Measuring the Value of Your Online Community

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This is a podcast episode titled, Measuring the Value of Your Online Community. The summary for this episode is: <p>Industry data tells you that online communities contribute to key business goals like retention, satisfaction, and loyalty. And you’ve seen the evidence time and again that your community helps your members or customers be more successful. But quantifying that value for your specific community can be challenging.</p><p>Tune into a panel discussion with three community experts. We’ll discuss how they tackle this challenge and share ideas you can use to measure and communicate your community’s value to stakeholders and leadership.</p>
Measuring the Success for Your Community
00:57 MIN
Knowing How Members Found Out About Your Community
00:43 MIN
Creating Engagement in Your Community
01:03 MIN
Key Metrics for Community, and Getting More Engagement Internally
01:57 MIN

Alex Mastrianni: Welcome to The Member Engagement Show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members and deepen member involvement.

Heather McNair: Throughout our show, we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex Mastrianni: I'm Alex Mastrianni, and we're happy you're here. Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of The Member Engagement Show. A couple of weeks ago, you heard from a panel of our engagement experts on Three Engagement Strategies That Work. Today I'm excited to bring to you another panel session in our engagement expert series, this time on Measuring What Matters: The Value of Your Online Community. Jeff Breunsbach director of customer experience at Higher Logic is back moderating our panel. And you'll hear from three other speakers. Chris Detzel, he's the community program manager at Reltio, Marjorie Anderson, product manager at Project Management Institute, and Kim FitzSimmons, chief marketing and communications officer at American Association of Endodontists. They'll share how they're tackling the challenge of measuring the impact of different engagement strategies that they're using, and give some tips on how you can measure and communicate your own community's value to stakeholders and leadership. Hope you enjoy what they have to say. And please share your feedback and thoughts over on the Higher Logic Linkedin posts all about this episode.

Jeff Breunsbach: Excited to be here today. I'm Jeff Breunsbach, I'm the director of customer experience here at Higher Logic. I'm also a community builder, and community manager of Gain Grow Retain, which is a customer success leadership community. So excited. Our topic today is measuring what matters. And what we wanted to do is bring together a number of our engagement experts from the community, from the session at large, and just make sure that we could bring ideas to the table. Hopefully have a somewhat easy and natural conversation about community, about engagement and about what's happening. So without further ado, I've got some awesome panelists with me today. So I figured we could go around the room and just get your name? What you're doing today? Where you're working? And a fun question, at least for me right now is, if you were going to go build a community around a hobby that you have, a passion, something that's in your life, what is the community that you would build? Something hopefully outside of your day- to- day work, but we'd love to know that for you all. So Chris, do you mind getting us started?

Chris Detzel: Absolutely. So I'm Chris Detzel, and I'm the community program manager at Reltio, it's a master data management, all about data. So it's a peer- to- peer and support community for customers and partners. So fun a little community that I've already built and already have is a running community in the Dallas – Fort Worth area called DFW Running Group. So I think I have 2, 400 people in it, and so it's a lot of fun. But I do spend some time in that particular community. So yeah, there you go.

Jeff Breunsbach: I love it. That's awesome. I like asking that question because you get to learn a little bit. So now we know Chris is coming to us from Dallas and he's a big runner, so something new. Kim, do you mind telling us a little about yourself?

Kim FitzSimmons: Sure. Hi, I'm Kim FitzSimmons, I'm the chief marketing and communications officer at the American Association of Endodontists, we're a professional organization supporting root canal specialists. And actually I do run a community, it's around Our Lake community. We are big boaters and enjoy that life. So that's a little community that I currently run, but we've really gotten into wake surfing in the last year. So that's something that I would love to start a community, and learn some tips because I'm definitely not very good at it.

Jeff Breunsbach: That's awesome. Anything out in the water seems like it would be perfect heading into the summer. Even last summer, maybe even during quarantine, would've been perfect to be out in the water on an open lake or open body would be awesome. So awesome.

Kim FitzSimmons: crosstalk.

Jeff Breunsbach: Awesome. Good to have you here Kim. And-

Kim FitzSimmons: Thanks.

Jeff Breunsbach: ...Marjorie, why don't you bring us home here, and tell us a little about yourself?

Marjorie Anderson: Hi everyone? I'm Marjorie Anderson, I'm the product manager for community at product, excuse me, Project Management Institute. We are the world's largest Project Management Membership Association, changing the project management profession. I also run Community by Association, which is an organization dedicated to the advancement of practitioners, community practitioners in those spaces. If I was to build a community outside of normal day- to- day stuff, it would be a community of people who love theater, musical theater, all other kinds of theater. It was a great love of mine in high school, so it's a great love of mine today. And there's nothing better than getting a bunch of theater geeks together, and talking about our favorite plays. So that's what I would build.

Jeff Breunsbach: I love it. That's such a good one. Since I asked you all, I'll play the game as well. I've already built a customer success community, but that's a part of my day- to- day. But I love cooking, especially Italian food. My wife and I are really big into making homemade pasta right now. So if I could start any little Italian cooking community, I think that is what I would probably look at. I love bread and pasta too much. So that's just something that, to me, it would be fun to do. And you have a passionate other theater geek member Marjorie, Derrick. Derrick I understand I already mentioned that he's excited about that community, so if you go build it, I think Derrick would definitely come join.

Marjorie Anderson: I'm nowhere there. crosstalk.

Jeff Breunsbach: First of all, we've got a really awesome session today, and we've three major questions that we're going to hopefully get through. First is around measuring. So what key goals and measurements are you using to measure success in your community, as you're thinking about engaging with your members, your customers? The second is around tracking. So how do whether the tactics that you're actually utilizing are impacting the community and the organizational goals? And then the third is around communicating. So what are the different ways that you're demonstrating value to others in the organization? How are you telling that story, and really making sure that communities coming through when you're inside the organization and having some of those discussions? So those are the three big hits that we're going to try and get through. Like I mentioned, if you have other topics, questions, things that you're wanting us to get to, I'm going to try and seed those throughout. So please jump into the questions box, I know there's already a couple of you in there. So jump in there, add anything, and we'll try and make sure and get to it. But I think maybe just to start us off, I think one of the, we'll say it's a softball question, it should be a fastball, right over the middle, so to speak, during baseball season. What are some of the goals and key measurements and right now how would you say that you're measuring success for your community? So maybe Marjorie, let's start with you. How do you think about success and measuring that for your community that you have today?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. That's a great question. When we look at success and measuring that for the current community we have, our community is specific to project management professionals globally. So not only does that community exist to connect people to one another, but it also exists to connect people to products, services, experiences throughout the organization, that allows people to grow as they go throughout their customer journey. So when we're looking at the types of things that we want to accomplish through that community, it's not only connecting people and allowing them the opportunity to share content, that's a big part of how they interact with the community. Not only just share content, but share quality content that their peers recognize is helpful. And then the other piece of that is how do we get them connected to the rest of the organization? So it's two- pronged, it's practitioner support and then connection to other products and services to help make them more successful. And when we're looking at what those measures are, we look at three key things. The first thing we look at is community vibrancy, how many people are coming back to the community? How many people are bringing others with them? How many people are unique to our community? That are new? That are coming in? We also look at engagement, how well is that content doing that people are putting out? How often are they putting out that content? Are they sharing that content? And then we looked at the impact to products and services. How well are we helping to support membership purchases? How well are we helping to support with discovery of new products and services? How well are we enabling the ability for the organization as a whole to discover new ways to serve our members? And so, broadly, that's how we're looking at whether or not the things that we say we set out to do are actually working.

Jeff Breunsbach: I love the thing that you mentioned about the two- pronged approach, and then having three measures underneath that. So it sounds like you've already started to architect that story. So I can't wait to get into that question later about how you're telling that internally. But a couple of things that maybe just stood out to me is how you use the word vibrancy, I really liked that. And how you thought about, are people coming back to the community? And are they bringing people with them? I think about that quite a bit, especially in our Gain Grow Retain communities, you think about referrals, you think about if somebody is getting true value? The heart of the NPS question that we ask in the business world a lot of times is, are you going to be referring a friend or a colleague? And there's no better way to actually test that than if somebody actually is referring a friend and colleague and bringing them in. So I thought that was just really important. And then you mentioned, obviously the impact, how is it supporting other parts of the business? Because the community is not the only point of value for somebody coming into the organization, right? It is a staple of what they get, but there also is other things that they can be doing. And so, how have we built our content, and built the way our programs around helping to support other things? So those are a couple of things that stood out to me, but I still can't get over that vibrancy. I love that. It's a really good way to depict it. I might steal that. So I'll have to give you credit. Kim, how about you, how are you measuring success? What does that mean to you as you start thinking about the community that you all run and the members that you have?

Kim FitzSimmons: Sure. Actually we really look at, from metrics that can be health and engagement. And in addition to that, then how are we supporting our business needs? And first when we're looking at the health and the engagement, and I find that that's so much of what our leadership, our committees and our board are looking at. And that's the activity, what engagement do we have on posting? What's that ratio to the number of members we have in the community to then looking at value? Are people responding to? Are they liking it? Are they sharing it? Are they doing private message? And then reach, how many of our members are participating in it? So that's really how we're looking at our health and engagement. And then the business side, we started to try and align that and that's still, we'd love to one day be at the point where we could actually track conversions back, we're not there. But really looking at what other areas of our association I can support. And that's really been new to our organization. And when we get to the storytelling that helps tell a broader story to your board and to your leadership about the value of communities.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Obviously the health and engagement piece starts to become really critical. The idea of starting a community is one thing, but then the idea of creating a community that's driving value, that people are coming back to, health and engagement seem to be to the focal points that we hear a lot of people talk about. One, maybe just a quick follow up for you too Kim is, you mentioned you're in the early days of some of these elements. And so, have there been any missteps so far? Have you maybe tried some metrics or looked at some things that you thought maybe were going to be really important then you've had to shift your thinking there at all? Is there anything that comes to mind maybe over the first, like you said, early days that you've been doing this?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. So as we look at trying to engage like with AMS on certain webinar or educational content, trying to tie that back to our annual meeting. We've been tracking those metrics, and we're getting mediocre results. So we have to go back to the drawing board on that, but at least we're starting to get that information and track that so that we know this one's a little bit more successful than the other. And so, that's a tactic that we were using to try and engage on our membership and educational webinars.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. So something that I've always just tried to adopt, I think even just outside of community, just in operating in the businesses is, how can you get into that mindset of testing and trying to build cohorts and tests in ways that you can try and prove really small results as you go? And so I think, just to your point Kim, getting in this mode of, " Hey, we're new to this, we're holding in metrics maybe that we haven't before. We're getting over the hump and trying to figure out how can you create cohorts or small groups that you can test that on, and start seeing minor things that we can look at as we start really ramping out full programs, so that you can continue to focus the resources in the right area." I think it makes a lot of sense as well. So I know we've done that quite a bit. Chris, how about you? What are some of the things that you think about when you're measuring your community over at Reltio?

Chris Detzel: Yeah. So when I think of metrics and things like that, so by the way Reltio's community is very new. So the things that I always tell folks is this, " At the end of the day be kind to yourself." When you start a community, it doesn't have to be this out of control metrics. You might blow it out of the water at the end of the year, but it's okay. You don't know what you don't know. I don't know, but you don't always have to know. And so, the way I look at metrics for a support community and peer- to- peer community is, you got to start somewhere. And so, what we've done is as I look at the strategic goals of the business, and I reside in customer success, and then I try to tie that community goals into those strategic things, if you will. So for example, 50% tier one support issues. So we want to put out lots of really good questions about our products and answers, so that customers can get the answers to them quickly, but to do that, you have to acquire customers. So my goal is there to really focus in on 300 users by the end of the year. I think we'll have triple that maybe, maybe a little less. And then the other piece that you can track, and find easily is organic SEO. So we have an open community that is indexed by Google, right? So when a customer, partner, or whoever wants to search community, then they can go on to Google, not community, but search for a question about our product and get that answer quickly. And so, the way we're doing that is building a webinar program that focuses deep into our product or a video, which also creates videos, but also blogs and stuff like that to get that stuff. And then we also track percentage of active users on the community. So how do we look at that fierce advocacy, right? And what are some of the things that we track? We don't have to go into all those, but under each one of those, I have initiatives that are focused in on, and then some of the things that I try. Does that answer the question?

Jeff Breunsbach: It does. Yeah. No. I think this is great. This is like a prime time example. I think what Marjorie and Kim outlined as well, so I was thinking about how do you, for instance, Marjorie had her two overarching themes, right? And then had three metrics or measures underneath that. So it seems similar to the outline that you have Chris. And I like a couple of things that you mentioned there, which is you don't have to start off big, like you said, you're starting off with getting 300 members, hopefully to 900. And there's impacts there with 300, I'd imagine already you've already probably seen that. I know you just launched back in April, at the end of April, so you're 30 days in. But you're probably already finding things like some early champions, some early product experts that you want to keep engaged. And those things start to matter when you start thinking about that for your advocacy. The other thing I liked that you mentioned in there as well is, that story in architecting that, I think a lot of times it gets lost because we think about metrics, but metrics only tell a little bit of the story. And so-

Chris Detzel: True.

Jeff Breunsbach: ...internally you need to go build the rallying cries. You need to make sure everyone understands how this folds up into other initiatives that you're working on. So the idea of tying it back in themes, telling that story, having measures that people can clearly see, " Hey, it's really becoming a yes or no question, are we hitting this metric or not?" I think in the way that you outlined a bunch of those. So I liked that approach quite a bit. There's a couple of questions I want to maybe just fold into our conversation that I've seen come into the chat. So one easy one is, how big are the communities that you all manage? And I'll let you determine how you want to say that. I don't know if it's members, or if it's number of organizations maybe that are in there, if you're comfortable with saying it or not. So I'm going to leave that open for a minute. And if you want to jump in, jump in, and then I'll jump to the next question.

Kim FitzSimmons: Sure. Our community is about 8, 000 members.

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. The community for our is a little over 700,000 members crosstalk.

Chris Detzel: We don't have that many. So we're really a month in, and we're at actually 300 members, and that's it. But we have nowhere else but to go up.

Jeff Breunsbach: This is a good group, right? 300, 8, 000, 700,000 so I think if anybody has a question here, we've got it covered from all angles. And I know Chris, you've been doing this awhile, so you've definitely managed to do these that are more than 300 members as well. The second question is coming out of, I think some of your discussions earlier. One Marjorie for you is, how do you determine now somebody's bringing others to the community with them? Is there any way that you're specifically measuring that, or looking into tracking that right now? How does that come about right now for you in terms of trying to attract some of that vibrancy you mentioned?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. That's a really great question. And one of the things that I completely love about our community members is that they have no shame. They'll be like, " Hey, I brought some people with me and here they are, this is who those people are." Or as people come into the community, they will say, " So- and- so helped me find this community, so glad I did." So it's, for the most part anecdotally. People are telling us how they're finding us. And they're coming from social spaces, they are coming from personal networks, they're coming from organizations where we have relationships with. So people are telling us if someone is bringing them along, and then they in turn will tell us if they plan to bring someone along. So because we're such a mature community and have that history with a lot of these community members, they're not shy about letting us know how they found us or where they came from. We don't have anything on the backend tracking like that referral type of traffic, but we can certainly see who brought someone along just based off of what people say once they enter the community.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. And I think I've seen two examples too, of how some of that tracking has panned out. For Gain Grow Retain right now in the sign up form, one of the things I did was, I think similar to you, we just said, " Hey, how did you find out about us?" And if they click referred from somebody else, we just ask like, " Hey, put that person's name in." And then we can try and go track on the backend. And then we see tons of referral software that's out there that you can try and put in. It takes a little bit, I think of a technical chops, so we're not at that stage yet. But I think to your point, sometimes it's just as easy as even just putting a simple question out there, and trying to get some of that anecdotal information. Because those are things also that you probably feel all right when you're in conversations and people start to know each other, you start to understand where the relationships lie. So I think that's a good part. A couple other questions that have hopped in here, I think that might be good. And then we can maybe pop forward to our next big one, and then come back to a couple more. There's a lot that are rolling in. Active, what do you consider active? So, Chris, I know in some of your metrics you mentioned, " Hey, active user," on there. So how do you like to define that metric and how do you present that internally?

Chris Detzel: Yeah. The way I will present that is through, does somebody like? Do they log in? Do they apply? Do they ask? Those are just some basic engagement active metrics that you can look at, and then maybe put a percentage on the users so you can say, " Well this many people are logged in. They liked, they did all these things." And I would just say, " If they did any of those things," because I want to be easy and kind to myself, " If they do any of those things in the last X number of days, then they're active." And so, my goal is to try to hit 10 to 12% of the membership to be active minus employees because not all employees are going to be even in there, so they might log in once and that's it. So I think you've got to determine that. So those kinds of things is what I would look at.

Jeff Breunsbach: Awesome. Yeah. Kim, anything similar for what you all look at in terms of active? And of your 8, 000, is there any right now semblance of who's active versus not? Is that something that you are looking at?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. So we actually look at our active a little bit more narrowly. We're looking at them as like creating content. So creating content doesn't necessarily mean that they've only posted online, but they've done a reply. So we do also track the private DMs. Obviously, we don't see anybody's DMs, but we're able to get those metrics. So we're looking at actual activity to interact. We look at likes and logins is more as reach, more engagement. So there we're have a bucket it just a little bit differently.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yup.

Chris Detzel: I like that Kim. I like that for the future for me, but for now it's like, " Yeah, they're active."

Jeff Breunsbach: Hey, Chris try to make as many of those 300-

Kim FitzSimmons: I don't think there's-

Chris Detzel: Exactly.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah.

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. And I don't think there's

Kim FitzSimmons: a right or wrong, it's just a preference.

Jeff Breunsbach: And it actually answers another question too, I think somebody had asked him here, how important is it to consider where you are in the stage of your community? And I think Chris, you mentioned this before we hopped on, which is your community is 30 days old or less than, or just about. I know you launched it at the end of April. Marjorie, I'm going to say that yours is probably, I don't know, 10 years old- ish, maybe shorter?

Marjorie Anderson: We just celebrated our 20th year. So-

Jeff Breunsbach: Okay.

Marjorie Anderson: ...we are crosstalk.

Jeff Breunsbach: So 20. Definitely thinking about the life cycle that you're at, stage or life cycle that you are, definitely is a point when you start thinking about metrics, and some of the engagement that comes along with that as well. We've got some more questions, which I think we definitely will have time at the end. So I'm going to bolt forward maybe our next topic that we're going to talk through, which is how are you knowing whether or not tactics you're implementing in the community are helping you meet your goals? So when you start thinking about some of the programs you're developing, Chris you mentioned webinars, Marjorie you mentioned some of the other offerings that you all have as a business that you're trying to promote. So when you start thinking about some of these elements, how are you all looking at that, one, maybe how are you thinking about this programs, and building those out? And then two, how did those metrics fold into what you all were just talking about in terms of measuring success? So Kim, let's maybe start with you, and think about that. What are some of the programs that you've developed so far to engage with your members? And then how have you thought about measuring some of those?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. Absolutely. So what we've tried to do is be really thoughtful about any programs that we're putting in place, how can we develop a program on Connection to support that? So for example, we did a walk- a- thon this last summer when we had to cancel our virtual meeting. But we wanted to engage members, and ultimately, it was also a fundraising activity. So bringing community together, and raising money for the specialty. So we put together a program where we were also having, they were gaining points and there's a winner for this, if they're also posting on Connection. And so, what we were doing is looking at the metrics there, what interactions did we have? But then also trying to look at who interacted? And how were they participating in the bigger program? And that's something we'd really love to start to build out because that's very manual right now. So just starting to really create that component, and how is it tying back to support that program.

Jeff Breunsbach: Awesome. I love that example too, of how you, again, during COVID very different year, last year, like you said, I'm sure fundraising was really hard virtual events. Everyone was watered down, so it sounds like you guys tried to get a little bit creative with the walk- a- thon and trying to get community, the entire community involved, and then thinking about something maybe that's a little less static in front of your computer, or staring at a screen type of thing. And hopefully, it worked well trying to engage somebody, and get them outside of maybe their day- to- day environment that they were in for 12 months.

Kim FitzSimmons: Absolutely.

Jeff Breunsbach: Awesome. Chris, how about when you? I know you mentioned webinar program, obviously you're trying to get questions and answers about the product and some of the specific things it can do. But how do you think about building programs just for your community members?

Chris Detzel: There's a way I think about it is this one, what is our goals? And how do I accomplish those goals? And so, when I look at a blog program or a webinar program, our goals are, case to flection. Our goals are to get customers and partners more engaged into our product. And how do we do that? And what programs are going to support that stuff? So one is, you mentioned the webinar program. I bucket that in three sections, maybe four, depending on where you are. But is technical webinars go deep dive and doing this quick how to, or an hour long deep dive into a particular area in the product. Or two, you could do a new product update. So, " Hey, we have a new product, let's talk about that." And then three is, Ask Me Anything which that's engaging and everything else. Just short- term metrics that go along with the webinar programs, such as how many people registered? That's somewhat of an indicator to that. But I look at the long- term game. And I look at, " Hey, that's video content that I record, put on YouTube and throw out on the community." Two, I can create two or three blogs specifically on that webinar. Three, I can embed those blogs into the video into the webinar to make that reach. I now have five or seven questions from the audience, now I can push that out to the community. And then I can measure that over time through Google Analytics and everything else to say, " Yeah, these things really worked well, or these things didn't." And so, there's a short- term gain, but if only 10 people show up, what do I care? I want more people to show up because it shows that they're showing up, but at the same time, I'm doing a lot of things, engaging videos, creating videos, creating blogs, written content, and quick hit questions and answers that will all be indexed by Google and searched and found by our customers getting the information that they need quickly.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I want to know-

Chris Detzel: That makes sense?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, definitely. And I love the example you just gave about your webinars series, and how you're breaking down the four that you have there kind of the styles. And then thinking about measuring attendance, measuring views afterwards, then looking at, I'm sure all the blog Google Analytics that you can get into, page views and where people are going, I think that that to me is becoming a really big and critical part. So I think what we've seen in community, which is how are you leveraging content across multiple mediums? Because I don't know about you on the phone, but for the most part, I think we're all working with resources that we need to maximize. And so, when you start thinking about that, it's, " Hey, if we're going to produce a webinar, that's an hour long that we're going to be on the call like this one, then we're going to produce a blog after it. We're going to put it back into the community." I loved your example, too. You can take all these questions that people are asking, drop them back in the community, and have people answer them. Or even just put out a blog itself up, questions that are being answered. So I love that idea of just trying to repurpose content where you can, and not necessarily just re- posting, I think that was a big critical part maybe to differentiate as well. You're not just taking the same thing and re- posting it on social platforms, you're not taking the same thing and using that. You're repurposing one thing that can be repurposed into five, that can then be shared across whatever channels that you see fit. So I think this is really good.

Chris Detzel: Yeah. The last thing I'll say about that Jeff is, it allows the brand to also take some of that content, support, the documentation portal team or whoever, and to also use that content. So it's not just me, but it's shared across the entire business at the end of the day, in a digital way mostly, right?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. And I like it too, just from your standpoint. Because I think you can get other teams involved, right? Depending on if it's a technical webinar versus a new product versus and Ask Me Anything. Now you've got multiple teams involved who can become stakeholders, who can own those programs, maybe going forward and think about that. So that's great. Marjorie, how about you? When you start thinking about engagement and programs that you're developing for your members, where do you all start? Have you thought about approaching that and bringing value to your members?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. So one of the things that we first start with and what I've been trying to, we're leaning toward for my team is, what's the outcome of the thing that we wants to do, right? Because there's tons of different things that we can do within the online community, especially with as big as our online community is. But what is the outcome going to drive? And then how will we be able to measure the effectiveness, or that we had an impact, right? So it's not just about, " Well, this is a community. We should be doing community things." It's what is the outcome? What is it going to provide the organization, or provide the members who are participating in this program? So one of the things that we did a couple of years ago, was we were trying to think about ways to provide content to our online community without offering professional development units for it. Because a lot of the time people will come to the community who hold a certification with EMI, for the sole purpose of engaging in content that will help them maintain that relation. And so, that's the basis of a lot of the video content that we offer. So one of my team members had the idea to start having quarterly, Ask Us Anything webinars. These are webinars with other stakeholders within the organization, introducing a new concept, a new product, or a new service, and allowing the community to provide them feedback, and or ask questions about that product, service or experience. And what we have found is that people are very interested in what is happening with the organization, they pay membership dues too. So whether we offer PDUs or professional development units for this particular webinar mix no matter, they're interested in hearing what's coming up with this new product that we launched? What's next for our certification program? What are my benefits as a member? And we see just as much engagement with these sorts of webinars as we do with people who are just trying to maintain their certification. Yes, they're trying to learn more about the profession, and up their skills and those types of things as well. But at the end of the day, if it's valuable content, and something that they're interested in, they're going to engage. And what we're able to see from those webinars is, how interesting or how impactful that thing is going to be for them, right? So if we do a webinar on a new product that we've launched, and people are questioning, " Well, why would you do this? Isn't there something out there that already exists that you guys have watched? I don't understand how to use it." That gives the product team information that they can then take back and tweak that product. Or say, " Maybe we don't need to roll this out." So it's mutual benefits where the community gets to understand what's happening, and they stick close to the organization, product, teams, or the other parts of the organization, get to understand if we're headed in the right direction.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. It reminds me a little bit of behind the scenes that you're showing them. It's like how you all are using probably the methodologies in the ways that you're teaching them. You're showing them behind the scenes and saying, " Hey, here's how we're running the business, here's how we're doing things." And inherently becomes interested. I also think naturally people start to become curious, right? If I'm a dues paying member, " How are you using my dues? Where's the dollars going? Are you guys spending them effectively?" And so, I think that's probably such a curiosity that people have to come in and get engaged. But I love that example, right? You're pulsing them to understand what they want, and then giving it to them in a version, and then probably thinking about, " Okay, how do we continually to maximize our resources?" But think about maybe even going, what's the next step after just producing this AMA quarterly, right? In terms of like assets, anything. It's like what's the next little nugget that we could give them that again, we get to maximize resources, but still give them a little glimpse behind the scenes? So I think that's a really good one. I love that.

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. And the flip side to that is that those webinars are open to everyone. Our community is a freemium model, so most of the content you can consume if you're not a member, and some of it, you have to be a member to consume. But then what that also does is that people who have not had exposure to the organization as a whole, get that exposure. And that starts to help us understand how to help them along their customer journey.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Definitely. There's two questions that have come in that I think are probably good just to maybe get out there and see if these are ways that you all have tried to engage your members. So the first one, maybe Kim I'll bounce it over to you is, either polling or gamification, have you used either of those things in the community? And I'll let you pick which one you maybe you want to talk about. But either of those come to mind for stuff that you've done in the community to drive engagement?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. For gamification kind of going back to the example of the walk- a- thon or the virtual walk that we did, we actually up a system with using the automated rules that then gave members if they posted in the community points, additional points. So they got points through the Walking App for how many steps they took, if they gave money to the foundation. And then the gamification piece was whether or not they posted in the community. And there's a couple of different things they could do. And they could do it daily. So they could continue to get more points towards the walk- a- thon. And yeah, it definitely helped with engagement. And for us, what was really unique about it is, our members are, they're dentist, they're they're scientists, and they are very case focused. They like to talk about the science and cases, and this actually really got our members engaging around something fun and more lighthearted. So that was neat.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Along the gamification route too, one thing that we've done for our Gain Grow Retain community is, we partnered with a couple of organizations who put out, there's one that's an influencer list that's top 100 influencers. And so, we brought badges into the community from a partner organization. And something that was just a surprise and delight for those members because they didn't really expect that. But all of a sudden, we're helping to boost their credibility inside of our organization, our community even though it's not directly related to, it's not something necessarily that we own. And so, I think along those same lines. I think we've seen how gamification can really help get people engaged, make them feel confident about the things that they're doing. And really bring out some of the aspects of why they're there in the community, which is hopefully making relationships, networking and trying to find their tribes, so to speak. But I think that's another way that we've seen that use as well.

Kim FitzSimmons: So one thing I'd add to that Jeff is one of the things we've identified is, we've got a small core of members who continually post in their high volume. Some of the gamification also brought in first time posters. So we really were able to boost some of those activity metrics that way.

Jeff Breunsbach: Oh, that's awesome. That's really good. All right. I'm going to bump us along. We've got about 20 minutes. I think we're going to have plenty of time here at the end for Q&A, but I just want to make sure we can get through the last part here. So we've talked a little bit about what are some of the key metrics and measures you guys are using? Talked about how engagement in driving programs and thinking about what's valuable for your membership is that next layer. And so, the third part here is really about how are you telling that story internally? And this is a part that I have latched onto recently just because I think this is the area I know you for most improvement just in the industry, I think in any facet. Whether you're in sales, marketing, customer success, community, everybody has to go do this. You have to rally the troops internally, you have to make people care about the thing that you're working on, and why it's important. And so, would love to learn how you all are doing that. Are there certain meetings that you're having internally? Is there certain content maybe that you're sharing inside of the organization that you've seen work? I think maybe those are the two questions. And so, Marjorie maybe start with you, what are those two things for you? Have you thought about specific meetings that you're having with internal stakeholders? And then what's the type of content that you're trying to produce, and share with them and to make them ultimately care about the community that you're building, and some of the engagement programs you have?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. This is a fun question. I generally have lots of meetings with business owners within the organization. And of course, my director to really show what it is that we're doing and how we're achieving our goals. But the way that we present that information is, what were the outcomes we were looking to achieve? What was the impact? And then what's next? So one of the things that we've started doing with the weekly reporting, and then I'm starting to do, I used to do monthly reporting now I think it's more valuable to do quarterly reporting. It seems to provide a little bit more information that maybe our senior leadership is looking for. But what these reports are meant to do is they're usually one to two pagers that have very specific information about what was the activity that we participated in or that we drove? What was the expected outcome and did we achieve it? And what generally happens is when we start to talk in that verbiage, it helps tell the story around the data you're going to present. So even if you've got a chart full of numbers, we tend to frame that in that outcome layout. So that not only is it information that the other business leaders within the organization understand, but it's also information and language that our senior leaders are already talking, right? When they're having conversations with the board, they're not pulling up dashboards and going through that information, they are saying, " Here are the outcomes, high level outcomes that we said we would achieve. This is what we achieved, and this is what we're planning to do going forward." And so, I think that has been super helpful and successful in helping people understand the value of community, and what we're driving forward. The second piece to that is that when we're thinking about how we're going to accomplish things in the future, and what that strategy looks like, we speak that same language, right? It's always around the outcomes that we're trying to drive, and what the impact is to the member or the organization. And so, as we're having those conversations and speaking that language, it becomes easier to then communicate what that value is. Even though you might know as community practitioner, it feels very squishy for some senior leaders when you go to them and say, " Hey, look, community." And they're like, " What does that even mean? Why am I spending the money for this?" But if you can show them the tangible outcomes that go along with the activity that happens in the community, it becomes much easier to digest, and easier for them to wrap their heads around.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. There's a couple of things that I loved in your answer there. One is speaking the language that they'll understand. And I think that to me is becoming really critical as you're in organizations, you start to pick up how's the leadership talking about things? What are they presenting? How are they looking at questions that they're asking me? And how do you interpret that, I think becomes really critical for how you can start making sure that your message hits, and that it's pointing to the right person. I think you talked about this too, which is conciseness. So how are you telling that story with just enough detail where it's not too little, it's not too much, but just enough detail where they're actually wanting a little bit more. They might have a question or two, and you can easily come up with the answers, and come back with some of the data is another one. I wanted to ask me to follow up and say, in terms of communicating internally, is this something that you felt like you were naturally good at, or is this something that you've had to work at? And if so, what ways have you look to maybe professionally develop that, where you're architecting the stories internally, you're trying to put together the metrics with the story, how have you gone about that just in your career?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. I think, and I'm not sure if we're just an edge case or what, but our organization has been incredibly helpful at saying, " Hey, we're going to change the ways that we work across the organization," and then rolling out information to the entire staff to help them understand what those ways of working are. And so, what has happened is that collectively we're all on the same page about how to communicate information, we're all speaking the same language. No one's coming into a meeting saying something totally out of left field that people were like, " What? How does that compute to what we're trying to do?" So I think that because the organization is who they are they have equipped us with the ability to be able to learn those skills so that we can all be successful together, which I am extremely grateful for. Because I don't know that I would know where to find that knowledge had they not.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I love that. That's good. Kim, how about when you? When you start thinking about this story internally, what are the types of meetings that maybe that you find yourself in, or you're communicating this and what's the type of immigration that you're bringing to the table?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah. Absolutely. Our board and our leadership is very engaged and very interested in Connection, sorry, that's the name of our community, AAE Connection. And then I also work with the committee. The way that we tell our story is, what are the goals that we set out? What are the results by looking at those metrics? And then what I like to really do is bring in some of the anecdotal stories. So for instance, one of our goals is to be able to have a place to share cases. That was really important to our board, and one of the reasons we created it. So we do look at that content that relates to it, and then also share... We heard from a program director that he's not using the exact same cases over and over every year, he's actually now getting new cases and content to present to students because of our community. So we're able to really show, make it a little bit more personal, but still focusing on that, the results and what we were setting out to do.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I love that. And actually, that was the question that I was going to get to you, which I love that you answered. I think it's from Kylie. Kylie, if I pronounced that wrong, I owe you something. But she had asked that question, do you kind of bring in some of these stories that are more qualitative? And I love that example, making it a little bit more tangible, making it a little bit more real. We think about our customer community, we're trying to look at some stories about some of our MVPs, people or organization that are helping each other solve a problem right alongside of our team being involved in that type of discussion. Or we start thinking about shout outs, a lot of times there's people shouting out a lot of our team members for doing things. And so, those types of stories are all really great to try and pull in and make it, like you said, be more real, be a little bit more personal and attached to it. I think that's how you start making some of the connection outside of just the numeric side, is some of those stories. Clearly, it sounds like you're trying to architect that towards where the business is going, right? And some of the themes that become major for, I would imagine your executive leadership team. So walk us through that a little bit from your side?

Chris Detzel: Yeah. And I think Marjorie earlier hit the nail on the head, it's all about your audience. So if I'm talking to support, they don't care about new business. If I'm talking to marketing, they don't care about support. If I'm talking to product, they kind of care about some of this stuff, but they want to think about innovation and some other things. And so, I think one is, you've got to create that story, and push the organization, know who you're talking to, especially the executive. For example, I sent our CEO yesterday an article around how community is really deflecting cases and the ROI, the money attached to it every month and everything else. He said, " Cash share this with the organization." And I was like, " Go ahead, I didn't write the article. You can share this with anybody." But he got excited about that. Why? Because he cares about savings, he cares about making money, he cares about ROI, he cares about the numbers the most, and the other pieces. So that is key. Marjorie just took it right out of, I couldn't say it even way even better than she did, but I think that is important. The other piece of that is a lot of times or most the time, especially when you first start a community, the organization, they are heavily involved. Not the leaders, to some degree the leaders are, but forget those guys. It's those people, the technical architects, the technical people that are doing the webinars, that are answering some of the questions, that are doing the blogs, or that I'm pushing to do those things. And so, to recognize those people, so how do you recognize those? We have slack channels, I have a hashtag slack community Slack channel, I have email that I'll email their boss, or just give praise to those kind of people and make them... The other day I created a commercial video, one of the webinars that we're doing around this woman, her name is Kim Tome, and she's an expert in this area. And so, I tagged her in it. And our CEO, the next day, commented and said, " Two rock stars." Yeah, he said I was, but more her, right? She's being noticed by our CEO, and other people within the organization. And so, I think that you continue to push the organization to get excited, you show that the people that are actually doing the work will come alongside you. And then all those other metrics that were mentioned before, you want to show those key things that are really pushing towards a business. So if it's case deflection, hey we have, I don't know, 100 new posts and questions over the months. How does that help? Well, today, it might not help but as that grows into 1000s then that really helps. And then you also start telling the stories around, " Hey, this person came into the community, and they asked a question about Reltio, and our solution and they want more information." Well, that's a sales opportunity, so boom, there's that story around sell. So it's continuing to tell those stories the way they need to be told, and recognizing them. So be in your community on a daily basis, finding those stories, because they're always there. I push something out sometimes two or three times a day on hashtag community Slack channel. So I think you just have to really just be excited about what you do, believe in what you do. And those people that help you because I'm a team of one at the moment, you have to rely on those people. So you really have to make them the rock stars.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Especially the point you were making Chris, you started thinking about getting some of your day- to- day leaders involved in some of the things that you're doing is, a couple things coming to mind for me too, which is making it frictionless for them to get involved, right? I think a lot of times, they're looking at it and they're saying, " Oh, I have to go write this blog, which means I have to go to X, Y, Z, W, A and whatever else is going to come along with that." And really, it's like, " Hey, I've got a topic for you already. Here's some other things that you've written before. Here's something else, I put it into a Word doc that I shared with you. Can you just go edit it right?" How can you make that frictionless for them to get involved? Because I think that really starts to drive, like you said, the excitement and they want to get involved, the more people see it. That's another thing that comes to mind for me too, that I think you-

Chris Detzel: That's the key. And so, what I'll do is, I'll find a video that's done from training. And I'll send that to a blog writer on upwork. com, or indaHash or whatever, they'll write the blog. I'll send it to the expert, " Hey, can you correct this? Put some pictures in there, make sure it's right." So it's frictionless. They don't hardly do any of the work. But they get to author it, you know what I mean?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yup.

Chris Detzel: And so, they love it. And I'm open to that because you know what? Three months from now, that person is going to do like a series of webinars for me, or they're going to do, Answer This Question on the community and that kind of stuff. So-

Jeff Breunsbach: I love it. What is something that you all are doing right now and maybe, Marjorie, we'll start with you, what are some suggestions for driving engagement within a community that has webinars and events that are not occurring within the platform itself? It's difficult to measure success and tie them together, so I don't know if it's something that you've experienced Marjorie or not, but when you start thinking about webinars event series that you're holding, and some of those member benefits, how are you trying to drive more engagement around those areas? How are you trying to fold the events maybe into the community a little bit more?

Marjorie Anderson: Yeah. So that's a great question. And the answer that I have for that is start the engagement in the online community, and the engagement in the online community. So if you've got an event coming up, be that a webinar, a virtual event, in- person event, start creating buzz and ways for people to connect with one another within the online community. Post questions, who's going to be going to this session? What questions do you have for the speaker? Who's excited about it? Start getting everyone talking in that space. And then when you have your events, your webinar, your virtual events, see if there's any of those people who were talking about it registered. Did they actually come? Are they asking questions and engaging while they're there? Even if it's off the community site. When you're done, point people back to the community to continue the conversation and see if that momentum still flows, right? So that is how you can tell from discovery to the end of an event, whether or not people are engaging in ways that you can tell a story around, right? Even if it's held off of the community site. So start the conversation in the community and the conversation in the community. Let that be the engagement sandwich that you have, even if event day people are engaging somewhere else, you've already started kind of that introduction to, this is where the conversation is going to be happening, and this is where if that, here's where you're going to go for the thing. But if you want to continue the conversation and continue to be involved, you have to come back to the community. And so, that's the advice that I would have. That's what's worked for us. We post content within the online community around our virtual events. And then people come back after those virtual events to continue to have those conversations. So try it. And I hope that proves valuable for you. Yeah,

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, I love that and to thinking about how do you make that just the expectation of the presenter, right? So instead of just saying, " Hey, I'm going to need an hour of your time for this webinar." It's like, " Hey, how many now return for the webinar, but I'm also going to need about 30 minutes ahead of time for you to help me see some content in the community. And I'm going to need you about 30 minutes afterwards to help see through content afterwards." But I think the more that you can make that feel a part of that program and say, " Hey we're going to need you for about two hours, one hour is really live content, the other is in the community." I think that also really goes a long way that we've noticed. But I think that was a really good example to share there. There's one last question that I'll ask, and Kim we'll hit you, what would you say are the top quick things to keep on top of if you're the only person that your organization running the online community, and you've got other things to be doing? So throughout your days in the community world, what are the one to two or three things that you're just like, okay, you got to make sure that these things are happening in order for the community to keep going or stay intact maybe?

Kim FitzSimmons: Yeah., definitely activity. You have to have a post, you have to have people posting and engaging. That lag can be hard to restart with seating. So that's the one thing that I would keep. Keep an eye on your opt- outs, that's the other thing. We watch that closely, that tells us what's going on in the community, and if people are valuing it. So those are the couple things I'd keep on top of.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I think I'll throw one out there too that maybe might not be widely accepted one. But I just think also, if you're a team of one, I always think about how can you get more people involved in, do you have MVP? Or do you have community members that are really showing up for you? And can you make them feel a little bit more special? Can we give them a title or give them recognition? Or can we somehow bring them in, and put our arms around them so that they can really help scale some of that interaction or some of the content pieces? But if you're a team of one, I think you have to go get scrappy, and see if other members will be involved. And I have found, I've been scared of this before, but I've found that if you ask, typically the answer is going to be yes. Because they're like, " Hey, I'm already in here. I'm already involved. You're asking me to do a little bit more, I'm going to get some recognition. I could put this on my resume, I can and put it on my LinkedIn, whatever it might be." But I just think that goes a really long way in thinking about that, so that would be a big one that I would throw out there too. I know Chris's answer is going to be content because he is big on the webinar series and everything that he's been doing. So Chris, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm going to say content for you.

Chris Detzel: Yup. That's it. Engaging content is key, you don't have it, then what do you got?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Absolutely. So a lot of time went into this, and I appreciate you all joining kind of different insights. Marjorie, 20- year community really big. Kim, kind of in the middle, 8, 000 person community, been around for a number of years. Chris, 30 days in, 300 members. So I think we've got a wide spectrum that I hope people got to learn from. And then please go to higherlogic. com, look into some of the resources section. We've got a ton of stuff around our engagement experts, which Kim Marjorie and Chris were a part of, as part of a series that we're doing here for 2021. So Kim, Marjorie, and Chris thank you so much. We'll talk to you all again here soon.


Industry data tells you that online communities contribute to key business goals like retention, satisfaction, and loyalty. And you’ve seen the evidence time and again that your community helps your members or customers be more successful. But quantifying that value for your specific community can be challenging.

Tune into a panel discussion with three community experts. We’ll discuss how they tackle this challenge and share ideas you can use to measure and communicate your community’s value to stakeholders and leadership.

Today's Host

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Alex Mastrianni

|Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at Higher Logic
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Heather McNair

|Community Industry Expert

Today's Guests

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Chris Detzel

|Community Program Manager at Reltio
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Marjorie Anderson

|Product Manager at Project Management Institute
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Kim FitzSimmons

|Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at American Association of Endodontists