Seasoned community managers know that data-driven decision making is essential to growing and managing perpetually active online communities. According to The Community Roundtable's State of Community Management research, "best-in-class online communities are almost twice as likely to be able to measure their value to the organization."
While there is a lot that goes into managing a thriving online community, the same report notes that online community management teams that can report on their community's value to the company are tracking many more metrics than average online communities.
We have written previously about key online community engagement metrics and the importance of establishing a process for tracking the right social metrics during the online community planning process. However, what you do with that data is just as important to your ability to make data-driven community management decisions.
Once you have routinely compiled a plethora of meaningful data from your online community, it is time to analyze.
The following are three proven tips to getting the most out of your hard-earned online community analytics data.
How you analyze and interpret the metrics you collect in your online community software platform determines how effectively you make data-driven decisions for your private online community.
The data you collect provides the roadmap for steering your community on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Your community platform's analytics provide an accurate representation of where your community is performing well and where it could do better.
Your data makes it easy to take an honest look at what is working and what isn't in your community. For instance, if there are groups that the active online community is avoiding, don't waste time building content for those areas of the community. If you notice that a lot of people are coming to your online community from social media, take that opportunity to increase the content you put there.
In contrast, when your online community metrics highlight that most community members are logging in, and looking at only one page, it is outlining your next challenge. Rather than wondering why activity has dropped off in your online community and potentially chasing the wrong solution for weeks or months, your data can point you to exactly where the problem is and which community members you need to re-engage.
Look at your online community analytics data as early-warning signs for both opportunities and challenges to structure your online community's evolution and adjust your community management processes.
Once you have collected valuable data, it is important that you share your results with the right people. Share your data so that the right people are updated on the overall health of the online community.
Keeping key players inside your company informed about the growth of the online community can ignite additional organizational participation and funding. Company-wide participation is a foundational pillar in successful and sustainable online community. So, who qualifies as the right people?
It goes without saying that every member of your online community management team should be aware of those key metrics regularly. This team should also have a very clear understanding of what goes into the collection and recording of your metrics.
Beyond that, you should share your data with those in leadership roles overseeing the community strategy and other stakeholders. Don't be afraid to communicate the data as high up the chain of command in your organization as possible.
Your online community's performance data is crucial to communicating the value of your online community and how it increases over time, so sharing your numbers can help your senior management become more interested and invested over time.
A common question we hear is, "how often do I need to record data from my online community?" The answer isn't simple and there isn't just one answer to this question.
Every online community has a unique set of goals, audiences, and tools that play a role in gathering the right metrics. Your business will need to assess all of these factors when you are putting analytics and reporting processes into places.
Each metric may have a unique schedule for collection. Some metrics might need to be updated weekly if you have certain goals that depend on the information they provide. Others may need to be reviewed once a month to really show the full picture of what's happening in your online community.
The key to success is staying true to the process that you create. Once you have a collection plan in place it is crucial to abide by that plan. You are most able to make decisions based on your online community data when it is collected regularly.
You are trying to build a complete picture of your online community. When you forget to collect here or there, your conclusions can be off significantly - causing rework, wasted time, and confusion.
While online community metrics give you actionable data to steer your online community and member interactions, it also provides the validation that your strategy's stakeholders will ask for sooner or later following your community's launch.
Accurately recording community data gives your organization the power to make smart, data-driven decisions and take calculated risks in your online community. The data you collect from your online community will inform the community management decisions you make and demonstrate different areas of success to impatient stakeholders.
Keeping these records from the very beginning of your community's lifecycle allows you to compare growth over time as you learn which tactics works and where you have opportunities to improve your online community.