Seasoned community managers know that data-driven decision making is essential to growing and managing perpetually active online communities. According to The Community Roundtable's State of Community Management research, "best-in-class online communities are almost twice as likely to be able to measure their value to the organization."
While there is a lot that goes into managing a thriving online community, the same report notes that online community management teams that can report on their community's value to the company are tracking many more metrics than average online communities.
Many communities feel the pressure from committees, interest groups and other members to open new communities within their site (example: a Community for teachers has a lot of discussions on curriculum across the state, and members of a committee would like to start a separate community within the site). It's a tall order if those groups aren't prepared to develop a community plan, create seed questions and advocate on its behalf for support and engagement. These frequent requests can wear on community managers, who don't want to give out free tickets to possibly non-active communities.
The launch of a private online community is often met with expectations from all sides—organizational leaders, community members, and the community management team. Each has their own definition of a "successful online community."
Your investors, board members, and upper-level management will want to see that your online customer or member community is a worthwhile financial investment. While your community members will want to see that your online community is a meaningful place to spend their time. Lastly, your community management team will want to know where to focus their efforts and whether your current strategy is working.
As everything begins to thaw out, both people and communities crave activity after a long winter indoors, and perhaps a stretch of social hibernation, too. It's time to open up the doors for fresh new events and meet ups.
By now, we all know executive buy-in is important when creating an online customer or member community. Without it, community would hardly even be a discussion. However, getting your senior management on board is just a starting point. Writing a check, committing to a community platform and getting marketing to send an email doesn't even scratch the surface. To build a successful community, a foundation of unfaltering and abundant internal support is essential.
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.
The world we live in is becoming a place where isolation and lack of human connections is the norm. We don't know our next-door neighbors. Technology means we don't actually have to talk to or interact with anyone. Our jobs take us far away from friends and family. As I watch these realities day in and day out, I'm struck by the contrast of the rapidly rising trend in the demand for communities. The more our complex world isolates us, the more we seek out human connection and a place to belong.
Once you decide on the perfect topic for your new online customer or member community, it can be tempting to hit the ground running with your launch plans.
However, before you get too far along, it's important to figure out your total feasible market size. By taking the time to assess your target audience's level of interest, you can determine whether an online community is the type of engagement platform your target audience is likely to participate in.
So, you want to create an online community.
That's great! Whether you're a company interested in providing a space for your customers to collaborate, an organization interested in uniting your members, or a niche interest group simply aiming to connect people with other likeminded individuals, your online community strategy can be a valuable part of achieving your goals.
However, planning, launching, and managing an online community can also be a lot of work and a substantial investment. That's why it's important to figure out exactly what type of online community you're creating from the very beginning of the planning process. When you take the time to determine the right topic and target audience, you can avoid a common pitfall â€” creating a community with no purpose or audience.