Associations have taken the concept of community to new levels, building online environments that allow for inspiration, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging. The member communities they’ve built bring professionals together for new, further-reaching, and more frequent engagement.
Forj gathered leaders from more than a dozen associations for a series of roundtable events dedicated to exploring their professional communities. In a four-part series, we’re sharing key insights from our focus groups on community and the member experience.
In the third installment, we’re talking about how to measure your community’s success—beyond its size. Use these ideas to visualize what success means for your community, which metrics are most meaningful, and which tools can help you gain and leverage insights.
How do you define professional community success?
Each organization defines a successful professional community differently, but it typically begins with the community's purpose. What sparked your community’s creation? What do you hope members gain from their participation?
- Space for members to grow personally and professionally.
- A place for members to seek advice and solve problems.
- Outlets for collaboration and contributions.
- Opportunities for members to make a difference in their field or industry.
- Collective work that influences professional practices and standards.
What metrics do you use to measure your professional community’s success?
The number of new members joining the community is, of course, an important metric to track. But beyond number of users, association leaders are tracking activity that offers insights into how well their communities are serving their purpose.
- Community growth versus churn.
- Renewals by existing members.
- Referrals of new members.
- Net promoter score to predict community satisfaction.
- Community health index to compare a variety of data on community engagement and performance.
- Participation, measured by number of logins, posts, downloads, event or webinar attendance, and other actions.
- Responses to prompted activity, such as profile updates.
What tools do you use to measure your professional community’s success?
There’s a difference between knowing what you want to track and being equipped to gather the right data to do so. Association leaders depend on a variety of tools to help them harvest insights.
- Reports and dashboards built into the community platform.
- Member and behavioral data from other systems, such as the Association Management System or Marketing Automation Platform.
- Google Analytics to report on website traffic and engagement.
- Social media platforms to track shares, such as tweets and retweets.
- Surveys and polls to gain feedback from community members.
Putting Your Insights to Work
Your online professional community can—and should—evolve over time. Measuring its current state is just one step towards maximizing its value. To truly get the most of your member community, you also need to put your insights to work. These ideas can help you move from assessment to action.
- Create a rewards system. Encourage community engagement—and repeat visits—by rewarding members for their participation. Badges, redeemable tokens, and access to exclusive content can be incentives.
- Develop a referral program. The people who are most active in your community probably want to help it grow. Mobilize a movement by encouraging and incenting ambassadorship.
- Build special interest groups. Professionals cite a sense of belonging as one of the main reasons they join communities. Create even closer connections with groups custom-designed for members who share specific experience or interests.
Leverage your ecosystem. Deliver added value by allowing your sponsors and partners to participate in your community. Invite them to moderate discussions, host webinars, and share special offers.
In the past, association professionals have depended on less-than-reliable figures for event measurement, and all too often, the data collected sat untouched and untapped.