What can you expect from your community when it launches? When it’s a few months old? When members are pouring in but you feel like engagement could be better?
Every community has unique milestones and goals, no matter its age. What is consistent and compounding across all online communities is engagement growth – the older the community, the better chance for highly engaged members. We’d love to say you can supersede this process, that there are (insert your favorite number) of handy tips and tricks to apply to a young community and make it flourish. But time is the tried and true approach. Your community’s maturity will directly affect community engagement.
This doesn’t mean you can stop seeding questions, tracking member activities and ceasing all online events and gamification efforts when your community hits a certain age. Measuring your KPIs and tracking your community analytics will always be integral to community success.
The best benchmarking and engagement reporting for your community comes from a comprehensive look at your overall best practices for engaging members. This varies depending on the size of your organization, the industry and how involved you already are with training, networking and advocacy programs.
Community maturity matters
Community Maturity is a primary theme in this year’s Community Benchmarking Report. The report’s data (from over 16 million users within 318 organizations) revealed a common theme: community performance affects every department of an organization, and benchmarking for engagement is always in flux. The 2015 State of Community Management Report by The Community Roundtable also touches on these themes—its Community Maturity Model proves that the stages of community affect performance for different departments at varying times in the community’s life cycle.
Clearly community maturity matters. The Community Roundtable’s latest findings and its Community Maturity Model proves how important specific engagement tactics are for a community at varying stages of growth. Your community’s size and demographics greatly affect where you take your engagement strategy next.
Most organizations are only half way up the four stages of the maturity ladder. The few organizations at the top of the ladder have significantly more member engagement than their less mature peers. This trajectory also emphasizes the need for executive attention and greater accountability towards member engagement – if your leadership is invested in community activity and you can prove your community’s ROI, then that buy-in will go a long way towards setting new community goals and engagement strategies.
Community engagement for any age
No matter where your community is in its life cycle, or how much reporting your organization is already doing, there are engagement tactics you can put into place immediately. What are the best tactics and metrics to focus on? Basically, how should your community perform to meet organizational goals at its current maturity level?
Start with this quick to-do list:
- Track your past community activity. Do a health check on your community – how old is it? Do community goals tie into overall organizational goals? Try finding where your community lies on the Community Maturity Model and choose some best practices from there.
- Analyze what you’re doing now. Proving current community ROI will help down the road to more targeted engagement goals. Choose member activities that are both thriving and in need of improvement, and decide on what you can benchmark from.
- Reassess engagement goals for the future. Now armed with analytics from past and present, you can reevaluate your current community engagement strategy and decide what’s working and what you need to readjust.