Online Community Engagement Metrics — What Should You Track?

community engagement metrics in social networking websites and online communities

How do you measure community engagement in a social networking website?  What metrics should you track?

Erica just launched TheLegalBalance, a social network for Chicago women attorneys, and she asked me that question.

The Online Community Report site of ForumOne is an authoritative source for online communities.  Their 2009 survey data provides a list of metrics online communities are tracking, and what they’d like to:

Top 5 Online Community Metrics Tracked

  • Unique Visitors
  • New Member Registrations
  • Page Views
  • Visitors
  • Message Posts

If you add the free Google Analytics code snippet to your website footer, you can easily track basic Google Analytics stats like unique visitors, page views and visitors.  If you set up thank-you landing pages for registrations and message posts, you can also track these as goals in Google Analytics.

Top 5 Desired Metrics

If Erica asked how she might begin to  measure these items, here’s what I would say.  To track satisfaction, I’d recommend a quarterly survey or drop-down quick survey.  Eventually I’d consider separate surveys for new and existing users.  To get a handle on influencers and evangelists, I would track number of logins and “time on site” of the top 10 community users.  For life cycle, I’d track data over time that measured login frequency.  For loyalty, I’d look the monthly percentage of returning users to the website.  For referrals, I’d ask each new member to answer a question on how they learned about the site as part of registration.

Ideal Engagement Metrics

In “Online Community Engagement: Recent Research,” the Online Community Research Network, also affiliated with ForumOne, identified ideal engagement metrics as:

  • Amount of activity on site: page views, logins, searches, feature usage
  • Number and type of content items created: discussion posts, tags, shared content, etc.
  • Number of connections / relationships created: friends added to network, or inferred via frequent discussion exchanges
  • Time on site: Total time per month
  • Frequency of visits: / per month
  • Recommendations: Members referring new community members, passing along community content outside of community, blogging about / promoting community

Start Tracking Basic  Metrics Monthly

With this information on what is ideal and what community managers are now measuring, Erica and others can organize their monthly reporting to begin to capture user engagement in their communities.   The initial action step is to decide which key metrics to track monthly, to assign responsibility for reporting and to set a monthly date when the report is due.


What do you think of these metrics?  What are you tracking, and what would you like to measure?

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