Part 2 of 3: Measuring Success in Community Engagement

KPIs, OKRs, KRAs* – if you work in marketing, you’ve heard of these goal-setting acronyms at some point in your career. And if you are anything like how I was early on in my career, you may roll your eyes at the idea of making sure you’re objectives are smart, or should I say “S.M.A.R.T”.

However, as I continued to develop professionally, I quickly realized the importance of goal setting. As a leader, it’s important to understand the motivation behind setting goals and helping my team set theirs, while also considering the perspectives of our internal stakeholders and customers, and most importantly, re-calibrating when needed.

In part 1 of this series, I shared why engaging with your community is key to a successful marketing strategy and how whether online or in real life (IRL), connecting with your audience is important for building brand loyalty and driving sales. In this second part, I’ll dive into measuring success in community engagement – and defining some metrics that can help you get buy-in from your manager or senior leadership team. So, let’s get into it!

“You have the power to achieve all of your goals.” – said someone, somewhere (probably)

Benefits of Having the Right Metrics in Place

Think about joining a new company for the first time. Your onboarding primarily gives you an understanding of the company’s mission and vision. And once you meet with your manager or team lead, you begin to understand how the work that you do day-to-day plays a role in the bigger picture (aka business goals, corresponding objectives, and tactics). As a marketer, I now understand more than ever how every lever I pull can impact different aspects of the funnel, which ultimately impact the bottom line.

By setting metrics for community engagement, you’re allowing yourself to make data-driven decisions and gather insights that inform your strategy – ultimately allowing you to better cater to the needs and preferences of your community, enhancing their overall experience. Besides showing up as the community connector in the room, having the right data in place can also help you gain buy-in from senior leadership by clearly demonstrating the impact of your community efforts against business objectives. You will be able to identify which activities drive engagement and allocate resources more effectively.

The Metrics to Consider

When it comes to measuring community engagement, there are several key metrics that can provide you with valuable marketing insights. On that same token, to get buy-in from leadership who may be questioning the need to implement community engagement strategies, it’s important to focus on the right metrics that directly drive forward your objectives, while also tailoring how you measure success for online vs. IRL efforts.

One important metric across all activities is the active participation rate, which measures the percentage of community members who actively participate in discussions, events, or activities. Tracking the number of unique participants over a set period compared to the total number of community members can give you a clear picture of how engaged your community is.

For online community engagement, I’ve found success in using social listening tools to measure sentiment, shares, and saves. In my early days as a community manager, keeping track of comments and conversation themes allowed me to keep a close pulse on what’s sticking. And while this is still relevant today, as social media channels and consumption habits have evolved, I’ve worked with my team to steer away from solely focusing on engagement rate metrics such as the number of likes and comments, and have really taken the time to focus on listening to our community and seeing how we are inspiring them. Analyzing the numbers of shares and saves  help us understand what type of content resonates most with our audience – especially for an audience segment that may be more of a passive or private consumer than an active commenter.

For IRL community engagement, in addition to attendance rates, we have implemented a strategy with our team that prioritizes community experience during the event and allows us to individually and collectively take the time to build connections with attendees. Taking that a step further, we take a look at who we spoke to and make a conscious effort to find a moment to reconnect with them post-event, which is a small tactic that makes a big difference on conversion rates. By opening up your IRL community events to non-members, you’re able to track not only how many members are actively participating, but also clearly track any membership conversions that come from said event – a metric that impacts your yearly membership targets.

Strategies for Improving Community Engagement

Now that you’ve explored the different metrics that can help inform your marketing objectives. There are additional strategies to consider to improve your community engagement. We’ll start off with a tale as old as time… consistency is key. Encouraging regular interactions and communications by posting engaging content, asking questions, and initiating discussions helps build a stronger connection with your community members – and in turn will help you get to know them better.

As I shared in part 1 of this series, another strategy is engaging with our community through events, pop-ups, and experiential activations. We’ve been able to create memorable experiences that resonate with our audience long after the event ends. However, for marketers who may not have access to IRL community programming, focus groups and surveys offer alternative avenues for gaining insights into their target audience. By soliciting feedback directly from customers, marketers can gain a comprehensive understanding of their preferences, behaviors, and pain points. This evergreen data can then be used to inform marketing strategies and drive business growth in the long term.

Measuring Success in Community Engagement

Measuring the success of your community engagement efforts is crucial to demonstrate value to your stakeholders and for making data-driven decisions that enhance your strategy. By focusing on key metrics such as active participation rate, engagement rate, and content reach, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your community’s likes and dislikes. And, by implementing strategies like regular interaction, events, and surveys can significantly improve community engagement.

Make sure to keep following along… Part 3 of this series is coming on September 2024 and will detail how to implement learnings from digital or IRL engagements to help foster loyalty within your community. More from me soon!

*Key Performance Indicators, Objectives and Key Results, Key Result Areas.

Related: Unlocking the Power of Community in Modern Marketing | Part 1 of 3: Cultivating an Online Community & Engaging IRL



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