Measuring Impact Of Online Communities

The key takeaway from the Leader Networks’ survey of more than 271 marketing and community professionals, reported by Vanessa DiMauro, Jessica Fish, and Kim Burke, shows that, although 92% of community leaders believe that their online communities have an impact on the business, 35% lack meaningful metrics to report success in business terms.

An online community has a business plan that is designed to support a least 1-2 business needs, has an executive sponsor and dedicated staff, and has defined success measures, and typically takes place on an owned platform, notes the report.

According to the survey, marketing and community leaders share their insight in five key categories:

Competitive advantage: Competitive advantage means keeping existing customers…

For 57% of marketing and community leaders, competitive advantage means retaining current customers. Despite this, says the report, 37% of organizations have not integrated their communities with the company’s CRM system, preventing community leaders from syncing interactions and data across the customer lifecycle.

Bottom-line growth/savings: There is a need for better reporting on communities…

45% of marketing and community leaders say that their community reduces costs for their organization. But an additional 37% don’t know if their community saves them money on support, customer retention, marketing, or other expenditures, says the report, and 25% don’t know or don’t track their community expenses in total.

Top-line growth/revenue: Success measures take place on an owned platform…

49% of community leaders say that their community generates or influences revenue. But mature communities have a greater impact on top-line growth, as more than half of communities that saw a revenue gain of greater than $1M last year, are at least five years old.

Influence and Operations: Marketers are at the helm of online communities…

Marketing is the primary owner of the community  for 79% of organizations (an incredibly strategic position, notes the report) although many other lines of business are involved in community initiatives. This status puts marketers in a highly visible and relevant role: including departments to create and sustain relationships with the business’ most critical assets – customers, partners, and employees.

Measures of success: a standard of measurement is emerging…

72% of community leaders face challenges related to analyzing and reporting data– and an additional 22% lack reporting tools. However, marketing and community leaders shared the top community success measures they are tracking, ranging from vanity and baseline metrics to sophisticated business-focused metrics.

Leader Networks research report sponsored by Higher Logic and The Conference Board, and is based on an online survey of more than 271 marketing and community leaders who work for a range of industries including computers, non-profit, healthcare/medical, education, marketing/market research and PR, manufacturing, Internet, consulting, publishing, and legal.

For more information about the Community Impact Framework, and to access the complete results and analysis of the survey, download the full report here.  The Business Impact of Online Communities.

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