Community manager tool kit: Metrics for tracking growth and engagement

So maybe you can’t put an exact dollar value on the content your community produces, but at some point you will be asked to show how your online community has grown in relative value and how the activity it has produced has impacted your organization. To do that, you need to consistently track your social metrics and key performance indicators. The rub lies in which metrics and KPIs you track.

The top metric, naturally, is your number of followers. But tracking the net increase (hopefully) in community enrollment or social following isn’t enough–you need to track the number of members who have unsubscribed or unfollowed your community as well. This isn’t just about satisfying your inner pessimist. When you track the members who leave your community in addition to tracking your net growth, you get an idea of the actual number of individuals who begin following you in a particular period.

In other words, you see that when your following increases by 20 people in a week, you have actually gained 25 new followers, because you lost 5 followers that week as well. The 20 new followers is your net increase–your gross increase is 25. When you track these kinds of measures over the long term, you get an idea of your community retention rate or community churn. No matter how you track the number, it’s important to understand how many people leave your community as well as the number of people who join. This is a more comprehensive view of your community’s performance than simply tracking the number of followers you have.

In addition to the growth rate of your community, you also want to look at your community activity–how much your members are sharing or contributing. This could be posts in your enterprise social network or shares in your Facebook group. Whatever it is, the real key to understanding your activity rates is understanding what your community’s purpose is. You’ve probably heard me mention the CMX SPACE model before–that’s because it’s a great way to understand what your community is for.

It doesn’t provide all the answers, though, and you need to make sure you have a good understanding of what your members expect your community to accomplish. And notice that I didn’t say what YOU expect your community to accomplish. That’s because community isn’t for you, it’s for your members. They will ultimately dictate its purpose, and they won’t generate any activity until it suits them. Once you know what your community wants to do, then you can get to the problem of tracking the activity.

Beyond these two primary metrics, there will be any number of other things you will want to track. Remember, though, that your metrics only look at one aspect of your community. More important than numbers, you need to understand and tell the story of your community, which requires a deeper knowledge of your members–a true relationship. This means taking the time to listen to your their needs, reading their emails and taking their calls. Don’t let tracking metrics get in the way of taking the time to really get to know who your community is.


For some great tips on how to measure your community engagement, check out these resources from other community management experts. Have links to other great resources? Share them in the comments!

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