Enticing a community's members to return and breathing life back into a community isn't easy. The challenges are different from building engagement in a new community. Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies you can employ. In this piece, the first of a three-part series, we'll look at the importance of analytics and data for performing a true health check on your community.
Maintaining, growing, or refreshing engagement in established communities is different from encouraging engagement in new communities. It can also be a lot harder. When the struggling community is internal, like an intranet, there can be a number of specific challenges.
For example, your biggest obstacle may be figuring out how to re-engage a large group of members who have already written off the value of the community. And on top of that, you're relying on that same group to keep contributing. Unless your company is growing rapidly, new members (without preconceived notions) will not be the majority.
In established communities, when the platform on which the community runs is hopefully stable, technical staff can focus on customizations and upgrades instead of rounds of bug fixes. The initial work (and challenge) of getting people registered and participating has been done. Most importantly, there's something there. Blogs have been posted, documents have been uploaded, wikis have been edited, and conversations have commenced.
Everything should be running smoothly at this point, right? The community members love how they're more organized and in the loop. All the useful knowledge has been added to or created on the platform and is well reviewed and correctly tagged. All relevant parties participate in all of the important conversations.
Wouldn't that be nice?
In reality, there are all of those lurkers (up to 90% of community members by some estimates). Lurkers are people who visit a site and view content, but don't create content, leave comments, or otherwise engage publicly. There are those who registered, but only because they had to, then never came back. And there are those who try… kind of: by dumping the wrong versions of documents in the wrong places, adding irrelevant comments to conversations, accidentally deleting large sections of wikis, and who have profile photos that are pixelated crops of… something?
The hard truth is, your community may not be as healthy as it could be. You may not have done anything wrong, but fortunately there are some things you can do to revive it.
Don't do anything without data
On the surface, it may look like your community has abandoned you, and your intranet is a desolate wasteland. It may not be so bad. First you need to find out what your community's stats really are. Pretty much every platform should have some built-in analytics. For example, Igloo's built-in social analytics show you what's happening with community members, content, and engagement. Igloo also integrates with Google Analytics to provide you with traditional intranet analytics and give you the full picture. With the latest update, you can compare your community's performance against our benchmark data.
This data will tell you what people are actually doing, rather than what they say they're doing or what it appears they're doing (or not). A platform that offers both traditional analytics (visitors, uploads/downloads, bounce rates, etc.) and social analytics (comments, likes, shares, etc.) can give you the most in-depth view. This is useful when, as a community manager, you may not have permission to view every area of your intranet. You can still see aggregate views of where activity is happening.
For starters, you need to do some benchmarking. Metrics don't mean anything without context. For example, is 10,000 unique visitors this month a record high, or a sharp drop-off? Do things seem like they're getting quieter, but in fact activity and engagement are actually holding steady? Tools like Igloo's Health Check enable you to determine what reasonable expectations are for an internal community, compared to a property with a much wider audience, like your corporate website.
Some basic metrics you should look at, starting monthly:
- How many new registrations?
If everyone in your company has been registered and no one's being hired, then you can ignore this. But if, for example, it's a big company that hires regularly, you'll want to know if getting registered and trained to use the intranet is part of orientation. (If it's not, you need to fix that.)
- What percentage of staff has been active in the community?
How many people are logging in and contributing? Is that number going up, down, or remaining the same over time? You can also dig into this a bit and determine distribution of active members. Is it relatively evenly spread across the company, or clustered in a small number of dedicated teams?
- How many visits do members make to the community?
Are they there every day? Once a week? Rare, random occasions? Ideally you want your community to be a regular destination for finding out important information, getting work done, and socializing. Showing up infrequently discourages all of those. If visits are low, talk to members to see why they don't bother visiting more often, and what they're using to get work done instead of the intranet platform.
- How many contributions have community members made?
You know they've logged in, but what about after that? Are they just reading then leaving? Have they been blogging, commenting, uploading, or reviewing? You can dig deeper on this one, too, and see if different groups are focusing on specific activities.
- How much content have community members created or contributed?
Is the volume of media on the community growing: docs, videos, posts, etc.? Are specific kinds of content outstripping others in engagement and popularity? If there are community areas or types of content that are dead zones, talk to community members and see if there are issues with understanding how functions work, why they might be useful, or if something's been broken but not reported.
- How long does it takes for newly posted content to get a response?
Do people jump into conversations or comment as soon as they're notified of new content? Do reviews or questions trickle in over a week or two? Or are the crickets your community's most active members? The sooner content gets a response, the better. Within an hour? Awesome. Within a day… okay. If a forum topic, for example, goes more than a week without a response, however, it's pretty unlikely to ever get any. This is something community staff may need to push and encourage for a while.
Get started recording these metrics. You can go a lot deeper, certainly, but it will take you a few months to determine what these numbers really mean in terms of your community. Metrics tell stories about human behaviour. Learn to read them and you'll be much better at figuring out how to best encourage your community or help fix their issues.
Getting a comprehensive picture of the health of your community takes some time and effort, but will be well worth it. And it's key information for when you take the next steps: updating content and starting campaigns to revitalize the community. More to come on that in the second part of our series: Don't stop believin': revitalizing employee engagement in established communities, part 2.
Interested in learning more about employee engagement? Check out our free engagement guide.