Metal detectives trawl a patch of land, dig up anything that beeps, and then look to see if any of it was valuable.
Archeologists, however, know they’re looking for something valuable. They research where the ancient battle (probably) took place and then go looking for the arrowheads.
Too often community work is more similar to metal detecting than archeology.
Instead of beginning with a clear objective and driving exactly the activity to achieve it (archeology), we drive a lot of engagement and hope some of it was valuable (metal detecting).
If you’ve ever wondered “what is the value of my community?”, you’re metal detecting.
Sure, random engagement might influence loyalty, sales, support, satisfaction, and productivity (and you can measure this too). But why leave it to chance?
You’re far more likely to get results if you’re really clear about the results you want to begin with. If you want great case studies for the PR team, terrific feedback for engineering, more newcomers progressing beyond the trial period etc…you can ask members to do the very things likely to drive these results and measure how many members did them.
Metal detecting is for hobbyists, archeology is for professionals.