When building a digital membership community, it should go without saying that you need to understand the people who are part of it. In order to best serve or anticipate their needs, it’s important to base decisions where possible on assumptions rather than data; a decision made on a bad assumption may, unfortunately, lead to a negative response from your community.
That’s why community managers need to keep a firm eye on their analytics data. Important trends can better inform you about the direction your community is headed and problems you may wish to tackle. Today we’ll be looking at a few basic metrics every community manager should be thinking about.
Let’s start with the very basics. Does the total number of users on your community platform match your total number of members? There’s a good chance you might see some discrepancies here, especially if you leave signing up to it as optional.
If you have a platform that only 25% of your members are registered with, then that’s something you’ll want to know. Why are only 25% of members registered? Is it simply a lack of promotion or are there broader issues? A low registration rate should always be addressed as a matter of priority, as by having a significant number of members without access you know that the majority of your member population are not fully benefiting from the services you offer.
Now we’ve established what proportion of your members have signed up, how many of them are actually active users? You might have 100% of your members registered, but if only 10% log in each month, then it's important to consider why this is the case. What is it that users would look for but aren’t currently getting? Or are you simply not promoting your community enough? It’s also worth highlighting that low activity rates should not be focused on in isolation.
A 20% monthly log in rate is not necessarily much more valuable than a 10% log-in rate if the extra 10% aren’t actively engaging. Be measured and examine the broader picture in your analysis; how do these figures compare to the level of engagement you see with other member activities outside of the community platform (for example what percentage of members do you normally see respond to annual surveys?).
Tracking how many of your community are active at specific times can also give very interesting insights. Perhaps your community becomes particularly engaged during a specific season or around key events. Maybe news about your industry re-engages them more effectively for instance. If this is a trend you identify, then you can plan how to better highlight and convey such things to drive stronger activity
As already mentioned, just because users are logging in, doesn’t necessarily mean they are actively engaged with your platform. While having ‘lurkers’ (users who log in frequently but don’t necessarily engage via comments or other mechanisms) is overall a net positive for keeping your brand in people’s minds, active posters are more likely to become further invested in your cause and directly assist your future efforts.
While you’re highly unlikely to get a 100% engagement rate, you should be focusing on building strategies for how to encourage silent members to get more involved. This might mean things such as welcome areas or encouraging more participation through more accessible topics and polls.
Identify your community power users if you haven’t already. These will be the people who are regularly posting, leading discussions and are showing a high level of engagement. Reviewing traits or interests they might have in common could provide you with some interesting insights for future community building or marketing efforts.
Such members are also a good first port of call if you are looking for community moderators. While it is worthwhile to do some due diligence, they will often have a good sense of the pulse of the community and establishing more direct communication can provide fresh outside perspectives.
Now we’ve identified who’s using the platform, the real question is what types of interactions are they actually having with your platform? This can heavily depend on your organisation, but for a basic example if you see lots of posts and very few comments on each then it suggests that your members are not properly engaging with one another.
Some organisations will let users create groups or even events in their community. Understanding usage of their features can be very important, especially if they are a key part of your community strategy. If, for example, your members would ideally be organising action together with your platform features but aren’t, then you should consider how to remedy this.
One of the most important things to monitor is which topics your community actually cares about. This should be relatively simple - you should be tracking posts with the most likes or comments, or events with most sign-ups. You should also be conducting qualitative analysis to understand opinions on the topic.
Conversely, there may be topics your audience doesn't connect with. That will definitely happen and it’s important to trial new things, or your community will risk becoming stagnant. Look at how you can capitalise on your community’s interests and spark more engagement around the issues that matter most to them. If they are important to your community, it’s likely that they’ll be excellent topics for attracting new members.
One metric, which probably isn’t tracked enough, is how active your team is in the community. Your approach definitely needs to be thought out and appropriately scaled - inevitably community size and resource capacity can majorly impact this. Understanding the impact your team has on discussions and posts is important. If members only make 10% of posts when you’d like it to be 50%, there’s clearly a lot of work still to be done. Evaluating these metrics can help inform your strategy of how involved you’d like to be versus the current reality.
The important thing to remember when collecting any data is that you actually act upon it. While each of these 7 areas can provide invaluable information to grow your community, they will only do so if you properly analyse and react to them with concrete actions.
If you’d like more insights into working with digital community platforms and how to build one that will suit your needs, one of our experts would be more than happy to help.