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5 Common Community Measurables: Goals and how to communicate them

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In 2019, I was blessed with my first community management mentor. We spent three full weeks just diving as deeply as possible into establishing the mission, vision, and goals for my community.

We worked together to curate SMART goals [Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely], and the ways in which they could be communicated both internally and externally. These would become the foundation for which this particular community would blossom.

It’s easy for a manager to feel overwhelmed when it comes to discerning common community measurables. As most community teams are made up of one, there often feels like there’s too much to tackle while all of it feels vitally urgent at the same time. In a world of likes, upvotes, and emoji reactions, I implore you to swim farther and find more impactful measurements; there is no shortage! Below is a list of the five that I believe are the most impactful community objective measurables followed by how to best communicate them to both your internal team and your external audiences.

1. Community Engagement Great for product, service, educational communities a) Ponder: how can these engagement tactics and metrics [such as viewing monthly active users [MAU] or finding how many sign-ups within a certain time period] hasten us to our bottom line? How can we lower client support costs or increase organic growth with engagement? How can we ensure that space is created where members want to return and engage? b) Metrics: net promoter scores [NPS], focus groups, MAU, and quality of discussions in forums. c) This can look like: the creation of a new, seemingly fun initiative created by the community manager after noticing lessened engagement following a current event [hello, pandemic]. In a previous experience, we used ‘ monthly themes that included challenges and/or campaigns that members could choose to partake in. In four months, monthly active usership [MAU] returned to pre-pandemic levels.

2. Community Value Great for all types of community building a) Ponder: What does our audience want, and how can we overdeliver? How easy is it to become a member? What is our commitment curve, or how can we define what each level of commitment to the community looks like as it progresses? b) Metrics: This can include member acquisition rate, rate of return, testimonial compilation, and even rituals engaged in. c) This can look like: having a clear and easy-to-access community dashboard that includes trackable metrics that can be monitored daily, weekly, monthly and even annually. An even better way to visualize aspects of community value is to use Carrie Melissa Jones’ commitment curve, an absolute asset in measuring any community.

Great for educational, product, & service communities a) Ponder: Are we setting up members for success through our impact? What, exactly, is our impact on our members? b) Metrics: This can be measured with a compilation of feedback, user-generated content [UGC], tracking how many members become moderators or employees, and by looking at the overall capacity for this community to decrease bottom-line costs. c) This can look like: where are reviews visible to our audience [think, Google Reviews or TripAdvisor or even Facebook group comments]? What content is being shared and through which mediums? Do your community members want to do more for your brand on social media, have you considered Instagram Takeovers or Facebook Live sessions?

Great for communities that hope to increase membership a) Ponder: How do we increase applicants/newcomers? How can we be more visible to our target audience? What else can we provide that brings value? How can we reduce integration hurdles and increase a sense of belonging? b) Metrics: In my opinion, this is one of the easiest things to measure simply by comparing who’s coming into the community with who’s departing. Reducing the churn rate is always a finicky yet fun puzzle to ideate on. This also gives us a view into how effective our community marketing scheme is. c) This can look like: taking time to do a complete audit of the community commitment curve to gauge ease for the user is committing to the community. Use these findings to conduct user research on your community, including member interviews, a focus group, compiling and analyzing data, and finally, putting it all together in a mood board/slide deck for a more robust view of what’s hindering or helping your community numbers.

Great for non-profit, educational, policy communities a) Ponder: how can advocacy be a tenet in this community? What can members advocate for with relevance to the community’s purpose/products/services? b) Metrics: Ensure that you clearly define the roles to your internal team, of the community, and those functioning within it. You can start with yourself. Then, migrate to who is responsible for community moderation, for event management, for promoting members to ambassadors? c) This can look like: measuring member engagement in authentic and difficult conversations when a hot button topic comes up, instead of allowing the elephant to take over the room for a day or two. This can be seen with how quickly a fellow community member comes to the aid of another or how quickly moderators react to a situation.

Hosting or managing a mindful community is wholly reliant on communication, both internal and external. Typically, the internal team is the hardest nut to crack when trying to relay your community goals to various departments as they often don’t fully understand the measurables listed above. A few sure ways to clarify measurables for your internal team can include:

Communication packaging Set up a tab within an Excel or Google Sheet called ‘messaging’ and create 4 columns, representing 4 weeks of content, that you plan to share with your team. For instance, week one can focus specifically on customer success and your message to the team can clarify why what you’re doing with the community can catapult them toward their goals. Be sure to back it up with data or case studies you’ve found that support your choices.

Something I learned from my mentor (and haven’t looked back since) is to create an evergreen slide deck that includes the who, what, where, when, how, why, commitment curve, metrics, outcomes, etc. of the community. Anything that suddenly feels irrelevant, moves to the end of the deck in the appendix.

Hosting an intra-team office hour Set up one hour on the company calendar where you can host an open Q&A. Come prepared with your evergreen slide deck ready to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page.

Sharing access to a tracking sheet or platform Whether you have a Facebook Group, a dedicated Instagram fan page, a Slack, or a Panion community, it’s likely that you are also tracking community measurables elsewhere. Wherever that elsewhere is, make it an open document with stakeholders [ie. head of content, head of marketing, head of product]. Sharing the tools you use with your team extends trust and furthers understanding of your community’s purpose.

Community building requires a slow, patient process that can’t be rushed simply because you have a head full of golden ideas! However, it is imperative to relay communications as directly, succinctly, and as early as possible; such as updating your community policy or adjusting its listed values. Some fabulously tried and true ways include:

  • Write a piece about it on your brand’s blog

  • Backlink to said blog on your brand’s social media

  • Have an evangelist community member host a ‘takeover’ to better explain the change (it’s always great to have peer-to-peer engagement). Create a communication package as we discussed above

  • Create an infographic every quarter or twice a year to summarize updates about your community

Considering what to measure and analyze within your community can seem overwhelming and relentless. However, with proper strategy and understanding of the most valuable measurables for your community, you can feel in control of your role as a community manager, as a potential team leader, and of the direction in which you want to take your community. Community building is a long, patient game and the results can be fulfilling and even feel addictive (in a good way!). As we’ve learned, a great way to keep perspective on your journey is to go back to the basics and map your vision and communication strategy, and here’s a community canvas to help you get going.

Originally published at on 20 July 2021

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