In his efforts to fix the world's biggest problems, it is no secret that Bill Gates (and his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) leverages his vast wealth to do research, put operations on the ground all over the world, and invest in innovation that will help millions of people.
However, the way that he uses metrics to track progress and make adjustments are equally as important. The emphasis that they put on measuring incremental improvements and optimizing their efforts is what makes the Gates Foundation one of the most effective organizations on the planet.
In the Wall Street Journal, Gates explains the importance of analytics, "I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal."
While there are still extensive opportunities to improve the measurement of how Gates' innovations are impacting the lives of people from Arizona to Africa, he recognizes that you can't implement successful strategies or tactics if you don't invest the time and resources in measuring their effectiveness.
Measurement and Online Community Management
Online community managers have a similar opportunity on a smaller scale. They are creating and maintaining vibrant social spaces online where community members with common values or experiences can come together to share ideas, collaborate on solutions, and support each other.
With all of the opportunities to engage your customers or members and the pull of your company's goals, it is important to invest just as much effort in measuring the effectiveness of your plan, platform, and value proposition.
Without a system to track your progress or the success of specific community management decisions, you don't have the data-backed foundation to efficiently steer your online community. You run the risk of creating reworks for your company, straying from organizational goals, or weakening the reason that people visit and participate in your online community.
Here are five common pitfalls that people make when it comes to online community metrics.
Mistake #1: Inaccurately Defining What Your Metrics Mean
It isn't enough to just know what types of metrics you are going to track. You need to define what those metrics mean in your specific online community and community software platform. For example, if you are wanting to track participation in the community, how are you defining that activity?
There are different ways that community members can participate in your online community â€“ from starting or responding to writing a blog or simply logging into the community. Are you going to track all of these within your activity reports? You need to decide which data points are going to contribute to your overarching participation measurements.
Once you define "activity," make sure that every member of the community management team has a clear understanding of the definition. Keep in mind that every organization will have a different set of standards as audiences, strategies, and goals vary from community to community.
Mistake #2: Failing to Align Metrics to Business Goals
Organizations often begin their search for an online community platform to meet the needs of their customers. While providing more value to your customers or members is a central goal for your online community, it is not your only goal.
Your private online community strategy should support your core business goals. Common examples include increasing revenue from existing customers, creating more innovative products and services, and shortening the sales cycle for prospective customers. Failing to create an online community that provides value to both your customers and your company is essential to implementing a lasting online community strategy.
Mistake #3: Not Tracking Online Community Data Consistently
As with any valuable business process, consistency is key. You must maintain it on a regular basis to maintain that value. You should be tracking your metrics from the moment your first member arrives.
It is important to track your metrics on a regular basis. Not all metrics will be tracked at the same interval, some you may track weekly while others monthly.
Failing to routinely report on the activity in your online community could leave holes in your data. Irregular analytics make it nearly impossible to make accurate, data-driven decisions to steer your online community.
For example, let's say you want to create a new webinar for your online community members and are looking to select a topic. You would most likely choose your topic that is performing the best in your online community discussions, resource libraries, and blogs.
However, if your data only shows one week out of the whole month, you don't have enough data to accurately determine the topic that is of most interest to your target audience. You may invest resources in creating a webinar for a topic that is of little interest to your community.
Mistake #4: Missing the Correlation of Data Points
It is crucial to understand that all of the data collected in your online community hinges on one another. Understanding which data points impact one another aids in making better decisions for your community. It also allows you to put your online community data into a much larger perspective to influence business-level tactics.
For example, as you acquire new community members, you will see an impact on your activity. If you notice that both your new member and activity metrics are climbing you can correlate the two.
However, if you see that your activity is climbing while your new member count is staying steady, you have some more digging to do. You may find that your engagement plan is working, but your onboarding process is not. You'll waste time and potential follow making incorrect assumptions if you don't know how your online community metrics related to one another.
Mistake #5: Neglecting Your Metrics
The biggest mistake you can make is ignoring the data that is right in front of you waiting to be harvested. As an online community manager, your day is never slow and your to-do lists grows faster than you can complete items. However, failing to prioritize data collection is a rookie mistake.
Additionally, once you collect important data don't neglect sharing that data. Share the data with senior management and other stakeholders on a regular basis. They should constantly be aware of community trends to gain long term buy-in and tie the community back to departmental goals.
Online Community Metrics Takeaway
Accurately measuring your online community metrics is crucial to the health of any community. The process of measuring data should start from the moment of your launch. Maintaining a clear definition of metrics and devoting time to the process can make a huge difference in your community participation.
While your to-do list will inevitably fill up, it is important to prioritize community analytics and keep regular reporting processes to build a valuable and engaging online community.
Learn More About Online Community Analytics
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