Your Community Is Healthier Than You Think
Why you can stop counting post numbers now
As community managers, many of us have fallen into the trap of measuring the number of posts on our community platform and using that as a way to determine community health. You don’t need to look too far in a community management Slack or Twitter group to find some version of the question, “How can I increase engagement in my community?” As community managers, our mandate is to keep a community healthy and alive. And while sometimes this looks like a vibrant discussion in public Slack channels, I’ve also found it's not as useful or strong an indicator as we might think. This is good news for community managers who may have low visible engagement by these traditional measures, but have actual life brewing elsewhere that isn’t being tracked….yet. At least it was for me.
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Let me back up.
When I started the Holdette community groups for recent grad women, we utilized Slack to facilitate member communication. At that time, I used to spend time each week counting how many posts members had created in the community and developing lists of seeded questions to ask throughout the week to increase engagement. I was fixated on making it seem like the community was lively so people would feel like it was valuable to be a member. I subscribed to the idea that if no one was posting in public places, then I didn’t have a healthy community.
I was stuck in this mindset for over a year, even as we transitioned from Slack to Geneva, a.k.a. Slack for Gen Z. What forced me to examine whether I was measuring the right thing was anecdotally hearing from members about how they had met up with someone else from their community group or had connected with another member via a DM. When our members started moving in with one another, getting invited to each other’s birthday parties, and attending each other’s weddings despite a lack of engagement in Geneva, I asked myself whether the Holdette community was truly missing something when in reality it was achieving its ultimate goal of building new friendships. For me, the answer was no. Nothing was missing. In fact, the community was much healthier than I had originally thought. While the end of a monthly Holdette community group gathering had originally felt like a dead end for connecting when nothing was happening online, I realized that offline girls were connecting and meeting up together far more often than was originally visible. It was a case of old school people to people connections trumping a new school platform.
If post volume is in fact an accurate representation of engagement in your community, this isn’t a call to stop measuring it. But, if the goal of your community is not fully aligned with what you’re measuring, you won’t get an accurate picture of whether your community is serving its intended purpose.
So how can you figure out if you’re measuring the right thing?
~A Brief Guide to Aligning Goals and Numbers~
Outline your community goals
Why are you gathering people? What purpose does your community serve?
Example: The goal of the Holdette community is to help women make friends right after they graduate from college wherever they choose to settle down.
Define what success looks like
If you accomplish your goal, what will the outcome be?
Example: If we accomplish our goal at Holdette, the women in our community will have the support they need during the transition time. (And ideally someone will ask a fellow member to be their bridesmaid, because that would be a super cool testament to the strength of friendship they built. But mostly the first thing.)
Determine how you measure success
How will you know if you are successful?
Example: If we continue to hear stories and see photos of members gathering, we’ll know that friendships are being built.
Understanding the connection between what you’re measuring and your ultimate goals can unlock new and unexpected paths for engaging with your community. For us at Holdette it meant I could invest more deeply in building 1:1 connections instead of spending time counting Geneva posts. What might it look like for you to develop programming or content that supports your bottom line goals?
Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on this topic and what you want to see next!