How to Calculate the ROI of Online Communities

By Richard Millington

ROI People

A huge thank you to everyone who helped provide the research that made this project possible. This includes:

  • Jeanne Carboni from SAP for helping conceive of the project, working with me to develop this project, providing input into measuring ROI and giving early feedback on this project.
  • Gali Kling Schneider from SAP for providing feedback and direction on this project. Also for her input in measuring the return on investment within large organizations.
  • Malin Liden from SAP for signing off on this project and being a committed advocate to establishing the ROI using real, practical, methods.
  • Dr. Michael Wu from Lithium for being an ever-generous foundation of unlimited knowledge in this field. Dr. Wu provided some of the best knowledge on the challenges in calculating the return on investment for a variety of mechanisms and helped tackle challenges such as measuring the ROI of improving CSAT scores.
  • Joe Cothrel from Lithium for being one of the first people to research this from an academic stance and sending through copies of his journal articles which help prove the value of online communities in business.
  • Kritti Kapoor from HP for providing plenty of background material on measuring the ROI of customer service communities.
  • Dr. Natalie Petehouf from Constellation Research who provided some of the earliest and easily some of the best material on the subject. This includes this article with Forrester which outlined a lot of the costs we used this project.
  • Matthew Lees from Oracle who made this terrific contribution which we used to help identify several possible types of ROI.
  • Rachel Happe and the team from the Community Roundtable who tackle the same problem from different angles.
  • The author of this article from Call Center Helper which helped establish and refine our approach to measuring the ROI of customer service communities.
  • Maia Josebachvili from Greenhouse for helping people to understand the ROI of investing in people which helped refine our time-to-full-productivity metrics.
  • David Millen, Michael Fontaine, and Michael Muller for this 2002 article on measuring the costs of a community of practice.

To the many 11 other individuals who provided background material on this guide but requested we did not directly name them. You know who you are.

And to those whose opinions we might disagree with. Your opinions challenge us to push harder every day to prove that communities do have value, that this value can be established, and the real challenge is how we communicate with stakeholders.

If we all agreed with each other, this project wouldn’t exist.




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