Trying to figure out how to measure the success of your community? There's no one size fits all for picking key performance indicators (KPIs). That shouldn't come as a surprise - the measures of success for an internal community within an organization should be different than an external association or customer support community.
Instead, your approach to measuring the success for your community needs to grow from how you measure success for your organization as a whole, and the shared purpose and value of your community for the organization and the community members. It should also reflect community maturity, because as it grows and evolves, the way you define success should change as well.
Are you just getting started? The temptation is to pin your success on growth, but in the long run growing from 50 to 500 members is far less important to your community's future than what customers or members are doing. Are they using the community for the things you want them to? Are they adopting new behaviors that can provide value to both them and the organization? Focus on the rationale for your community in the first place, the behavior changes you want to instill, and measure that change for the group you have. It's a lot easier to get new members to adopt appropriate behaviors that are established when the community is small, than for a community manager to convince a large community to change its overall behaviors.
It makes sense to design your indicators of performance early, to highlight how behaviors are changing, and couple the numbers with stories to help illustrate the possibilities. Communities that have had some time to establish their behaviors will want to focus on what we consider the "classic" metrics of engagement and community growth. But there's something important to keep in mind here - this focus on membership and engagement is not the end state unto itself, because your community goals simply aren't how big you can make your community, but also what your community can provide.
In The Community Manager Handbook: 20 Lessons from Community Superheroes, it comes down to a simple sentence: Measure what matters. It means keeping your KPIs simple, and it means building them directly off of your business goals, whether your goal is prospect generation, learning and development, stronger advocates or anything else.
Let's boil it down to a few tips:
- Start with your organization goals and build your community goals from there.
- Don't let growth be your first metric. Measure behavior change first, then scale it.
- Growth and engagement numbers make sense, but not as the ultimate goal.
- For mature communities, bring together stakeholders to think about the best measures for the organization, rather than what is easiest to measure.
- Tell stories with your numbers and make your reports teachable moments. If your executives actually look forward to your numbers, take advantage of their attention and educate them about the numbers and what they mean.
By focusing on the most meaningful metrics for your organizational and community maturity, you are more likely to find the right metrics for you. And having the right metrics means your strategies to improve your community are more likely to succeed.