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7 min read

Sep 27th, 2022

What you can learn from Asana’s data-driven approach to measuring community impact [VIDEO]

Creating a thriving community is a big achievement, but it must be tied to quantifiable business goals to be truly successful. Leaders at Asana and Common Room discuss the important role metrics play in community building.

Sherlock Holmes famously said, “Data, data, data! I can’t make bricks without clay!” As it turns out, the same can be said about community—it’s challenging to show your program’s value to cross-functional stakeholders without data and metrics. So for CMX Thrive 2022, we hosted a (virtual) fireside discussion with the award-winning community team at Asana to discuss data-driven approaches to measuring and communicating the impact of community.

Moderating the chat was Common Room COO Jake Randall. He was joined by:

  • Joshua Zerkel CPO, Head of Global Engagement Marketing at Asana
  • Savannah Peña, Marketing Analytics Manager at Asana
  • Josh Bricel, Data & Analytics at Common Room

The insightful discussion presented audiences with tips on how to find the most meaningful metrics and what it takes to build a data-driven community program that shines in the eyes of both your members and stakeholders.

Understand and align your organization’s expectations for community

When embarking on Asana’s community-building journey, Joshua met with key stakeholders across the company (around 20 senior leaders from marketing, sales & customer success, product, and more) and asked them what they wanted to see out of the program. Turns out, each leader had different expectations.

From those conversations, Joshua determined and shared the key goals they were trying to drive towards as a community program. It was important to both get everyone aligned on community goals and identify the markers that would be used to track progress in achieving those goals. For more mature programs, these indicators will likely be business impact metrics, but for organizations earlier in their metrics journey, they can be directional metrics that provide insight on program health and growth.

According to Joshua, “If I had just designed the program on my own without the input of stakeholders and didn't really get to know what they cared about, then I would just be creating the program for the program's sake. I think that's a mistake.”

Plus, as a program hits its goals and proves the value it’s bringing to the company, it becomes easier to get more resources that can then be put to work for the community. This support can even take the form of an analyst, like Savannah, who helps your program better articulate and increase its impact.

Identify the metrics to prove the impact of community

As the name suggests, Asana’s community program, Asana Together, is designed to facilitate connections between its members, Asana employees, and the product. To that end, the company offers multiple ways members can participate based on how they want to engage:

  • The ambassador program is for Asana enthusiasts looking to deepen their expertise and share learnings with their teams.
  • The Asana Community Forum is where people can ask and answer questions, learn best practices, and also engage in fun activities like contests.
  • Asana puts on about 200 live events a year. These gatherings bring people together, both live and virtually, for hands-on workshops, AMAs, networking, and more.

Because Asana Together offers members so many ways to connect and engage, it can be a challenge when attempting to gather metrics since there’s so much surface area to cover. Asana thinks about metrics in two dimensions—program health and business impact—and uses Common Room’s intelligent community growth platform to track these metrics:

  • Program health metrics examine if the program is working. For example, how many people are joining the ambassador program or showing up for events.
  • Business impact metrics more directly address what the business cares about, like impact on product usage or revenue.

Tracking both of these metrics types is important because it allows you to tell a more complete story of your community program and how it's performing. You can start with program health metrics, with the intention that later you’ll be able to tie these into business metrics as your program matures.

Start with a few hypotheses

So how do you know which specific metrics you should be looking at to measure the impact of community? The answer is going to vary depending on your organization and community. There’s no one-size-fits-all metric.

You should develop a few hypotheses to test, prioritize those hypotheses based on anticipated impact, then work with the data to understand what’s achievable. As you embark on this journey to prove the value of your community, ask yourself questions like:

  • What matters most to your community?
  • What decisions are you looking to inform?

Find the metrics that matter most to your community

At Asana, the overall goal of the program is to generate engagement. This includes examining community participation and product adoption to identify which parts of the program the team can improve or expand to best support customers. The team then translates these measures of community success into quantifiable metrics that resonate with other teams at Asana.

Given the maturity of Asana’s program, the team was able to conduct some pretty sophisticated analyses with the help of the Common Room team. For example, combining community data with product data allowed them to discover and track metrics like event-driven feature adoption.

For this metric, Asana hypothesized and found that users who attended community events took advantage of more of the platform’s features. Using that information, Asana determined that holding events dedicated to training users on specific features would drive greater engagement.

The Asana team has also worked with Common Room to combine community and revenue data to track other business metrics like ambassador impact on user engagement and community attributed revenue (revenue from organizations that appeared in the community before becoming an opportunity in the CRM). These metrics show how community can assist the customer success and sales teams with their goals.

These metrics give the team confidence in the success of the community program. As Savannah puts it, “Community at Asana is functioning in the way that we had hoped to see.”

Communicate community’s impact effectively

As the panelists noted, while data is helpful, it needs to fit into a broader story. These numbers must be translated in a way that’s digestible for each stakeholder. The product, revenue, and marketing teams each have their own department-specific concerns. As the leader of the community team, Joshua says it’s his job to take all this data and then wrap it up into a report that speaks the language of other parts of the business.

In his experience, community leaders often fall into the trap of telling the community story from the community team's perspective. In many cases, this isn't as helpful because other parts of the business might not have a clear understanding of what the community team does. Your story won’t resonate.

Learn who your stakeholders are and what they care about, so when you meet you can share with them the parts of your program that are most meaningful to each department. Then between these monthly or quarterly meetings, keep the program visible through regular internal posts on what’s happening in your program, including metrics as well as direct quotes that capture the voices of community members.

Going beyond the warm and fuzzies

Don’t be afraid of metrics! As Joshua puts it, it’s important for community teams to tell the story about what’s happening within the community and go beyond the “warm and fuzzies.” That is to say, it’s great when your community brings people together to connect and have meaningful experiences, but the business also needs to understand what your program is doing and how it's impacting the bottom line. Metrics bring this story to life.

And as the program evolves, your metrics should too. When you have new initiatives, explore new metrics that can help better define how your program is impacting the rest of the business.

Check out our Uncommon Conversation with Joshua Zerkel to learn more about connecting community with business goals. To make measuring the impact of your community program easy with intelligent insights and pre-built reporting, check out Common Room. You can get started for free or request a demo to see the platform in action.