Vanity vs. Actionable Metrics: Why follower count isn’t everything for your brand


Amanda Haines Lazeski

Throughout the last month at Reformation, we’ve been working to update our method of reporting. Reporting is an important tool that provides our brands with a clear and concise breakdown of the work that we’re doing, the results that come with it, and what this means for our future work together.

We provide social media services for many of our brands, from full strategy to content creation and community management. This year, we wanted to evolve our reporting methods to showcase better, more meaningful data. With our recent implementation of Sprout Social, an industry-leading social media management system, the amount of data and metrics we have access to expanded. But as the common saying goes, quality is usually more important than quantity. How do you determine which numbers mean something, and which ones don’t?

Generally, there are two defined categories of social media metrics: vanity and actionable. When sifting through large amounts of data, charts and tables, we find it useful to keep these categories at the forefront of our minds. We wound up with a new format that provides a comprehensive overview of what’s happening while really digging into the data that helps dictate future decisions and our overall strategy for each brand.

What are vanity metrics? 

Vanity metrics are those that do not help you understand your own performance in a way that informs future strategy. These metrics might look really great on paper, but they are devoid of actual substance. They usually reflect the current state, but in no way give insight into how you got there, or where you should go next.

Examples of vanity metrics:
  • Social media follower count
  • Website page views
  • Email open rate

While these numbers are often bragged about (“We hit 10k Instagram followers yesterday!”), the reality is that these numbers can be meaningless when you scratch beneath the surface and review the actionable metrics associated with them.


What are actionable metrics?

Actionable (or real) metrics help inform business decisions and aid in achieving defined goals by being reflective of what is happening. The true value from analyzing these metrics comes with their ability to steer strategy in a positive, forward- moving direction.

Examples of actionable metrics:
  • Social media engagement rate: The interaction your content receives through likes, comments, shares, reactions, etc. High engagement rates signal genuine dedication from brand advocates.
  • Click-through rate: Signals the number of viewers who are interested enough to follow your call to action on social ads, emails, etc.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of people who navigate off a site after visiting only one page. Your bounce rate measures how effective your website is at capturing and holding attention.  
  • Share of voice: The amount of exposure your brand receives through different forms of media, from news media to social media, in comparison with your competitors.
  • Sentiment analysis: Identifying and categorizing opinions to determine attitudes. Provides the ability to gain a wider overview of public opinion on various topics, and ultimately, your brand.


By including these numbers in your analysis, you automatically gain a much clearer picture of what’s happening. For example, that brand that hit 10k followers? They might have mega-growth on the agenda, but in the meantime, if they’re only getting 25 likes per post, that shows that their following isn’t engaged and likely won’t activate in a meaningful way when there’s a call to action. A recent story recounting how an Instagram influencer with over 2 million followers was unable to continue a personal clothing brand partnership after failing to sell a required 36 shirts went viral. This illustrates just how important having a genuinely engaged audience is, regardless of a brand’s following.

With the public relations industry becoming increasingly integrated and data-driven, using the right metrics to inform decisions for your brand is vital. Navigating the continually changing digital landscape is an important focus for us here at Reformation. Get in touch to learn more on how our approach will ensure your business gets the most out of its metrics.

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