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5-min read
June 23, 2022

Community OKRs: Why You Need Them (and How to Design Them)

Have trouble proving return on investment (ROI) in community? You’re not alone.

Community professionals often ask how to measure community success, but the truth is that there aren’t many answers that work for everyone. To measure the success of your specific community, you must start by defining your community’s unique objectives and key results (OKRs).

What are OKRs?

The good news is that whether you work in design, marketing, software engineering, or community, OKRs work similarly. OKRs are a goal-setting and leadership tool that identify what you want to accomplish, what you need to accomplish, and how you will get there.

Community teams can use them to set measurable goals, track growth, and communicate ROI to business.

Some of the benefits of defining your OKRs include:

  • Aligning community goals with business goals
  • Making effective decisions about how to grow your community
  • Tracking your progress through measurable goals
  • Boosting team engagement through goal-setting
  • An opportunity to work cross-functionally towards a shared goal.

Objectives vs. key results

At the Community-Led Summit, Community Development Consultant Victoria Cumberbatch shared an analogy that is a great place to start when trying to understand how objectives are tied to key results.

“If objectives are a tree then key results are the branches coming out of it,” she said. “An example of this is if my objective is to grow engagement in an online community then the key result part of that is something that I will see happen at the end of the road which will tell me if my objective has been accomplished.

“So if my objective was to increase engagement, my key result would be seeing a 10% increase in engagement in at least four channels in my community. That is something I can track, measure, and report on after a specific timeframe,” she said.

Put simply, objectives are the overall goal you want to achieve and key results are an indication of whether you achieved that objective or not.

OKRs vs. KPIs

If you work at a startup or in corporate, you will know Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) all too well.

Although they do play a part in the process of determining and tracking OKRs, they are two different methodologies.

An OKR is a strategic framework, whereas KPIs are measurements that exist within a framework. So, while an OKR shows where you want to go and key results tell you whether you got there or not, KPIs track your performance and progress along the way.

“To me, KPIs are a signpost, a landmark telling you you're on the right track to reach your OKRs,” said Victoria. “If your key result is a 10% increase in engagement by September 2022, your KPI might be seeing a 4% increase by August. My KPI would then be an indication that I’m on the right track to achieve my ultimate key result.”

So, where do metrics come in? ****Metrics are essentially the tool you use to measure your KPIs and key results. So if your key result is a 10% increase in engagement, your metric here would be engagement and your target goal would be 10%.

During the Community-Led Summit Brianna Leever, Community Builder at Ember, cautioned against sticking to OKRs too permanently.

“At my first job as a Community Manager, we were building and growing our community, but the company I worked for placed a huge emphasis on KPIs,” she shared.

“We talked about them every month and I would be confronted with my goal, but three months in, the community still hadn’t achieved the goals. We were growing and there was progress but it was slower than expected, and there were constant conversations about whether community would actually work in the long run or not based on these first three months. And I exploded a bit because I don’t think community is a guinea pig,” she says.

For Brianna, a ‘scientific’ approach to OKRs works better.

“In community building, I think too many of us often think of OKRs like this bullseye goal when we should be engaging it as a discovery process by asking questions, making assumptions, testing those assumptions, learning, and going back to the drawing board until we get it right,” she says.

How to design community OKRs

OKRs are best written collaboratively. Whether you’re part of a large Community team or a lone Community Manager at a small company, creating objectives with other stakeholders drives accountability and encourages cross-functional collaboration.

Define your objectives

It’s important to remember that OKRs represent the change and improvement you want to see happen in your community. Your objectives are your goals and intents, while your key results are milestones that are measurable and time-bound under these goals and intents.

Objectives need to be actionable, clear, and inspiring so think big! They will be the destination on the map for you and your team to work towards the next 30 to 90 days, so make them count.

Objective 👉 Become the largest online knitting community

Determine your key results

Key results are measurable outcomes required to accomplish an objective.

Using the objective above, your next step will be to list the measurable and time-bound key results that will help you achieve your objectives.

Objective 👉 Become the largest online knitting community

Key result 1 👉 Share five knitting videos as a part of marketing drive to promote community to target audience by July 1, 2022.

Key result 2 👉 Increase in sign-ups to join community by 85% by August 30, 2022.

Key result 3 👉 Surpass 3000 community members by September 30, 2022.

Share your OKRs with stakeholders

If your community is a part of a larger organization, you may need to work cross-functionally to achieve your goal. Your OKRs must also be tied to existing business goals, which means you will have to share them with relevant stakeholders.

For the example above, you may need to work with Marketing to make sure that your community has visibility to the company's target audience. Sharing these goals with the Marketing team will help them understand the overall goals of the Community team and track how their efforts are aligned with your key results.

Report your progress

This is where your KPIs come in. Reporting on your progress is an important step in reaching your ultimate objectives. This can happen during weekly or monthly check-ins with your Community team, stakeholders, or leaders. This will help you quickly find your blockers or problems that often arise that may prevent you from achieving your goal.

Pam Magwaza
June 23, 2022

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