Online Communities Become Strategic Asset, Redefine Expectations for Engagement, Says State of Community Management 2016 Report

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Communities outperform social media models in engagement, but communities face critical 18 to 24-month window to demonstrate business value before executive interest fades, says Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable.

The State of Community Management 2016

Online communities have moved from afterthought to strategic asset in the minds of many executives.

Organizations are seizing the opportunity to use online communities to drive innovation and collaboration, but now must translate that engagement into real business value. That’s the message from The Community Roundtable’s The State of Community Management 2016 report, which was released today at

“Online communities have moved from afterthought to strategic asset in the minds of many executives,” said Rachel Happe, co-founder and Principal of The Community Roundtable (TheCR), “but as the data show, too few communities can clearly define their value or provide the success metrics that will ensure sustained executive attention.”

The report is the seventh in TheCR’s annual The State of Community Management series. In all, representatives from 339 communities across industries, functions and geographies shared their data on community strategy, operations and tactics. The sample includes both for-profit and nonprofit communities, and both internal and external communities.

Among the key findings, respondents disproved the “90-9-1 rule” of social media engagement, which claims just 1% of users are active content creators, while 9% contribute to content and 90% lurk on the sidelines. For the third consecutive year, communities reported numbers closer to 65-15-20, with more than a third of members actively creating and contributing to content. Set aside inactive members who never log in, and the percentage of actively engaged members in communities rises to between 40% and 50% - in both employee and customer communities.

“The research highlights the notion that communities and social networks deliver different engagement outcomes,” said Ted McEnroe, Director of Research and Training for The Community Roundtable. “Social networks tend to have more reach but lighter engagement while communities are more effective at triggering behavior change and deeper engagement, like asking and answering questions.”

The report also recognizes best practices in community management, highlighting key findings for 2016 in community strategy, operations and tactics.

1.    Communities that concisely define and measure the shared value to members and sponsors outperform their peers in community engagement and strategy metrics.

2.    Communities that empower members to share leadership opportunities improve engagement.

3.    Communities that measure their value and return on investment (ROI) by looking at behaviors and outcomes, rather than broad-based activity, achieve greater community success than their peers.

Also as part of this year’s report – TheCR asked participants to share data on answered questions and successful searches in an effort to calculate a base-level community ROI. While the data proved difficult or impossible to collect for some communities, those that were able to submit data demonstrated an ROI of 8-11x their community cost.

“As with anything else when you are asking people to calculate value in a new way, the data can be difficult to collect,” said Happe. “But these first figures suggest that simply answering questions and resurfacing those answers through search can provide a remarkable return on investment for communities.”

Among the other data highlights in the report:

  •     Successful organizations make communities a strategic priority. 61% of online communities have an approved strategy, including 93% of “best-in-class communities” (those who scored in the top 20% overall in the survey).
  •     More than half of online communities have a dedicated budget, including 76% of the best-in-class communities.
  •     75% of communities surveyed say they have full-time community management, and 95% have at least some resources allocated to community management.
  •     Work in communities is only half of community professionals’ jobs. Community managers say they spend nearly half of their time connecting with members via email, phone, elsewhere online or even in person.

Engagement data has brought with it executive interest and attention in communities, but Happe cautions that the spotlight on communities will fade if community leaders don’t capture data and stories that demonstrate the value and ROI of community approaches. “The growth and success of community as a strategic approach is something in which all of us who have been involved with building communities can take pride,” she notes in the report. “In the long run, though, our good feelings won’t be enough – we need to show results in business terms.”

Higher Logic is the launch partner for The State of Community Management 2016 report. The report is available for download exclusively through The Community Roundtable website at, and on Higher Logic’s website beginning May 18. In addition, Ted McEnroe and Rachel Happe will hold a free, exclusive launch webinar with Higher Logic at 2pm ET on Wednesday, May 25, where they will present the findings and take questions from attendees.

Book your place now at

About The Community Roundtable
At The Community Roundtable, we collaborate with clients to identify proven, practical strategies for better communities. We believe communities accelerate an organization’s potential by connecting employees and customers in meaningful ways. Clients rely on our models, practical research, and peer networks to take their communities to the next level.

TheCR has developed the Community Maturity Model and other models and research platforms that inform programming in TheCR Network, our training offerings and our advisory services.

Over 200 organizations have relied on The Community Roundtable’s services, including Adobe, Aetna, Autodesk, BASF, CA Technologies, H&R Block, Johnson Controls, Microsoft, NHRI, SAP, The World Bank, and Verizon. Learn more about The Community Roundtable and TheCR Network at

About Higher Logic
Higher Logic is an industry leader in cloud-based community platforms. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring like-minded people all together, by giving their community a home where they can meet, share ideas, answer questions and stay connected.

Higher Logic aims to empower engagement, collaboration and community evolution, which we believe are the fundamental elements to the long-term relevance of any organization. By fostering community growth, you can open up a world of possibility. Tap into the power your community can generate for you.

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Ted McEnroe
The Community Roundtable
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