Online Community and Social Media Budgets Grow While Metrics for ROI Continue to Evolve

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Companies continue to allocate large budgets to online community and social media efforts as they redefine ROI from standard reports to measuring qualitative metrics including: engagement, loyalty, idea creation and brand awareness.

Companies are allocating sizable budgets to online community and social media efforts because they know there is value that may not be measured by standard ROI metrics alone

Forum One Networks, a strategy and research group specializing in online communities, found in a recent study, Online Community ROI - Reports and Models, that 33% the respondents indicated that their online community and social media budget, excluding headcount, is $100K to over a million dollars. Of the 33%, a third reported budgets of over a million dollars.

"Companies are allocating sizable budgets to online community and social media efforts because they know there is value that may not be measured by standard ROI metrics alone," stated Bill Johnston, chief community officer of Forum One Networks. While 47% of the respondents could tie at least some revenue to their online communities and social media activities, many online community and social media people are tasked with developing new metrics that are customized for social media ROI.

In the study, 42% of the respondents indicated that they are getting pressure to modify their data sets or to find new sources of value. One respondent noted, "We are shifting from traditional metrics to metrics more tailored to social media. We are less concerned about visits and click-throughs and more interested in how content is generating discussions on and off our site." Most companies utilize traditional metrics, such as standard web metrics and default community platform reports. While this information is useful as a basis, it doesn't provide a complete picture of how online communities affect overall company brand awareness, user engagement, loyalty and peer to peer collaboration.

Companies that are moving beyond the standard metrics are using a blend of quantitative and qualitative metrics when reporting value and ROI back to their management. Using a variety of metrics allows companies to establish an overall ROI strategy that might not be represented with revenue alone, including: increased traffic, idea creation, lead generation, customer loyalty, user skill building and growing membership. A survey respondent noted that, "[Their] community sites get three times the engagement for solution, capabilities and use case than their traditional sites." Providing a community where members may seek resources and collaborate with others saves them time and builds their skills, thus increasing their loyalty to the company and brand. Another survey respondent noted, "Offering a community to your clients where they can speak to you and each other significantly increases customer loyalty."

The Online Community ROI - Models and Reports study was published by Forum One Networks' Online Community Research Network. The study was created to gain insight into specifically how organizations value and report on their online communities' activities and to identify who the stakeholders are for ROI metrics. For more information about the Online Community Research Network, or to purchase a membership to view the full report, please go to:

About Forum One Networks
Forum One Networks is a division of Forum One Communications, a web strategy and development group based in Alexandria, Virginia, with offices in the California Bay Area. Forum One Networks produces events, conducts research, and provides networking and strategic consulting for online community and social media professionals.


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Heather Virga
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