Channel 9's secret sauce to create community

Charlene Li · May 8, 2009 · Short URL:

Head of Microsoft's developer community builds on his experience as a bartender in college

Jeff Sandquist, Senior Director of Evangelism at Microsoft, has been running Microsoft's developer community at Channel 9 ( for the past five years. How did he become such a good community manager? By tending bar! He shares how he builds community, as well as how he measures the results.
Jeff's "secret sauce" to creating community is to participate as much as you want customers to participate. "It's the 'Golden Rule' of community." He also shared that everything he ever learned about being a community manager he learned by tending bars in college -- knowing when to engage with people and when to leave them alone. One thing Jeff stressed that like a good bartender, you sometimes need to kick out your best customers. "Everyone needs to be respectful of one another."
One tactic Jeff used to entice engagement was to send out a small squishy Channel 9 "guy" to anyone who sent in a postcard requesting one. Responses hailed from all around the world. The team sent out the figures free of charge, Jeff commenting, "It's a way for us to give back [to the community]."
In terms of metrics, Jeff keeps it simple. 1) Do you have an audience and is it growing. 2) Is the audience engaging, such as commenting and posting. 3) Measure not just the traffic on the site, but also who is linking to the content. In other words, is it resonating in other places. And 4) How satisfied are your community members? This can be easily done with surveys.
Jeff stressed that Channel 9 and evanglism is not about sales. "It's about communication and conversation." "It isn't about how many sales we generate. It's do we have great, happy customers that are interested in using our products. The sales will come after that, hopefully."
Finally, Jeff was asked about a new technology that he was excited about. He is all about Windows 7 (of course!). Outside of Microsoft, Jeff is excited about PlayOn ( which allows users to dlownload video from sites like Hulu and play them on-demand on devices like an Xbox, PS3, or PC. Video can be brought down to a local device on a scheduled basis and played back on demand - no online connection needed.
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Charlene Li

Helping leaders thrive with disruption as a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company

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