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Measuring your community's strength by membership count
Does a larger membership really yield a stronger community?
This is an important question, indeed. Most of us generally measure the success of our own and other communities by the number of registered users the community has. But is membership count an accurate scale of community strength?
I think not. In fact, this number means so little in reality.
If you are familiar with Dunbar's Number, then you know that the interpersonal relationships within a community can easily diminish when you have vast amounts of active members, and that it is important to maintain and encourage relationships amongst the members in the community.
So what are other important scales by which you can accurately judge your community's strength? Some follow:
Engagement of discussion: How many posts and threads do your members create? How often do they post? How many helpful responses do they receive from other members?
Length of visits: How often your members visit is a vital metric, but more important is for how long do they visit each time?
Use of the Private Message system: If your users are conversing via PM and even better - via outside means of communication (i.e. MSN/AIM) - they are building relationships, which is obviously a good thing.
Openness and trusting: Are your members sharing personal experiences and telling stories? Are they trusting of other members and expanding their relationship by divulging more details?
Level of moderation: If you spend a lot of time worrying and moderating, and your forum needs constant attention by moderators/staff, then something may be wrong within your community. You may need to find out what is disrupting your community and make some reconciliations.