KPIs, Analytics and Data: Making Sense of the Numbers

6 minute read

January 16, 2020

KPIs, Analytics and Data: Making Sense of the Numbers

As a Community Manager, it’s easy to see the value in the stories that are told and the connections that are made over the brand. Your executives, however, are far less likely to see it that way; they need numbers. It’s therefore imperative that you set and measure KPIs for your community so that you can show the ongoing value that it brings to the organization. This is the best way to avoid the dreaded “why do we even have a community?”

This is inevitably something that you’ll need to do, and there’s no better time to start than today. It’s really as simple as cake.

Let’s start by defining some key terms.

While we all know what key performance indicators (KPIs) are, they can be ambiguous in that the definition itself doesn’t really provide you with a clear-cut direction in what needs to be measured. Rapid BI defines KPIs as “a financial and non-financial measure used to help an organization measure progress towards a stated organizational goal or objective,” and as you can tell, “a financial or non-financial measure” doesn’t really say much.

Similarly, objectives and key results (OKRs) are also loosely defined as a framework for defining and tracking objectives. What exactly are these objectives?

Well, the key word here for both KPIs and OKRs is KEY (no pun intended). Key performance indicators and objectives and key results. You don’t want to measure everything, and you shouldn’t. This is a common mistake, and one that you absolutely need to avoid; the more information you present, the more likely that the most relevant bits of information will get lost in the mix.

Only measure what’s important; only measure what’s key. But how can you do this? Well, remember when I said it was as simple as cake? I meant that quite literally.

CAKE Framework

Cake provides us with two delicious treats: one you can eat and one you can use as an awesome framework to determine, set and measure your Community KPIs. This framework will allow you to avoid a scenario where your community is perceived to have no value and start you on your way to something more concrete to use with C.A.R.G.O. The CAKE framework is as follows:

  • Conversations
  • Assess
  • KPIs
  • Execute

Let’s unpack this framework and get you one step closer to showing everyone how much value your community really has.


First and foremost, you need to have conversations, however not just with anyone or everyone. You need to have conversations with key people. Start by identifying the internal MVPs in your company.

Internal MVPs refer to the Most Valuable People in your organization; the ones that you want to ensure see the value in your community project. These will likely be the ones who will approach you to ask about the value or contribution that your community is making to the brand. It’s also very possible that there will be one or two that you identify from each department, such as:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Product
  • Support

These meetings are important because they’ll create awareness as to what you do and how community fits into your brand objectives.

Once you’ve identified who the internal MVPs are that you need to speak with, you need to prepare for your meetings. Here are two key things that you’ll want to have prepared:

  • An understanding of what the department or team is currently measuring for success and what they report on. This could be something such as churn rate, customer retention, support ticket request, etc. Further, know what their benchmarks are for these measures. What do they consider success?
  • A clear way to communicate to the internal MVPs how community fits into the customer experience and how you can work with them to help achieve their goals.

These conversations will help you solidify which measures are actually important to the leaders of the organization, which will help shape your KPI strategy. It’s really about gauging the expectations of your internal MVPs so that you know what aspects of your community are key to measure and analyze.

What matters most to your internal MVPs? What are they looking to see?

Oh, and here’s a little tip. I guarantee that during these conversations, the word “engagement” will be brought up. When this happens, get your internal MVPs to provide you with a definition of what engagement means to them, and how they measure it. It’s really important that both of you are clear on what constitutes engagement, and what measurements are tied to capturing and quantifying it.

Webinar - Impactful KPIs


You’re likely to get a ton of information during these conversations, but the trick is to break apart these conversations and get straight to the point. To determine which KPIs you should be measuring, here are some things that you need to consider once the conversations are complete:

  • Focus on the keywords that were said during your conversations: were there any words that your MVPs or their team members mentioned frequently?
  • Narrow down these keywords to ones that are impactful—the KPIs that you choose should have an impact on the bottom line.
  • You need to focus on ones that are actually measurable. Are they KPIs that you can measure within your community? Are you able to collect data on them?
  • Try to stick to one per department—you don’t need to overdo it!
  • Make sure that these KPIs are something that your community can actually help with.

Cluster all these ideas into a spreadsheet or something that you can analyze. Once you’re done taking a closer look at all the keywords mentioned and have considered the factors listed above, you’re ready to set your KPIs.


Before deciding on which KPIs to go with, it’s important to ask yourself “do these KPIs match with the things that matter to the community?”

Remember, your community should be people first, as in, built around the needs and desires of the people within your community. That being said, make sure that the KPIs you choose matter not only to your executives, but also to the members of your community.

Now, every company will have things that matter, and likewise, every individual department will have specific measures that matter most to them. Your task here is to siphon through the options of the plausible KPIs you could measure and make sure that they align with the things that also matter to your community.

The KPIs that matter to both your organization and the community should be the ones that you settle on. The chart below can be used as a template to determine what matters. Obviously the things that matter will range from organization to organization, but the chart below lays out some common things that tend to show up across the board.

Area/ Department Common Things that Matter to the Organization Common Things that Matter to the Community
Support Ticket deflection Share their product or service knowledge to help other community members with their issues
Product Product feedback/ ideas Share ideas for better products or services, and to gain early access to upcoming releases 
Engineering Bug identification/ resolution  Fix their annoyances with product or service issues/ bugs
Marketing Posting activity, reactions and shares  Learn from others and/ or show off their product or service expertise to other community members
Sales Pre-sales conversations and questions Q&A curiosity to see if the product or service can solve an issue that they’re having
HR Reputation to identify possible employees To be recognized as a leader/ advocate/ expert


After you’ve selected your KPIs comes the most difficult part: the execution.


Not only do you need to figure out how to measure your KPIs, but you also have to get into a reporting mindset. That’s why it’s so important that your KPIs are within your control and are measurable.

How do you properly and accurately collect the data that you need to measure the KPIs that you’ve set? Well, simply put, it’s all about having the right tools. Here’s a list of some really great analytics tools that are super helpful:

  • Omniture
  • Webtrends
  • Matomo
  • Hotjar
  • Clicktale
  • Mixpanel
  • Google Analytics
  • Marketing automation
  • Your community platform

Execution is, in my experience, where most people fail. To ensure that I equip you with all you-need-to-know about this final step of CAKE, stay tuned for my next blog, KPIs, Analytics and Data: The Right Tools for the Job. In this next blog, I’ll go into detail about the three best analytics tools to use as a Community Professional, and finally, discuss how to report your information.

Ultimately, the whole purpose of having this conversation on KPIs is so that you can make sense of the numbers and deliver a thoughtful way of talking about the impacts and benefits your community.

Stay tuned folks!

If you’re too impatient to wait for the next blog, you could just check out the full webinar in the link below!

Webinar-KPIs, Analytics and Data


Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

Have an Article for Vanilla's Blog?

Send us an email to [email protected] with your topic idea and we'll circle back with our publishing guidelines.

Subscribe to the Community Corner Newsletter and get expert insight and analysis on how to get the most out of your online community every Friday.
[contact-form-7 id="5700" title="Newsletter Form"]

Request a Demo

Schedule a product demo now.

Contact Us