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How Successful Is Your Online Community: New Report

Online CommunityHigher Logic/MGI released the findings from its third annual Community Benchmarking Study, which analyzed more than 300 communities and organizations to determine success of engagement. The report includes performance comparison across three years, presents new KPIs as the focus for 2016, and discusses the engagement success metrics at the root of it all. Below are the highlights.

Organizations are becoming better at tracking the KPIs that matter to them.

The average EBS (Engagement Benchmark Score) is 79 for 2016, 19 points higher than in 2015. Higher Logic concludes that this is a result of organizations continuing to hone in on those benchmarks most important to them—empowering their community manager personnel to find better ways to connect with their base. The most important question for an organization is: How well are we engaging with our clients? Different organizations measure differently, and from year to year there may be adjustments on which goals hold an organization’s focus as well.

Measuring the EBS involves an algorithm made up of the most common success metrics between organizations. The four factors playing into this total are:

  • Activity – number of discussion messages
  • Reach – percentage of members subscribed
  • Value – number of responses per thread
  • Distribution – number of authors

Looking at year-over-year averages for the organizations studied, there was an increase of 31 percent from 2015 to 2016—and a 55 percent increase overall across the three years of study.

Where 2015 was the year of accountability, in 2016, customization was king.

As I discussed in my brief of the Retail Week Connect state of retail report, consumers are the ones dictating how goods are marketed and sold—and this doesn’t stop at retail. In every contact a client has with an organization, the level to which that individual feels specifically catered to dictates how satisfied he/she is and, in the big picture, how engaged he/she will remain with the organization.

The study asked the question: What’s important to you and aligns with your organizational goals? The key findings across the 300 participating organizations are:

  1. Align engagement with satisfaction. Engagement is tricky to quantify, right? If you’re the one continually reaching out, however, satisfaction becomes a measurable result—as long as you have the right KPIs in place.
  2. Automation is mainstream. It’s the world we live in: everyone expects the ability to be immediately engaged. If your organization is empowered to automate communication, tasks, and the like, there’s a good chance you’ve already engaged a host of individuals who would lose interest or patience otherwise. Automation allows organizations to involve users from across the spectrum, whether highly connected or more passive.
  3. Customize the community and member experience. Circling back to the overarching theme, customization of the client experience is key for organizations across the board.

Many of the organizations studied have high reach, lower engagement.

Since community success is so subjective, Higher Logic devised a combination of two key metrics they believe will most effectively arm your engagement plan. Below is Higher Logic’s Community Engagement Quadrant chart, which compares subscribers and messages for each organization. As shown, many participating organizations are successful in their recruitment of new members, but struggle when it comes to engaging them. In this study, reach is defined as “the total percentage of members or customers who are set up to receive either a real time, daily, or weekly email notification.” Engagement is centered on discussion messages—specifically those that have received at least one response.

How to Read the Quadrants:

The following engagement phases correspond to the four quadrants in the CEQ:

  • Early Adopters (Bottom Left Quadrant). The organization is still working on getting subscribers and messages— its message engagement score is five or below, and its audience penetration is less than 50 percent.
  • Engaged (Top Left Quadrant). The organization is seeing an uptick in discussion messages but little traction in subscriber rate—its message engagement score is above five, but its audience penetration is less than 50 percent.
  • Connected (Bottom Right Quadrant). The organization is experiencing a high member-to-subscriber ratio but messages are from a small concentration of subscribers—its message engagement score is five or below, and its audience penetration is above 50 percent.
  • Leaders (Top Right Quadrant). The organization has achieved a strong member-to-subscriber ratio and broad message engagement—its message engagement score is above five and audience penetration is above 50 percent.

Community Engagement Quadrant

How can you apply these metrics in your organization to make an impact?

Apply this study to your own organization. What is your reach? What is your engagement? Use the following calculation to determine where you stand among the organizations we’ve looked at in this report.

Calculating Your Reach

Reach Variables:

X: Members (Total Number of Members)

Y: Non-Member Subscribers (Total Number of Non-Member Subscribers)

Z: Subscribers (Total number of Subscribers)

Example: Higher Logic Users Group (HUG)

Reach = Z/(X+Y)*100

HUG Reach = 2186/(4016+44)*100

This equates to 53 percent, meaning that is HUG’s reach to its known audience.

Calculating Your Engagement.

Engagement Variables:

W: Messages (Total Number of Messages with at Least One Response)

X: Replies (Total Number of Replies to Group or Sender)

Y: Threads (Total Number of Threads with at Least One Response)

Z: Subscribers (Total Number of Subscribers)

Example: Higher Logic Users Group (HUG)

Engagement = (X/Y)/6*10

HUG Engagement = (5517/1822)/6*10

This works out to be 5.05 percent engagement for Higher Logic.

As an organization, continue to focus on how you measure reach and engagement of your members. How are you prompting engagement, and how are you measuring member satisfaction? Have you built out automation of your processes? And how can you tailor each member’s experience to the individual? These are the highlight questions of 2016—organizations dedicated to meeting these challenges are fostering better relationships with their members and achieving more.

The 16-page Community Benchmarking Study provides in-depth analysis of the communities studied, diving into the importance of first-time community members and engagement types by year and quartile. It provides a base that organizations like yours can use to gauge their own metrics and determine which require more focus for growth in the coming year. Read the full report here.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Eric Vidal
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