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Don’t be too quick to reject the ‘vanity’ metrics of the past

By Michael Feeley | journalist

July 8, 2021 | 5 min read

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In 2021, many marketers label the measurements prized by their 20th century counterparts – including ‘reach’ – as ‘vanity’ metrics. Those hard-nosed, battle-hardened digital marketers tend to dismiss such upper funnel metrics as soft at best and meaningless at worst. Instead, they and their modern-day wisdom (along with the desire to prove worth quickly to their bosses), prefer to look towards lower funnel metrics, such as sales accepted opportunities or return on investment (ROI).

LinkedIn Vanity

During any time of economic recession, brand advertising is not about profiting today

On the face of it, there’s not too much wrong with that way of thinking. After all, in both B2B and B2C, marketing and advertising are intended to (a) reach the right people and (b) influence those people to make a purchase.

However, the increased capability to measure marketing’s direct impact on revenue should not be used as an excuse to completely abandon the metrics that predecessors valued so much — metrics, such as reach, pageviews, and shares. In many ways, these ‘vanity’ metrics remain crucially important. Here are just four of them:

The enduring power of ‘brand’

Creating a recognizable brand and reaching a broad swath of your audience remains imperative to practically all business organisations. While brand recognizability and reach may be categorised as upper funnel metrics, they also act as early indicators of lower funnel success.

LinkedIn research revealed that marketers who engaged in both brand and activation campaigns simultaneously on the platform realized a 6x higher conversion rate for the demand generation segment. A separate LinkedIn study showed that representing a ‘strong brand’ was one of the top two attributes of a salesperson that made buyers more likely to engage.

Early warning system

Even upper funnel metrics can provide marketers with an early sense of whether an ad is hitting the sweet spot. So-called vanity metrics, such as likes, shares, and comments, are indicators that your ad is sparking interest in your target market.

This is particularly relevant information to contemporary B2B marketers. In a sector where B2B sales cycles can often be six months or longer, measuring lower funnel metrics, such as ROI, too early in the cycle can be misleading and counterproductive.

LinkedIn research shows 77% of marketers attempt to measure ROI within the first month of their campaign, but 52% of this group had a sales cycle that was at least three months long. In this context, upper funnel metrics become crucial KPIs to help confirm whether a campaign is on the right track or not.

SEO made easy

Often unfairly classed as a ‘vanity’ metric, brand recognition is especially undervalued when it comes to its impact on a business’s search performance. Modern marketers are happy to invest big money in achieving high search rankings on the major search engines. However, research shows that search engine optimization (SEO) is more powerful for brands that are recognizable. The message here is that if you are not developing prospects at the top of your sales funnel, they are unlikely to become prospects in your lower funnel!

Prepare for recovery

During any time of economic recession, brand advertising is not about profiting today. Rather, it’s about capitalizing on recovery that lies ahead tomorrow. As we emerge from the COVID-related downturn, reach and other upper funnel metrics may be the only ones we have showing positive gains in the short term. LinkedIn believes that marketers who had the foresight and the fortitude to continue brand advertising during the recession will be the ones most likely to reap the benefits of a return to prosperity.

21st century digital marketers would be wise to remember that businesses found ways to market, promote and advertise themselves long before the invention of the internet. The learnings of our 20th century counterparts still hold value. Brand advertising still matters and, what’s more, its influence can last a very long time – in some cases, years or even decades.

The time is right to start showing ‘vanity’ metrics some respect.

Marketing Agency Models Influencer Marketing

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