Estimating active members and visitor to an online community


I am trying to make a business case (inc. calculating expected ROI) for an online, branded community.

I have read the article “How Many Members Do you Need To Build a Million Dollar Community” and “How to Calculate ROI on Online Communities” but to apply this information to my cause I need some additional information.

I want to estimate the number of active members/contributors and visitors based on the customer base. The purpose is to evaluate potential value of a community prior to establishing it.

I have the following questions, mostly related to the article “How Many Members Do you Need To Build a Million Dollar Community”:

  1. The definition of active contributor. Is “active contributor” the same as “active member”, and is the definition “members that have made a contribution during the last month” correct in this case?

  2. Benchmark on share of members that are active members/contributors and former members (passives)? E.g. Sonos has~270 000 members - how many can we expect to be active?

  3. Benchmark on share of new customers one can expect to visit (non-members) and contribute (active members) to the community?

  4. When launching a community, benchmark on share of customer base one can expect to become active members/contributors.

Based on this quote under “The Lurker Multiplier”:
“There isn’t much hard data on the number of lurkers most communities have. The client data we have varies between 99.80% and 95% of all visitors to the community. I wouldn’t be surprised if it stretched way beyond that for the larger communities too.”:

  1. What is the definition of a “lurker”, and what is the opposite of a “lurker”?

  2. The difference between 95 and 99.8% in terms of number of visitors/“lurkers” you can expect per contributor is huge.
    For 95%: 1 contributor = 20 visitors.
    For 99.8%: 1 contributor = 500 visitors.
    I would assume the number grows with the community size, customer base and brand awareness - do you agree that’s a reasonable assumption? And do you agree that this can be applied to calculate estimated number of visitors?

Other information that can help us estimate visitors and contribution to the community based on customer base is highly appreciated!


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Welcome to the community @marih.

I’d be careful about over extrapolating from one article :slight_smile:

There are a lot of caveats in there which I’d note. Especially relating to the type of community. However, the size of the customer base perhaps isn’t as useful a proxy metric here as the number of customers to your website. How many people visit your support center today?

You can probably estimate something in the region using how many people click on the support tab today.

You can use this model if you like: (copy and edit the red sections as needed).

Yes, active contributor is someone who has made a contribution and not just visited. Let me know if this helps.


Thank you for the model, it seems very helpful and intuitive.

Can you say something about what the model is based on? If I am to use the output from this model in further discussions with my colleuges I should be able to say a few words about it.
Note that we will be very careful about how much we rely on these estimates. It’s just to get a vague idea about what to expect. :slight_smile:

Some questions on how to use the model:

  1. “Direct & Search Traffic”
    Regarding the field “Direct search traffic to the community” - would that typically be traffic to the community from search engines?

  2. “Existing audience(s)”
    In the field “Community visits from direct / homepage redirection” - Would it be correct to use the traffic on our Support page (Called FAQ & Support on our web page) here?

    I would assume the traffic to FAQ & Support is higher than to a Community (from the homepage). Wouldn’t a community typically be placed under the Support page?

    Maybe it would be more accurate to use traffic to the Support page in the field “Homepage (not logged in) visitors” - thoughts?


Does anyone know what “Total active members (>1 w/ 30) at year end” means?

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It’s the number of people whom have started a discussion, published a reply, or shared an idea in a community within the previous 30 days.

Hi Mari, you didn’t say what the purpose of your community is…are you building a “support” oriented community aimed at call deflection? Or is it for brand awareness/SEO purposes? Or perhaps influencer engagement? customer retention? If you can share generally which direction you’re aiming at, we might be able to help you home in on which of your current pages would work best as a “guesstimate” for your visitor traffic.