Membership Memo: Measure Much?

New online communities mean new data to track.

Today’s online community platforms for associations are far more powerful than their email-based predecessors, but there’s a catch: All that trackable activity means a mountain of data, and someone has to make some sense of it.

Enter the online community manager. John Y. Chen, communications and marketing manager at NALP—The Association for Legal Career Professionals, fills that role for its year-old member community, NALPconnect. He estimates assembling metric reports from NALPconnect takes a full workday, which he does eight to 10 times per year. But NALP’s board and executive management love seeing the data.

“This is really the first time that they’ve been able to see who’s a part of each of these [member] sections, because now with this community, there’s an online home for each one,” he says. They’ve also gained insight into members’ work from seeing how activity ebbs and flows during certain parts of the year.

So, what data does Chen track? A lot, but the core metrics are member logins, announcements, discussions, replies, and documents posted. He breaks these down by quarter as well as by NALP’s sections and regions, and he compares against industry benchmarks, where possible.

The role of online community manager didn’t exist in associations until a few years ago, so Chen is in a small but growing group of professionals figuring out best practices as they go, often with technology still in its nascent stages.

“The community manager’s limited to whatever reporting or tracking that the vendor has made available for their communities,” he says. “If there are metrics or numbers or things that I want to see that they don’t have a report for, I either have to scrap that metric or I have to figure out a way of manually doing it.”

NALP had a clear goal for its first year with NALPconnect—to enable its volunteer groups to communicate and collaborate more effectively—which Chen says has helped focus his efforts to measure success.

“If you’re trying to determine goals for your community, make sure that those align with your organizational culture and also your organization’s strategic plan,” he says.

(Corbis RF Images)

Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!