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Using metrics to understand community growth and business impact

Using metrics to understand community growth and business impact

As you implement company initiatives, it’s important to have tangible goals and a clear understanding of what you will measure to evaluate progress.

In this blog, we look at the most important metrics that will help you develop a data-based community growth strategy, quantify your success, and prove your value to the business.

What is community growth?

User communities are groups of people with a shared interest or passion. They can be communities of practice or communities of product, depending on their focus, members, and goals.

Community growth refers to all efforts to nurture and grow a community, including initiatives to attract new members, boost engagement, amplify the voices of product champions, and more. This means creating an environment that encourages users to become more invested, developing activities and initiatives to keep them engaged, and finding ways for members to receive and add concrete value.

The value of community

In addition to providing value to members—which should be your utmost priority—your community should also drive results for the business.

Fostering community growth

Community engagement helps create a sense of belonging among members, which increases user loyalty and trust in the company facilitating the group. When done effectively, it can also help build social capital by leveraging the influence of thought leaders within the community and expanding public awareness, as well as helping companies acquire new customers and leads through word-of-mouth marketing.

To foster successful community growth, organizations must focus on:

  • Providing high quality content that adds value
  • Creating interactive experiences
  • Establishing clear communication channels both internally and externally
  • Developing meaningful relationships between members
  • Recognizing and rewarding member contributions
  • Offering support, whether it’s product or professional—and sometimes even personal
  • Applying insights learned from looking at your community data to make it even better

With these strategies in place, organizations will be able to develop strong user communities that benefit all involved.

As a community leader, your primary function is to nurture your community, but how you achieve that can vary greatly. For example, you can implement strategies geared towards boosting engagement, sparking valuable conversations, and encouraging members to share questions and ideas—all to make sure your company remains top of mind. This engagement will attract new members, feeding back into the community’s growth.

Connecting community growth to business goals

But the true value of a thriving community comes from strategically applying it to business goals. Community growth inherently increases your business' reach, boosting revenue and other top-line goals. Additionally, this growing community can serve as an organic hive mind from which you can crowdsource ideas to fuel further innovations company-wide, like new product features or ideas for content and marketing campaigns.

Asana is a great example of a business that approached community growth strategically. Before kicking off its community, Asana aligned its growth strategies to the goals of key stakeholders across the company. With this information, community leaders understood exactly how their community could serve the business as a whole and which KPIs, or key performance indicators, would be informative markers of their success.

Enter community-led growth

Community-led growth (CLG) is a go-to-market strategy that is growing increasingly popular due to the success of companies like Asana, Temporal, Harness, Figma, to name a few. At its core, CLG is about finding creative ways to use community channels to support customer acquisition, increase retention, create opportunities for upsells, and more.

When executed well, community-led growth boosts nearly every department across the organization. With community insights:

  • Support and success teams can meet users where they are to address bugs and other snags in customer experience.
  • Marketing can hone their messaging and outreach strategies to build content that’s specifically tailored to the community’s needs.
  • Sales departments can identify prospects with high intent and bring increased context and value to sales calls.
  • Product and engineering teams can get direct product feedback and learn what features users want to see next.

But the value of community hasn’t always been recognized. A common misperception is that community is a slow-growth strategy, a bonus rather than a need. Success can be difficult to measure without the proper tooling, and while community growth takes time, its value isn’t necessarily similarly delayed.

This is why metrics are so important to your community growth and community-led growth efforts.

Why metrics are essential for community growth

Whether you’re in the early stages of community growth or making a case for community-led growth to leadership, the lack of company-wide awareness and understanding of these initiatives can slow you down. KPIs are critical to earning ongoing buy-in from stakeholders, as well as giving you the guidance and visibility to chart the future of your program.

For example, in a recent study we found that 72% of community-led deals closed within 90 days, as opposed to just 42% of sales and marketing-led deals. When you can demonstrate your progress in terms like these, you’re speaking a language that leadership can understand and get behind.

What metrics can tell us about community health and growth

Community growth is a long-term investment with compound interest. The greater the value it provides, the larger it will grow. As it grows—in terms of headcount, quality of conversations, content produced, etc.—its value is equally enhanced.

But to make more strategic choices, what data do you need?

There are four main categories of KPIs that we recommend community leaders track:

  1. Membership
  2. Engagement
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Business impact

Let’s dive deeper into each of these categories.

Membership

Membership metrics provide insight into the makeup of your community and help you quantify your reach.

Valuable KPIs in this category are:

  • Member headcount is a staple of community growth metrics because more people means more perspectives, knowledge sharing, business opportunities, and so on.
  • Understanding your members’ roles can also be informative, as you’ll engage differently with prospects, current customers, and influencers.

Measuring membership metrics over time gives you insight into the overall growth of your community, but getting to know your members more deeply can give you insights into topics they’re most interested in, commonly shared pain points, and how to provide the most value.

For example, if a significant percentage of your audience are developers, they’ll most likely find value in highly technical content. On the other hand, if you have a small but engaged sub-group of developers, you may want to create an exclusive channel where they can discuss upcoming releases, beta-test your product, and make feature requests.

Engagement

You can increase headcount rapidly, invest in expensive tools, and produce content daily, but engagement metrics will indicate whether or not prospects see the value in participating.

Valuable metrics in this category are:

  • The total number of posts across channels will give you a glance into the overall health of your community.
  • The ratio of observers to active participants can give you insight into how welcome, interested, and empowered your members feel.
  • The percentage of your members who qualify as your product champions is a powerful metric that indicates how likely it is that your most satisfied customers will advocate for your product.
  • Keeping a pulse on trending topics is key to knowing what’s hot (or not) in your community, and they can spark content production ideas, factor into sales conversations, and inform product development.

Check your engagement metrics early and often. With this data, you’ll be more agile and better able to course-correct before wasting resources on community growth initiatives that aren’t a good fit.

If engagement is low, it’s a strong indicator of disconnect. Perhaps your targeting was off, and the members you have don’t relate to your offering. Maybe it’s the right audience, but the platform isn’t one they naturally gravitate towards, or you haven’t quite uncovered what sort of content they’d like to see.

Responsiveness

Responsiveness metrics will help you understand how valued and supported your community members feel.

Valuable metrics in this category are:

  • Your response rate, or what percentage of members’ posts receive one or more replies, helps ensure every question gets an answer and can indicate how well members are interacting with each other.
  • Median response time, or how long it takes for someone to respond to a post, will greatly affect the flow of conversation.
  • The ratio of community responses to team member responses is important because dynamic interactions between members and between members and employees are what makes a community.

Responsiveness metrics provide interesting insight into how your community feels. If you’re looking to boost engagement, offering quick responses to posts can create a sense of organic conversation. If you notice your team is doing most of the response heavy lifting, you may want to look for ways to encourage members to chime in. If responses are low or response times are high, members will feel like their voices aren’t being heard and/or they aren’t getting the support they need. It’s only a matter of time before they move on.

Business impact

Business impact metrics are where the money is at, literally and figuratively. This is where community and business growth merge into the powerful community-led growth strategy we mentioned above. If you can’t tie the impact of community growth to overarching business goals, you won’t be able to capitalize on CLG.

Valuable metrics in this category are:

  • Customer acquisition gets a boost from a thriving community because it creates opportunities for prospects to engage with product advocates, and it helps them get questions/objections addressed quickly.
  • Retention is improved when customers have access to more information, templates, and use cases, ensuring they have everything they need to get the most value from your product.
  • Account expansion is made possible when resources and influencers share innovative ways to use your product, opening users’ eyes to greater value opportunities.
  • Community-attributed revenue is revenue from an organization whose members engaged in the community before they appeared in your CRM or marketing automation system. Being able to share this number is one of the best ways to demonstrate the impact of community on the business.

If you’ve been tasked with improving retention, for example, you may want to move away from paid recruiting ads and instead create a channel with a small focus group of users who have onboarded within the last six months. Use their input to improve the onboarding experience, generate more beginner, self-help content, and add a customer success call at a critical point to ensure new users feel supported.

Proving community ROI can look different from one business to the next, but it’s critical to know exactly which high-level goals you’re trying to move the needle on, in order to make informed decisions about where you should focus your efforts and how to track your progress.

Common Room’s approach to growth metrics

Layering data-based insights across your community channels is what we call intelligent community growth. But where can you access these metrics, and how do you synthesize them into actionable insights? Instead of manually pulling this information and fighting with messy spreadsheets, use an intelligent community growth platform like Common Room.

Common Room aggregates data from across your community channels, social sites, CRM, and more, to provide a holistic view of the members and activity in your community. Powerful reporting gives you visibility into the metrics that matter for your community and organization, so you can provide personalized and authentic interactions across the entire customer journey.

Partner with Common Room to simplify success tracking, uncover growth opportunities, and make data-based decisions about the strategies you’re implementing. Try Common Room for free or request a demo.

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