When I first started using Twitter in 2007, the goal was to amass as many followers as possible. I had just created a wine blog, and with my marketing and PR experience, it didn’t take long to gain more than 10,000 followers. Before I knew it, I was considered an influencer on the topic of wine. Wineries, PR and marketing agencies and event managers were quick to make me one of their darlings.

I found it both amusing and astonishing since, at that time, my blog was focused solely on wine from Washington state. Yet, because of the high number of followers on my Twitter account, my name was on an influencer list circulated widely throughout the global wine industry.

How on earth was I considered an influencer of all wine from major regions in the world? Sure, I also knew a bit about wine from Oregon, California and France, but my knowledge of wine from Spain, Italy and other regions was almost non-existent back then. (It’s much deeper now.)

Aside from that key fact, my number of followers did not inform people in the wine industry about how I perceived their brand, or my opinion on any brand whatsoever. They could not tell if I preferred red or white wine, Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc. My number of followers did not reveal how my audience engaged with my content.

But those were the days when influence was counted by numbers of followers and likes. Social media was in its infancy. These days, more and more communications professionals think of followers and likes as vanity metrics, realizing that these “feel-good” metrics by themselves do not help make business decisions. They do not help you truly understand how your brand, values and reputation are perceived.

These days, the C-Suite wants to reliably understand the perception of their brands. And new products, such as the recently launched Zignal Labs Media Quality Score and Influence Intelligence, facilitate this assessment process far better than vanity metrics.

The Insanity of Vanity

Some metrics that have been the staple of many corporate communications plans need to be reconsidered in today’s real-time, hyper-speed, data-driven media environment. While vanity metrics, such as followers, fans, likes and impressions, have long been popular with businesses, they do not show the full impact of your communications efforts. They do not reveal ways to optimize your strategy and help ensure that your target audiences hear your messages. And they do not paint an accurate picture of your media landscape.

For example, some communications leaders love impressions because of the immense numbers the metric typically provides. But impressions aren’t really impressive. They might provide a large, “sexy” number, but they do not deliver a road map to insights to help you make strategic communications decisions.

To illustrate this, I like to use an analogy of a long road trip. Typically, you tally the number of miles you drove that day, while planning for the next day’s destination. Those miles are the results of your driving efforts.

If you use GPS, you will also be advised if there is a better route to take to make your journey better – perhaps a different direction will avoid intense traffic jams or maybe there are spectacular viewpoints on another highway. GPS gives you insights that are immensely more helpful than the odometer’s simple results.

In this same way, when it comes to analytics, meaningful metrics deliver better insights to drive strategy. The people who engage with your content and your social channels are what really matter, not the number of followers or fans.

Who discussed your messages and the topics that are most important to you? What are they saying about your company, your brand and your products and services? Are they advocates and/or influencers?

The C-Suite is more interested in the answers to these questions than sexy numbers generated by vanity metrics. So, put the brakes on relying on vanity metrics alone, and shift to the next generation of media metrics.

The Next Generation of Metrics That Matter

There is a reason the popular phrase “metrics that matter” has become a maxim in the communications industry. These are the metrics that provide insights and intelligence important to the C-Suite. But in these days of real-time data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, what are the next-generation metrics that matter?

The answer depends on your company, its mission and goals. The answer begins with your senior leaders, who typically want to know about brand awareness, relevance, perception and reputation. They want to understand how, when and where information is being spread.

The C-Suite is also interested in a score that can show the influence of a media channel or outlet, and the quality of the content focusing on their brand. Senior leaders want to know about trends and impact, as well as the topics that are talked about most frequently and whether automated accounts (malicious or not) affect those discussions.

Important metrics include engagement, prominence, frequency, sentiment, content sharing/redistribution, message resonance, veracity, brand preference, positive reviews, testimonials, recommendations, business impact, executive visibility, leadership references, purchase interest and customer satisfaction.

Influencer campaigns also matter. In a PR News study of almost 400 communicators conducted late last year, 50 percent said they “use influencers to get out key brand messages.” An additional 32 percent said they don’t use influencers, but are “considering it.” Only 18 percent said they don’t use influencers and have no plans to do so. And 95 percent said their spending plans for influencers will either rise or remain steady in 2019.

Of note, 70 percent said their companies’ use of influencers has delivered a positive ROI or a break-even result. This is significant. While influencer campaigns provide opportunities, these programs must also be measured to determine their success. The C-Suite is indeed interested in the ROI or business impact, to ensure these campaigns generate business outcomes that warrant their investment.

To analyze these programs, evaluate the influencers’ level of activities, frequency and cadence of posts. Find out how they are interacting and with whom; in other words, the interaction patterns between influencers and their connections.

Other metrics to determine the success of influencer campaigns are audience sentiment, engagement with sponsored content, social media sign-ups, direct sales and conversions.


Numbers without context no longer suffice. Instead of relying only on vanity metrics, choose a few important next-generation metrics that align with your business and communications goals.

In addition, a media quality index will help you derive insights sooner with a customized and easy-to-understand score of coverage and conversations based on what’s important to you. Be sure to connect the index to your goals and your definition of performance success.

Zignal Labs Media Quality Score and Influence Intelligence

Leveraging natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Zignal Labs Media Quality Score produces a score ranging from -10 to +10 that enables brands to immediately identify upward or downward reputational trends, take corrective action and clearly demonstrate earned media impact to the C-suite. In addition, Zignal Labs Influence Intelligence maps media coverage and social media conversations in real-time to identify influential human and automated social media accounts and influence events. 

For an even deeper dive into the next generation of metrics (and how to transform your current, traditional metrics into workhorses to power your communications strategy and business into the future), download Zignal Labs’ latest special report, Metrics That Matter.

Want to learn more about how Zignal Labs can help you transform your traditional, passive metrics into modern, dynamic tools to drive your business forward? Request a demo here.