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A Detailed Breakdown of Microsoft's Online Tech Community

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Learn the challenges of crafting a community in one of the web's most challenging internal and external environments.

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A Detailed Breakdown of Microsoft's Online Tech Community

  1. 1. M I C R O S O F T C O M M U N I T Y B R E A K DO W N By Richard Millington, www.feverbee.com
  2. 2. O V E R V I E W A N D S T R U C T U R E
  3. 3. 3 MICROSOFT COMMUNITIES ANSWERS (custom platform) TECHCOMMUNITY (Khoros/Lithium) DEVELOPER NETWORK (unsure - answerhubs?) TECHNET (unsure - answerhubs?) 99 PRODUCT COMMUNITIES 500+ SPACES WITHIN EACH COMMUNITY 18 PRODUCT COMMUNITIES DEVELOPERS IT PROS Discussion and best practices on Microsoft Technologies Destination for Microsoft resources for developers and testers Documentation and learning for IT professionals Support community for customers/end- users IT PROS CUSTOMERS/END- USERS 99 PRODUCT COMMUNITIES FEEDBACK COMMUNITIES (UserVoice) IT PROS / END USERS Dozens of isolated product-specific feedback communities OVERVIEW BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  4. 4. 4 BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYOVERVIEW DESCRIPTION PLATFORM Khoros/Lithium CATEGORY Customer community TYPE(s) Support, success LAUNCHED 2016 (previously a Yammer community) MEMBERSHIP 341,988 (3rd June, 2019) NEW REGISTRATIONS PER DAY (EST) 500 to 600* CONVERSATIONS PER DAY 1523* POSTS PER DAY (EST) 694* * per day numbers calculated by comparing current totals to past totals via archive.org and averaging results
  5. 5. 5 BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYSTRUCTURE SECTION DESCRIPTION Q&A For members to ask questions and get help. The ‘community’ is comprised of 99 communities. These break down to 500 sub-spaces for each community. IDEAS Members can submit ideas by UserVoice and community ideas via TechCommunity. EVENTS Members can learn about and directly register for events on 3rd-party platforms. BLOG Employees can share product and community updates OTHER Social media, GitHub, and other related sites.
  6. 6. 6 The Microsoft Tech Community comprises of 70 distinct product and service categories and 16 ‘solution’ based communities (and seemingly a handful of private communities) BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYSTRUCTURE
  7. 7. 7 Each community comprises of ‘multiple spaces’ focused on particular aspects of the product or unique conversation strands. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYSTRUCTURE
  8. 8. 8 BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYFEATURES PLATFORM FEATURE FORUMS / CONVERSATIONS Q&A BLOGS TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE BASE GAMIFICATION CROWDSOURCED IDEAS VALUE ANALYTICS GROUPS RATINGS AND REVIEWS CONTESTS MEDIA
  9. 9. 9 Microsoft’s community appears to be at the peak of the maturity phase of the community lifecycle BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYLIFECYCLE
  10. 10. 10 The community seems to be competing with other highly popular legacy communities for the same members. Ideally, TechNet/MSDN/Uservoice would be migrated into this new community. However, the huge popularity of these older communities suggest this would be difficult to do. We can also see the number of conversations far exceeds posts. If this data is accurate (big if), the community has a problem ensuring most posts receive a response. However, the sheer level of activity across 99 communities also suggests strong internal support and staff engagement. STRUGGLING TO HANDLE RAPID GROWTH SUMMARY BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYOVERVIEW
  11. 11. C O M M U N I T Y D E S I G N
  12. 12. 12 In a community of this size, the search box should be clear and in the centre of the screen. Most people want answers. Pretty good way to show both the latest blog posts alongside community activity above this fold line. I’m skeptical member of the week really adds anything to the community. Is this the most active? Best contributions? etc.. ? Needs a much clearer registration and sign in link here Would recommend reducing the height of the boxes by half and removing ‘Microsoft Build’. Doesn’t appear to be a critical part of the community The community clearly articulates its purpose, has a get started area for newcomers and then an unnecessary ‘learn more’ area) In-line answers take up a lot of space and make it harder for people to quickly scroll. Far too much wasted space here. Showing latest activity above the fold is great. But high volume means many visitors only see discussions with no user metrics. Might remove these.
  13. 13. 13 Without the expanded snippets of conversations here (and first replies), it would be possible to squeeze a lot more discussions onto the homepage for members to see. Any value of infinite scroll here? The site feels sluggish/ slow. Wouldn’t put ‘users online’ above popular labels. Might consider moving popular labels to the top of the page in place of the three top boxes to make it easier for members to browse.
  14. 14. 14 Moving the search to the top of the page is a really smart move on mobile. Would remove the banner and replace it with a single registration/ sign-in box. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY Would remove these huge boxes which forces the majority of members to scroll down to find what they want. Activity is pushed off the page with a lot of tiny text which isn’t likely to be useful to mobile visitors. Would remove this so the latest activity appears above the fold.
  15. 15. 15 BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY Search stays constant at the top of the page as members scroll down Great display of blog posts. Even better if you can swipe to see the next post. Could remove the image for simplicity. Showing expanded content makes more sense here. Would use this screen as the homepage for mobile visitors.
  16. 16. 16 MICROSOFT’S WEB DESIGN BENCHMARKS ASTHETICS NEWCOMERS ACTIVITY DISPLAY MOBILE NAVIGATION CALLS TO ACTION World ClassGoodBad Ok BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  17. 17. S E A R C H
  18. 18. 18 The Microsoft Tech Community uses Lithium’s default search capability which enables members to search for information from posts, ideas, blogs, and the tribal knowledge base. The results appear to be prioritised by 1) Relevancy to key terms 2) Accepted solution 3) Date and 4) Likes. This is a good standard. Community would benefit from a unified search option which retrieved information from the rest of the site alongside search results. This ignores all existing documentation. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  19. 19. O N B O A R D I N G B E N C H M A R K S
  20. 20. 20 The communities are very difficult to find from the core Microsoft site. Most links to the community were several clicks deep and buried within more specific product pages. However, we believe the number of new members is too high for solely search results and we thus suspect referral traffic from other Microsoft properties to account for a significant portion of visitors.
  21. 21. 21 ONBOARDING Most of the 99 communities can be found at the bottom of individual product pages. This is not ideal, but better than not appearing on the page at all. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  22. 22. 22 Like many brands which requires extensive product documentation, the community must compete with documentation to appear highly in search results. There is likely scope to improve and prioritise how discussions appear in search results to attract more traffic and differentiate from product information. We suspect the community attracts the long-tail of search results which documentation can’t easily cover. ONBOARDING
  23. 23. 23 To join you need to give the community access to your Microsoft account. This is a little clumsy, but probably understandable. The Microsoft community uses single sign on (you can also use your Skype details). BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  24. 24. 24 Microsoft does the right thing here. When members joined they are immediately asked to highlight the areas which most interest them. This ensures members aren’t overwhelmed with irrelevant information. This lists the most popular communities at the top. This is the best place to set your profile username. Asks for as little information as possible. Code of conduct is useful, but might be better to have this as it’s own page so people don’t easily jump past it.
  25. 25. 25 This is a wasted opportunity to set a specific action for members to take after they join. Member activity feed is populated with relevant content based upon the content members decided to follow. This is ideal for communities where members are likely to use multiple products. There is no further onboarding or automation rules here to better engage newcomers within the community. An email campaign or a clear next step would be useful. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY ONBOARDING
  26. 26. 26 MICROSOFT’S ONBOARDING BENCHMARKS REGISTRATION POST REGISTRATION World ClassGoodBad Ok PRE-REGISTRATION ONBOARDING BENCHMARKS BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  27. 27. E N G A G E M E N T B E N C H M A R K S
  28. 28. 28 At the core of engagement in Microsoft communities is a Facebook wall-like structure as opposed to a typical forum community. Members respond by entering their replies directly in the box provided beneath previous discussions. The benefit is it makes participating easier for casual browsers. The downside is it takes up space and members might reply without reading the entire topic. Would remove the option to reply at this level because of that. Good activity stat and follow option. The search bar needs to be moved to the banner. It’s far too small here. All three boxes here are pretty much ideal and relevant to the situation. We really like this page layout. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but it functions perfectly for a primarily tech audience. Really like seeing the top-liked comments. Given the ‘Facebook-wall’ style of posts, it might be simpler to adopt the open text box at the top of the page for members who want to ask a question.
  29. 29. 29 Clean interface and functionality. This responder is an MVP, but this isn’t clear from this response. Member status should appear alongside their responses here. This helps members to validate the expertise in the response. Love seeing the related conversations here. Very useful. Might benefit from replacing ‘like’ with ‘I have the question too’
  30. 30. 30 Love this display of the progress of each idea. Easy to see where each idea is leading towards, where members can help, and what the process looks like. Sorting by idea status probably is the best default given the ideas which appear here. It’s not clear what ‘completed’ means. Does this mean the idea has been implemented or something else? The idea section feels under- utilised and hidden within the community platform with a minuscule number of ideas compared with the incredible volume of members in this community. This might be a better display of ideas in the community than sorting by status.
  31. 31. 31 Perhaps one reason the default idea area is not widely utilised is communities also link to their own feedback/ ideas area on Uservoice - a completely different platform. Members can post ideas directly to Uservoice via a pop-up box which appears in the community. It’s strange to invest in having the ideas section while still directly a large volume of traffic to a completely different engagement experience. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITYFEEDBACK
  32. 32. 32 The Uservoice community has a high level of engagement, Thousands of items of feedback and new idea updates. It’s strange to split the community across an additional challenge. Most links point back to the Lithium-hosted community.
  33. 33. 33 This is one of 99 communities, but it appears engaging enough to visit frequently. It’s regularly updated. Perhaps the only challenge is limited visibility of the content on the community homepage. The Microsoft TechCommunity excels in engaging staff members to create a huge amount of content for members. The number of staff members who participate in communities and the volume of content they create suggests widespread support for the community internally. All the contributions to the blog current come from Microsoft employees. It may be valuable to enable trusted members to share their best advice as well. This is motivating and helps scale the community. This may enable staff to filter for quality instead of creating all the contributions personally.
  34. 34. 34 TITLE TEXT The Microsoft TechCommunity provides an excellent place for leaders of different groups to list and promote their own events. Good focus on the biggest upcoming event. A unique innovation is hosting a ‘speakers’ directory. This is a novel concept not seen in most other communities which allows potential experts and others to promote themselves. This message is strangely almost an exact replicate of the one on the left hand side. It’s an odd oversight. Showing the most popular speakers is a powerful way to attract and keep top talent in the ecosystem. The Microsoft Tech community really does a great job showcasing events by popularity.
  35. 35. 35 TITLE TEXT Most events listed here are not hosted by Microsoft but by members of the community (or the broader ecosystem. Might be better to ensure they’re well categorised on each sub-community rather than as their own page here.
  36. 36. 36 EVENTS The event page on the community only serves as the front door. These register links typically take members to Meetup / Eventbrite registration pages. The community becomes a platform for all relevant groups to publish and promote their own event. Very few communities have achieved this. This image doesn’t really add anything to the group and could probably be removed. Ideally, this page would show how many members are attending. However, given the registration process is not handled within the community, this is difficult to accomplish. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  37. 37. 37 EVENTS Providing anyone hosting an event in the ecosystem with an easy way to search for speakers by product or location is an idea which has huge potential (but seems under-utilised here) BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  38. 38. 38 ENGAGEMENT BENCHMARKS ACTIVITY FRIENDLINESS KNOWLEDGE RESPONSE/RESOLUTION EASE OF ENGAGEMENT World ClassGoodBad Ok ENGAGEMENT BENCHMARKS BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  39. 39. M V P / S U P E R U S E R P R O G R A M
  40. 40. 40 Microsoft has perhaps the most successful and best supported MVP program many company. The MVP program has its subdomain featured prominently. Microsoft has over 3000 MVPs. However, it’s unclear how many of these are active. The search directly to find the top experts by country/region is a useful touch. This is a five-day event for MVPs at company headquarters. Most MVP programs have a single- data event. It’s clearly a big deal. it’s always good to let members nominate people to become MVPs BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  41. 41. 41 Each MVP has a distinct bio. The bios are clear and simple enough which clearly list a member’s expertise. In global communities showing the languages members speak is a useful addition
  42. 42. 42 Two contribution areas is interesting. This might be unique to Microsoft. This is where the community really shines. It pulls in multiple behaviours both inside and outside of a forum-based community into a single stream. This shows exactly how each member has helped the community. This clearly shows speaking at conferences, forum participation, hosting user groups, blog posts etc…
  43. 43. 43 Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the entire program is there is no outlined reward scheme. As shown in the copy, it’s simply a way of ‘showing thanks’ to members. This demonstrates that MVPs don’t need rewards, they need to feel they have an impact, have some asset of exclusive information, and a sprinkle of status.
  44. 44. 44 MICROSOFT SUPERUSER PROGRAM BENCHMARKS DOCUMENTATION ONBOARDING / TRAINING REWARDS/INCENTIVES STRUCTURE AND ROLES World ClassGoodBad Ok PERMISSIONS/ACCESS BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  45. 45. G A M I F I C A T I O N
  46. 46. 46 BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY The stats list is interesting. Posts,, likes, and best responses are standard on Lithium. But we haven’t seen subscriptions often before. Color change suggests a high- profile member. Community seems to have a relatively small number of levels with unimaginative names and confusing hierarchy. These include visitor, occasional visitor, frequent visitor, contributor, trusted contributor, respected contributor, MVP, ‘Microsoft’ etc… Is trusted better than respected? Levels could be greatly improved. Members seem to get ‘stuck’ on the highest level. The community has fewer achievements members can earn that other communities. It also tends to mix important badges (member of the week) with unimportant badges (5 consecutive days visiting). Good to see user levels appear high up on the member profile
  47. 47. 47 Too many of these badges are next to meaningless and fails to distinguish really great contributions the member should aspire to from the rest.
  48. 48. 48 Each of the 99 communities has a list of top contributors. However these are buried too far below the fold on the homepage of each community to be meaningful (or seen) to and by most members. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  49. 49. 49 GAMIFICATION Giving new ranks to members who haven’t made a contribution (while claiming they have) is a bad idea and devalues the entire system. Giving ranks by the number of visits members have made is also a bad idea. (and no-one wants emails from ‘Role Admin’) A problem with many gamification notification systems is they show up as spam in gmail. BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  50. 50. 50 MICROSOFT GAMIFICATION BENCHMARKS LEVELS BADGES REPUTATION MISSIONS World ClassGoodBad Ok GETTING STARTED BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  51. 51. O V E R A L L B E N C H M A R K S
  52. 52. OVERALL BENCHMARKS 52 ENGAGEMENT MVP / SUPERUSERS GAMIFICATION ONBOARDING D COMMUNITY DESIGN C B A MEMBER PROFILES BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY
  53. 53. 53 The community has a consistently high level of engagement, benefits from a terrific MVP program, and has a design that enables a community of this size and complexity to work. However it also suffers from poor gamification and onboarding experiences - both of which should be improved. • Develop a communications plan to ensure all IT pros and developers are focused on a single platform beginning with TechNet and then the Microsoft Developer network. • Use the ideation functionality provided by Lithium to replace that used by Uservoice. • Improve the post-registration experience of community members to have a longer automation journey helping members make world-class contributions to the community. • Remove the worthless gamification badges and focus them on big achievements. Revamp levels to ensure they are more of them and they have a clear hierarchy of value • Develop a system to flag unanswered conversations and ensure a large group of members in each community are dedicated and rewarded for tackling these. NEEDS A CLEAR STRUCTURE COMMUNITY RATING: B BREAKDOWN OF MICROSOFT’S ONLINE COMMUNITY

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