A successful online community can pay off in increased word of mouth
(35%), more brand awareness (28%), bringing new ideas into the
organization faster (24%) and greater customer loyalty (24%), according
to the 2008 Tribalization of Business study
by Beeline Labs, Deloitte, and the Society for New Communications
Research, which surveyed more than 100 business with online communities.
That the greatest value of an online community lies in
“communications-based objectives” — in forging bonds between the
organization and its members/users — shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Arguably, it’s the members’ level of engagement with an online
community that determines whether that community will flourish or fail,
not the technology “bells and whistles” of the community’s website.
After all, a vital online community can be created across multiple
platforms — cross-pollinating your organization’s blog with an online
discussion forum, reaching out into Facebook and other social media,
and so on.
In fact, the 2008 Tribalization of Business study found that the
greatest obstacles to making a online community work are not issues
related to technology. Rather, it reports, the success of an online community
depends on attracting people to the community (34%) and getting them
involved in it (51%), and finding enough time to manage the community
Similarly, the features cited as most important to an effective
online community also focus on “people giving and getting help” — the
social aspects of community:
• Ability for community members to connect with other like-minded people: 54%
• Ability for members to help others: 43%
• The community is focused around a hot topic or issue: 41%
• Quality of the community manager/community management team: 33%
The benefits that can come from building an online community for
your organization are clearly defined, and the features that contribute
most to making it work — but how do you go about measuring whether a community is successful?
“One interesting discovery was the apparent inconsistency between
what organizations set as goals and what they actually measure,” said
Francois Gossieaux, a partner at Beeline Labs, and Senior Fellow with
the Society for New Communications Research.
The top business measures being used are:
• Greater awareness: 49%
• Number of new ideas from the community: 41%
• More referrals: 28%
• Increased sales attributable to the community: 26%
The top analytic measures included:
• Number of visitors: 63%
• Number of “active” users: 58%
• How often people post/comment: 57%
• Number of registered users: 49%
• How often people visit: 45%
Note the “disconnect” there!
Survey participants said that their main
objectives were to generate word-of-mouth marketing and to build
customer loyalty, but what they’re mostly measuring is the number of
visits to the community website.
The 90-9-1 rule suggests that
an online community looks a lot like an iceberg: only the 1% tip of
your membership will be involved in actively creating content, while
90% of visitors are satisfied simply to “lurk” and read.
Assuming that's the case, would it be
more informative to measure the activity of the 1% creators — to track the comments on your blog, for example, or the number of new threads in
your forum — and discount the passive audience?
Or should you
focus on the standard traffic analytics, like numbers of visitors and page views, more
reflective of the 90% who aren’t engaged with your community in an
Or perhaps there are other, more accurate ways to track the effectiveness in reaching your goals…
How do you define (and measure) “success” for your online community?