Trying to define the ROI of community management can be a bit of a problem. And trying to convince the C-suite on hiring a full-time community manager can be like pulling teeth without Novocaine.
The reason it’s hard to convince upper management of the value of community management is because doing a cost benefits analysis on intangibles such as brand loyalty and relationships is sometimes difficult to do. To see the ROI on a community manager, your company would most likely want to see the sales revenue that you bring in plus the costs savings are greater than the expenses that you incur.
Kimbe MacMaster makes some interesting points in regards to the difficulty of community measurement as there is some indirect influence to the bottom line. Unfortunately, the ability to measure relationships against the company bottom line is made more difficult when community managers only play on top of the funnel.
Measuring the Community Influence on Sales
Chris Dowsett has provided an interesting post in regards to Community Manager value where he focuses on key metrics such as:
- Positive sentiment
- Post engagement
- Time to first response
- Posts by non-employees
- Share of voice
- Change of distribution
As much as Dowsett has some interesting metrics that measures ROI, we feel that these are too limiting and are suitable for only one use case.
And in many cases, a lead generated from your community can have limited influence on the entire sales process (especially in a B2B industry). Metrics like pipeline influence can help you gain insight into numbers and how much influence or impact that the community may have to sales. However, choosing the right metrics to measure is sometimes difficult (and possibly unique to your marketing goals and industry).
Of course, marketing tends to follow a known, but convoluted path tracking the sales funnel. But is this really the best way to measure the community effect?
At Vanilla Forums, we use Hubspot and our CRM combined to develop how much social media and our community influences sales. Our touchpoints for our customer are many, ranging from the blog to direct sales calls. What we’ve done is made sure that for every touchpoint that we make with a customer, it is tracked.
For example, if a customer arrives through our blog from a post, we know the source/medium through Google Analytics (organic, paid, social media, referral), the user is also tracked through Hubspot where we know whether they performed an action. Once they’ve either downloaded our marketing collateral or signed up for a trial account and such, we then are able to tie in their profile with more detail. We then either pass to sales or remarket, depending on level of interest.
We are able to determine the value of the lead if they spoke with a sales rep on the opportunity or signed up to an account. Tying that with the lead source, we can accurately identify the value of the sale to referral source.
Of course, we can measure ROI to specific campaigns, however, we know that majority of the sales happen in circular fashion and in some cases even offline, so campaign measurement is not always effective.
Meaning and Valuation of Community Manager Roles
An effective community manager plays multiple roles when it comes to the managing their community. They can range from being a content creator to customer service agent. By determining the value of how each of these roles can affect business operations or sales revenue (even indirectly), it becomes easier to develop the metrics to measure value.
Udemy’s process in measuring the value of their community manager ties into overall community health. They set up specific goals each quarter which helps them keep aligned to overall business goals. When their community manager, Eliza Davidson, first started, their goal was simple - to create more courses. Now, as Udemy has matured, their goals have adapted where they are focusing on how community engagement increases course quality.
How does this tie to individual performance? Davidson worked with executives to outline what were the core goals that the company needed to focus on, developed the tools to measure success of these goals, then set up daily and monthly metrics that tracked the health of the community. In Udemy’s case, their daily metrics focused on number of posts, how many comments on these posts and how many came from new members.
These metrics showcased the level of engagement that community members exhibited, eventually tying them to how many courses were sold each day. A correlation between number of comments, quality of courses and sales revenue.
Unfortunately, many companies hire someone to manage the community but don’t provide them with the tools and resources to track how leveraging the community affects business performance. A community manager should keep in mind that values assigned to your position work both ways. Not only are they values of your worth to the company, they reflect the value you have in the community’s field of expertise.