As someone who has been thrown into community management throughout my professional career, I can absolutely relate to the feeling of not really knowing where to start.
Whether you’re responsible for building a community from scratch or you’re building off of a community that already exists, it can be incredibly intimidating to not only define your community but also to figure out the right metrics by which to measure the impact your community has on your goals or — if you're building it as part of a company — your business metrics.
That said, how do you go from the first stages of your Minimum Viable Community (MVC), i.e. defining what your community is or will be, to growing it to a stage where you’re actually demonstrating and proving it?
If you’re able to define your community by the amount of trust you’re trying to earn, then you can ultimately design goals and metrics to support that definition.
This will likely come as no surprise, but there’s no one-size-fits-all metric when it comes to community, as each community has its own unique differentiators. However, below are five really good metrics you may want to consider as you get started.
This metric is important because instead of focusing on the overall size or growth of your community, it more accurately measures the percentage of engaged members you have in your community.
You may have 5,000 members, but if only five people are engaged then the growth and size of the community doesn’t mean anything. On the flip side, if you have 100 members and 45 of those 100 members are actively engaged, you can clearly see the impact the community is making. Keep in mind that this metric will likely ebb and flow, but tracking this enables you to better understand why more members are involved at certain points vs. when they are more inactive.
As I mentioned before, the amount of engagement you’ll see in your community will change and evolve over time. By tracking members who re-engage with the community, you’re able to more easily validate what made them go from lurker to active user and prove its value immediately or down the line.
This is one of my all-time favorite metrics and is one of the best ways to track both trust and relationship building within your community.
When members begin to engage and answer questions on your behalf, it demonstrates their passion for the community and their willingness to give up some of their free time to help others. It shows trust and relationship-building.
Keep an eye out on those early contributors. They will often be your most loyal advocates and should be rewarded for their contributions.
Similar to the last metric, this is a key indicator that you’re on the right track. When a community starts off, Community Managers and other leaders need to be the drivers of posts and comments.
Not only does it initially help foster relationships and validate why the community is helpful, but it will also set the tone and set an example of the behavior you want your ideal members to exhibit.
If you find that people aren’t necessarily volunteering to post or comment, a gentle nudge through a private message, tagging, or email always goes a long way. Often, people are more eager to share their knowledge or advice than you think.
As time passes, it’s important to track the retention of your members and to have that as an established metric from the beginning. How many of your members have stuck around for three months, six months, or a year? Is there a steady stream of new members joining your community? How many people have left your community, and when? All of these components, as they relate to retention, can help you identify what’s working and what’s not.
Once the metrics above are in motion and you’ve determined what success looks like for your community, a good next step is making sure that the trust and relationships you've built within the community align with the overarching mission and goals of your organization.
If you’re doing your MVC as a part of an organization, think about proving the ROI of your community and consider taking some of the metrics mentioned above and blending them with your organization's existing metrics.
Let's look at retention as an example. If you were to compare customer retention for customers that are community members vs. not you could align that with a metric within your organization that measures the number of support tickets answered by your community members vs. non-members.
By setting up initial metrics for your community and proving its worth, you not only ensure that your community is an asset to your organization, you establish that your community is a key differentiator.