I want to talk today about a scary yet very real trend I’m witnessing online which is glorifying false metrics.

False metrics are… basically the numbers a person uses to judge their value or success (like the amount of followers, likes and shares an account or post has) and not the often unseen numbers that should be considered instead (i.e. engagement, click-through rates and sales). False metrics might move the needle but they don’t have an impact on your bottom-line.

False metrics are a hot topic and for good reason: with Instagram’s most recent announcement that they’re removing the ability to see a picture’s ‘likes’, account owners and influencers everywhere are scrambling to adjust their digital strategies.

But the thing is, those strategies were based on the wrong metrics to begin with. What we call false metrics.

Today, we’re going to unpack what makes false metrics so attractive, what your Ego has to do with what you measure, and finally, we’ll start asking the question that needs to be asked: what should I really be focusing on in my business?

So let’s dive in…

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False vs. True: Which Metrics Really Matter?

Just about everyone I know counts the number of likes, followers or shares as their ultimate metric of success. But the truth of the matter is, thousands of likes don’t equate to thousands of dollars in the bank!

This is true for former clients I’ve worked with and friends who own and run online businesses.

While everyone is trying to figure out how to grow their Instagram accounts, go viral or build an email list in the tens of thousands, there are a select few who’ve come to understand that the amount of likes, comments, subscribers, and followers you have is just icing on the cake…and they are not the cake itself!

What really matters is if you are publishing the type of content your customers crave, your work ethic, meeting customer’s expectations, and honing in on a small yet powerful market that will eventually become your raving, paying fans.

As Seth Godin points out, in his explanation of the minimum viable audience (MVA), “Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.”

The problem with false metrics is, they thrive on validation from the masses and not from the people who matter most.

Examples of false metrics include:

  • The amount of followers you have (on Instagram, your Facebook page…)
  • The amount of subscribers on your email list 
  • The amount of likes on a post or video
  • The amount of views on a video on YouTube or IG Stories

False metrics can be manipulated in your favor. You can buy followers. You can buy likes. You can buy views. 

So what’s a true metric?

Examples of true metrics include:

  • Your open or click through rates 
  • Engaged, authentic comments on posts
  • Shares of videos, posts, etc. 
  • Your monthly revenue 

It’s one thing to know this but what about our growing obsession with likes and follower counts? What makes these numbers so irresistible to begin with?

Why Your Ego Loves False Metrics

Turns out, both your conscious and subconscious brains have a lot to do with what numbers you focus on as you grow your business. The Ego loves quick wins, external validation and looking good. In an emerging digital era, where looking good is now easier than ever, false metrics feed the Ego.

And it’s not just the Ego that feels good.

Likes, comments, reactions…these are all dopamine hits your brain receives when you log-in or check your social accounts. You literally experience a physical reaction when seeing notifications.

And what makes social media, the likes, shares and comments so addictive is that these dopamine hits aren’t predictable

Your brain starts to crave the next dopamine hit and since we don’t know when that next like or follow will come through, we continually check back until we’re satisfied.

But what happens if there are no likes, shares or follows?

Well, many people internalize this lack of engagement and consider themselves failures, their work or interests unworthy, or they feel left out and ignored. This can trigger depression, anxiety and an unhealthy need for attention or approval.

Which brings us back to the question we should be asking ourselves…

What Should I Really Be Focusing on In My Business?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t grow your Instagram account or that an email list with more (rather than less) subscribers is a bad thing. What I am saying is, you need to focus on the metrics that build your bottom-line and not just bolster your Ego.

Here are a few true metrics I always recommend you measure:

  1. If you are paying for ads, what’s your conversion rate?
  2. How many subscribers are opening your emails? Clicking links? 
  3. How many likes and comments are you getting compared to the number of followers you have?
  4. How much money are you making? Are you reaching your income goals?
  5. What’s your refund rate?

Answer these questions and you will reach success faster. Focus on false metrics and you’ll get nowhere fast.

Until next time…

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