What metrics matters in forums?

Forums require a substantial amount of work to maintain and to keep valuable. This can include both software and human time. If a forum is being run for a company, the time costs $$$, but even if the forum is volunteer-run, there are opportunity costs.

To justify this investment, some kind of metrics are useful. Metrics can tell us:

  • is the forum useful
  • is the forum working
  • are people getting value out of it

What metrics makes sense? In my mind, there are activity metrics and output metrics. An example of an activity metric is “how many users are on the forum” or “how many posts are read each day”. These are intrinsic to the forum and are relatively easy to gather.

Output metrics require a larger vision of the forum and its usefulness and purpose, which will of course vary. But to pick an example, if you have a company forum, a good output metric might be “how many hours of customer service time were saved by this forum” or “how many customers started off with a forum post”.

Are there metrics that make sense to you and your forum? What are they? Are they activity or output metrics?