In case you can’t tell, we’re a passionate bunch here at OrigamiGlobe and we’re not shy to express our opinions, even if they go against the grain. So when it comes to the matter of vanity metrics and competitions, you can bet your bottom dollar we have plenty to say on the matter.

Competitions that focus solely on vanity metrics, such as Facebook like to win competitions, have been a bread and butter feature of the competition world for well over 10 years now. For reasons unbeknownst to us, they’re still as popular as they ever were; despite being a complete dumpster fire to organise, monitor and generate any meaningful results from.

But wait, isn’t the title of this blog why you should give a crap about competition vanity metrics?!

Yep. Vanity metrics such as likes do and should have a very important place in competitions, giveaways and contests – just not how you may think…

What are vanity metrics?

Vanity metrics is a marketing term used to describe metrics, statistics and data that shows how popular or engaging your content (or in our case, competition) is. Likes, follows, shares, comments and reach are popularly referred to as vanity metrics, with some marketers including traffic, views and open rates in that list too.

Essentially, vanity metrics are so named because they make you look – and feel – good about your marketing performance. Saying you’ve got hundreds of thousands of followers or subscribers gives the illusion of a popular, engaging and successful business.

Sure, we all love feeling popular on social media, but you can still have millions of followers and not be able to generate a single sale, as Instagram ‘star’ Arii found out when she couldn’t generate a measly 36 t-shirt sales from her 2.6 million followers.

This example is a perfect demonstration of how popularity or bragging rights are an empty and hollow victory unless you can do something with those likes, follows and reach that means something to your business and to your bottom line.

Vanity metrics boost your ego and pride, but they don’t boost your bank balance – and we all know we can’t pay the bills with likes. OK, so technically I’ve never actually asked Energy Australia if I can pay my electricity bill with likes, but I’m willing to bet it would be a hard no.

Vanity metrics, huh, what are they good for?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?

Say it again now.

Ahem. That’s our Edwin Starr impression over. But seriously, what are vanity metrics actually good for?

Well, actually, absolutely something, if we’re honest.

For starters, if you’ve read Stevie from Stevie Says Social’s guest post about running a competition just to grow your following, you’ll know that there are a couple of limited situations in which running a like to win competition could actually benefit your business.

To summarise, they are:

  • When starting out, to build an initial audience for social proof (because social proof helps people feel confident enough to purchase from you)
  • To combine with a clever ad retargeting strategy (so you can drive conversions from those follows)
  • And when used as a bonus goal or for extra entries to a competition, not as the primary goal of your competition (so your competition is seen by more people as a result of those interactions).

Vanity metrics also have another incredibly important function in your business and when running competitions. Vanity metrics act as a barometer for the health of your competition and can potentially indicate any issues or highlight any star performers within your competition funnel or process. For example, by tracking traffic (a vanity metric in some marketers’ books), you may notice you’re getting lots of traffic, but no entries – which indicates a conversion problem on your landing page or the need for more compelling copy to convince those visitors to enter your contest.

Vanity metrics are your competition’s barometer. Photo by Michel Porro on Unsplash.

To answer the question, vanity metrics are good for nothin’ unless they’re looked at in context – and that means backed up with additional metrics such as conversion rates and sales statistics. Vanity metrics should never, ever be the sole aim of your competition or the only metric you track during your competition.

Why you should give a crap about vanity metrics…

Most marketers’ beef with vanity metrics is that you can’t make what’s referred to as actionable decisions based on the data from these vanity metrics.

Here’s where I agree.

As marketers and business owners, we measure data so that we can use the insights revealed by that data to make decisions about our marketing strategies and tactics and take action on those decisions. Vanity metrics don’t give you enough information to optimise your marketing strategy or pinpoint exactly what’s working and what’s not. A spike in competition landing page visits may appear to be cause for celebration – your competition is working – grab the champagne!

… but hold on a second, did that spike in visitors result in a spike in entries and email addresses being handed over? No? Oh dear, best pop the champagne back in the fridge then.

Knowing we had a spike in visits without looking at what happened with those visitors doesn’t give us cause for celebration, nor does it tell us what actions to take to turn those visits into entries.

Here’s where I disagree that vanity metrics don’t give you any actionable insights.

The crazy egg blog for example, argues that ‘trial users’ of a product or service is a vanity metric and therefore useless, you should be focussing instead on the actionable metric of users that convert. I would agree, conversions are always, always more important…

But you can’t measure conversions to paid users without knowing how many trial users you have, can you?

My point is, measuring trial users (a vanity metric) as your sole metric is a waste of time and whilst it will make you feel good seeing sign up after sign up, if those sign ups and trial users don’t give you any money, you don’t have a business. But ditching the vanity metric of trial users completely and focussing solely on converting users is equally as uninformative.

What’s valuable is measuring trial users in conjunction with conversions of those trial users to paid users – that’s when you have some actionable, meaningful data that can inform your future marketing decisions and increase the number of conversions.

Looked at on their own, with no context, vanity metrics don’t give you any hard data on how those metrics translate into sales, conversions or return on investment (ROI) for your business. But vanity metrics are an important – no essential – data point to collect when running a competition, so that you can calculate flow-on metrics and make critical decisions about your competition.

The metric itself doesn’t matter, what matters is the process or funnel that metric is part of.

Yes, yes it does Franki Chamaki (via Unsplash).

How to use vanity metrics in your next competition.

Just to reiterate, focussing on vanity metrics alone is a complete and utter waste of money, but you should still give a crap about them, because vanity metrics are an essential part of the marketing – and competition – picture.

So how do we leverage these so-called vanity metrics in our competitions? Here are my top tips.

SERVE VANITY METRICS AS A SIDE DISH

Often, when talking to clients for the first time during our free competition strategy sessions, when asked what they’d like to achieve with their competition, both likes and followers usually make it into the top three aims of their contest.

When we dig deeper into why they want those likes and follows, the inevitable answer we receive is because clients believe bigger followings will result in more sales. Which we know from examples like poor Arii above, isn’t always the case.

So why not go straight for the end goal of sales and demote likes and follows to a lovely-to-have but not essential side benefit of running a competition? You can still collect those like and follows that give you the warm and fuzzies and make you feel oh, so popular; just not as the main goal of your competition.

QUESTION YOUR VANITY METRICS

The aim of a competition or marketing campaign is very rarely ever to just to get social media followers. Usually, the eventual aim of any campaign is to generate income from the sale of your products or services.

When designing your competition, think long and hard about what you want to achieve before you set your competition goal in stone. When you think you’ve settled on a competition goal, keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you get to your real motivation for wanting to run a competition.

For example: ‘I want to grow my social media following’… why? ‘So that I can drive those followers to my Shopify store’… why? ‘So that I convert those visitors into sales and purchases of my products’… why? ‘To generate income so I can expand my range’.

So your goal here isn’t social media followers at all, it’s generating income from sales of your products, so design your competition goal and entry method and track all of the metrics in that process – from vanity metrics through to conversion rates and revenue generated through to return on investment – with this in mind.

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DON’T VIEW ANY METRIC, VANITY METRICS INCLUDED, IN ISOLATION

Let’s say your goal is to generate sales, and therefore the key metric you’ll be keeping an eye on is revenue generated as a result of your competition.

But focussing on this sole metric alone, doesn’t give you enough information to make informed decisions about your competition promotion tactics or optimise your competition Facebook ads to achieve your competition goal.

There are a number of other metrics that inform revenue generation and keeping an eye on these additional metrics – including our controversial vanity metrics – can help you generate income and smash your competition goal by giving you actionable insights into the health of your competition and areas to improve:

  • Add to cart – making money requires people to add your products to their cart, if this isn’t happening, you won’t make any sales or achieve your competition goal.
  • Site visitors – in order to add your product to their cart, they need to visit your site. Keep an eye not just on how many, but also who lands on your competition landing page or website as a result of your competition with insights and analytics. Seeing a spike in visitors, but a drop in add to cart rate could indicate the wrong people are visiting your competition, so you may need to check your targeting and adjust.
  • Traffic sources – in order to adjust your targeting to improve your add to cart and sales conversions, you’re going to need to know your traffic sources and the behaviour of your visitors once on your site or competition page.
  • Engagement – once you know the sources of your traffic, take a peek at your engagement rates, if your traffic is coming mostly from Instagram, for example and you’ve posted 50 times on Facebook without a single like and just once on Instagram with 50 likes, you know which channels are worth your time and attention.

Working back through your sales process from someone seeing your ad or post about your competition, clicking it, landing on your website, browsing, choosing to enter your competition, staying on the site to browse and purchase products or receiving your post-competition email offer and clicking to redeem said offer can help you find the holes in your competition sieve where the process isn’t quite working or also highlight points where your competition is performing outstandingly and you could ramp up or amplify these areas for even better results.

Whilst vanity metrics are utterly pointless to obsess over or make the sole focus of your competition; they most certainly do have a place in both marketing your business and when running competitions. As long as you remember to make vanity metrics such as likes and follows the support act, not the main act, of your competition; question why you’re focussing on vanity metrics until you get to the goal behind the goal and don’t view your vanity – or any other – metrics in isolation; vanity metrics can actually be an asset, not a liability to your competition. We’re OrigamiGlobe and we say give a crap abut vanity metrics!

Still not convinced you should give two hoots about vanity metrics or confused what the goal behind your goal is? Why not book in a free strategy session with our competition experts? We also offer a range of done for you services to ensure your next competition is a success (and yes, we measure vanity metrics) or if you have a comment or question, you can always reach us via our contact page.

We’re off to check out how many followers we have… Just kidding!

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