As a community manager, you’ve learned that community management is made up of many different parts. It’s an interdisciplinary field involving tactics like people skills, psychology, strategy and analytics, to name a few.
There can be a lot to juggle and if you’re not a numbers person, one of the most daunting tasks can be tracking data and analytics—too many balls in the air, right? Most community platforms have at least basic tracking analytics and a dashboard (if yours doesn’t, definitely consider switching).
Yet, even with the data right there, it can be tempting to ignore or under-utilize the incredible tool right there in front of you. We get it—new can be scary. Maybe you’ve never been trained to analyze data and you don’t feel qualified to do so. But don’t make the common mistake of avoiding a new opportunity to learn and grow your community.
Once you learn how to use the tools in front of you, your job will be easier and your community will be happier. Here are four reasons why community managers should embrace data and analytics:
Data shows you exactly what is and isn’t working, so rather than posting things in the dark, hitting some and missing others, use your data to confirm the direction you’re taking is a home run rather than a dud.
Make it an experiment. Before starting a new discussion thread, predict what will happen – hypothesize. When the results roll in, think about why your experiment turned out the way it did and adjust if you need to. Hopefully, after some trial and error, you’ll learn what people respond to, if it matters what time of day you post, etc.
Increasing engagement and growing your community go hand in hand – the more engaged your community, the more it grows. That’s one reason why using data to increase engagement is so important – the ripple effect it has can have a positive impact on other aspects of your community, such as growth.
Don’t just look at numbers alone; context is important. What good are 100 discussions posted in one month if you have nothing to benchmark it against? Think about the bigger picture and how the numbers connect. When you sent out that email blast, did more people join or did some discontinue? Are the daily digests helping bring people back into the fray and become connected? Your data will provide important insight into all of these questions.
Sometimes it can feel as if you’re constantly reacting to surprises within your community. Part of community management is coming up with a strategy, and subsequently using data to inform your decision making. When you have data, you can establish goals, create an action plan, set metrics and hold yourself accountable. This will give you a greater semblance of control and make your community feel more stable.
At the end of the day, being able to prove ROI is an incredibly important thing for a community manager to do. If there isn’t a certain level of ROI, then what’s the the point of the community? Higher Logic Community Manager Lindsay Starke recently summed it up well.
How does data play into this? By tracking retention, level of activity and community membership cycle, you’ll have a strong set of information that shows how important your community is to your members. If the numbers are good and there is high retention, a lot of activity and membership longevity, you can prove the high ROI that the community brings to your organization.
You’ll also see what members are most interested in, what their concerns are and if they’re turning to each other for information, among other things. This helps your organization better understand their members and provide meaningful support and services to them.
Have any more reasons for tracking data and analyzing the results? Comment below and keep an eye out for our next article on what to do once you’ve decided to embrace the data.