[Podcast] In defense of Vanity Metrics | CHAOSSCast

“Vanity Metrics” have a bad wrap, but we’re defending when to use them, and when to leave them aside. 

avoid “vanity metrics” with the QIA process

Modern marketing has the opposite problem of marketing in 2010.  Where numbers used to be a vital and scantily accessed feature of business, now we have a world of big data where every metric could matter and it’s hard to think through what they mean in tandem.

In today’s world it’s actually possible to be “metrics obsessed.”

What are Vanity Metrics?

“Vanity” metrics are metrics that tell you a line is going up and to the right or that you’re doing well, but they don’t really create any form of “action” on your end.  They don’t really tell you how you’re doing, whether you should speed up, slow down, or pull over.

Knowing which metrics matter for your marketing story isn’t necessarily about finding the right metric to aid your progress.

Instead, it’s often about setting a line in the sand or throwing a dart at the board.  It’s about telling a story as you build your product, and figuring out the best way to represent that story in your overall plan.

I use Chris Mercer’s QIA process to decide what metrics really matter.  

First you will have a question. This needs to be thought of as “how will I know what action to take”.  Then you’ll have an answer your want and several answers you don’t want.

As an example let’s consider SociallyConstructed.Online’s Social Currency Metrics System informational page.  I want to know if it’s answering the question, “do people get the SCMS?”

Re-framing the question a few times provides more information as well.  If people “get” it does that mean the landing page is converting or that people understand and move on? What behaviors and opinions are occurring that tell me this?

Going trough this thought experiment I know what my potential answers might be.  And because I understand the answers and how I might answer the question, our middle “information” column fills itself in.

this way I know what metrics to pick, and that the “pageviews” metric for the SCMS page is probably more of a vanity metric – I don’t care who hit the page, I care who read it.


Do customers really understand what the SCMS is?

Is my landing page for the SCMS inticing to users?

Are questions about the SCMS more basic or complex?

What feedback is the SCMS getting?


Our question is about the landing page so we’ll use Google Analytics. We want to know how long they’ve stayed on the page, and we want to know how far down they’ve scrolled so that is our scroll trigger and bounce.

In our SCMS we will track people’s questions about the SCMS platform and determine whether questions are hard or basic.


If it is inticing we should see a lower bounce rate, longer amount of itme on the page, and more scroll time.  We should be getting fewer questions about what the SCMS is and more questions about how to implement it.

If it’s not inticing we should see a higher bounce rate and fewer leads coming in with more questions about what it is.

 Want to know more about the QIA process and Mercer’s approach to analytics? Read our next blog where we interview him about the theory and future of metrics!  

Chris Mercer on the theory and future of metrics

Other Podcasts

Definitions in this Podcast:

Share your thoughts with your own community to empower engaging conversation around your community’s health:

Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Share to LinkedIn
Share to Facebook

Venia Logan

I’ve spent the past 9 years learning the diverse skills necessary to create strong stable online communities that put your brand’s services at their center. ​​I started my own YouTube channel in 2010, and RESCQU.NET in 2013. I worked for Constant Contact, and returned to college for a specialization in online community management. Then I attained all 12 certifications from DigitalMarketer and helped dozens of communities. Spend fewer resources advertising to cold contacts or buying paid media and get back to focusing on what you love by growing a community that is financially and socially rewarding for you.