Oct 25th, 2023

Decoding your community data: tips and tricks from Calendly [VIDEO]

Data is the driving force behind every business.

It’s what tells you how you’re doing, what you should be doing instead, and the best way to go about it. But turning ones and zeros into actionable insights isn’t always easy.

We talked about that and much more with Jillian Bejtlich, Community Lead at Calendly and former Director of Community at Zapier, in our recent event: Decoding the data behind community-building.

Here are three of the top takeaways from that conversation, including:

  • Why questions have to come first
  • Why the qualitative is just as important as the quantitative
  • How data helps you align community with business impact

1. Focus on your question first

You can pull reports until the cows come home, but metrics are meaningless if they’re not in service of something more than data mining.

Start with the question you want to answer before digging into data analysis.

“It's just a bunch of numbers,” Jillian said. “The question is what actually connects it. So that's what I always tell people: Don't get overwhelmed by the data. Focus on one question at a time.”
What it means for community teams: Starting with a question sounds simple, but it can quickly get convoluted. Overly narrow questions give you tunnel vision. Overly broad questions make it hard to dig up answers. Start with practical queries that you can tie back to key business priorities.

Oftentimes the problem isn’t coming up with questions, it’s understanding how they relate to different community initiatives and which metrics correspond. This is where something like the ACE framework—audience, consumption, engagement—can come in handy.

For example, if your boss is asking you how big your community’s reach is, it’s an audience question. If they’re asking you what content people are most interested in, it’s a consumption question. And if they’re asking you how often someone publishes a post or answers a question, it’s an engagement question.

Once you know which metrics align with which buckets, it becomes easier to answer different questions.

“The reason I like this is because anytime you're having a conversation with someone, usually the question that they're going to ask you has something to do with one of these three buckets,” Jillian said.

2. Don’t sacrifice the qualitative for the quantitative

Metrics are inherently quantitative, but it’s important not to overlook the qualitative insights hidden in your data.

“Metrics are quantitative, but a lot of times there's also a qualitative analytical aspect,” Jillian said. “I sit down and go through Reddit and Stack Overflow and Twitter and Facebook, and I do a lot of Google searches and a lot of looking on YouTube, to understand what people are talking about and start collecting data points.”
What it means for community teams: How many times a community member posts can tell you a lot, but understanding what they’re posting about and how they feel about it can tell you more. Make sure business-relevant topics, sentiment, and other qualitative data points make their way into your analysis.

Picking up on trends and how they correlate with business performance is an excellent way to prove the value of community as a source of customer intelligence.

“I don't have a ton of data yet with Calendly Community, because it's so new, but that's something we did a lot of at Zapier,” Jillian said. “And one thing that was really, really cool was actually using AI to distill what a topic is about, what keywords are coming out of that topic, and then how we can use that to categorize the post.”

3. Always ladder up to business outcomes

Top-of-funnel activity has a huge impact on bottom-of-funnel results. The trick is connecting the dots in your data.

One option is encouraging behaviors in the community that are proven to impact business performance.

“We know that customers who use advanced features tend to have lower churn,” Jillian said. “They tend to have higher ARR. There's a whole bunch of known facts about this that don't include the community. So the theory is if we can get more people aware of advanced features, and we raise advanced feature usage through the community, it ends up positively impacting the organization.”
What it means for community teams: Figure out which attributes and actions generally help drive bottom-line results. Then think about how you can influence them with different community initiatives and start experimenting. This ultimately makes it much easier to prove the return on investment of community.

ROI is the gateway to which business metrics you should be tracking, but business ROI can sometimes look very different from community ROI. That’s why it’s important to work closely with partners throughout the organization.

“It's not working in a silo,” Jillian said. “You can't make it about community. I mean, some of the original ROI models were very much around what's happening in the community—how many searches, how many answers, how many views—which is a great place to start with ROI. But your data becomes so much more accurate and so much more confident if you can work with other teams.”

The value of data isn’t in collecting it—it’s in acting on it.

Make sure you have the tools you need to not only access your data, but also make sense of it.

Create a single source of data truth with Common Room

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