The metrics of a successful online community

Published on
February 28, 2024
Matthew Gira
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The metrics of a successful online community

If you’re building your own online community, it’s really tricky to figure out what metrics to use for success.

Is it how many daily active users like SaaS companies? Is it the number of comments left on posts? Is it a form I send to members every month? What in the world tells me I’m being successful with an online community for the long run?

Every community has it’s own quirks and different levels of success, but thankfully, there are some standard key metrics to look at after Circle, one of my favorite online community platforms, published their Community Benchmark Report for 2024.

This Community Benchmark Report is interesting because it’s a combination of survey data, but also metrics that Circle has on all of the communities they host on their platform.

In this post, I’m going to go over the Community Benchmark Report for 2024 and highlight some of the key findings so you can see what metrics you should be watching for your own online community.

Here are some of the highlights you should pay attention to:

Download the 2024 Community Benchmark Report here to check it out yourself!

Quick note: some of the links in this article are affiliate links, so we do receive some money if you sign up for Circle with them.

Core value provided by communities

Credit: Circle's 2024 Community Benchmark Report

In the Community Benchmark Report, the first graphic that stood out to me was the graph of answers based on the question, “what is the core value provided by your community?”.

Learning experiences, Connection Building, Masterminds or small-group coaching, and Events were the top 4. One interesting tidbit here though: 100% of the communities in the top 10% of communities on Circle (Platinum communities they call them), host events regularly.

What I took away from this graphic was that people in an online community want to feel a sense of belonging and intentionally grow. These metrics show that community isn’t passive like an online course or ebook, communities are intentionally active.

How online communities acquire members

One of the topics I’m always fascinated by is how early stage ventures acquire customers or in this case, community members. It’s typically challenging data to obtain since most early stage ventures are just doing what they can to get their first customers. Reporting how they get their customers is a pretty low priority or something they intentionally don’t want to share.

This graphic on how community hosts acquire community members was incredibly fascinating.

Credit: Circle's 2024 Community Benchmark Report

Pretty much every community host is building with long term acquisition channels. In my own free venture foundations course, I mention that you should have a long term acquisition channel and a short term acquisition channel.

These community hosts on Circle, whether you’re a standard or platinum (in the top 10% of communities) community host, are all acquiring customers with a long term acquisition channel.

Paid ads, the most common short term acquisition channel, are used by less than 20% of communities. That alone tells me that you need to build trust with someone before they ever consider becoming a community member, especially in a paid community.

Social media, email newsletters, events & workshops, and YouTube were all used by almost 50% of the platinum communities. All of these are acquisition channels that build a high amount of trust and are long term.

If you haven’t started any of these long term acquisition channels, but want to start a community at some point, the recommendation is pretty clear here: get started with content ASAP so you can launch your community when you’re ready.

The importance of onboarding

Credit: Circle's 2024 Community Benchmark Report

First impressions matter in-person and online. For me, I tend to not think about onboarding in online settings since I assume that people can just figure out tech. More often than not, I’m wrong.

Obviously, if you’re using a platform like Circle to host your community, people not only need to understand how to use the platform, but also need to be able to know how to operate socially in your community.

What’s acceptable in your community? Do I actually belong in this community? Are people paying attention to me joining?

These are all common questions that new members might be thinking and if new members don’t know these answers, they might just leave.

Looking at the graphic for onboarding and the best practices, it’s pretty clear that if you follow even just a few of the best practices for onboarding, your chances of having a successful community rise significantly.

One tidbit here: Rachel Rodgers, who runs HelloSeven, actually recommends against community guidelines because they feel just like a list of what not to do and new members might become afraid to engage because they don’t want to break them accidentally.

This importance of onboarding feels like it goes hand in hand with the importance of member retention. If you have a great onboarding process, I would assume you have wonderful systems to keep people engaged naturally. You can essentially tweak your onboarding process in some ways to re-engage members who aren’t participating.

Credit: Circle's 2024 Community Benchmark Report

If community members are sticking around, it sure looks like you have a healthy community and business!

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