Sure, you’re active in social media, but as a responsible small business owner you know that it’s your site and your own community where you should be building your home base. This is where you direct people you meet in other outlets and it’s where you’re trying to form the real conversations and conversions, because this is the only site that you control. But how do you know that it’s working? What metrics should you measure to be confident that you’re growing a healthy community, while also pinpointing areas for improvement?
To help you get started, below are five areas I’d recommend keeping an eye on to help you benchmark and improve your on-site community.
1. Increase in Subscribers
I state this first because it’s the obvious benchmark that many of us will immediately look at. And while the actual number of people reading your blog or joining your community at any given moment doesn’t particularly account for much, what is important is the growth. It’s important that you’re able to chart the positive growth of your following over time as you put out content and engage more with your community. As long as this number is growing and doesn’t appear stagnant (or worse, dropping), it’s a good sign that people are invested in what you’re doing and that you’re on the right track.
2. Increase in Conversations
A healthy community will see an increase in not only the number of subscribers over time, but also the community’s conversational level. More specifically:
- number of active threads
- number of unique commenters
- number of active commenters
- number of people you’ve identified as brand evangelists
These numbers will give you a good understanding of the health of your community because they show engagement, rather than just warm bodies. You’ll start to see what percentage of your community is really tuned into what you’re doing, what they’re interested in talking about, and what people you can count on to help you start and field conversations.
3. Share of Buzz
Another metric to keep an eye on is your share of buzz in your niche and how that number is (or is not) growing over time. Basically, is your authority and perceived expertise growing as a result of what you’re building on site?
For example, how many people are talking about your community – either about the services that you offer or the content you’re putting out? How visible are you in your space and how does your visibility measure up against that of your competitors? Who is ’s talking about you? How often is your content being shared? In a world where share of buzz often means social authority, this is a pretty big health indicator for your community and something you’ll want to watch.
More important than simply knowing you’re being talked about is knowing the sentiment behind that conversation and how it’s evolving over time. What’s the ratio of positive/neutral/negative mentions? How many times are people recommending your product or service to others? Do people come to your defense when others say things that don’t put your company in the best light? Are you growing an army of evangelists or are people lukewarm about your brand? These are all things to monitor to help you understand how your community is evolving and whether what you’re doing on-site is helping you off-site.
5. Increase in Conversions
All of the above will help you determine the health of your community, but increase in conversions is what really tells you whether or not you’re adding dollars to your bank account. Look at referrals generated as a result of your blogging, the number of customers who are also community members, and customer loyalty from community conversions – how many times do they buy/refer? While conversations and engagement are nice, they don’t mean much unless they’re eventually turning into more money for your business.
Those are five metrics I recommend small business owners take a look at to understand the health of their community. What have I missed?