This is how i see how much message activity is happening across my network.
When i write this i am speaking from a Ning 2.0 point of view, i have yet to it from a ning 3.0 yet but there is no reason why it wouldnt work if the URL structure is the same.
Goto Google analytics, and reporting.
Goto behaviour>all pages
then you will have a drilldown by page of all your content, starting with the most popular posts. change the date range to the past year or a longer period of time.
The primary dimension by default is the "page" which is basically the page URL. So you can look for any URL here.
When someone checks their inbox they click a link which has a query string contained inside. Also if someone creates a new message or reads a message or replies to a message the word 'inbox' is common throughout.
create a message: /profiles/message/new?folder=Inbox&page=1
reply to message: profiles/message/reply?id=0000000000&folder=Inbox&page=1
read message: profiles/message/show?id=0000000000&folder=Inbox&page=1
list messages: /profiles/message/listInbox
So you can see that if you search for the word "Inbox" you will find all pages relating to the messaging.
So when you see it by month if you select a large data range then you will see months or instances of high message activity vs low activity.
Questions you should ask are..
what caused the high amounts of messaging activity?
what caused the site to become dead in those months for private messaging?
Private messaging is a sign that your community is buzzing behind the scenes, even if it might not be on the surface.
Its great to be able to see this activity but what can we do with it?
What promotes private messaging?
in my example i created a group to trade items. Once you complete your first successful trade you get to belong in the 'trusted traders group', which is a group of VIPS who have the luxury of trading the item second after they have received the item.. basically it was a mechanism which 'reduced' fraudulent trades.
Basically i used profile questions to allow users to use the advanced search facility to find codes that interested them.
I also had content which fed into peoples need for codes, this also attracted others from the web to join the community as we could provide a need other sites could not fulfill.
Here in the below example is message activity over this time, and also how the previous content before people landed on messages shows how successful this code trading group was in the uplift in messaging.
What would be a good way to increase private messaging on the site? Anyone had success? what does your analytics read on private message activity and why?