If you’ve just been hired for a branded community, you have one essential task.
I am dead serious about this. My first task when beginning a new community project is putting proper benchmarks in place.
By benchmarking, we mean collecting data and analyzing where your community is now. You want to know the growth figures, the participation figures, the sense of community data, and the current ROI of the community.
If you don’t have this data, you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. How can you set a plan of action without knowing where your community is now? You’re guessing.
There are clear benefits here:
1) You establish your value. When you work for a brand, you have a cost. Your cost needs to be justified in a value basis. You need to show the progress you’ve made in a manner people can follow. You need to state how the community is doing now and where it’s going. You can showcase now only your value now but what your value will be in the future.
2) You don’t get mired in your predecessor’s mistakes. If your predecessors haven’t done a great job, you want to draw a line under this. You want to clearly state what the problems are and focus on resolving them without being blamed for them.
3) You can develop a realistic community strategy. If you don’t know where you are now, how can you plot a place for the community to be in the future? I have sincere concerns about any professional community manager working without appropriate benchmarks.
4) It focuses your efforts on development over maintenance. When you benchmark, and share those benchmarks, you focus upon developing your community. Most branded community managers focus on maintaining their communities, with benchmarks you (and your colleagues) will focus upon developing the community. As Peter Drucker noted, what gets measured gets managed.
If a previous community manager has provided you data, check its validity. If you’re just starting a community, highlight what you’re going to measure now. If you’ve recently hired a professional community manager, ask them for their benchmarks.