8
 min read

[Webinar] Key Performance Indicators for Brand Communities

Dive deep into operational metrics, community management strategies, and the art of storytelling to evaluate and showcase the impact of your community. Learn from Brian Oblinger's insights on Bettermode's latest webinar.
Written by
Jing You
Last updated
October 31, 2023

With the rise of online communities, there's an increased demand from businesses and leadership teams to evaluate the impact that these communities bring. That’s why Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for brand communities have become essential for evaluating the success and health of community initiatives.

This blog post aims to highlight these KPIs based on Bettermode's latest webinar: "Key Performance Indicators for Brand Communities". 

We were thrilled to host Brian Oblinger, a community expert with 20 years of experience in building communities and improving customer experience. Brian’s experience goes back to the 90s, and he admits to having navigated the right and wrong choices in community-building over the years.

Serving as the Founder of Brian Oblinger Strategic Consulting, Brian has dedicated many years to helping brands increase their customer engagement. His mantra? Using the power of the community to boost satisfaction, reduce operational costs, and increase revenue streams.

As someone at the helm of numerous community projects, his insights are invaluable to those looking to grow their brand communities and communicate the business impact.

Understanding key metrics for brand communities

When it comes to brand communities, one of the most crucial elements is understanding the right metrics to gauge their success and value. Brian dives deep into this subject, emphasizing three main areas in this webinar:

  1. Choosing the right metrics: It's essential to identify the correct KPIs to truly grasp your community's worth. Brian elaborates on different metrics types and how to customize them according to specific community needs.
  2. Interpreting data correctly: Data can be manipulated to fit certain narratives. Brian stresses the importance of interpreting data without biases to make well-informed decisions.
  3. Effectively communicating the data: Having the data is just the beginning. The real challenge lies in effectively conveying these insights within your organization. This ensures the right stakeholders recognize the community's value, leading to more support, budget, and resources.

Operational metrics in community management

In community management, Brian breaks down measurements into two primary categories: Operational metrics and business outcomes. Let's look at the former first.

What are operational metrics?

Operational metrics are the foundational measurements that help community managers understand the day-to-day functioning of their community. They give insights into what members are doing, their preferences, and the overall health of the community. Essentially, they guide what actions to take next.

Categories of operational

Categories of operational metrics:

  1. Classic web metrics

In the early days of community building, managers relied heavily on standard web analytics tools like Google Analytics or Adobe Omniture. These metrics included:

  • Visitor count
  • Page views
  • Bounce rate
  • Duration of stay on the site
  • Number of pages visited

While these metrics provide a basic understanding of user activity, they might not be the numbers you'd want to present to higher-ups in the company.

  1. Core community metrics

These figures help community managers understand user engagement and the content they value. They go deeper into community-specific actions, which include:

  • New member counts
  • Number of posts
  • Topics or threads that members are engaging with
  • Marks for 'Best Answer' or 'Solution'
  1. Additional Community Metrics

Beyond the basics, there's a range of other measurements that could be crucial, depending on the community's nature and platform:

  • Event attendance
  • Idea submissions or upvotes
  • Content consumption patterns
  • Completed lessons or certifications (if integrated with a learning system)

Brian emphasizes that while these operational metrics are important for day-to-day management, they're different from business outcomes, which tie more directly to a company's broader goals and objectives. 

Moreover, the audience for each set of metrics varies. Operational details might be kept more in-house, while business outcomes are what you'd communicate upwards in the company hierarchy.

Brian also acknowledges that while there are many other potential metrics to consider, community managers should be selective, focusing on those most important and essential to their community's objectives.

Recommended metrics in community management

Brian recommends a systematic approach to community management metrics, emphasizing three primary pillars: Acquisition, Conversion, and Engagement.

Recommended metrics for community management

Acquisition

For acquisition, he highlights the importance of tracking 'Unique Visitors' to understand the community's reach. Rather than aiming for a full conversion, Brian suggests setting a realistic target, such as 10% or 5%, to measure how many visitors from other business areas, like the main website or product, can be funneled into the community. 

Conversion

When it comes to conversion, the focus shifts to turning these visitors into community members. The metric here is 'Unique New Members'. By using benchmarks like the 90-9-1 rule, which signifies 90% lurkers, 9% occasional contributors, and 1% heavy contributors, community managers can set pragmatic conversion targets. 

Engagement

Lastly, under engagement, Brian stresses the need to monitor posts, particularly the 'First Posts from New Members'. This metric offers insight into a member's progression from being a mere visitor to an active community participant. 

His approach lies in its flow, just like a marketing funnel. By understanding the community's status at each stage, managers can identify challenges and act accordingly. For example, a perceived engagement issue might actually be rooted in acquisition or conversion. 

By creating a dashboard that integrates these metrics, community managers receive a comprehensive view of their community's health, guiding them on where to channel their efforts and resources.

Leveraging community impact across business departments

When discussing business outcomes in community management, it's pivotal to understand how community involvement affects tangible business metrics and return on investment (ROI). Different departments within a company prioritize diverse outcomes.

Customer support team

For the customer support team, the primary objectives revolve around lowering the overall cost of providing support, enhancing the efficiency of support agents, and using the community as an early detection tool for customer issues. The community can be leveraged as a proactive means to identify and rectify challenges before they escalate.

Sales and marketing team

On the other hand, sales and marketing teams are focused on lead generation and conversions. They're keen on determining the number of non-customers active within the community. They also aim to boost customer advocacy and ensure customers are well-informed, tapping into the potential of a knowledge base integrated within the community.

Product and development team

Product and development teams want to leverage the community to better the quality and relevance of products. They aim to use the community for obtaining feedback, gathering fresh ideas, and maintaining a pulse on user preferences.

Customer success team

Lastly, customer success teams concentrate on metrics such as churn rate and net revenue retention (NRR). These metrics indicate customer satisfaction and longevity. Connecting community involvement with lower churn rates can be a potent selling point for the community's impact.

Example: Using community for scalability 

To paint a clearer picture, consider a scenario related to the support team. 

As companies grow, scaling customer support without skyrocketing costs becomes a challenge. One solution is developing a self-service support community. The effectiveness of this strategy is often measured using the "deflection" metric, which calculates the monetary value of each resolved support query within the community. 

However, successfully measuring deflection requires access to a wealth of data. For instance, understanding the number of visits, surveying community members about issue resolutions, consulting the support team for per-case costs, and determining community operation costs with the finance team, are all essential. It's a cross-functional task, emphasizing collaboration between community managers and other business units. 

By getting this data, community managers can quantify the community's impact on support deflection, translating it into a compelling narrative for stakeholders. The goal is to bridge operational metrics with genuine business outcomes, thereby providing a comprehensive understanding of a community's influence on the broader business landscape.

Interpreting community metrics

One of the challenges businesses face is reading beyond the initial layer of data to derive meaningful insights. Brian takes a closer look at how to ask the right questions and interpret the community data.

Average time on site

A commonly monitored metric, the average time a user spends on a website can signal multiple things. An increasing trend might seem like a positive sign at face value, hinting at higher engagement. However, this might not be true.

For instance, for support communities or knowledge hubs, increased time might indicate that users are finding it challenging to locate information. In such cases, an increase in time could be a red flag suggesting inefficiencies. Conversely, for marketing or brand communities, longer durations might indeed be good news.

Average pages per visit

This metric provides insights into user behavior. If users are visiting fewer pages over time, it could suggest that the site’s navigation has improved, or perhaps the search function has become more efficient. On the other hand, it might also indicate decreased user engagement or consumption.

Solution rate

This metric indicates the percentage of community questions that receive a marked solution or answer. A steady solution rate might reflect a mature community where common knowledge is widely available. 

In contrast, a sudden spike might suggest artificial interventions, where the company marks solutions, inflating the numbers. High solution rates might look impressive, but if artificially achieved, they could be misleading.

Deflections

A deflection chart tracks the number of issues or questions deflected by community interactions over time. A plateau in this chart could suggest multiple scenarios. Perhaps the community has matured, or maybe new onboarding programs have reduced the need for community support. 

Alternatively, it could indicate a stagnation in community content generation or even reflect the growth trajectory of the company.

The essence of interpreting data lies in understanding its context. Assumptions, whether overly optimistic or pessimistic, can be misleading. It's crucial to delve deeper, ask the right questions, and arrive at a balanced understanding. 

Only then can a business effectively communicate these insights and craft a compelling narrative around them, which is the next focal point: storytelling.

Storytelling while sharing community metrics

One of the significant challenges Brian highlights with metrics is their translation from raw data into meaningful narratives. He emphasizes that storytelling is the bridge between data and human understanding, taking into consideration the context of business objectives and results.

He shares some examples to make his point. One of the facts he often mentions is: "40% of new sales come from people who checked out our community before buying." This shows just how important the community is to the buying process. Another fact he brings up is: "80% of all customer support happens in the community." This shows that the community plays a big role in helping customers.

Visual aids further strengthen Brian's narratives. He believes that graphs and charts can represent how community interactions directly align with business goals. 

For instance, Brian presents a chart mapping the growth of support queries across channels over time, revealing the community's increasing role in fielding and resolving these requests.

He points out that if active community members consistently register higher on health metrics, expand their contracts at a faster pace, and showcase higher renewal rates, then these facts evolve into persuasive narratives. These narratives, in turn, can inform and influence strategic decision-making within companies.

Takeaway

Brian emphasizes the pivotal role that storytelling plays in leveraging community metrics. Raw numbers may not mean much by themselves, but when crafted into a narrative, they can deeply resonate and influence key stakeholders. 

One of his central arguments is that communities can significantly boost sales, support efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction. By presenting data visually and connecting it with relatable stories, businesses can advocate for the importance and impact of their communities.

In this installment of Bettermode's webinar series, industry expert Brian discusses KPIs and the art of storytelling in the context of community data. Through practical examples and actionable insights, Brian's session, Key Performance Indicators for Brand Communities, offers invaluable lessons for community builders.

For a deeper dive into Brian's presentation and to explore more tools, including his engaging Q&A segment, visit Bettermode Community and access the full webinar recording.


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Jing You
Content editor and writer
Seasoned content strategist with a passion for transforming online spaces into thriving hubs of engagement and collaboration.

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