Community Is About Measuring Impact Beyond Sales

How do we measure success? By sales? By revenue and profit? Sure, that makes sense, but I’d like to explore some other options today. Sometimes I feel like we pick the easy measures, and that does a disservice to our brands and our customers in the long run.

A lot of brands are embracing social media nowadays, but the way they talk about it is kind of odd – that it is a new thing to actually consider talking to customers; To treat them like a community with its own power, instead of a list of demographics in a buying cycle.

All too often, I feel that businesses are very concerned with what happens BEFORE they buy a product, and not very concerned after as to its impact. So we measure sales, not effectiveness.

Maybe a brand follows up with a survey with questions such as “would you recommend this product to a friend?” But I’m not convinced that this is an effective measure either. We often answer questions like that to validate our behaviors and choices.

In education, we do similar things. We measure a student’s retention of facts in the short term, not their knowledge in the long term. And more importantly, we don’t measure IMPACT at all. So, if a student gets good grades in history and economics, we measure them mere seconds after they memorize the material, not years down the road to see if they used that knowledge to help society or build value for a business they work for.

There’s a lot of talk about “community” and how we have to be community managers. I think part of what people mean here is that we have to stay engaged with our audience AFTER the sale. That if you sell a Star Wars novel, that you need to constantly engage with those fans in order to understand how good the product is, and where it needs to go. What was the effect of that book beyond the number of copies sold?

To better serve communities, and grow strong brands, we need to measure our impact in the long term, not just the next financial quarter or bonus cycle.

We call people “consumers” partly to justify our reliance on the point of sale as the key measure of success. But I can’t help but feel that people don’t want to consume, they want to become. And that by focusing on how we impact their ability to do so will make us stronger both individually and as a society.