Planning for 2022 Requires Knowing What You're Building For

  • Steven Yum

    December 17th, 2021

Product-led growth communities provide current and prospective users a space to interact with and learn from one another. They offer a space for people who use and love your product to teach others about it and help other users overcome any technical issues they may have. They also offer users a way to directly interact with your company and provide product feedback, make feature requests, and share any bugs or issues they’ve run into.

In this vein, the people in your user community are your most valuable long-term investment. So how do you prove that your community is successful, and a key part of the business that merits continued investment, especially with 2022 planning in full swing? You need to define, measure, and track your success metrics.

While there are a myriad of metrics you could choose to measure, we recommend selecting your success metrics focused on 4 categories:

1. Membership - number of community members and the mix of member types, such as influencers—people who have broad networks and reach, or contributors—people who spend time answering, teaching, or helping other community members

2. Engagement - how frequently members interact with each other and participate in community conversations, events, and programs

3. Business impact - tying community activity to company goals

4. Responsiveness - the speed and frequency community members receive a reply to their posts

We’ll begin with a summary of success metrics you can track over time, and then go into further detail for each category.

📋 Your community success metrics checklist

Membership

✅Number of members in your community (generally this should grow over time, but not at the expense of other metrics)
✅Mix of members by type, such as influencers, contributors, and those who’ve completed a certification program (if offered)

Engagement

✅Total volume of platform activities, such as posts, replies, pull requests, and event attendance
✅Top trending discussion topics, such as feature requests, bugs, and product appreciation
✅% of members who are actively contributing back to your community by answering questions, sharing content, and engaging with others
✅% of members who are your product champions
✅Frequency and geographic distribution of member-hosted events

Business Impact

✅Product usage or spend
✅Reach and effectiveness of product education
✅Number of customer support cases

Responsiveness

✅Response rate % (# of posts, conversations, etc. with at least one reply)
✅Median response time
✅% of responses by community members vs. team members

🧮 Membership: Key members to nurture

We’ll start with the most basic metric, which is your total number of community members. This is likely the easiest one to measure. However, be careful not to solely focus on the absolute figure, but in the context of the other key metric areas. While ultimately you want membership to go up and to the right 📈this should generally be accompanied by a corresponding increase in other metrics. For example, you don’t want pure membership growth at the expense of positive community engagement. A smaller community that actively engages and responds quickly to each other creates the foundation for a more thriving, healthy place in the long run.

Besides the total figure, understand the different member types represented in your community, such as influencers and contributors, and analyze how they’re changing over time. Through this exercise, you may find opportunities to delight new users. For example, if you see an increase in the number of members from the same organization, it could mean that more people are finding value in your product so you can raise further awareness with other departments within that organization. Or maybe you notice someone joining your community as the first person from their organization, plus they have considerable social reach with 1,000+ Twitter followers, and they’re already contributing to conversations. These are signals that you should reach out to them and thank them for joining and contributing and offer to answer any questions they might have and how else you can help them. Finally, if you offer a certification program, identify those who are certified and recognize their achievements by reaching out directly and connecting with them.

⌨️ Engagement: Trending activity to monitor

Engagement metrics are all about understanding how and why your members are participating in and contributing to the community. The benefits of robust community engagement include scaling product education and support beyond just the capacity of internal teams, identifying product issues, feedback, and feature requests in real time, and understanding what topics are top of mind (and if any immediate action is required). These engagement metrics can be viewed through two lenses—activities and members.

From an activities perspective, monitor the total volume of platform-specific activities—for example, posts and replies in Slack, pull requests and issues created in GitHub, comments, questions, and answers written in Stack Overflow, event registrations and attendance in Meetup—for an at-a-glance view of how and where your members are engaging most with your community. Layer sentiment analysis and auto-categorization on top of these activities, like feature requests, bugs, and product appreciation, to add actionable intelligence that allows you to prioritize your time and attention. See a trending topic around a broken workflow? Or a bug that's blocking someone? These are great reasons to get in touch with your Product team and get your community members an answer.

Focused on community-led product education and awareness? Measure the frequency and geographic distribution of member-hosted events to see how engaged the community is. These are some examples of ways to incorporate community feedback into product development at scale to surface insights, use cases, and interesting customer stories.

From a members perspective, two data points to track are the percentage of members who are actively contributing and the percentage of members who are your product champions. Ideally, the rate at which the percentage of actively contributing members, or those answering questions, sharing content, and engaging with others, grows over time is faster than the rate that total membership increases. This is a signal of greater contributions from the community overall. With product champions, one of the ultimate signs of positive community engagement is advocacy for your product and company. So if you’re successfully able to identify and nurture product champions through your community program, your engagement strategy is working.

📊 Business impact: Tying community activity to company goals

In the engagement section we talked about participatory signals indicating community contribution. For business impact, we’re focusing on signals tied to your company’s goals. Typically this is product usage and/or spend, but it could also be centered around, for example, increasing the reach and effectiveness of product education (which then leads to reduced strain on internal support resources and greater product success for your users).

Mapping product usage (e.g., Amplitude) or spend data (e.g., Salesforce, Snowflake) to community member profiles enables you to track this data over time at the member level. Rather than looking at product usage or spend in isolation, you should view it together with the other metrics described above so you can answer strategic questions such as:

  • Does increased peer-to-peer knowledge sharing correlate to a reduction in internal support resources needed, like less tickets or less time spent to resolution?
  • Does product revenue increase as members spend more time contributing to and engaging with the community?
  • How many new features or fixes were first proposed or identified by the community?
  • Which members are highly active in the product but aren't participating in the community?
  • Which members are inactive in both the product and in the community?

🛎️ Responsiveness: A measure of satisfaction

The final metric category is responsiveness, or how often and how quickly community members receive a reply to their posts. This one is a key measure of satisfaction and quality of experience, because if members aren’t getting responses to their questions and contributions in a timely manner, they may feel their time and effort is better spent elsewhere. To mitigate this as much as possible, you should track, by community platform and in aggregate:

  • Response rate, or the percentage of posts with at least one reply
  • Median response time
  • Mix of responses by community members vs. team members

Based on the above data, you can then investigate why, for example, members are more likely to respond to one another on Slack but not on Discourse, and experiment with changes to improve the responsiveness on Discourse. When combined with metrics from above, you can dig even deeper and determine if certain activities get more responses than others, or if certain types of members are more active than others, and adjust your approach based on those learnings.

🩺 A pulse on your community

With success metrics focused on a combination of membership, engagement, business impact, and responsiveness, you can see what’s trending and requires action, how your community is feeling and why, and which platforms are most active. Do you track the health of your community differently than what we wrote about above? Let us know your methodologies on Twitter or share it with our Uncommon Slack community.

Learn more about Common Room at commonroom.io.

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