We all know we should track our community members’ activities (we already convinced you in this post), but what exactly are the best metrics to keep our eyes on?
Sometimes it’s a rocky start – the data is either overwhelming or difficult to find. Luckily, most community sites include dashboards that collect data and display metrics for you, so you should have a good baseline to start. Even with that tool, how do you know what the important community management metrics are, besides just hoping your membership grows?
We polled our own community, HUG (Higher Logic Users Group), to hear their best advice – they’re all seasoned community managers, so who better to ask? The following six ideas are a great place to start:
1. Unique contributors.
New people mean fresh content in your community, so you want to see the number of first time posters go up each month. It shows that your community is growing and people feel welcomed.
2. Average number of responses per post.
When you first start a community, people can be wary. Ensuring someone replies to each post can take some prodding, which is often labor-intensive for the community manager. As the community grows and people become more comfortable contributing, this number will rise. This is not only rewarding for the community manager, but for members, too – as this number rises, it means more people are taking ownership and the community is growing organically.
3. Average number of posts per day.
This number can vary frequently, and that variance can tell you a lot. Look at the daily number and think: what days of the week are most active? What time of the day/month/year lags? Which groups should we consider closing or trying to revitalize? This number will help you predict when you’ll have to work harder to keep your community going (maybe August is everyone’s vacation time) and what times of year the community is better at sustaining itself.
4. Number of new threads per month.
Similar to the metrics we already discussed, measuring the number of new threads per month helps you gauge activity level as well as topics that are top-of-mind for members. If you see this number wane, it’s a signal to jump in and start a few new threads to ramp up contributions. Again, it is helpful to think of this number in a larger context, such as the time of year, since that can affect threads as well as posts.
5. Top discussion group.
What group is most active each month? Is it always the same one or does it change? This shows you what topic may be the most salient at the moment, or which group may have the best tactics for striking up conversations. If you publish this each month within your community, you may even be able to kindle a little healthy competition and spur more general activity.
6. Message origination type.
How are members engaging? Are they replying through email or actually logging into the community site to reply to a thread? This offers insight into member behavior – are people only reading digests or browsing through the entire community? For example, if most people only respond through email, this says something – maybe email is a pretty effective way of engaging them.
Now that you have a list of metrics to start, who should you share it with?
There are certain groups who would be interested and benefit from your analysis:
- Share internally with your staff in a monthly report. This way everyone is on the same page and can track the community’s ups and downs. They may have interesting insight into the trends you’re tracking and suggestions for why certain numbers fluctuate.
- Share statistic certain community members may find interesting.They don’t need to know the intricacies of what’s going on, but some basic stats could excite and encourage more activity. By posting the most active discussion group or highlighting community champions, you create a healthy sense of competition amongst members. If you hit a milestone or are especially excited about one metric – you hit your 1000th member or found the longest thread in your community’s history – let your members be part of the celebrations.
In addition to growing community activity, measuring member behavior helps demonstrate return on investment (ROI), which is an important part of a community manager’s job. If you don’t have numbers and metrics to back up the health of the community, you won’t be able to demonstrate ROI and community value.
What do you think of our list? Would you add any metrics or expand on our community managers’ advice?