Are you building an audience or just increasing vanity metrics?
Recently, I realized that those aren’t the same thing. After all, as the 17th century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, philosopher and genius Blaise Pascal warned:
“Vanity is but the surface.”
What are vanity metrics?
Vanity metrics are numbers that make us look good but that don't do anything for our business and its bottom line. Often (for instance, in the case of Social Media followers), they can be easily manipulated.
Examples of vanity metrics include: followers on our Social Media platforms, Socia Media post, impression, total website visits, and even newsletter subscribers.
Why are vanity metrics useless?
Because they don't tell you if your business is successful or not. Take the story of Arianna Reenee, an instagram star with over 2 millions followers who failed to selll 36 T-shirts.
Let's contrast this with a personal example that I also shared on my marketing sales page: my Facebook page has under 200 likes... and yet, my business has earned a five-figure amount through connections that happened on that platform!
Vanity metrics don't even tell you if your content is helping your business. For instance, my most popular article has over 90,000 views. And while that might feel good to my ego, my business hasn't gotten any traction as a result of that.
On the other hand, some of my less popular articles (1000 reads or less) have led to people reaching out to hire me.
Why are vanity metrics dangerous?
When marketing, the natural impulse is to pay a lot of attention to vanity metrics. Are we getting more followers? How many reads did my article get?
All of these are typically easy to measure which is why we tend to focus on them.
However, as I came to discover, there’s a huge difference between a follower/subscriber and a member of your audience.
As the example of Arianna Renee shows, we need the latter for a successful business.
So, let's talk about how to tell the difference between a follower/subscriber... and an actual member of your audience:
The crucial difference between a follower and an audience member:
“I’ve found over the years that for some reason, people either are big fans and have to use me, or they don’t quite understand what I’m doing.” — Fred Willard
Unlike someone who’s just an email subscriber or Social Media follower, an audience member actually wants to hear from you. They love the unique gifts you bring to the world.
They don’t just tolerate you because they’re too lazy to unsubscribe or unfollow.
No, audience members care about your specific content and look forward to your emails or posts. They open (and read!) your emails and articles without needing to be tricked into it through clickbaity headlines.
If you stopped creating content, they would ask themselves what happened and would try to find you on another platform.
In short, they are your fans.
That’s just not the case with a lot of Social Media followers and even with many email subscribers.
For instance, I’m following several Social Media accounts where I wouldn’t even notice if they disappeared overnight. To a lesser extent, that’s also true for some email lists I’m subscribed to.
So, how can you tell if your audience is growing?
“It’s a murky world out there, and it’s hard to figure things out sometimes.” — Angus Deaton
We can’t really measure the size of our audience because there’s not a single clear indicator for it.
That’s also why it’s much harder to tell if our audience is growing than to track your Social Media following.
However, we’re not completely operating in the dark. Some indicators for a growing audience can be:
- an increased number of comments to Social Media posts and articles,
- increased email click-through rates, and/or
- other forms of engagement (such as replies to emails you sent to your list).
In my case, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get more comments on my writing (particularly on Medium) than I used to. I’m also receiving more responses to the emails I sent to my list.
I take this as a sign that my audience is growing.
How about you?