Energizing Community Growth: Insights from Commune’s Data-Driven Analysis

Commune Community Lab Report #1
Community Growth: Insights from Commune's Data-Driven Analysis

At Commune, we have recently established our new initiative, Community Lab. This initiative builds on the extensive dataset amassed through our community platform and strategic consulting services. Our mission is to aid in the scientific approach to community management by decoding the essence of communities and identifying best practices. By leveraging this wealth of data and its insightful analyses, Commune is dedicated to supporting data-driven community management strategies and shaping the future of community engagement. In this article, we will delve into the mechanisms behind the organic growth of communities and the transformations within their ecosystems.

Energy: The Catalyst for Community Growth

The process of launching an online community might appear deceptively simple. You select a platform, invite a few individuals, and declare the formation of a community. Yet, the genuine challenge emerges in nurturing and sustaining a community, propelled by an energy that catalyzes growth. This energy, inherently generated within the community, is pivotal from the outset. The immediate actions and engagement by the community manager act as the initial spark, igniting a series of events that we will examine in detail. Once sparked and continuously fueled, this energy enables the community to achieve significant outcomes, fostering spontaneous and organic user engagement. These positive dynamics can seed the creation of new initiatives across various domains, such as marketing campaigns and product development, opening up new opportunities that extend well beyond the community itself.

Tracking and Measuring Community Energy

To better understand the role of community energy—the force that propels community growth—we opted to measure this energy using MAU (Monthly Active Users) as a metric, based on the premise that a higher MAU indicates a more vibrant and successful community. (Note: While this metric does not always reflect the presence of community energy, we will utilize it as the primary variable for simplicity in this analysis.)

For this analysis, we established two cohorts: communities experiencing MAU growth and those facing MAU stagnation, with ten communities in each category. All communities are hosted by Commune and were within their inception phase of 12 to 18 months.

The principal findings of the study are as follows. For the purpose of this analysis, we will refer to community members as “users”:

  • Communities experiencing an increase in MAU demonstrated a notable rate of activity from community managers, particularly in the first 6 months following launch.
  • In certain instances of successful communities, the actions taken by community managers were 300% greater than those in communities experiencing stagnation.
  • Communities with growing MAU also showed a higher ratio of active leaders (*1), which was later followed by an increase in followers (*2).


*1 A leader: A user who regularly posts and reacts to posts from other users.
*2 A follower: A user who, while not posting themselves, reacts to posts from other users.

Communities experiencing growth in Monthly Active Users (MAU) demonstrate a significant number of initial actions by community managers, in contrast to those with a lower MAU.

Communities experiencing growth in Monthly Active Users (MAU) demonstrate a significant number of initial actions by community managers, in contrast to those with a lower MAU.

The number of active leaders begins to rise early in the inception phase of the community, which is then followed by an increase in the follower count. This sequence suggests a cascading effect, where initial leadership activity catalyzes broader community engagement and growth.

In communities with growing MAU, there is a noticeable expansion in the ratios of active leaders and followers over time. Specifically, the number of active leaders begins to rise early in the inception phase of the community, which is then followed by an increase in the follower count. This sequence suggests a cascading effect, where initial leadership activity catalyzes broader community engagement and growth.

In summary,

  • The rate of activity by community managers immediately after launch has a direct impact on the community’s positive and rapid growth.
  • Once a community is successfully launched and achieves a high velocity of growth, this momentum is further amplified by the actions of community managers, which then engage leaders and followers sequentially, as if each role contributes to the next surge of growth momentum.

Navigating Through Community Phases

The study illuminates the critical roles played by community managers, leaders, and followers in either fostering growth or contributing to stagnation within a community. The impact of each role evolves throughout the life cycle of a community, particularly noticeable in the phases following its launch. The proactive engagement and iterative actions of community managers are crucial for initiating successful community activities. Examples of such actions include creating engaging posts, responding to user inquiries, and organizing events. Inspired by the community manager’s initiatives, leaders emerge, taking on the mantle of content creation and further disseminating the community’s energy to others, including followers and passive users who engage by viewing content rather than interacting. This dynamic interplay and the healthy circulation of energy within the community are fundamental to its success.

It’s also vital to recognize that these roles are not static; a community is a living entity that continually evolves, with members frequently transitioning between roles.

Communities do not achieve growth overnight. Like nurturing a plant, it requires time, care, and the right initial impulse, which is often provided by the community manager’s energy. Without adequate internal resources or expertise, this crucial first step can be daunting. To address this challenge, Commune offers strategic consulting services alongside an all-in-one platform, providing a robust foundation for those embarking on the journey of community building for the first time.

For those keen to dive deeper into the nuances of community management and discover how Commune can enhance your efforts, we encourage you to download our free community management playbook.