ROI – what are your big questions?

We’re about to launch a big new resource which will demystify the ROI of community.

We’d like to know what your big questions are.

If you’re not able to communicate the ROI of your community to stakeholders now, what is it that’s holding you back?

  • Is it establishing ROI based objectives?
  • Deciding on metrics?
  • Data collection and analysis?
  • Aligning with organisational goals?
  • Communicating the value?

What is your biggest question or challenge around the ROI of your community?


Deciding what platform to use initially as proof of concept. Or why they should make the investment on a more scalable option upfront. Proof of concept is an absolute for current client. So for me the question is what hack do I use to prove its a good idea at all?

I agree with @weedwacker. It’s also about having data to back all your decisions and finding tools to gather that kind of data has not been very easy. Also communicating that the value of community cannot be concluded in terms of numbers, which can be doubled by increasing spending on marketing, but looking at long time engagement and “contribution” of the community. It’s convincing that investing in communities isn’t something that gives you results from day 1, but more in the coming days/months.

So you’d need to back up a bit and establish what it is that you’re trying to fix/solve/achieve by having a community first, right? And then you’d need to establish what success would look like and make projections based on that.

Ideally you’d do all that as part of your initial concept/strategy right?

I’m interested to hear from people that have read the ROI guide. Has it changed your approach to how you measure value within your community?

Hey Sarah; thank you for asking this question. A vector, it be; to put forth what I thought with my heart, and felt with my mind.

I thank Richard and those who contributed for writing this guide, as it gave me priceless information on various contexts, kinda like the written onion layers I mentioned previously.

Without this ROI guide I would still be in a blinding light.

Allowed me to step into a bit of shadow. Thus, I see with my special eyes a clarity. One that be my brand. *grin*

The ROI guide did not change my approach on how I measure value within any community.

It did, however, make me question if any of my previous contributions carry value in this community.

And, how FeverBee as a whole–the corporate entity ergo those who comprise it–values Community. Aye, a nominal capital ‘C’ to denote the concept, rather than any specific object or entity classified as a “community”.

As in, the definition of Community, and thus how clients of FeverBee plus the sponsors of the ROI guide see community. And what value it gives them.

Any business eventually shifts, transmutes based on what it decides to value, based on what kind of gain and profit comes in from current efforts. Aye, cause and effect. Stimulus, and response. “Take away of what does not appear to bring in what is valued the most. Keep doing more of what brings in what is valued the most.” This eventually firms into a standard, seen in the business itself and those who seek out this business for their business wares.

I see the Whole Picture, of FeverBee. I have pointed to it, yet only now with this ROI guide may I be allowed to see the Whole Picture.

If what they see gives them value, and thus value to uphold as a guide on that value, then it makes me ponder a larger value everyone sees; perceives, or decides to see. Everyone; those involved in Community as a whole to uptake then onboard others who see the same as they see, to define Community for this living medium called The Internet.

The guide also made me aware of my lack of qualifications to meet any sorta standard FeverBee has; one needed to be considered for hire as a consultant or manager. Math is my enemy, you see. And I would not be here if it involved that. At least, that is what I perceive. Please perceive accordingly.

I’ve just discovered this great resource today… I’ll keep on reading and give you more feedback next week.

But, to start, I would quote this sentence that has got me thinking:

“Online community’ is an umbrella term describing a broad range of approaches to achieve a range of goals.”

On a specific comprehension, we are just about to launch 3 online internal “communities” with that term. But we have already launched probably over 60 or 70 Team/Project/Event sites. Mostly dedicated to document management… so not “communities” in its stricter sense.

In other organisations such as Merck, they call them all: Rooms. I like it, it’s simple, straightforward. You go to a room to collaborate and share, whether it’s a project, a division or a community of interest.

Should we apply some of these ROI calculations to these other sites as well? Tough call. Their aims are to enable working together, collaboration, document sharing… some have forums but they are not really used (yet). We’re working on a strategy to increase their usage and value to solve our challenges and help us advance on our initiatives.

The reading of your articles will certainly challenge our approach to measuring the value of our diverse “communities/team/project/event” spaces…

Thanks again to your team. :slight_smile:

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I’m about halfway done with the guide, and I’m really enjoying it so far. But I feel like I’ve hit a pretty major wall. I’m working on defining the value of community on our marketplace platform. It seems that an important step will be to show how the value of our community members vs. our non community members.

For those of you running community for purely online companies, how do you distinguish a “community member” from a “non-community member”?

My company is a marketplace (think etsy-like) & we don’t have a button or anything on the site that says, “join our community.” Technically anyone who signs up for an account is a member of our site, and they can choose to sell things, comment on products, start threads in our forums, send private messages, make purchases or do anything really without taking an extra step of “joining the community.” I feel like this is likely the case for lots of purely online companies. So, in situations like this, how do you distinguish a “community member” from a “non-community member”? How am I suppose to prove the value of our community, if I can’t even define who our community is?

Hi Kelley – I don’t think you need to click a ‘Join the Community’ CTA to join a community. It sounds like everyone that has an account with you is a community member.

If you come at it from that perspective, is the calculation a fairly simple one?

I guess another pertinent question is are there account holders that don’t offer value (i.e. they don’t engage, or they don’t buy things, or they don’t do x) and if so, is there a cost to maintaining their account?

Hi @Ernesto_Izquierdo, the short answer is you absolutely can.

It’s not so much the terminology that is critical (rooms/community etc…) but the goal. Once you know what the goal is (reduce time, improve outcomes, reduce costs etc…) you can begin to determine whether the approach is working relatively easily.

What does the strategy look like at the moment?

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My first question would probably be why do you need to do this? What are you trying to measure/improve and to whom?

I think in this situation I’d distinguish between a community member and community activity.

You could measure the value of community activity and run various tests that should prove if there is value or not. If you wanted to, you could also measure (depending on the platform) the number of members who do participate in community activity (forums, send DMs, comment on products, start threads) and use this metric instead.

So you might want to run a trial with a small group you expose or promote the community to and see if the group increased their purchases compared with non-members.

I suppose the biggest reason I need to do this, is to show the value of the work my team (our community team) is doing. Our biggest goal on our community team is to create more engaged/connected members. But we have a really hard time getting resources and buy in from the rest of our team, because the they don’t see the value of creating engaged members (Think of comments like, “Why are you focusing on getting people to talk in the forums? We need to get people to purchase more products, let’s focus on things closer to the conversion.”).

I recently asked our data team if they could pull numbers for me on how various activities on the site are related to revenue. For example, what is the LTV of a user who has commented on a product vs. a user who hasn’t commented on a product? They pushed back quite a bit and didn’t end up pulling the info for me because they said tracking actions like this would only ever show correlation, not causation, so it wasn’t something we should look into.

I totally understand that, but I couldn’t think of a better way to track things in our community. Then I started reading this ROI guide. One thing that stuck out to me was this sentence, “If members are spending $100 per year before they join the community and $150 per year after they join the community, that’s a measurable impact.” If I can show that members were not “high spenders” until they performed a specific action, then I could possibly more closely tie the action to being the cause of the spending increase. The problem is that we don’t have a specific action to call out as, “This is the action that indicates somebody is ‘in the community.’” There are so many different things people can do on our site to engage with us and each other (I’ve got a list of 30+ things) so I don’t have any idea where to start. It just seems like it would be so nice to have one single indicator/action that says “This is a community member”

I guess my problem is that I don’t know what I would be calculating if I can’t distinguish a “community member” from a “non-community member.” How can I show that community members are super valuable to us, if I don’t have anyone to contrast them with (“Community members are more valuable than…”).

All of this came to mind while I was reading chapter 7 of this guide, where it says, “…we next need to determine how much of this change is attributable to the community and how much of this would have happened without the community. We can calculate this by comparing members with non-members. More specifically, we look at whether the spending of non-members increased or decreased during the same period. We then deduct this figure from the change observed in community members.”

If I don’t have any non-members to compare to, what is the calculation?

I think this is probably key for you. Nothing would happen in your business without the community.

I’m going to handball that one to @richard_millington

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That’s quite fair from their side, if the goal of engagement is to drive engagement then that’s probably not going to be associated with a high-value activity. If people are more engaged, what do you expect will happen? Once you have that information, you should be able to setup a trial.

They are right on the correlation comment, but once you establish that correlation (or take it one level further into a regression analysis), you can run an experiment or make predictions and see what happens. You really need a group of people you can ‘expose’ to the community or community activity and then track their spending (or whatever metric they need).

Also worth checking out the final section of the ROI project on stakeholder management and communications.

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