It is no secret how important it is to track your online community’s growth from the very beginning. In the book Buzzing Communities, by Richard Millington, Chapter 2 is about growth and how to analyze it. But there is no way to analyze growth without capturing specific data. And the amount of data that can potentially be collected is overwhelming… so where on earth should you begin?
Last week for my blog post, I wrote about looking beyond superficial measurements (e.g. follower numbers). I mentioned that follower numbers only go so far if an organization is not interacting and engaging with them. However, tracking follower numbers and the growth (or lack of growth) of your new community can be very useful to you. As your community gets bigger, you will eventually need to look at other data. But when starting a community from scratch, you should capture your community’s growth from the very beginning.
When I first started managing social networks and building an online community for Syracuse University graduates in New York City, I would track how many new followers we gained each month across all of the social platforms we were on. This allowed me to put together a monthly report. I found tracking follower numbers helpful for two main reasons:
- I could visually see our growth. After tracking from month to month, you can make snazzy spreadsheets and charts. You can compare the growth of one social network against the other– is Twitter growing faster than Facebook? Did Pinterest have a slow start, but then did it pick up speed? Or conversely, if you are losing followers, you can see when you started to drop and figure out why.
- You can’t argue with numbers. If they are going up, they are going up and if they are going down, they are going down. Easy enough. Is there that someone in your office who doesn’t believe in social media yet, who doesn’t think that you can reach your audience? Well, now you can actually show them that it is working and that your community is growing.
Now of course, these only apply to having REAL followers, not bought ones. Never buy followers. Do you buy fake friends? I hope not because they would be no fun.
Capturing your growth from month to month is just the beginning. Start small to not overwhelm yourself. Once you see where you are growing, you can then begin to dig deeper and analyze why you might be getting certain results. You can track follower numbers first, then start reporting traffic and then work on reporting on content. That is what the article “10 Free Essential Resources for Community Managers” on Social Media Today suggests to track. You can even download this simple template to help get you started.
Now, of course, what was helpful to me, might not be what is best for your new community. But capturing that data from the very beginning might help you get your community going where you want it to be.