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SharePoint Community Attracts 1,200 Members in 11 Weeks

There are countless Web sites that have been started with ambitious goals to build a place for a special-interest community to congregate. Most of those sites never attract enough participants to reach the tipping point and add real value to the community they serve. But there are exceptions.

The SharePoint Community has attracted over 1,200 members from around the world in the 11 weeks since it launched, far surpassing founder Mark Jones' expectations. Started as a collaboration between SharePoint partners as a central place to post blogs and build SEO links, the site has become a meeting place for a growing legion of SharePoint users and practitioners.

Membership Direction
"The first few members really drove the direction of the site," Jones said. "There seems to be a real thirst for an all-encompassing SharePoint site that is Facebook-like, but more than Facebook. We have blogs, lists, events and other sections, but the chat forums are the most popular. It's really snowballing now."

The growth of the site is largely due to word of mouth and the leadership of SharePoint Community Reps. As the site's membership started to take off, Jones and Co-Founder Vlad Catrinescu understood that they needed help. Thirteen Community Reps moderate activity and provide guidance on the direction of the site.

The Community Reps are SharePoint experts -- from architects to developers -- representing countries around the globe. Reps moderate chats, answer questions and monitor the site for misuse. With a global representation, there is 24-hour moderation support for the site.

Currently, about 30 percent of the members are U.S.-based with U.K., Canada, Australia and India also well-represented. Jones attributes the international adoption of the site to the its functionality. "I think we didn't have a global SharePoint user group because the platform wasn't there," he said. "Twitter is challenging with time differences. Facebook is personal. LinkedIn groups are the closest but there is no support for blogs and, frankly, they are just too full of recruiters."  

House Rules are clearly stated on the site to limit vendor intrusion and keep discussions on subject. "It's a fine line, really," Jones noted. "We want to be pragmatic and allow reviews of products that can be valuable to SharePoint users. So far, the combination of rules and moderation is providing a good balance." Job postings are strictly forbidden. 

Future Direction
With the success of the SharePoint Community, the focus in now on how to improve the value of the site for members. The popularity and diversity of conversations in the chat room has led to plans for chat rooms dedicated to specific interests. There will be chat rooms for beginners, developers and IT pros to promote deeper conversations. 

Additional Community Reps will support a growing number of moderated subgroups. Virtual conferences, including the concept of a 24-hour event to "follow the sun" around the globe, are also under discussion.

Social Site with Common Purpose
The SharePoint Community has quickly built a solid foundation of MVPs, bloggers, community contributors, educators and users with a common purpose. SharePoint as a product has always generated an enthusiastic following, and this new online community appears to be filling a global void for SharePoint users and practitioners.

How are you building user communities? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 30, 2013


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