The importance of Community Managers


I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in the SharePoint and Office 365 community for many years. The relationships I’ve formed have helped me grow my career, expand my technical knowledge, and build lifelong friendships. This community is special because of the people in it–people who are willing to support one another and share what they know. This selflessness is the distinguishing characteristic of strong community managers.

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Community managers give their time and talent to support the growth and development of others. Community managers come in a variety of forms. They can be internal Office 365 administrators, user group leaders, Microsoft MVPs, Yammer evangelists, or people who engage in regular Twitter conversations about SharePoint/Office 365. The community manager role can be formally acknowledged (e.g. leader of a formal user group or online community) or informally earned (e.g. an Office 365 user that drives engagement by regularly liking and commenting on Yammer posts). The hallmarks of the community manager are what they give to others–support, encouragement, and a continued positive focus.

I had the good fortune to spend time with several great community managers at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. Folks like Darrell Webster, Phil Worrell, Liz Sundet, Heather Newman, and Tracy van der Schyff encourage others to come forward and share what they know. They support a diversity of opinions, give others a chance to shine, and applaud people publicly for their contributions.

This concept of community management was also woven through several of the #MSIgnite sessions I attended. In her session on how Kimberly-Clark powers employee engagement with Yammer, Karen Prather outlined key ways community managers drive engagement:

  • Promote the creation of new community content
  • Drive ongoing dialogue by liking and commenting on posts frequently
  • Jump-start conversations by posting questions and user polls
  • Share popular posts from other communities/groups to drive cross-engagement
  • Continually invite others to post and share content
  • Attach pictures and videos to posts to drive higher click-thru rates
  • Keep a pulse on the community (understand what drives it forward, what inspires community members, etc.)

I also had the opportunity to participate in the #MSIgnite meetup “Learning through sharing: The new way to build your community.” Darrell Webster, Daniel Glenn, Loryan Strant, and Alistair Pugin led a facilitated discussion on fostering in-person and virtual Office 365 conversations/user groups. There was no one-size-fits-all approach that worked across geographies and types of groups, but community managers that knew their audience and tailored their approach to match the unique needs of their users were the most successful.

If your SharePoint or Office 365 journey has been positively impacted by a community manager, take a few minutes to say thank you. And perhaps it’s time to consider whether you have the time and talent to lift up others in your community. We’re always looking for strong community managers to spark new conversations!

One comment

  1. Great post Sarah! I’ll just add that whether or not someone has Community Manager or Evangelist in their title, organizations should do more to recognize — and support — these influencers within their ranks. The attribution is difficult to assign, but there are HUGE benefits to supporting community inside a company, as well as supporting your people in their outside community activities, from general employee satisfaction to improved communication and collaboration.

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