In our opinion, evaluation of participation metrics should be paid more attention to. More often than not, online communities don’t serve their purpose of engaging visitors, simply because they are not being monitored appropriately for optimal participation.
Below, you will find a few ideas for what can be done to raise the bar to measure and increase public engagement in online communities:
How long do your visitors stay on the site; how many of them come back repeatedly?
The longer a visitor is on your site, the more engaged they are. This number should be high and it should continue to increase over time as the amount of content on your community increases and relationships get stronger. Your community also depends on its members returning to get involved in discussions. New visitors are priceless, however, your community needs people to keep coming back and form relationships. The more repeat visitors your online community sees, the healthier it is.
Are your visitors coming back habitually and endorsing your community?
Tracking how often your visitors come back is a great measure of just how dedicated community members are to your online forum. Dropping by daily or even multiple times per day versus only popping in once a month for a visit is a clear indicator that your content is interesting enough to hold a captive audience of repeat visitors and even worthy of endorsements from your loyal followers. The best kind of endorsement your community can receive is word-of-mouth praise from your community members who are finding great value in visiting your site regularly. Every time someone uses your ‘Refer a friend’ form, it’s a vote of confidence. Make sure you are measuring the use of this form, or whatever technical mechanism you have in place for visitors to invite their friends to join the community. Do you offer a link for visitors and members to share content from your community? The more content is being shared, the more engaging and interesting it is.
Generally speaking, the more contributions to your community, the more value it gives (and receives). One good way to generate activity among community members is to encourage visitors to share snippets of ongoing community discussions via Twitter or other social media venues and invite their friends to join the conversation in ‘real time’. Or help spark up the conversation by having a moderator online to provide insights or direct questions to visitors. There are many ways you can measure contributions from number of posts per member, overall posts per day, number of posts per discussion thread, etc.
There are many ways to measure your community’s progress – we’ve shared just a few here. For those of you looking for more quantitative measurement methods and indicators, a great resource is http://www.communityspark.com/. For a comprehensive list of different types of key measurement criteria that will help you build strong metric system for your online community, check out Online community metrics: numbers you need to pay attention to | Community Building and keep in mind that numbers don’t reveal everything - because online communities are, by nature, about building relationships.