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Pretty on Paper vs. Bottom-Line Profit: Vanity Metrics and Actionable Metrics Aren’t Equal, So What Numbers Go on the Report?

Twenty likes. 60 link clicks. 500 apply clicks. 1,000 impressions. 40 engagements. 1 share. 6,000 followers. Thirteen network referrals.

At first glance, vanity metrics and actionable metrics appear identical. However, vanity metrics’ worth is only skin deep, while actionable metrics provide deeper insight. The volume of data companies can access in the digital age is overwhelming, and interpreting the meaning of these figures can be even more daunting. So, how do you decide which metrics to incorporate into your evaluation strategy? By keeping one rule in your strategic arsenal.

If you can’t act on it or make decisions based on it, don’t measure it.

Applying this guideline makes it easier to distinguish between actionable metrics and vanity metrics. To put it simply, a vanity metric is a data point that makes you feel good, but doesn’t inform you or advance your goals forward. Think start-ups or pyramid scheme mindsets who announce their best numbers for show: “Our website hits or number of downloads have increased 800% in a year!”

Devoid of context, these figures are useless (although they might look pretty on a press release). Website visits are up 800% from what? 40,000 users or 200 users? Are website visits even aligned to what your goals were for this year? Who are the visitors and where did they come from? Even worse, these numbers are often not backed by actual conversions, such as: “The spike in web traffic led to a 30% increase in quality hires for our client.”

Understanding a data point from all angles and making a decision based on it requires a grasp on the right questions to ask. When selecting metrics to consistently track, it’s typically better to establish a basic or base set. There’s a common misconception that the more data a company pulls and crunches, the better off they are. And here’s the ugly truth about vanity metrics: that overwhelming spread of percentages in reports is distracting, purposeless, and ultimately…vain.

In contrast, actionable metrics tie specific tactics to proven results. Each result triggers a next step or tells you what to look for next.

Actionable metrics are not the final destination in the recruitment marketing funnel, so it’s crucial to understand their relationship with conversions. Recruitment marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and actionable metrics are the directional arrows along the path. While you may not see a high number of conversions immediately, they should still be the prize at the finish line. For instance, a rise in career site users is not beneficial if they don’t convert into job applicants or hires, which directly enhance the bottom line. In other words, meeting actionable metric goals does not warrant a champagne toast with the team – but tangible profit does.

If this breakdown is occurring in your own strategy, put your detective hat on and hold a magnifying glass up to your actionable metrics. Notice any behavioral patterns? Is a type of content you share underperforming? This investigative work will help you adjust your tactics and better usher candidates to the final step of the funnel: a conversion.

Evaluating your strategy at each step of the candidate journey, rather than just analyzing top-of-funnel metrics or the final conversion phase, allows you to continually optimize and forecast. Even Lynda.com asserts that “an increase in engagements on social media indicates a rise in interest, which eventually can lead to an increase in revenue.” Together, actionable metrics and conversions bring the entire ROI picture into focus.

This series covers the data-rich landscape of metrics in the digital age.

About TMP Worldwide

Radancy is a global leader in talent acquisition technologies, committed to finding new ways to leverage software, strategy and creative to build talent and enhance our clients' employer brands – across every connection point.

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