6-min read
Jan 24, 2023

Community Analytics: A Guide to Making Your Metrics Matter

Shivani Shah

Learn the fundamentals of community analytics and explore how data, insights, and metrics can help you better understand and improve your community performance.

You’ve heard the advice over and over again — ‘execs respond to numbers’, ‘collect data on your community to understand it better’, ‘make data-driven decisions to grow your community’. Whatever form the advice takes, one thing is clear — metrics matter.

Community Managers track all kinds of metrics, from Monthly Active Users to member growth to number of likes/comments/shares. It’s powerful data to have that can help you make better community — and business — decisions. But what do you do with these numbers so that your community has a real impact on the business?

That’s where community analytics comes in.

What is the difference between community metrics and community analytics?

Potato, po-tah-to right? Not quite. 

Metrics are the numbers you collect in your tools. They tell you things like your engagement has gone up (or down), the number of Monthly Active Users has increased (or decreased), what your member retention rate looks like… whatever you’re choosing to collect.

Analytics takes those numbers one step further — the “so what?”. Community analytics is making sense of the metrics you’ve collected (along with other data, such as qualitative information) to understand what the numbers mean and what you can do with them to help you reach your goals faster.

Why do you need analytics for your community?

Analytics help you understand your community to better serve its needs and the goals of the business. You can identify trends and patterns in member engagement and community growth, measure the impact of community initiatives, and make decisions to improve sentiment within the community.

1. See how your existing efforts are performing

Analytics can help you measure the success of initiatives and activities such as community engagement plays and events. For example, you could collect data such as NPS (net promoter score), live attendance, and number of replays so you can learn what aspects of the event were a smashing success and what you could do differently for your next event.

2. Identify where there's room for improvement

You can compare performance over time against your goals to spot areas where your community efforts need a little love. For example, if you’re seeing more new members drop off soon after signing up than you’d like, this could be an indicator that you need to rethink your new member onboarding process. 

3. Evaluate whether the community impact aligns with business goals

When your community strategy is tied to your company’s goals, you’ll have clear benchmarks for how your community should positively impact the business. You can evaluate its impact against your company’s goals to see if it’s meeting (or exceeding) expectations or if you need to make changes. For example, if your goal is to reduce support costs and ticket time but you haven’t hit the mark, you can dig deeper to understand whether you need a better search mechanism in your forum, clearer topic categories, or something else entirely.

👉 Want guidance on which metrics are useful to track? Check out our guide, Community Metrics: What to Track and Why

How do you make your community analytics meaningful?

Want to know what your metrics are really saying? It’s all about asking the right questions. Every community is different and has different goals, so what’s ‘right’ for one may not be for another. But there are some basic questions all CMs can ask to get relevant insights to improve your community.

What are the business problems you’re trying to address or objectives you’re trying to advance?

If you want your community to have a real impact on the business (of course you do!), your company’s problems and goals must be front and center when you’re digging into your data. It’ll help you focus on what’s important so you can make decisions to help the company hit its goals.

👉 Is there a conflict between what your company wants and what your community wants? You may need to revisit your community strategy to align the two.

Do I need more data to get a clearer picture?

Here’s the thing about your community: it lives in your platform, but your members are also interacting with your business and with each other in other places. This means your complete data is spread out over a bunch of different places like social media, newsletters, surveys, website analytics… Your community analytics tool may give you data from sources over and above your platform, but you may need even more. Ask for feedback directly from members through interviews or focus groups to get qualitative data that gives you more context.

Are there seasonal trends or world events impacting this data?

School’s out for the summer — is your community AFK and soaking up the sun? Summer is just one example of a seasonal trend that might impact your data. Things like holidays and major industry or world events can also make a difference to metrics like engagement. Look at dips and gains in context with what’s happening in the world around you.

👉 Pet Care Collective spotted trends in engagement and analyzed the seasonality in veterinary medicine with data from CommsorOS. Find out how the team uses Commsor’s tools to make community and business decisions.

What other factors may be impacting this metric?

It’s not just seasonal trends you need to look out for. There may be other factors that are positively — or negatively — impacting your community too. Have you made any changes to your community programming? Did your Product team launch new features or remove existing ones? Look at changes in your community alongside new releases or company/community initiatives to see if there’s a direct correlation between the two.

Who are the most active users in your community? Who are the most inactive?

Looking at your metrics for the whole community is great for the big picture view — but don’t forget to zoom in and focus on the people. Who are your super users, and how can you thank them for their time and contributions to the community? Which members are at risk of churning, and how can you make the community experience better for them so that they stay?

What are some challenges with community analytics?

  • Data privacy and security: You’re looking at graphs and charts and numbers, and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they represent people. Don’t forget to ensure that the metrics you collect are used in a way that complies with data privacy regulations and protects your community members’ privacy.
  • Combining multiple data sources: Remember how your community lives in your platform but also elsewhere around the web? You should ideally collect data from all these different places your community members interact with your business. Some analytics tools (like CommsorOS) can give you data from different sources in the platform so you get a complete overview of your community in one place.
  • Metrics can lack context: The metrics you’re collecting are excellent data points for understanding your community, but they’re not always enough. CMs of smaller communities might be able to keep a pulse on trending topics in the community, and whether or not the community is feeling good about your product. These things are more difficult to keep track of in larger communities, whether you’re doing it by reading the threads or talking directly to members. Tools that surface conversations to give you more than numbers give you the advantage of context when learning more about your community.
  • Metrics can lack real-time data: Historical data is fantastic. You can collect weeks, months, and years worth of data and look for patterns and trends. But sometimes you need to know what’s happening in your community now. Tools that give you real-time data can help you fight fires, stay on top of emerging issues, and make the most of emerging trends to give members more of what they want.

Want to learn more about community analytics and how to grow your community? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest insight, news, tips and tricks, community events, and jobs from the Commsor team and community industry leaders.

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