Vanity metrics are all too often confused with metrics that are in fact relevant—but they’re only relevant to a certain group of technical marketers.

The ‘vanity metrics’ category includes things likes social media likes or followers. A lot of people have Twitter followers simply because they tweet outrageous things, for example, but that doesn’t mean they’re influencing those followers or that they have any real clout. These metrics don’t mean much when it comes to measuring your efforts, and they don’t offer any real insights into your overall performance. If you can’t use the metrics to make better plans for future campaigns, then they fall into that ‘vanity’ category.

Tactical metrics, on the other hand, provide you with actionable data that can help influence your decisions around future campaigns. Followers’ comments about your exceptional service or product, for instance, speak to a successful strategy and offer valuable insights into what you’re doing well. When happy customers share information about a product on their social channels, those aren’t just followers—those are endorsers. It’s like the difference between telling a friend that you love something and telling him to check that thing out.

I hear metrics such as open and click-through rates referred to as ‘vanity metrics’ when in fact they’re not vain at all. Open rates are a sign that the people receiving your emails both want to receive information from you and that the topic seemed interesting to them. For example, if I get an email from an airline telling me about a sale on flights from a city that’s nowhere near me, I’m going to ignore it. It’s generic, it doesn’t take my persona and specifics into consideration, and they’re showing me that they just don’t care what I need. But if I get an email from a local business telling me that something I regularly buy from them is on sale, I’m going to open that right away—they’re thinking of me, my buying patterns, my needs, and my convenience.

Overall, open rates are trending data. It’s less about the absolute numbers and more about the proportion of leads that are opening the emails. Because open rates can be both false negative and false positive, they’re never completely accurate. Click-through rates are accurate, but are again trending. Is the percentage of leads clicking in my emails increasing? If so, then I’m sending more relevant information. If those rates are decreasing, I better check what I’m sending and make sure it’s important to my audience.

Vanity metrics are exactly what they sound like—numbers that may be high, but that only show winners in some vague, ill-defined popularity contest. Tactical metrics are important trending data that tell marketers about the health of their database, the needs and interests of their audience, and the expansion of brand awareness. These numbers are important to businesses that are trying to help their prospects and customers do better, learn more, and reach their goals.

These tactical numbers play into a larger measurement context, and will help you make sure you’re on the right path as work to drive more pipeline and revenue for the business. To learn more about how you can measure and report on these marketing metrics, check out the B2B Marketer’s Guide to Tactical Reporting Guide from our Actionable Insights Pocket Guide series.