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Telling Your Community Story with Data

4 minute read

October 19, 2021

Creating a sense of community and belonging are part of the core mission of community. We want to create spaces where people can connect and come together, find answers to their problems, and give back to others. However, I have found that many community professionals struggle to articulate the value of their work to executives, especially in the B2B space. Sometimes it’s from a lack of access to the right tools, but more often than not, it’s simply not knowing what to ask or how to figure it out.

It may be easy for me to say, “just go do it”, but I want to share a roadmap that can help you tell your community story in a better way. Here are three tips to make you more dangerous (in a good way) with your reporting.

Collect Data from the Right Sources

Here’s the thing. Most community platforms will give you great insight into what is happening in your community - and indeed things you should be looking at when it comes to community health. However, these are not the only tools you should be using to report on the value of your community work.

Just as community is everywhere, so is your company’s digital footprint - and you need to be looking at your community in a more holistic way. You want to understand how your community interacts with the company website, KB, ticketing and other spaces. You need data to do this. 

You should have Google Analytics connected to your community. First, because it’s free. And second, it’s a great tool for a global view of traffic sources as well as the impact your community has on the rest of the digital spaces in your stack.

Something even more important is the analytics within your marketing automation tool. If you're tracking anything on your website with these tools, it should be installed in your community too. If the marketing team uses Hubspot, Marketo, Acton, Pardot - or essentially any marketing automation tool, you should ensure the analytics are added to your community. Not sure what automation platform they are using? Ask your marketing team!

Why does this matter?

The data that drives your community is not being collected until you  install analytics platforms. Even if you do nothing with it right away, you always have time to analyze it later. Marketing automation tools can also help build segments, track content preferences, and even help with email marketing to your community members.

In essence, you want to consider adding any tool your company uses to track customer performance, so your community is appropriately represented.

Measure the Right Things

While the data collection sources may be more technical, measuring the right things is more about understanding your business. Sure, looking at the activity within your community, such as the number of posts or page views, is nice. But activity doesn't necessarily have a business impact.

I’m certainly not suggesting you don’t look at community health metrics. However, I implore you to look at how your community influences the company KPIs overall and include these in your reports. Need inspiration? Here is a non-exhaustive list of the things your peers are reporting today:

  • Number of online reviews driven from community members

  • Number of questions handled by community/ answered by community members

  • NPS score of community members vs non-community members

  • Order size of  community members vs non-community members

  • Customer satisfaction of  community members vs non-community members

  • Content consumption of ebooks or other lead fills of  community members vs non-community members

Each company is different, so you will have to come up with your own metrics. Your line manager can undoubtedly be an inspiration for this. The question you want to ask them is: “What things do you expect from our most engaged customers that can impact on your key metrics”? Focus on areas where connection, loyalty and sense of belonging can translate to and impact on business outcomes. 

Why does this matter?

Too many community people report their community health stats, which, while nice, never really make their management understand the impact of engaged community members (and customers) on the business. You need to draw the line for them and make the case. Don’t assume they can make the connection between business impact and members appreciation. Show them how appreciation translates into tangible results like answering other customer questions or leaving positive reviews on third party sites.

Get Analytics Support

Before you commit to measuring anything - make sure you have the analytics assistance you need. Unless you are a super small company (and I have been there), someone on staff is responsible for data gathering at your organization. They will be able to parse data to look at how people are consuming or interacting with your company.

Your job is to make sure they have a clear list of people in your community. Or, if you are lucky, there is SSO or another mechanism by which you can view who these community members are. You should simply make sure this connection or list exists.

In a perfect scenario, you need a teammate who can help you parse global data and highlight your community members’ behaviour. This is the best way for you to tell the story. Imagine the impact and accolades when you can report that community members buy more, give better NPS scores and are more satisfied. This type of data reporting has impact.

Why does this matter?

If you cannot get help with the data and are unsure how to get access, you will always have issues showing the value of your work. No matter how many kind comments and anecdotes your community rounds up, it’s the data that does the talking.

If you cannot get help, empower yourself to learn. If nothing else, this will make you better equipped to talk the language of the business and better understand the value you bring. I am not expecting you to be a data analyst, although I recommend you read books on the topic (Avinash Kaushik has some great ones). It will make you more dangerous in your asks.

I hope this article helps you change the way you tell your community success story and that this will lead you to more resources, career opportunities and advancement. Now it’s your turn. Share in the comments the most helpful tip you ever got in telling your community story...

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Community

Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

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

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