How to Measure and Report on Community Value

Mike Washburn
November 18, 2021
October 30, 2023

Value and how we think about value is complicated - especially in the community industry. When measuring a community's value, we often look only at quantitative metrics, but metrics don't tell the complete story. It’s not that metrics aren’t important as an assessment of value, numbers certainly matter. It is critical though, to understand the types of value a community can create, how we recognize that value creation, who might be helped most by certain types of value creation, and how the structure you build for your community can facilitate the “flow” of members through value cycles in way that ensures that value being created comes back to continue the growth of the community.

This blog post will take you through the five key types of value creation, and will touch on both metrics-based value and member-generated value.

Value Creation

There are five key types of value created in communities: Immediate Value, Potential Value, Applied Value and Reframing Value. There are more types (remember, value creation is complicated) and if you wanted to take a deeper dive into the academia of value creation, and the influence for some of these thoughts, check out Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner’s book “Learning to Make a Difference: Value Creation in Social Learning Spaces”.

Let’s focus on the key five, and the questions you need to ask in order to know which type of value you and your community is creating:

Immediate Value: The nature of a member's experience in the community. Did they have fun? Was their question answered? Did they meet like-minded people and form a connection? Did they see or hear something new or interesting? Is the member feeling valued and recognized for their contribution?

Potential Value: Did a member learn or acquire a new skill? Did they discover a new tool, framework, or strategy to implement into their day-to-day? Were they inspired in some way?

Applied Value: Did a member take advantage of a new connection to have a discussion? Did they take something they learned in the community back to their personal context and apply it? Did they use a tool they discovered in the community for the first time?

Realized Value: Did the use of a new tool result in increased performance for a member? Did they improve an aspect of their work or organization as a result of learning in the community? Did they get a promotion, raise, new responsibility, etc. as a result from reading your resources?

Reframing Value: Did an experience or new tool result in a shift in a member's work or their organization's approach? Are there new expectations for outcomes or performance as a result of community influence? Was there a strategy change or the introduction of new metrics as a result of participation?

One thing I think you’ll find as you’re reading these questions, is that if you’ve been in community management for any length of time, you’re probably asking a lot of these questions already. That’s great! It’s exciting to put the backing of research and theory to things you’re already doing.

Metrics-Based Value: A metrics-based assessment of the community is based on a number of key data points that connect back to the business goals of the organization. Check out CMX’s SPACES model, a comprehensive framework for determining which business goals your community is driving, and the first step in determining the metrics you should be tracking.

Some examples of metrics to measure might include:

  • Active users
  • Conversation engagement (posts, comments, DMs, etc.)
  • New user-generated content
  • Customer satisfaction
  • New customers
  • Number of event attendees
  • Sentiment-Based Value

The quantitative metrics can often be easier to track than qualitative metrics. For example, most community platforms make it easy to track how many people posted in your community, but how do you track whether or not they are getting value out of being a member? How do you track whether they like the community?

Some examples for tracking sentiment-based value include:

  • A yearly health survey of your community

Using an industry standard like Net Promoter Score to determine member satisfaction, asking questions about which programs members are using, etc. will give you qualitative insights into the community. Check out the results from CMX’s first Health Survey!

  • Perform one-to-one or small group calls with members

Making time to hear the feedback of your community is invaluable, and your members will appreciate the effort. Ensuring you set expectations for the call, so your member knows how their feedback will be used, is important.

  • Creating space for community storytelling

How can your members share the impact the community has had on them? Encourage them to share their story on social media, or create a submission form that you then turn into member case studies!Gathering value creation stories is the art of community building. It requires time, personal connections, relationships and the space for members to share the value they are both creating and getting from the community.

Member-Created Content Value

Commonly referred to in the Industry as User-Generated Content (UGC). In addition to assessing non-metric based value and key metrics, assessing the quality of user-generated content is critical in understanding the value being created in the community. Shining a spotlight on member created content is critical to members feeling valued and rewarded.

Measure the success of UGC with these five criteria:

1. Shareability: How often is this piece of content being utilized or shared in or outside of the community?

2. Uniqueness: Is this content new for the community? Has this topic/theme been covered before?

3. Comprehensiveness: Is the content detailed and informative? Does it answer all questions about this topic/theme?

4. Instant gratification: How quickly can the information in the content be applied by the reader?

5. Evergreen factor: Will this content be still in demand a number of years down the road?

Reporting on Value

Success metrics change with every community, because the business goal, the members, and the expectations for each community are unique! Not only that, but there may be some disparity between the metrics a community manager tracks and the metrics they report on to their executive team.

We break community measurement down into three levels:

1. Business Strategy

Use the SPACES model to determine which business goal your community is going to achieve. For example, is your community going to drive Acquisition and Sales? Is your community going to drive Customer Success initiatives for current users?

2. Community Strategy

Determine what kinds of community programming are you going to implement into your community in order to achieve the above business goals. Some examples: an online community forum, distributed events programs, user-generated content initiatives.

3. Tactical Strategy

Determine the strategy to ensure that the above programs are successful. In order to make an online community successful, you’ll need to drive engagement with rituals, welcome messages, etc.

When preparing for the report and collecting both sentiment-based and metrics-based information, it’s important to consider the audience you are reporting to. For example, the community manager might be tracking the number of new visitors per month, number of comments, posts per month, number of reactions, and churn rate. In their reporting to the rest of the Community Team, they might only report on the number of comments, posts, and reactions. In their reporting to the executive team, they may focus mainly on the number of new visitors, as this is the metric that relates directly to the business goals.

What’s Next?

Check out the Community MBA course to learn more about implementing the Community Measurement Strategy.

Mike Washburn
November 18, 2021
October 30, 2023

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