I think most community experts would agree that active community management and ongoing strategy are vital to a community’s health. However, I don’t know if anyone has been able to fully quantify the impact using actual community metrics.
Until now – when I decided to analyze some of the 2008 data for my former community during the period of active management and the period of passive management.
I was the community manager for a professional community from January 2007 through July 2008. During that time, the community grew from zero to 4,000 members. We were rigorous with the tracking of metrics and updated community analytics weekly through a combination of our platform reports and Google Analytics. I was laid off in July due to financial hardship of the community sponsor, but the community doors have remained open albeit with no community management or minimal upkeep.
During the time of my involvement, active community management and consisted of:
- delivery of bi-weekly email update newsletters
- production of monthly webcasts
- active blog posting and blogger outreach
- uploading of fresh content each week
- continual promotion of the community in various forums through guerilla marketing
- ongoing brainstorming and strategizing with respect to improving the community experience
- priming of discussion forums, and
- ongoing communications with individual community members
It’s interesting to discover that a neglected community will indeed continue to function without a dedicated community manager. However, the results are lackluster and the picture are not ‘pretty’.
For example, this is a screen shot from Google Analytics graphing the number of weekly visits to the community from 1/1/2008 through 12/31/08:
Additional details from the metrics include:
Membership growth slows significantly – Community membership grew 62% from January to July at a average clip of 55 new members per week. From July to December, the membership only grew 13% at an average clip of 20 members per week. This is a fall-off of more than 63% on a week to week basis.
Number of visits drop 60% - The number of visits from January through July averaged more than 1,300 per week. For the second half of the year, average visits dropped nearly 60% to an average of 522 per week.
Number of pages viewed per visit drops 22% - Not only did the number of visits drop, the number of pages per visit also decreased by 22% with the average pages per visit going from 3.76 to 2.95.
Time on site decreases by 33% – Driven by the fewer page views, the time on site in minutes during active management was 3:38 vs. 2:37 after July which is a 1:19 or 33% decrease.
Fresh activity on the site since August has been pretty nonexistant as well – just 10 new blog posts, 4 new file uploads, and less than 25 discussion forum questions or comments have been posted. For some interesting reason, the activity on the related LinkedIn group has picked up and included 15 new discussions in just the last week. This definitely is worth taking a deeper look in a separate blog post.
So what does this mean? Clearly, the analysis proves that active management contributes significantly to the health of a professional community. And that it is ultimately important to the success of a community.