Charisma, drive, perception – all so-called "soft skills" essential in today’s workplace. Yet despite being widely known and valued, soft skills take a back seat to more defined skills like writing or expertise in Excel. Those are the skills employers use to grade your resume.
But how far will Excel get you if you can’t get along with your coworkers or persuade your boss to try a brilliant new idea? While considered less weighty than other skill sets, soft skills are critical for success.
Vibrancy metrics are the soft skills of the online community world. People know about them and want to see positive results, but when push comes to shove, they don’t value them very highly. Just think about your community’s vibrancy when compared to retention and revenue. Numbers win every time.
That’s a mistake. Despite riding in the back seat, community vibrancy metrics can be instrumental in achieving business results.
Anything that tells you how engaging your community is or how members are participating falls under the umbrella of community vibrancy. A recent study on the business impact of online communities lists the following community vibrancy metrics:
These vibrancy metrics are largely tactical. You can use them to determine whether the actions you’re taking to increase engagement (your tactics) are effective.
But as mentioned earlier, the problem with tactical metrics is they’re not often highly valued by businesses. Corporate CEOs and CFOs don’t care how many people posted in your discussion forums. They care about how your community has influenced revenue, retention, and product innovation. As such, community vibrancy metrics often don’t garner much respect outside of the community management world.
It’s time that changed. You and your company should emphasize measuring and valuing community vibrancy metrics for three main reasons.
The goal of any online community is to get business results like increased customer engagement, more sales, or higher member satisfaction rates. But your community can’t achieve any of these results if it isn’t healthy and active.
You must build a vibrant community with members who are consistently participating in ways that align with business goals. If you don’t, then the only thing your empty, silent community will impact is your budget – and not in a good way.
Community vibrancy metrics will give you a better understanding of how active your community really is, not just how it looks on the surface. They’ll show you how people are participating and how often. You need that healthy group of active members to support and validate further business goals, so make sure vibrancy and business needs are working together.
And remember, community vibrancy isn’t just an ephemeral concept with no benefits. Research from Gallup shows that engagement naturally leads to improved business results such as higher revenue and relationship growth.
Your community members don’t exist in a vacuum. Larger industry trends and the actions your company takes will impact members. Vibrancy metrics will often change when an influential event happens, so you can identify what’s affecting your members. You may see a spike in activity if the event is prompting discussions, or a dip if it’s affecting morale.
For instance, if new legislation impacting your members makes its way through Congress, you may see a spike in community activity as stakeholders discuss how the changes affect them. Once you notice the change in activity, you can identify the cause by reviewing community discussions. Then, you can respond appropriately. In this example, you may want to provide more content documenting the legislation and suggesting ways for members to adapt to the new laws.
By using community vibrancy metrics to spot news and even larger industry trends that affect members over time, you’ll be able to respond to their needs and consistently deliver fresh, relevant content. That, in turn, will impact satisfaction and loyalty.
One of the most valuable uses of vibrancy metrics is activity profiles. When you combine community information with data from your CRM or AMS, you can create profiles illustrating the relationship between online community activity and business goals. Those profiles can then help you can get better business results in the future.
Profile members who take actions you want, such as making purchases or referring other people to your organization – all information that should be in your CRM or AMS. Map out what community activities those members perform. For instance, if members who purchase more often suggest ideas for new products and review pricing pages in your community, those actions would go into an activity profile describing members who are likely to make another purchase.
Activity profiles are a type of business intelligence. You can build activity profiles for all your business goals, such as increasing sales or referring new clients. Then, create member engagement strategies that encourage more people to complete those activities. The activities should prime your members to take the action that you want, such as buying another product. Once a member fits the activity profile, have your sales or membership team reach out to them with an offer.
Measuring community vibrancy is an ongoing process, but your online community software should do the bulk of the work for you. It will keep track of the data, all you have to do is run the reports.
Start your measurement process by defining what community activities are important to you and what your goals are. You may want to get 5,000 new, active members, for instance. You could also value blogging and volunteering more than just filling out a profile. Match your top activities with vibrancy metrics and consistently run reports on them over time. Those reports show you how well your community is performing relative to what’s important to you.
Try to get your vibrancy metrics set up as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll start measuring with your beta group or when your community goes live. By measuring vibrancy early on, you’ll be able to see how activity increases as your community matures and possibly even match changes with improvements in business results.
Just because there isn’t always a straight line between your community’s activity and business results doesn’t mean vibrancy metrics are vanity metrics. They’re still a critical piece of the puzzle that will help you gauge your community’s health and nudge members toward taking actions that are important to you. Used strategically, vibrancy metrics can make a major impact on your business.