Over the past few weeks, we’ve scraped the data from over a dozen brand communities to measure the impact of COVID-19 on community participation.
The data has been fascinating.
On average, there has been a significant increase in participation (posts per day) across most communities.
Community participation rose from an average of 277 posts per day in February to 450 posts per day in April (an increase of 62%).
However, when we break this down by community, we can see huge variations.
The biggest increases were not in the communities we expected (retail/entertainment). Instead, they were as follows (as a %):
- Tableau – 1150%
- Dell – 327%
- Titleist – 193%
The biggest declines were more predictable:
- TomTom: -30%
- Fitbit: -1%
This is interesting but doesn’t exactly help you determine if your community is performing or underperforming by sector. So next we aggregated the data into five unique sectors and looked at the impact upon communities.
In absolute terms, the biggest increases have been in tech, entertainment, and retail. Each of which had the highest level of participation to begin with.
However, in percentage terms the biggest increase has been seen in comms which has seen a 141% increase compared with 68% and 66% for entertainment and retail.
These are still fairly broad metrics, but they should provide some idea of the increase you are likely to be seeing.
Why Are Posts Going Up?
There are two reasons why participation in a community might be increasing. Either your current members are participating more or you’re attracting more members.
We explored both questions.
Are Members Participating More?
The simple answer is yes (unless your community is in retail).
The number of posts active members are making has increased in every sector except retail. Members of tech communities saw a significant increase (possibly conversion of calls and tickets into asking the community).
It’s interesting here to note just how much participation varies by community type.
Entertainment and comms-based communities have relatively low levels of participation per active member. Non-profits have typically far higher (aligned to the right axis) levels of participation per active member.
With the exception of retail, all communities saw an increase in the average number of posts an active member is publishing.
Are More Members Participating?
Next, we examined whether the total number of active members had risen. Here the data was equally revealing.
Every sector has seen an increase in the number of daily active participants between February and April. The average community in comms had the biggest increase of 152% with entertainment and retail close behind.
Why Has Participation Risen?
The answer varies significantly by the community sector as we can see below.
In comms, retail, and entertainment, we’re seeing a flood of new members joining these communities. This likely represents a shift in behavior from asking questions in one channel (i.e. customer support) to asking questions in the community instead.
The key challenge in this sector is retention of newcomers by providing a superior experience to previous channels.
In tech, the increase is largely down to existing members participating almost twice as much. There are plenty of possible explanations for this, I’d speculate it’s a sense of connection from people working from home.
In non-profit, the increase is a 50% split between the two (but the sample size is tiny).
You can compare your increase/decrease based upon the breakdown above. Note that the metrics are likely to return to normal over the long-term. You have a relatively short window to demonstrate the community is the best means for your new members to achieve their goals.