You’ve launched your community, been engaging new members, posting new content, holding events, and so far you have a pretty good feeling things are going quite well. But *ARE* things really going well? Don’t let your feelings run the show. Dive into your metrics to prove concretely that things are going exactly according to plan and know for sure.
Think back to one of the first exercises you did when you were thinking about launching a community: creating SMART goals. Each goal you set for yourself should have had a metric built in. In the beginning we’ll be doing a lot of counting metrics in order to see that things are getting off on the right foot. Eventually you’ll move into more advanced metrics that connect your community activity to your business goals (marketing, sales, customer service reduction, etc.), but if you’re starting from scratch you just want to know you’re on the right path and what you should be adjusting sooner rather than later. Growth and connection are what we are seeking and small corrections are easy to make as you go.
Within 90 days I would like to have 1,000 people join the community of which 75% have filled out profiles, 30% have posted within the community for the first time, and 15% have connected to someone else.
Set up a spreadsheet that has all of your countable metrics that you can keep track of on a monthly/quarterly basis. Along the left hand side have the dates and along the top have all of the areas you’re tracking for your goals. Plug in your numbers. It will look something like this:
As you can see you have about a 50% success rate here – and that’s really not as bad as it seems. Over the last 90 days you’ve gotten people to sign up (Great job!) and also complete their profiles (excellent!). In fact, you went above and beyond your goal – which means however you’re getting people to your community is working. Keep doing what you’re doing.
However, once members are there, they aren’t posting anything and you’re off by 15%. This isn’t the end of the world and is a manageable number to fix for the next 90 days. Additionally people aren’t connecting with each other by about 7%. Perhaps if you could create an opportunity that allows others to connect, you also might see the posts go up. Consider adjusting your content calendar to include more interactive opportunities. Or add in another event that allows your members to meet each other and make those connections.
Create your next set of realistic SMART goals for 90 days in light of what you learned from these numbers. Perhaps your numbers were either too low, or too high to start so you’ll need to review your expectations. It will take some experimentation to find what the right cadence will be going forward. At the end of six months you’ll see your numbers improve and know you made the right choices. If they continue to go down, dig deeper into what the root cause is. Get to know your members and ask.
In the same spreadsheet add your other SMART goals. These could include content engagement (views, likes, comments), event attendance (invites, RSVPs, attended), customer service (tickets open and resolved), web traffic (unique visitors, referrals, time on site), and anything that’s specific to your product or service. Track all of this by quarter and according to the goals you set at the beginning. Always be adjusting goals/targets/actions based off of what the data is telling you – and don’t forget to inquire with community members every so often for that anecdotal assist. One of the great things about keep tracking from the beginning is in a few years you’ll be able to tell a really great origin story! Something like, “When we launched our community five years ago, we only had 350 new members. Now we’re seeing 5,000 new members per month and we’ve come a long way by doing XYZ!”
At the end of the day it’s important to be data focused, but also tell a great story. Use a combination of hard data and anecdotes to round out a complete picture to your stakeholders. Have short term and long term goals and slightly adjust as needed.