Whether it’s a customer service community, a focus group, or an internal workspace, having a healthy, engaged community is the lifeblood of any social business initiative. Communities Image

But if community is so closely tied to the success of social business, what are the key things we should be measuring to ensure they are effective? As the Community Management discipline gains maturity, we’re seeing an increased focus on using analytics to maximize effectiveness and demonstrate business value. However, while it’s great to see social analytics beginning to find their place as a core competency, most Community Managers I speak with admit to being in the early stages of developing these programs. This is hardly surprising of course, given that the rollout of analytics usually lags some way behind the implementation of new business initiatives.

Right now, the typical community manager is looking for essential baseline measurements of online community health to help develop tactical programs that increase engagement. They are also just starting to explore the tools needed to surface more strategic business intelligence.

So let’s take a look at the top 5 things every Community Manager should be measuring today:

  1. Adoption: Whatever the business goals of the community, adoption is a key metric. Most potential users can be persuaded to kick the tires on something new, particularly if it’s surrounded by heavy promotion. However, once the initial excitement has died down, sustaining a healthy adoption rate can be challenging. Knowing what percentage of members are logging in each day, week or month can provide excellent insight into the ongoing health of the community and the effectiveness of engagement programs. It’s also important to understand the adoption rate of different types of members. There’s no point having a customer service community where only staff turn up. For communities with a combination of internal members (staff) and external members (customers or partners), monitoring the adoption rate of each group helps with the development of tailored, tactical programs that create the right balance of members.
  2. Stickiness: A healthy community is one where members return frequently because they find it a valuable resource. There are a lot of ways to approach measuring stickiness, but it’s best to initially keep it simple. A great metric is something such as average number of login days per user. If a stickiness problem is identified, it’s a good indicator that the content of the community needs improvement; whether that’s seeding new conversations, creating a document repository or improving response rates.
  3. Engagement: In a healthy community, members collaborate to solve problems and share knowledge. Community Managers should look to turn broadcasters (those that post a lot but don’t engage others) and observers (members who observe but do not contribute) into active collaborators. A simple way to measure engagement is to look at the percentage of users who have participated in some way over a given time period. Maybe they started a conversation, or commented on an existing thread. But it’s also important to look at the balance of people simply posting new content compared to those commenting on other threads. There may be a lot of very active users that post a lot but do not actually initiate or contribute to collaboration. Other useful engagement metrics include average time to response, percentage of unanswered posts, and average thread depth.
  4. Top Content & Conversations: Monitoring community content can provide early indicators of business problems and successes, surface product ideas, and enhance knowledge sharing. Identifying key files, most active groups, and trending topics not only shows what is happening in the community, but whether or not members are collaborating effectively. This is also where Community Managers can drive a higher ROI. For example, in a partner community, it may be possible to identify sticking points in the sales process, areas lacking in product knowledge, or refinements needed on key materials, by monitoring interaction around certain files and sales opportunities.
  5. Key Contributors: Much of the work involved in driving adoption and engagement can be greatly reduced by identifying and nurturing community champions early on. These champions could be staff members or customer evangelists, depending on the type of community. They will typically encourage and mentor others, suggest ideas for improvement and promote core community values. In a customer service community, these champions can be invaluable in increasing case deflection and decreasing support costs. Community Managers should be able to quickly identify their power users, knowledge hubs and influencers.

These 5 areas are just the beginning of what Community Managers can use to drive social business success. As the role of Community Manager matures, so will the analytics, and we’ll start to see these critical social initiatives more closely mapped to real business outcomes.