General Standard for Typical Community Growth?


(Rebecca Braglio) #1

Hi everyone,
Under a massive time crunch here - can anyone point me to something that discusses general trends for healthy growth in online community? I have been asked to provide projected KPIs (typical community KPIs like new registrations, # of posts, amount of traffic to site) for next 3 years - by end of day today! Ridic!

Our first year we blew our KPI’s out the window - but I feel that was only because the community was acquired by a larger company that transferred 50,000 members over to the community. There’s a clear reason for such a massive spike in engagement. However, one would expect that now that the fanfare is over, we will have a significant drop, or at least start to level out our increased activity. I need to get our projected KPIs LOWER than what we met this year because I don’t believe we can meet them, we need something more realistic (how they came to those KPIs is a whole other problem).

I suppose what I’m looking for is actual research that looks into what one would typically see in KPIs (or should expect to see) from a new online community over a period of 3 years. The community is a not-for-profit professional membership association.

Anyone? HELP!


(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey Rebecca,
This is the best that I can come up with. Hopefully someone with personal experience can jump in here. I’ll call out Rich in case he knows of someone that might be able to assist. Best of luck.

Ping @richard_millington


(Richard Millington) #3

Hey Rebecca,

This depends on so many things.

A few rules of thumb.

  • Inception stage community - 50% growth in all metrics over 3 months.
  • Establishment stage community - 25% growth in all metrics over 3 months.
  • Early maturity stage community - 10% growth in all metrics over 3 months.
  • Late maturity stage community - 5% growth in all metrics over 3 months.

But this really will depend upon so many things.

This lifecycle might help too.

Good luck.


(Nick Emmett) #4

I was just going to link to the lifecycle here too @richard_millington . Communties are so different to each other I think it’s really hard to determine a set of typical growth KPIs. The chart that Rich links to, however, is incredibly useful as a guide and one I’m finding myself referring to quite a lot lately.


(Rebecca Braglio) #5

Thanks @HAWK - so these I do have (although we currently can’t measure most of them).


(Rebecca Braglio) #6

Perfect - this is exactly what I’m looking for Rich! I actually pulled the lifecycle chart this morning along with one of your presentations on community ROI. I feel in MUCH better shape now.

It’s such an oddball situation:

  1. Large organization has huge membership in their online community, but it’s dead.
  2. Large org acquires little company’s website, that is really an online magazine with forums thrown on. Little org has large email database (500,000) but probably only 25 active members each month (most of whom are paid).
  3. Large org transitions their dead online community over to little company’s website (marketing it as a community, even though it’s really not). Large company does have about 10 super-users who are onboard with the transition and have helped out with marketing/recruiting.
  4. Obvious massive surge in profiles created/updated by large org members who are excited to see this new “community.” Lots of basic activity (avatars updated, profiles filled out, comments on articles, few questions posted) going on in first 3 months, we blow our KPIs out the window.
  5. New “community” has functionality and massive design issues, the novelty has worn off and members are frustrated with site. Can’t find their way around, too confusing, unappealing to be in.
  6. Now I need to justify why I think we need to be prepared for a dip until we get our most pressing issues fixed, and that we may not be able to get back the active members who now have a “bad taste in their mouths” from the poor user experience.

I’ll let you know how it unfolds!


(Rebecca Braglio) #7

Here’s my promised update:

I felt the main problem with making an education projection was because we transitioned one (not very active) community into another website that didn’t really have much of a community (more of an online magazine). While the new site had a long history, it was very slow growth.

I suspected that we had already maxed out all of the members of the old community - basically, all of our active users were the users who had already bought into the online forum idea because they were members of the old community. I determined how many of those* members* were converted into creating profiles in the new community. Out of 100,000 of the old community members, 93,000 had converted.

I then argued that we were now tasked with converting the remaining members who 1) didn’t want to participate in community the first time around and 2) didn’t take the bait to participate with the new community acquisition. Keeping that in mind, we need to really examine our current marketing strategies and what we are offering to determine why members aren’t seeing the value and benefit of the community. Clearly, what they have been doing up until now isn’t working. There are several easy wins (like having an email flow, fixing navigation) that we can start on right away.

So, based on the history of the growth new community combined with the amount of members of the old community who converted, I recommended a 10% growth goal but we are targeting for 15% growth, with a stretch goal of 20%. Some of my recommendations were different based on other metrics (like UGC growth, new acquisition, etc.)