All that glitters ain’t gold – Looking at Vanity Metrics

Intuition, being the ability to understand something instinctively, is a skill that has grown with humans through millions of years of evolution. Back when we lived in caves, intuition was about life or death. In a modern sense, it is much more important; it’s about being able to tell if you’re being jibbed on social media.

Not everyone is so clued on, with countless falling victim to pesky “Nigerian Princes”. However, those who have grown up surrounded by technology have an acute sense of when something’s not quite stacking up – for example, purchased followers. From the perspective of a business on social media, this has huge implications.


Don’t be vain! Relying on vanity metrics is not enough for a successful social media page. (source)

When people approach social media, it’s often all about the followers and likes, or vanity metrics as they are otherwise known as. It’s understandable to feel the pressure of gaining more followers because there is nothing nicer than a large, numerical value to publicise how popular you are. The premise certainly makes sense, with one of Cialdini’s peripheral cues in Elaboration Likelihood Model being social proof. However, as Prince so famously told us: all that glitters ain’t gold. And if this is the analogy we’re running with, then purchased followers are like glitter; fun at first but then you realise you’ve just made a mess. Truth is that vanity metrics, while exciting, are only a scratch on the surface for social media management.

This is where intuition kicks in. Anyone can tell that a profile with a lot of likes but no engagement is not quite right. Contrary to popular belief, people are not stupid. Purchased followers are not enough smoke and mirrors to hide what really counts: engagement. When it boils down to it, social media is meant to be social and the sad fact is robots can’t like your posts. For social media, engagement is priority numero uno because, in order to convert a viewer into a consumer, they actually have to be real. Robots can’t buy things.

The other issue with buying followers is the fact it may backfire. An excellent aspect of social media is that it allows companies to build trust with their audience through two-way communication. However, you’ve instantly burned that bridge when the first thing someone notices about your social profile is your phoney followers.


Prince telling us the harsh truth: all that glitters ain’t gold (source)

It might be tempting to purchase followers, but essentially it’s a bad idea. People know what’s up and it will not attract an audience to like your page. Instead, businesses on social media should be focusing on engagement which is ultimately what leads to trust and conversion.

Dainton, M., & Zelley, E. D. (2005). Applying communication theory for professional life: A practical introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Image courtesy of

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