Analytics is all about data, statistics, and the insights that result from studying them. In the realm of community, that often means tracking, reviewing, and reporting on members, their interests, engagement, trends among them, and growth overall.

For online communities, this can be tricky to do. Orbit’s Constellation Report, published in November 2021, surveyed community builders globally about the tools they use daily. It found that community happens across a growing network of tools, with a typical community being active on six different platforms. This includes some combination of social media like Twitter, a forum like Discourse, a chat platform like Discord or Slack, an events platform, and first-party tools, like mailing lists and in-app messaging.

When trying to wrangle data from across all those platforms, analytics tooling is critical—delivering the capability to reliably and efficiently record and interpret the information collected. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Getting data in

The starting point for many is the community platforms themselves. They pretty much all have some form of built-in analytics. Whether it be a community management suite, forum, or events tool, they give you insights into the actions undertaken on their own platform. But tracking actions beyond and between those properties is where dedicated analytics tools can come in handy.

According to the Constellation Report, the most commonly used analytics platforms are Web analytics, primarily for measuring content consumption. Google Analytics reigns supreme here as a free solution with extensive functionality. For product communities, solutions like Mixpanel and Amplitude that provide a more open-ended solution to track a range of actions rather than just content views are a good option. The actions can be a click of a button or menu in a web-based tool, API calls, the opening of an email, or whichever event you want to track. These often require some coding, at the very least adding a snippet to record an event, and more involved development when integrating it into a software product or platform.

For those without access to development resources, workflow automation tools can be helpful. These automate tasks, processes, and, importantly, data sharing between tools. Zapier is a clear category leader, but Integromat can be a more affordable alternative for those with many tasks. At the same time, other solutions target specific sectors or types of organizations and might have more integrations with the tools you use. is a common one for Enterprise tools, for example. If you have more complicated workflows and access to developers or the knowledge yourself, solutions like n8n provide an extensible option.

Analyzing the data

The workhorse of modern community management has always been the spreadsheet. Like a digital Swiss Army knife, it gets used and abused for all types of tasks, including the storage, collation, and management of member data. The report found Google Sheets to be the most used solution, followed by Notion, Excel, and Airtable, among many others.

When a member first joins an online community, we often only get a few bits of information to go on—it could be just a name, a username, or an email address. Data enrichment tools help fill in the blanks by using those bits of information to surface other publicly available details, like job title, location, and bios from social platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.

Clearbit, Zoominfo, and FullContact lead the pack in terms of providers. Enrichment services are predominantly aimed at sales teams, so with that commercial outcome in mind, they are not cheap, and scale can be an issue. Enriching the potentially many thousands or millions of community members you might have can make mass enrichment cost-prohibitive, forcing you instead to be more targeted. Cheaper providers do exist, but testing has shown a match rate difference up to 2500% between top providers and alternatives, and the depth and quality can be problematic. It is not just data about people that you can enrich, though solutions like StackShare or BuiltWith can provide insights into the technologies different companies or websites make use of too.

Reporting and sharing data

When it comes to sharing and reporting, built-in analytics and off-the-shelf options like Amplitude can be used. For those with specific needs, more flexible business intelligence tools like Google Data Studio, Tableau, and Looker, are popular options. Although they require your own data setup, so it is typically only an option for those with access to a data team.

Your thoughts around sharing data should not be limited to charts and dashboards, though. Being able to send your community data into tools like CRMs or marketing automation platforms, which have their own reporting capabilities, is crucial for community teams to demonstrate the full impact they are having across an organization. So when considering community analytics, it is essential to consult on the needs of other teams and think through how you can integrate with or augment their analytics with community insights.

The changing analytics tools landscape

Even with the above tools, an effective community analytics setup can be difficult to achieve and require a concerted, cross-team effort. But the landscape of community tooling is evolving. The reliance on the spreadsheet and the manual, error-prone, and time-consuming work associated with recording stats that way can at least be reduced if not yet replaced with dedicated tools. The complexity and wide-ranging needs of community teams mean that analytics remains a complicated area. For the foreseeable, you will still need to use a combination of tools to collect, store, and analyze all the community data at your disposal. But those who put in the time to do so can generate meaningful insights that will help you build more vibrant communities and stronger relationships.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, take a look at our Community Tools Index. The index lists more than 300 tools across 18 different categories, including analytics, the platforms where communities gather, and the software used to help organize and communicate with community members. The report covers only those apps and tools that are generally available. Additionally, each tool is ranked by its actual usage by community builders, so you can have the confidence that each one is ready for production use.

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