The Most Important Metric To Assess The Health Of Your Community


Over the last couple of years businesses have evolved their expectations of social from increasing follower base, to enhancing engagement, and finally towards moving a target audience down the sales cycle. A healthy community is a critical element to delivering on any and all of those priorities so naturally assessing communities across channels is becoming more important.

In the quest for a healthy community, the ability to accurately assess the state of your social properties is essential. With such a large amount of data to deal with, knowing what to look for can be a real challenge so here’s a tip on what to look out for: The most misleading measures of the health of your social media presence is the number of followers you have and the number of mentions you receive in the social sphere. Those metrics are important, but they only give you half of the picture. That may not seem like too big of a deal, but if your social media presence is being evaluated by those two metrics alone, it can mislead your strategy in ways that cost your brand money to satisfy, but ultimately leave you with a presence that isn’t really adding the type of value to your business that validates the investment.

For example, if I wanted to increase my followers on Twitter there is about a hundred Twitter bots, follower purchases, and other “black hat” social tactics that would quickly build my following. I could also run a campaign offering a giveaway that is entered by following my Twitter handle with similar results. Both tactics would satisfy my goal, but neither add value to the community because the followers aren’t really interested in what I have to say in the first place, they are an artificial addition that will likely slough off after a few weeks, or months, or will remain inactive for a long time to come. The same approach to driving the number of brand mentions through my community can be satisfied with a similar approach, and encounter the same issues.

I know it’s important, so how do I measure it?

Instead of simply measuring followers and mentions you should look at the number of unique users that interacted with your assets over time. This is far more important than followers or gross mentions, because it’s an indicator of how active your base is. This is anecdotal, but a good minimum to shoot for is 10% over a month. That means that in the last month, 1 out of every 10 of your followers has viewed your content and decided it was valuable enough to  reply to or share. A really healthy community will have close to double that.

If you are regularly posting content your audience values, using your engagement to refine and create new content, and proactively engaging in earned social media, you shouldn’t have any issues keeping at least 10% of your followers active over any given month.

Be careful not to confuse “uniques per month” (outlined above) with another metric I’ve seen gaining popularity: “Number of mentions relative to follower base”. Although the metric takes mentions into considerations implying a correlation between an active community and overall mentions in the social sphere, it can be easily skewed by a handful of hyperactive users, or even Twitter bots, that don’t really influence behavior.

Let’s look at two scenarios, that are similar to an experience I’ve had on one of my side projects to illustrate how looking at the wrong data can lead us to draw the wrong conclusions.

Twitter Handle A:

10,000 Followers

1,000 mentions in the last month

=10% mentions relative to followers

Twitter Handle B:

5,000 Followers

500 mentions last month

=10% mentions relative to followers

So at this point anyone would argue that Brand A is providing more value to their business by driving conversation about it’s product through the community. It would also be easy given this data to derive some idea of the health of the community based on the number of mentions relative to the overall followers.

As I mentioned, this is similar to what I was seeing when doing an analysis of a couple assets for a side project I did. Once I dug a little deeper and assessed how many unique users were actually engaging with the social properties, I came up with a very different conclusion. The next data point I pulled looked something like this:

Handle A: 54 unique engagements

Handle B: 200 unique engagements

This told me that even though Brand A had 10,000 followers, only 54 of them actually interacted with the handle in the last month. You could make the argument that with a following of 10,000 people, the brand was still getting value from impressions, but I would counter that social media isn’t about driving impressions. It’s about driving advocacy, consideration, and customer lifetime value. None of which are being driven particularly well if less than 1% of your following is interacting with you.

How Do I Fix It?

If you plan on activating your base the most important thing to do is start listening. We too often forget that social needs to be a two-way conversation. That doesn’t just mean engaging 1:1 on Twitter, it means creating content that fits responds to customers and prospects to post on blogs, connecting in all channels where your audience is talking, and continually refining your approach on the fly.

Once you’ve got a solid understanding of the value your audience sees in following your Twitter handle, or Facebook page, etc., respond by dedicating resources to giving them what they want in terms of content & engagement on a regular, predictable basis. Posting a blog once a month, or even once a week isn’t going to give you the opportunity to build the kind of dialogue with your audience you should be shooting for, and robs your audience of the tools they need to be informed and advocate on your behalf.

Finally, it’s important to measure the impact your engagements and content are making then refine your approach to optimize for when, what, and why you post.

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