Have you ever logged into an analytics dashboard and felt daunted by all the numbers on your screen? You’re not alone. When trying to measure the effectiveness of your online community engagement efforts, the challenge is to sift through numerous available metrics and analyze the relevant ones so you can get to actionable insights.
To help you measure your community engagement platform’s effectiveness – and improve it if needed – we put together a list of primary metrics to track. Here goes!
1. The total reach of your outreach campaigns
Community outreach campaigns that run during a project’s kick-off are usually the main drivers of engagement. Keeping track of the total number of people reached by your various communication activities is integral to understanding the overall performance of the project. Whether it is newspapers, postcards, websites, or social media, recording the reach of the individual communication channels you use throughout time gives you a sense of their effectiveness.
You can then go on to compare this data against the web analytics of the platform and check where visitors come from – these are your traffic sources. If only a few people were coming from a particular source, you can either make necessary adjustments to the communications you’re using for that channel, or decide to shift focus to channels that attract more visitors.
2. The conversion rate from visitors to registered users
Your platform is only effective if the community members visiting your platform actually sign up to participate. If only a limited number register, you should review the project page you’re sending visitors to and either make it more clear why it’s relevant for them to weigh in, or improve the sign-up experience. The more data you ask, for example, the higher the threshold to register. Review the length of the sign-up form; do you really need every piece of information for this project?
CitizenLab’s Visitor Dashboard, for example, helps you better understand your registered users by exploring their demographic profiles.
A tip for driving more users to the platform
From our experience working with over 400 local governments worldwide, one of the leading indicators for a highly engaging platform is the number of “participation opportunities” – on the one hand, the number of topics residents can give their feedback on, on the other the different ways for them to weigh in. The more opportunities there are for your community to engage, the more likely they will sign up and stick around to engage further. Moreover, it is best practice to offer different levels of participation intensity, from easy voting to deliberative consultation workshops, to attract more diverse participants.
3. The number of active participants
This would be considered the “North Star” metric of any engagement platform – the number of users who post ideas, comment, and/or vote. It is always good to have a closer look at this number to truly understand your participants’ behavior. You can, for example, check who is engaging in which topics to understand which projects are most important to your community.
CitizenLab User Dashboard showing the demographic composition of the platform
4. The number of continuous dialogues
To ensure that you keep participants engaged, you must continuously nurture your community. The best way to do this is through implementing various means of communication. Consider providing an official update on the input and requests participants shared, or giving status updates on your ongoing engagement projects. This can drive further engagement in your project and ensure that your community knows they are heard and considered in the decision-making process.
CitizenLab’s Overview Dashboard showing the percentage of community input that the manager has provided feedback
Whenever you see the engagement rate go down during a consultation process, you can boost it with an email campaign or SMS communications to the people who interacted with the project or a similar topic before. When you use CitizenLab’s platform, you can do this in just a few clicks in the back-end.
5. Representativeness of the platform
Finally, another important metric is the representativeness of the platform. Your entire community should be well-represented in your engagement project if you want to make truly inclusive and equitable decisions. The Representation Dashboard in the back end of the CitizenLab platform makes tracking this metric easier than ever.
The dashboard provides an overview based on demographic data such as gender, age, education, place of residence, or other community information collected during the registration stage, compared to your city’s census data.
CitizenLab’s Representation Dashboard showing the representativeness of a particular project
Using this dashboard, you can compare your online community engagement efforts with your offline engagement activities to better understand the demographic profiles of your participants and do extra targeted outreach to certain groups if needed.
Improve engagement through better tracking
The key to successful online community engagement is to constantly track and measure (the depth of) engagement using metrics like the 5 we’ve gone through in this article. When you see evidence of deepening engagement – such as more participants or more continous participation – you’ll be able to identify the methods, topics, and outreach strategies that worked well for your community so you can do it again. Read more on measuring and boosting the success of engagement projects: