The formulae to calculate return, profit or ROI are simple to understand. Yet actually measuring the value of communities in any of these three forms is difficult. This is because measuring value means confronting five major challenges.
1. Data Collection
By far the most difficult challenge is collecting the necessary data to measure the value generated by communities. The data required to measure value is often not collected. There are several reasons for this.
The first is the difficulty in identifying what needs to be measured. Very few platforms come with an inbuilt system for measuring the ROI. This means it is left to the community professional to decide which metrics to collect. These metrics are often more closely related to activity (or key performance indicators) than to value created. For example, very few community professionals collect data on spending levels and compare this with levels of activity in the community. Yet, such data could be critical in order to measure the value of a community.
Few platforms have inbuilt ROI measurement. It's left to the community pro to decide which metrics to collect.
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Sometimes, missing data makes comparisons very difficult. Unless it is possible to benchmark current spending when members join, it might prove difficult to make comparisons a year later.
The second is obtaining the data once it has been identified. Very often, sales figures, salary data, overheads, and even historic CSAT metrics or NPS scores are difficult to obtain. This can be because the organization is reluctant to hand this data over to a community professional or there are other restrictions. For example, increasing data privacy laws limits the number of surveys that can be undertaken of members and the type of data that can legally be collected from members in many regions of the world.
The third is a time challenge. Identifying, collating, and tracking this data often takes considerable time. This is time that cannot be spent on increasing the engagement metrics, which are often the very metrics the community professional has used to justify their value in the past.