Using Actionable vs. Vanity Metrics To Drive Your Paid Social Strategy

Sep 17, 2020

When it comes to paid social, performance metrics can be totally exciting. It’s so rewarding to watch the results rack up over the ads your team has spent hours ideating, creating, publishing, and optimizing. But too often it’s easy to get caught up in those so-called “vanity metrics” that are readily available on nearly every channel. After all, they look great on paper.

But how do you convert your results into true return on investment (ROI)? What should you really be paying attention to in order to achieve your overall business and marketing goals? And how can you optimize your ad dollars so you’re getting both the best return on ad spend (ROAS) and insight into actionable next steps?

What Are Vanity Metrics?

Some of the most readily available metrics across social channels are often referred to as vanity metrics: impressions, likes, shares, comments, and follower count to name a few. I’m not here to dismiss these numbers, because it is important to have an understanding of visibility and engagement, especially as an organic social media manager. Using reach and engagement metrics can help to improve your brand’s content strategy by understanding how effective your posts are, and what your current organic social audience is truly interested in. Having an effective organic content strategy can assist in lower-funnel efforts by driving brand-loyal followers to your LikeShop link in bio to convert on-site. It’s also crucial for putting together a social media report that helps higher-ups see the value of your efforts.

To better understand how your paid social ads are performing, look to report on “actionable metrics” instead.

Using Actionable Metrics to Achieve Goals

Actionable metrics are what help tell a story about your ads’ performance, and what your next steps should be. Using actionable metrics, you can determine if your efforts are contributing to your brand’s overall marketing goals. Before starting a paid social campaign, you’ll need to establish a few things first, including marketing objectives for all parts of the funnel using the SMART method. Goals need to be:

  • Specific enough that all team members can understand what they’re working toward
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant to the business’ goals
  • Time-based

Establish benchmarks and KPIs. No matter your objective, setting relevant KPIs will give your team direction for what your efforts are working towards, which efforts on each channel are bringing the best return, and which are not.

Paying attention to different types of metrics can indicate where improvements need to be made. For example, if your brand’s goal is to achieve more conversions on-site and you notice the click-through rate (CTR) on an ad is low compared to the rest of the campaign, you may need to change the copy or creative. However, if the CTR is high and the conversion rate on-site is low, that could be indicative of an issue in the shopping experience. Additional indicators of ad performance in the ecomm space can include:

  • Measuring ad fatigue
  • ROAS
  • Costs per result
  • Cost per acquisition
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Sales growth

The Full Funnel Approach

As mentioned earlier, KPIs should be established for all parts of the funnel. Seeing as top-of-the-funnel efforts are built around brand awareness and new customer acquisition, the goals and metrics to determine success for this audience will vary greatly from those measuring bottom-of-the-funnel efforts. It’s up to your team to determine how your engagement metrics will work alongside actionable metrics, and how they can become indicators of next steps.


Header image: @netaporter


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Kate Orchard

Performance Marketing Strategist