Churn in general is the measure of the number or percentage of people who have left or are no longer in affiliation with the community. Although it might seem fairly obvious - the churn or churn rate is the number of people who have left - but the interpretations or connotations are different under varying circumstances.
How to correctly identify or interpret churn?
Simply writing down the churn rate and taking that as metric to judge the entire community on is an incorrect way of understanding churn. The churn rate has to be presented in context with several other factors for you to comprehend accurately what its impact looks like.
Consider an example of a 100-member community. Now, not all of those members are equally engaged contributors, in fact, we know from the 1% rule that the majority of them are people who never really engage. One superfan or champion leaving your community isn’t the same as a lurker leaving. Losing a superfan can take a considerable hit in your community so the churn rate is a lot more consequential than the churn rate of less active members.
I’ve identified the churn rate, now what?
You’ve identified the what part, now you need to identify the why part. Why did it happen? And it can go both ways - be it high churn rate or low. Identify why there’s a high churn rate and also why there’s low. You’ve lost a part of the community, and frankly, that’s completely normal. Communities generally serve a purpose, and when that purpose has been served, people tend to go away. It’s normal. But you should put in efforts to identify why they left.
Keep a close eye on everything that goes on in the community. Whenever there’s an increase in churn, it might’ve been the result of something that recently happened in the community. Try to make sure it doesn't happen again and observe if churn rates stay normal when it doesn't. Similarly, keep an eye out for when churn rates are lower. This might mean the community is doing something right. Try to do that more often and see if your hypothesis holds.
Another way is to reach out to people and ask why they left. Take constant feedback from the community and see how much of it is negative as opposed to positive. Acting on feedback is one of the most effective ways to identify pain points and fix them.
A common theme in community-building is that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. The same applies here. Depending on what you’ve identified, you’ll have to take decisions accordingly to counter the churn rate. A lot of it will only be relevant to your community, and therefore there’s no better way to do it than to try.
A superfan (can also be called a creator) is someone who has reached a point where they can influence activity within the community. This person is now a content creator and is always active in the community - asking questions, brainstorming ideas, replying to posts, and reacting to them.