How Does Your Community Define Active User?

Hi Community friends! 

I was digging around some articles/posts in the InSided community to look for ideas on how other communities are defining “Active Users”. Curious to know how others are defining this, as there doesn’t seem to be a set definition within the industry. I know Julian shared some of his thoughts in the post below, but wanted to see is others are calculating by “any time a member posts a topic” or as “any time a member replies in a conversation or posts a topic”, etc. 

Looking forward to hearing how others calculate this, as I’m currently trying to determine the best way to measure Daily Active Users/Monthly Active Users, but unsure what the best definition of “Active” is in this case.

10 replies

^ curious to know if @Ditte @Blastoise186 @Julian @Jeanie Lee have any thoughts on this? Do you have a recommendation for defining “Active” in your communities? @Blastoise186 i know you’re an end user but i feel like at this point, you’re pretty much an expert lol :D 


Ooh, that’s a good one! Seriously, it really is a very good question! I can definitely answer from the viewpoint of a user, but let me see if I can call on some friends too. @JessPritch and @timcavey can probably give their thoughts from a moderator and community manager perspective.

For me, I’d define an active user as someone who regularly visits and contributes in pretty much any way that’s constructive - obviously disregarding spam and simple “me too” type comments which don’t really help much. They don’t have to be a Super User or trusted volunteer as such, just being active in general. After all, not every active user will get to that level, but it’s a sign that they could be.

To some extent, even users who only ever post once or twice could be considered as “active” for roughly the time period they showed activity for, since that’s still something. But if they drop away, I’d eventually consider them to be inactive.

OVO is a pretty good example here. While a huge majority of the userbase is made up of members who only needed help once and then we don’t really see them again, there’s a group of users who definitely do stick around and either become Super Users (like myself and Transparent for example), or just help out in other ways. There’s multiple users who come to mind there too.

It’s almost impossible to set a strict definition however, since it really depends on your specific community. Those that have a much faster pace may benefit from a shorter timespan, while slower communities will want a bigger delay there. :)

I like how David Spinks outlines this in his book The Business of Belonging.

First, David defines an active member as “someone who participates by joining in the discussion and creating content”. In digital that means creating new discussions and replies. In physical that means they’re meeting people, joining discussions, sharing learnings.

Second, David takes a look at it in the context of his SPACES model and defines the actions that would be important for each of those dimensions. For example from the book:

Objective Action
Support Answer a question for another customer
Product Share feedback or an idea
Acquisition Refer a new customer
Contribution Share or create content
Engagement Renew contract
Success Teach a class for other customers


I think if you think about these dimensions for your own community, map out the actions, then you should be able to define a north star metric that works to define what you view as an active member. For some folks that simply the action of creating topics, for others it might be a mix of things.

inSided’s own dashboards focus on the number and percentage of users with at least one post (a topic or reply) in the given period. I doubt that is sufficient for many in defining active, but it’s a start.


Heya @Blastoise186 and @Scott Baldwin, thank you both for sharing your insights here, and for giving me something to noodle on. I think in essence, you’re both alluding to the fact that there is no 1 size fits all for this question, and that its really tailored towards the specific community, which I agree with. Scott, your recap of SPACES from David Spinks is excellent, and definitely gives me some confidence in determining what Active should be defined as for us. 

The way that I see it, at least with the Community we’ve built with InSided, we see Active Members defined as: 

  • logged in a second time after account creation or
  • posted a question/conversation or
  • replied in a thread

the reason why i say OR, in this case, is because of two scenarios:

  • someone comes to the community for the first time, created an account, and posts a topic or responds to a question. I would count that as active even though its their first time there. They weren't a passive viewer and they engaged by Self Selecting in the account creation process
  • someone comes to the community, creates an account and doesn't do anything, and continues to not do anything for 5 months. I would say that isn't active. However:
  • someone comes to the community, creates an account and doesn't do anything for 5 months but then comes back to the community, posts a question (they have to login in order to post) and then replies back in the question, I would consider that active because they had to take extra steps to post. I think @Blastoise186 you made a good point by identifying “Active” based on the time period.

so all that to say, in my opinion, creating an account =/= active, creating an account and posting or commenting or logging in a second time within x-timeframe (however that time frame should be defined) = active.

Would love anyone else’s thoughts here, but thanks so much to the two of you for chiming in! 


I define “Active” as someone who has taken any overt action in the Community this month. This is a “nice to know” metric. The action of creating an account and/or lurking doesn’t fall within this metric in my world (which is not to say that lurkers aren’t important, because they’re ridiculously important in the context of self service and community satisfaction!)

I then define “Monthly Active Users” as the number of users who were active in consecutive months. This is a key OKR for me and an indicator of community health :)

Userlevel 1

Yes my method is even more crude and basic then the much more accurate ways described above. 


I simply use the ‘Members with at least one post’ metric in Analytics. I cross reference that with the number of posts, to work out a ‘activity per member’ metric. 


Using the second metric alongside the first gives me an idea of the type of engagement. A single poster asking a question and not coming back, would contribute to a low ‘activity per member’ figure. 

What has this crew been using for their users who are not as active? How are you getting them engaged with the community? 

@timcavey @Casstastr0phee @Blastoise186 @Scott Baldwin @Onomatopoeia 

Userlevel 1

We’re thinking about whether email campaigns could be used to target inactive members… Keen to hear what others are doing or thinking about!



I would say that was one of the main driving use cases. Using segmentation to identify inactive members and have a specific email with a LOOK WHAT YOU ARE MISSING 👀 feel.


Its the classic 90/9/1 rule. 1% of people create content, 9% reply to that content, and 90% view the content.

Wouldn’t we all like that to be a more balanced equation.


I can also give a perspective as a (Super)User too. I don’t mind gentle reminders about re-engaging. Just make sure you don’t spam me with 50 emails a day about it! :)

If you have ideas about a template or copy you’d like my feedback on, feel free to drop it in this thread and I’ll take a look.