2020 Customer Awards: Microsoft - Best-in-Class: Community

2020 Customer Awards: Microsoft - Best-in-Class: Community

Company: Microsoft

Company background: The Microsoft Tech Community is Microsoft's official community for public best practice sharing amongst IT Pros, developers, customers, and tech enthusiasts. It is a collection of community hubs focused on products and solutions, becoming a one-stop-shop for all things Microsoft community. Since launching September 2016, it has grown to support 104 communities and counting, 486K members, reaching just under 7M unique visitors monthly (inclusive of unauthenticated visitors).

Contact: Erica Esper

Title: Sr. Community Business Strategist

Related URLs:

Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe your community(s) and how you decided to start a community or grow/change it?

The Microsoft Tech Community connects its members to all the resources that help them be successful in their roles. These resources include official Microsoft blogs written by the product teams, on-demand content delivered at Microsoft events, and direct access to Microsoft experts. Our product teams engage directly with the community to share product news, collect feedback, discuss product features, scenarios, roadmap timelines, and more. The end goal for the Microsoft Tech Community is to nurture a direct connection to people whose success is dependent on Microsoft’s success. We are fostering a community of people who believe in our mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more.

The predecessor to the Tech Community was the Office 365 Network. It was an external Yammer network community for Office 365 customers and enthusiasts. Because the Office 365 Network did not offer lurkers to see the community activity before signing in, it hit a ceiling of 80k members. At the same time, community members were asking questions about Microsoft products outside of Office 365 including Azure and Dynamics. The time had come to find a new platform to grow the community's potential that was designed to support all of Microsoft's products.

2. Tell us about how you made it happen? Did you stage it first? Who got an early look? How did you drive adoption? Did you get executive buy-in? Did you have any key iterations?

The community was staged before launch. We had a small team of stakeholders that included our Community Managers, representatives from multiple product teams who helped design the Tech Community. We launched a beta of the new community with our MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) who gave us helpful feedback. They helped us launch the Microsoft Tech Community by loading it with content for community members to interact with from Day one. They were also very visible in the community because of the green ring around their profile avatar and had special permissions to moderate, unlike regular community members.

We drove adoption by launching it at our premier tech event Microsoft Ignite, held in Atlanta, GA in September 2016. This event attracts over 20k attendees every year, and that would be a significant source of new members. We know that one of the most compelling pieces of content for Ignite attendees is the post-event recordings. With the Tech Community being the exclusive digital destination to access those recordings, the incentive to join the Tech Community became more compelling.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 8.29.08 AM.png

The Microsoft Tech Community booth at Microsoft Ignite 2016.

We also incentivized superuser behavior by tying the MVP program with the Tech Community. MVPs are renewed into the program based on their contributions to the community. Tech Community contributions formed part of their renewal applications and were automated, making it easier for MVPs to focus on interacting in the community rather than reporting. We also drove adoption by being part of Microsoft's overall blog strategy. The Tech Community blogs are technical blogs, allowing engineering teams to provide the depth of technical content they aren't able to express on By hosting these articles on the Tech Community, members can interact with experts and get technical news and updates firsthand in one place.

It is also important for members to know that real Microsoft employees are here engaging in the community. Like the MVPs, we wanted to give members a visual cue to know who the employees were. Employees were given a blue ring around their profile avatar, making it very immediate who would be representing Microsoft in those conversations. We had multiple executive sponsors for the Microsoft Tech Community from leadership in product marketing. 

Key iterations of the Tech Community were:

  • Launching the Tech Community with 32 product communities
  • Launching Product blogs tied to each of these product communities, which drove up traffic significantly
  • Syndicating conversations Tech Community conversations into the digital Microsoft Ignite experience so online interactions would happen in one place
  • Launched a PowerBI dashboard using the Bulk Data API to provide reporting to internal stakeholders at scale
  • Launched a Community Admin portal allowing Product Manager to have more control over their communities and blogs
  • Enabled AI-powered language translation to English, German, Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Significant reach milestones:

  • Broke 1.0M in May 2017
  • Broke 2.0M in Sept 2017
  • Broke 3.0M in Nov 2017
  • Broke 4.0M in Dec 2017
  • Broke 5.0M in Feb 2018
  • Broke 6.0M in Apr 2018
  • Broke 12.0M in Aug 2018
  • Broke 13.0M in Sept 2018
  • Broke 15.0M in Oct 2018
  • Broke 16.0M in Nov 2018
  • Broke 17.0M in Dec 2018

3. What were the results? 

With almost 7M monthly unique visitors and over 10M monthly page views, it is incredible to see how critical the Tech Community is to the way Microsoft runs its business, how it engages with customers and product fans. Considering it did not exist 4 years ago, it is now fundamental to the way we run our news cycle and engage with community at major events such as Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Ignite the Tour. The Tech Community has become its own source of traffic, with organic traffic outperforming traffic coming from Google and Twitter.

The tech audience craves technical depth, and by enabling product teams to directly connect with them through the Tech Community, they now have access to it. Our members appreciate transparency and product teams relish the feedback to help them build better products. Experts love that their input, advice, and community contributions are officially recognized especially as they seek to renew or apply for MVP status. This helps Microsoft build a healthy community of advocates for best practice sharing. Our Community Managers have onboarded 198 blog admins onto the blog portal so they could be empowered with the tools to share out their blogs. This has effectively removed bottlenecks that our CSM team would have created, helping to scale out the teams’ communities even further. Currently, there are 1,881 total blog authors across the communities. We’re currently at 31,174 articles authored and counting. That’s roughly 24 articles authored per day since we launched!

Ultimately, community is all about people, and the Tech Community is doing a tremendous amount of work to support the outreach our community does at scale. From blogs to community events, from helping a member with their question to celebrating revered community speakers, the Tech Community has become Microsoft’s foundation supporting a strong community of technical experts who facilitate connections with customers, fellow IT professionals, developers, and tech enthusiasts.

There is an exciting future ahead of the Tech Community. The Tech Community team is working closely with the Khoros Success Services team on a hyper-personalization project to optimize content recommendations and way-finding ease. We are tightly connected to Khoros’ Community product team to capitalize on upcoming innovative features in the product roadmap. We regularly liaise with Khoros Community customers to learn industry best practices and share our learnings after building the Tech Community over many years.

The partnership between Microsoft and Khoros is helping us achieve our mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more, by connecting members to resources that help them be successful in their roles. One of our MVPs Chris Hoard summarizes it best, ‘Participating in the community has brought me into contact with many others who are as passionate as I am, often about the same things that I am passionate about. It has given me a great sense of affinity, belonging, and of being accepted. In this community, everyone has a voice, and every voice matters regardless of accolades, organizational hierarchy, or technical ability ... For me, it is the inclusiveness of the Microsoft Tech Community which is its defining feature and at the very heart of its success.’, Our community is only getting bigger, and we’re excited to continue to empower, educate, and support both employees and users.

Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 8.28.41 AM.png

The Microsoft Tech Community PowerBI dashboard shows that it reaches 68M unauthenticated visitors as of August 2020.