Imagine you sell skis.
You build a community for skiers. Not just any skiers, but novice skiers.
You leverage your relationships with customers to develop a small community that rapidly grows into a large community. It’s a welcoming crowd. They discuss how they got into skiing, they share tips and trade product advice. You begin arranging events for your skiers, who also invite their skiing buddies to join. You let top community members try out new products.
Now it’s really starting to grow.
You let skiers provide feedback on the latest models; you drip information to your community first (causing more people to join to get the latest news before their friends). Your events start becoming quite big too. You invite top skiers to talk to your customers both online and offline.
You create a branded ski just for community members that proves popular. You provide an option to provide customized skis (with the member’s name on). You create beginner-level customized content and reviews of courses for novices. Hundreds are sharing their experience, advice and novice anecdotes. You create a book of these stories and it's shared across the web.
Then your boss cancels the community because the click through rate from the community to the product site was low.
You can’t measure the value of a community purely through clicks. A sense of community, lifetime customer loyalty, referrals to the community and can’t be measured through clicks. The easiest measurement isn't the best. At the very least, those familiar with your company will know to visit the site directly to make their purchases instead of going through the community
Now you could blame the boss for this tragedy. S/he should recognise the value of the community. But, how can they? They’re not the experts, they’re relying upon their own experience to make these judgements. It’s your fault. You didn’t establish boundaries, expectations, or means of measuring the community when you began.
You need to establish a means of measuring the community’s benefit to an organization, even if it’s using a sampling method (members –vs- non-members of similar backgrounds).
You need to build and collect your evidence. Whenever someone questions the value of community, you need to ace that question. You need to provide an impressive amount of data and anecdotal stories that will blow them away.
Even better, don’t wait for the question to rise to prove the value of the community. Proactively study the community, collect data and present that information. Don't even let the question arise.
Note: We will be studying ROI in depth as part of the Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management course. Click here if you want to be told when you can enrol for the course.