The Importance of Online Community Telltales
I took my daughter sailing for the first time last weekend. She was very interested in how I know where to steer.
I explained to her that there are pieces of yarn on the sails that tell me where to point the boat as the wind shifts. They are called telltales. If the yarn on the outside of the sail flaps, I make subtle adjustment to go in that direction. If the inside telltale isn't straight, I point the boat in that direction.
If only online communities came with telltales.
Well, you're in luck. They do. Every online community has key ratios that help online community managers and social strategists to know where to point their efforts.
Just as telltales on a sailboat indicate why the boat is slowing and what actions need to be taken to address its performance, the goal of these community engagement metrics is to help organizations understand why certain things are happening and why they are getting certain results.
Here are 6 key customer engagement metrics to measure at least monthly in your online community:
Metric #1) Visit to New Registration Ratio
What It Measures: This ratio measures the ability of your marketing messages and website to recruit and convert people who visit your website into online community members.
How to Measure: Divide the number of new online community registrations by the total number of visitors to your website.
Sample of Visit to New Registration Ratio:
Metric #2) Visit to Login Ratio
What It Measures: Are increases in members accessing your online community a result of more members finding value in your community and returning, or just an overall increase in website visitors?
How to Measure: Track the number of people who visit your website against the number of returning members who log into your online community.
Tip: It is also helpful to combine the new registration and returning logins to see the overall community access (new and returning) to website visit ratio.
Sample of Visit to Login Ratio:
Metric #3) Login to Post & Comment Ratio
What It Measures: This ratio indicates whether or not your organization's online community is seeing an increase in contributions by members.
How to Measure: Create the ratio by tallying the number of forum or blog posts, idea submissions, comments, or file uploads, then dividing it by the total number of logins.
Sample of Login to Post & Comment Ratio:
Metric #4) Post to Comment Ratio
What It Measures: This metric determines if the content being produced in the community is driving engagement.
How to Measure: Compare the number of blog post, forum entries, idea submissions, or file uploads to the number of comments these items receive.
Sample of Post to Comment Ratio:
Metric #5) Login to Action Ratio
What It Measures: By comparing activity with logins, you have a ratio that pinpoints the effectiveness of your community-building tactics inside your community. If you measure activity alone, you don't know if you are seeing an increase due to better engagement tactics inside your community or a general increase in members visiting your community.
How to Measure: Actions are defined as including blog and forum posts, comments, posting and downloading files, watching videos, "friending" people, sending private messages, and many other actions depending on the community. Divide the sum of these activities by the overall community logins.
Sample of Login Post to Comment Ratio:
Metric #6) Members to Completed Profile Ratio
What It Measures: This ratio gives you an idea of how committed your target audience is to the community.
How to Measure: Divide the number of completed (or mostly completed) member profiles with the overall membership of the community.
Sample of Members to Completed Profile:
Tip: For all of these customer engagement ratios, it is also helpful to track the average so that you can report on the success of a specific time period compared to your online community's typical performance.
Online Community Takeaway
Tracking an online community's ROI should not be elusive for companies and membership organizations. Measuring success and making adjustments should not be a mystical skillset. However, understanding online community ratios and tracking customer engagement data is critical.
As online community consultancy, FeverBee, recently blogged, "Without data you're working in the dark. It's the community equivalent of judging climate change by looking at the weather outside."
During the online community planning process, be sure that your online community software platform can support your reporting and business intelligence needs.