activity that meaningfully drives conversations. If the impact ratio is low, a brand’s engagement may be superficial and promotionally driven. Conversely, if the impact ratio for a brand or a particular topic pertaining to it is high, then the depth of audience interest and engagement is more significant.



Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with, NBC News,, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.