When it comes to analytics and KPIs, it can be hard for community builders to know exactly what to focus on. Some platforms have dashboards that display the ins and outs of the community, but some community managers work with simpler social media networks, or painstakingly pull Excel spreadsheets with tons of raw data. But what are the important numbers for you to focus on at any given time?
In his 2016 Super Forum talk, Richard Millington said one problem community managers have is to try to take all the great advice they receive - webinars, books, blogs - and apply it all at the same time. By trying to do everything at once, community builders actually end up digging themselves into a hole.
The same could be said for analytics. Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to track a million different things in your community - but does that help you? Are you tracking meaningful metrics that help you strategize and grow your community’s engagement, or are you tracking empty metrics that just happen to look good?
If you want to improve your community or calculate ROI, you need to take a look at what analytics you’re tracking and be able to defend each one.
Not sure where to start? Here are three metrics I think are a good place to start (these metrics are by month):
Total logins are a little bit of a vanity metric - what does that number really tell you? Sure, you know the number of times the login button has been pushed, but who are those people? Logins versus unique logins paints a bigger picture. Rather than just seeing the number of times people logged into your community, by comparing logins to unique logins, you can suss out how many different people logged in.
Are a bunch of people logging in once or twice a month and not coming back? Or is it just a handful of diehards that log in every day, multiple times a day? That means they’re essentially carrying the login number themselves.
When you compare total logins to unique logins, you get a fuller picture of your community activity and can better strategize.
It’s important to know how many total members you have in your community,but more importantly: how many new people join each month?
Much like your Twitter followers, your total number can stay the same over a long period of time or slowly increase. But that doesn’t mean you’re only adding people - people may opt out or withdraw from the community at the same rate (or similar rate) as people joining. If that’s the case, then only looking at total members doesn’t help you very much.
That’s why you should look at how many people agreed to terms, especially if you compare it to the total number of members. Not only do you see how many people join your community each month, but it illuminates how many people leave each month.
Once a member logs into your community, how many of them actually participate? In order to get this number, first you have to define what ‘active’ is for your community. For example, an active member could constitute as someone who does one (or more) of these actions: recommends or reacts to a post, posts a new discussion, replies to a thread, uploads a document or image, writes a blog post, volunteers for an activity, etc.
When you have a definition for an ‘active member’ and you begin tracking those people, you can create a bigger picture of who your contributors are. So, every month, X people log in, Y are new, and Z actually participate once they’re inside. That information can tell you a lot about who your community appeals to and where you should focus.
In order to create change within your community, you need to measure what matters - not just what is easy. Cut through the noise and think twice about each metric you track - if you don’t have a specific reason for tracking it, then don’t waste your time.