How to measure community engagement

Your community strategy and goals will determine the best metrics for tracking your community engagement and success.

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Why you need to measure community engagement

There are many metrics you can track in your community, but only a few impact KPIs that you should be tracking. That’s because there are just a few engagement metrics that will let you know if you’re successful in reaching your unique community’s goals.

Why does your community exist? What is your organization trying to accomplish with it? What does success look like? These are questions that you will have answered when you set your community strategy. Now it’s time to use those goals to decide which community impact metrics will help you track your progress towards those goals.

These metrics will also be what you use to help tell the story of your community. Quantitative data metrics combined with qualitative data—quotes from members and member stories—will be your tools to share the narrative of your community with stakeholders. 

Key community engagement metrics

There are metrics that you can track in your community, and key performance indicators (KPIs) you can calculate to measure the success of your community. Here is a comprehensive, but certainly not exhaustive list, of some of the metrics that community managers use to track the success of their communities.

Community membership and growth metrics

Community membership and growth metrics measure the size of your community and its rate of growth.

Core numbers to pull for measuring community growth include:

  • Number of community members
  • Number of new community members
  • Number of new churned or deactivated members

Growth KPIs to calculate include:

  • Month-over-month membership growth
  • Percentage of retained new members (new members who have logged back in a second time)
  • Percentage of membership churn

To make these numbers meaningful to stakeholders, you’ll want to track them over time and report out on month-over-month or quarter-over-quarter differences.

Community activity metrics

Community activity metrics, also called content activity metrics, track the number of content engagement actions that your members take within your community over a period of time.

Actions that you track may include:

  • Number of member logins
  • Number of member pageviews
  • Number of member posts
  • Number of member comments/replies
  • Number of groups
  • Average time spent in community

Activity KPIs you could calculate might include:

  • Number of active members (each community defines differently, but often: members who post during a set time period)
  • Number of active groups (each community defines differently, but often: groups with some activity in a set time period)
  • Percentage of total members who are active members
  • Percentage of total groups that are active groups

Community conversion metrics

Like activity metrics, conversion metrics are tracking actions your members take in your community. But for conversion metrics, you’re specifically looking at actions that are a step beyond “business as usual”—often these are actions that speak directly to your community goals and objectives.

These are actions you may want to track on an individual level, with the average being the tracking KPI, as well as on a community-wide level.

Action Individual KPI Average KPI Community KPI
Event registrations Number of event registrations per person Average number of event registrations per person Percentage of community that has registered for an event
Resource downloads Number of resource downloads per person Average number of resource downloads per person Percentage of community that has downloaded a resource
Videos viewed Number of video views per person Average number of video views per person Percentage of community that has viewed video
Donations made Number of donations per person Average number of donations per person Percentage of community that has made a donation
Profile updates made Number of profile updates per person Average number of profile updates per person Percentage of community that has updated profile
Purchases made Number of purchases per person Average number of purchases per person Percentage of community that has made a purchase

How to choose which community metrics to track

The metrics you should track to show community engagement and community success depend on your community’s goals and objectives.

It can help to work backward and ask yourself, what is the story I want to be able to tell when I report on these metrics? The community goals, community story, and community metrics you choose to track should all be aligned.

Here are three examples of community goals and metrics that could help tell those stories:

Community story Suggested metrics to track
“Our community provides value to our members”
  • Total number of pageviews per month
  • Total number of video views per month
  • Total number of resource downloads per month
  • Average time spent in the community
  • Average number of pages per visit
  • Average MAU (Monthly Active Users)
  • Average number of comments on posts
“Our community turns community members into donors”
  • Number of total donations
  • Number of first-time donor donations
  • Number of repeat donations
“Our community fosters meaningful discussions”
  • Number of members that post or comment
  • Number of comments per post
  • Ratio of user-generated content (UGC) to staff-generated content

How West Point Association of Graduates tells its community story with metrics

West Point Association of Graduates is an association for graduates of the U.S Military Academy at West Point. 

Terence Sinkfield, Vice President, Alumni Support, West Point Association of Graduates, explains that the organization’s mission is the basis for its KPIs—and it all comes back to member connections. 

“Our mission is to serve West Point and the Long Gray Line, which is what we call our alumni or our graduates,” says Terence. “And our vision is to be the most highly connected alumni body in the world. The real value that we bring to our constituents is the ability to form enhanced connections.”

Many connections happen in person, at events, or in direct messages. But in order to ensure those connections can happen, WPAOG sees member updates of contact data as a key metric for community success.

Learn more about how West Point Association of Graduates tracks engagement metrics—and uses Hivebrite to do it.

How to track community engagement metrics

Once you’ve decided which metrics you will use to tell the story of your community, then you have to set up systems to track and report on those metrics.

Spreadsheets are still the gold standard for data tracking, and we have created a community metrics tracking spreadsheet in Google Sheets to get you started. LINK

Your community platform, if you have one, likely has some analytics in the backend that you can use to pull data. For example, Hivebrite users have access to a powerful suite of community analytics tools that track activity and engagement metrics for generating reports on member activity.

For communities that exist across multiple platforms or are using smaller solutions, manual data collection may be the best way to achieve the visibility you need into your community activity.

How to track community satisfaction and qualitative metrics

To measure community satisfaction, you’ll likely have to rely on a combination of survey data and qualitative data that you or your staff gather directly from community members. One-to-one interviews, focus groups, and even spontaneous conversations can be incredible sources of information for your community-tracking efforts—if they get captured.

Establish a central place for you and your staff to drop anecdotes and quotes from members of your community so that when it’s time to report to stakeholders, you have a repository of data to tell your community’s story. (A tab for a member quote log in your metrics spreadsheet is a perfect central place—we have included one in our free template.)

How Startup Colorado tracks qualitative metrics

Vanessa McCrann is the community manager for Startup Colorado, a nonprofit organization that connects entrepreneurs in rural Colorado with resources and community (StartupColorado uses Hivebrite to power their community.)

While McCrann does track select metrics in her community, her primary focus is on qualitative data she gets from talking to community members.

“Our work is always going to be relationship-based,” says McCrann. And that’s how she primarily measures success. Her favorite data sources are community testimonials, member comments, and her own conversations with community members.

These qualitative metrics are the true barometers of the community’s success, and she tracks them all in a huge spreadsheet.  “If you want to look at the impact an event has, the number of attendees isn’t going to cut it,” she says. “You want to know, did people get something out of it? Did it help them?”

By noting those wins, she keeps the community and its stakeholders excited about what they’re building together.  “A community manager is the cheerleader and beacon of the community,” she says. “Everyone else is so deep in it, we can step back and say, ‘yes, it’s working!’”

Read more about Startup Colorado and how they utilize Hivebrite to power their Rural Entrepreneurial Network

How to use community engagement metrics to show your community’s value 

How you use your community metrics will of course depend on why you’re tracking them in the first place. But there are two main reasons that we track metrics in community: One, to report back to stakeholders about the success of the community, and two, to give ourselves insights into what is working, what is not, and where we need to focus our energy moving forward.

Presenting community metrics to stakeholders

In some organizations, success metrics are called outcome metrics— leadership wants to see the effect that the community is having on the overall goals of the organization. This is why starting with your “why” when establishing your community KPIs is so important. Begin with your organization’s mission and map your metrics back to ways that your community helps deliver against it.

For example, if your community is part of an organization that has a revenue goal that is tied to product sales, leadership will be most interested in how your community is contributing to revenue. Possible metrics that could help you tell this story include total purchases by community members, percentage of community members who have made purchases, average purchase amount of community members, and how all of these metrics have changed over time.

Using community metrics to iterate your community strategy

Tracking metrics is one of the best tools we have for understanding if the effort we are putting towards community building is working. If you have a goal to increase your community membership each month but have several months in a row with no growth, you’ll have an indication that it may be time to change up your strategy and approach. Metrics give you insight into trends and activity and help you inform new strategies.

How Gong uses community metrics to influence business metrics

“The way I think about community metrics is there are two altitudes — everyday community-level metrics and business and board-level metrics,” says Nisha Baxi, Head of Community and Digital Customer Success at Gong, the revenue intelligence platform.

For her everyday community metrics, Nisha thinks about the things that make for a healthy community.

“The purpose of the Gong community is to connect customers to each other and to drive awareness about our category of revenue intelligence,” she says. “The community metrics everyone knows well are monthly active users, people on the platform, and engagement. But I also track things like ideas and sharing — are people posting product feedback and ideas? What amount of user-generated content do we have? Looking at these things, it’s a way to check in every day and say, “Am I healthy? Is this a healthy community?” Because if it’s a healthy community, it’s more likely to ladder up to the business-level metrics.”

When choosing business-level metrics to track, Nisha looked at what departments across the organization tracked and then worked backward to develop ways to use the community to influence those metrics. To influence sales, for example, keeping the community open to prospects was essential to influence conversions.

“There is a lot of thought leadership in the community, and we keep it open to the public so prospects can understand more about revenue intelligence,” she says. “I can see people join as non-customers and then become customers, and I can see that we can directly attribute that to ARR influence. I can say, ‘This is how many millions of dollars we are able to influence.’”

She also tracks upsells with current customers in a similar way. “I can see that people who are in the community and active in the community upsell at 3x the rate of people not in the community,” she says.

“Of course, there are a lot of things that influence this. But if you can draw enough correlations metrics and lines then it absolutely makes sense — enough correlation could make causation. Through that, I can show that the community is important pre-sales and post-sales from a revenue perspective.”

Download Hivebrite’s free community metrics spreadsheet

We have created a free community metrics tracking spreadsheet template designed to help you track the metrics to tell your community story. As a bonus, our community tracking template also has a sheet designed to help you record qualitative anecdotes and quotes from members. This template is meant to be a starting point that you customize for your own unique community. Feel free to remove the fields that don’t apply to you and add new metrics to track. Have ideas on how to update the next version? Drop us a line! You can find us on LinkedIn or email us at [email protected].