Microsofts Charm Offensive: From Big Brother to Big Buddy?
To tighten its bonds with users, Microsoft is spinning new tools and initiatives designed to foster a sense of community among Windows-based IT professionals.
Microsoft has already molded its developer community around initiatives such as the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), TechNet and the like. Now, the company is setting its sights on developing a sense of community among users, and especially among the powerful "IT professional" category.
Microsoft isnt doing this on a whim. According to extensive internal studies, a robust and responsive community is the No. 1 satisfaction driver among IT pros.
Theres a direct correlation: By improving community outreach, Microsoft can improve customer satisfaction in one fell swoop, Microsoft has found through its own research.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates called out the need for community at the recent CEO Summit, where he addressed more than 100 of the worlds top CEOs.
"Another big phenomenon is building communities around Web sites, around products. And virtually every company ought to have on their Web site the ability for their customers, their suppliers, various people to interact and their employees to see the dialogue taking place there and jump in and talk to them and help them," Gates said during his summit address late last month.
Microsoft isnt starting from scratch.
There are currently more than 200 "community sites"more than 70 of which were created in the past 18 monthsthat fall under the Microsoft.com umbrella.
There are hundreds of Microsoft-related newsgroups. Participation in Microsoft Web casts and online chats has grown exponentially. And at last count, there are about 600 Microsoft-employee-authored blogs.
The Microsoft.com communities team is seeking to improve these disparate efforts and bring more coordination to the companys community push, according to Olivier Ribet, director of Microsoft communities for the companys content development and delivery team.
To lay the groundwork, Microsoft is readying a number of new tools that it will begin rolling out starting next week. Among them: