There is a growing view in conservation science that traditional ways to evaluate publications, researchers, and projects are too slow. This has led to a rise in the use of altmetrics, which are metrics based on social media data, news pieces, blogs, and more. Here we examine altimetric data linked to nearly 10,000 papers published in 23 conservation journals, exploring five issues that represent some of the challenges associated with using social media data in evaluating conservation. We discuss whether social media activity reflects meaningful engagement, and how easily individuals can manipulate scores by using bots or simply through active personal networks or institutional promotion services. Our analysis shows a highly skewed distribution of altimetric scores where most papers have such low scores that the scores likely convey little meaningful information. Examining scores that would be considered meritorious, we find that papers, where the first author was male, have higher scores than papers led by a woman, suggesting a gender bias in altmetric scores. Finally, this data set reveals regional differences that correspond with access to different social media platforms. Metrics, like altmetrics, may have a role to play when making rapid evaluations. However, such metrics should only be used after careful deliberation and should not be influenced by institutions looking for shortcuts, by companies looking to advance profits, or by individuals seeking to promote themselves, rather than generating meaningful engagement in scholarship and conservation action. Scholarly and conservation activities should be judged on the quality of their contributions, which will require the input of experts and direct contact with impacted communities.