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Which KPI is most likely to be a vanity metric?

Vanity metrics can confuse a number of business owners and stakeholders because they are often mistakenly over-valued.

In the process, this ends up leaving real KPIs hanging in the dark.

In order not to get carried away with this and thus focus attention on the right goals to leverage your business goals, you need to pay attention and avoid falling victim to so-called vanity metrics.

Understand how to identify and not be derailed with vanity metrics below:

Vanity KPI

KPI stands for “Key Performance Indicators”. In this context, we can say that KPIs are metrics that help us measure and monitor a company’s performance.

When we talk about vanity KPIs, we’re referring to metrics that are publicly targeted or monitored, but that don’t directly contribute to your business objectives.

These objectives could be achieving a certain goal previously identified, or simply increasing financial incomes.

The main reason most stakeholders end up prioritizing vanity metrics is that for the most part, these metric types are in some way related to metrics that account for status or prestige for individuals.

This can lead to derailment of otherwise legitimate business goals and is a problem that needs to be identified.

How to identify vanity metrics?

To identify vanity metrics (or KPIs), you need to pay attention to your conversion process.

After all, no two businesses are the same and, when dealing with different objectives, the likelihood that the KPIs you need to actually analyze should be different increases.

For example, let’s take an online shoe store business. To attract leads towards this shoe e-commerce website, this company only uses its Instagram page.

Let’s assume this Instagram page has 30,000 organic followers. However, we know that such a metric (number of followers) is not a guarantee of engagement or even conversion (shoe purchase).

As such, the number of followers is clearly a vanity metric. Sure, it can be leveraged as a certain status symbol by the marketing department, but relying on this metric alone can dangerously lead this enterprise to stop looking for other lead generation alternatives because it makes them believe the business is benefiting from a large audience they can pull from.

Vanity KPIs – examples

As stated earlier, what constitutes a vanity metric in certain cases may be a legitimate metric in other cases.

Everything will depend on the objective of each business. However, in most cases, some vanity KPIs tend to repeat themselves, like the following examples:

Number of followers

Unless the ultimate goal of your business is to have a significant following on social media, that number is pure vanity!

It doesn’t guarantee engagement, it doesn’t guarantee sales, it doesn’t even guarantee a certain audience is really there engaging with you.

There are people who believe that it is necessary to have a strong number of followers on your social media pages in order to convey authority and attract new customers. Fair enough.

However, if the user who lands on said page does not identify with the content you are publishing, no matter how many millions of followers you already have, he will not follow just because of all the other thousands that already did.


It is very common for generic content to reach more people, as it is natural for this content type to spawn more online links and traffic.

A selfie pic with a beautiful landscape as backdrop during an international trip certainly attracts more likes than that very technical and specific post that will only arouse the interest of professionals who share the same niche as you; this will in turn will have fewer likes, yet coming from qualified leads that are more likely to be engaged and qualified.

You spot the difference here between quality over quantity?

What to do in order not to miss real metrics

So, in order to avoid the vanity trap, understanding what really matters in the conversion journey is a smart way to assess which metrics to monitor.

However, to make this clearer, we will keep the previous example with the shoe store which uses Instagram as a prospecting tool to raise some real KPIs that are often underestimated and even ignored in sales strategies in online retail.

Saved posts

The number of people who save your publications would be a very important metric in this scenario because when compared to likes, this number shows an audience that is much closer to delivering an actual conversion for your business.

Conversion rate

To understand what is really working and what can be improved in your strategy, you need to monitor the conversion rate. To do this, it can help if you answer a few questions:

  • What percentage of your followers are actually receiving your content?
  • From the number of views on posts, how many people interact with content?
  • What percentage of that engagement is making it to the conversion page (and ultimately buy a pair of shoes)?
  • Based on the number of clicks, what is the conversion rate?

Keeping track of actual KPIs is the key

It is with real KPIs at hand that it becomes possible to analyze the real business standing and create the valuable strategies that help get better results.

In addition to defining which metrics are actually relevant to your digital marketing strategy, it is essential to monitor them to then positively influence your lead’s decision-making process.

Keeping track of the right metrics can also reduce costs as they make it possible to accurately visualize points of improvement, even with projects that are already working well.

Vanity KPIs vs real metrics

In general, KPIs are there to help and make it easier to create and optimize business strategies, whatever those strategies may be. It is important to pay attention and not get carried away by status and fads. After all, they are not any guarantee of financial income, and prioritizing them can lead you out of business.

An effective way to identify the real metrics you need to monitor is for example to consider your lead’s conversion journey and which moments of that flow really interfere in the potential client’s decision making process.

We can help you along this journey. At Cluster we put your analytics audience first by helping you identify vanity metrics, with a strategy for you to avoid them. On top of this, we inform the process with UX, UI and Dataviz driven visual interfaces that will ensure your data-driven journey is understood by all stakeholders, and not just us data-nerds.

To stay in the loop of main tips to leverage your digital business and other valuable content, follow our blog for more, or contact us for a discussion on how to help you avoid falling into the vanity trap.

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