It’s All About That Data

Erica Kuhl
4 min readOct 16, 2019


No this is not a new song from Meghan Trainor although I do love that song. While not as peppy as the song, DATA is a very meaningful topic in the world of Community. Those that know me from way back, know that data was never my thing. That has definitely changed. My motto evolved to “if you can’t measure it, don’t do it” when launching new programs or processes.

I can honestly say that data changed the trajectory of community success when I was at Salesforce. I was stuck in a rut that many Community professionals get into with limited resources and lack of exposure of community throughout the company. I received great advice from my manager at the time to step away from the day to day grind of community engagement and dive into the data. For clarity, I’m not talking about health metrics for your community such as # of post, votes, comments. That data is also critical and important to measure, but in this case I’m speaking about business value metrics that impact the company’s bottom line. We agreed upon which metrics aligned to the business and were feasible to be correlated to the community. I was a party of one running the community so stepping away from engagement seemed impossible. Wouldn’t the community shrivel up without me? I’m sure many of the Community Managers out there can relate to this, but if you’ve done a good job with peer-to-peer strategies, your community should be able to survive, at least for a short time, without you. So I took the leap and dove into data.

I was fortunate enough to work with a data scientist and we put our heads together to figure out what data we could analyze and what the data outcome would mean. Since this was the first time either of us had done this, we had some challenging conversations. Then we went to work! The outcome was staggering, mouth dropping, eye opening, do a little jig worthy. I had researched industry benchmark data, but unless the data is authentically yours, it’s not as impactful to the business and leadership. Now I must pause here and stress that before I share the high level metrics we proved, it’s important to understand these are “north star” metrics. This means first you must put in the hard work building, growing, and engaging community before you can jump to these type of metrics. Hence “north star” — something that guides you and you work to achieve.

We focused on three “flavors” of metrics — Customer Success, Company Growth, and Personal Success.

Company Growth Metrics. We focused on four key ROI metrics: pipeline, ACV (Annual Contract Value), product adoption, and attrition. The dataset we used compared customers that were engaged in the community versus customers that were not. We defined “engaged” as customers that have posted, voted, commented, asked a questions or answered a question in the last 12 months. Since our community sits on top of Salesforce we had an easier time connecting customer/member information to the underlying data which included the opportunity, product usage and account data needed to evaluate this data.

Customer Success Metrics. Next we wanted to evaluate if engaging in the community had an impact on our community member’s companies. To get this data we did something earth shattering….we ASKED them! The data we got back was incredible. This added an entirely new dimension and value to the participating in the community. This data highlighted that participating in the community helps increase innovation , get a faster return on their product investment, improve company productivity and adoption of the product internally.

Personal Success Metrics. Finally we looked at personal success which focuses on the growth opportunities our members experience by engaging in the community. In my opinion this is the most important metric to track and celebrate. Focusing on personal success and deeply understanding what motivates and inspires your members is key to building a vibrant community. The community is nothing if it’s not focused on people. No matter what is driving the community together whether it’s a product, a service, or a mission, making it about personal connection will bring new meaning and dimension. When looking at the personal success data we found that community was impactful to building our members’ professional network, building their personal brand and changing their career trajectory.

I had the pleasure of bringing all these metrics to life on stage at CMX 2019. I know how hard it is to drive home the value of community to leadership, so I’m thrilled I had a change to share it on stage.

Community managers continue to struggle with the “softness” of community metrics. We need to change the perception and raise the boats of the impact of community on businesses. Bringing data to the table up-levels the conversation and gives your community a seat at the BIG table. So what’s stopping you — get on it!

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Erica Kuhl

CEO & Founder of Erica Kuhl Consulting Former VP Community at Salesforce, Community Builder & Dreamer, Podcast Host ( Wife/Mom/Ski Bum/Runner