How do you quantify the value of an online community?

Online Communities are similar to and different from their physical counterparts
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What’s the value of community?

How can you define both the idea of a community and the value of that community for a marketer?

A physical community can be hard to describe, and hard to grasp, as Phil Bartle suggests,

“we can not see a whole community, we can not touch it, and we can not directly experience it….Like the words “hill” or “snowflake,” a community may come in one of many shapes, sizes, colours and locations, no two of which are alike.”

An online community is a strange thing – it’s a hybrid of an idea (a shared space that people experience through their computers, tablets, and phones) and a thing – the interaction of that community in many channels (both online and offline.)

I propose a simple definition for the kind of community that marketers care about – a community is a place where people talk about and to the makers of your product. One of these communities happens online (we’re not not talking about channels – we’re talking about relationships with people)

Communities provide a place where you can have a conversation about the meaning and purpose of your brand, promote new ideas and products, and learn more about how people feel when they interact with you and your team. They are also places where you can guide the conversation, and not control it.

And by the way, how can you evaluate that?

Once you’ve defined the idea of a community, you need to find out who’s participating there. And establishing some hard and soft measurements of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will help you measure your progress so that you can know (both directionally and absolutely) whether anything is changing in your community and who’s talking about and to you.

One of the first things you need to do for your community is to learn more about the people who are already there. Who are the existing influencers? Where are they talking now? To whom are they talking, and how often do you engage with them? There are lots of tools and services that can help with this process, and if you stay focused on the idea of activating your 1000 true fans or identifying the 1% of web visitors who contribute the most content.

Ok, so get talking. But that’s really just the beginning. Continue reading “How do you quantify the value of an online community?”

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