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The 1000-hour community rule

There are generally two paths into a community for any marketing team. The first is to get out, engage in the community, and create momentum. 

My good friend, Mark Miller, has participated in and helped lead several very large tech communities. At one point, he was focused solely on serving the Microsoft SharePoint community. He didn’t work for Microsoft then but founded and ran the End User SharePoint community. The community attracted over 2.4M online visitors a year to share experiences, exchange code, and learn best practices - and brought many more people together in person across the globe. When I asked Mark how much time he was investing in maintaining that community, he shared:

“For End User SharePoint, I spent 30 to 40 hours weekly. It was a full-time gig for me to run the community. In that case, it was 1500 to 2000 hours a year (300 days). That paid off by attracting a massive community over two to three years.”

He then added more advice for marketing executives planning to invest in community-led initiatives, “For a community builder working for a company, it depends upon what else is in the job description. I could easily spend 2 to 3 hours daily and 600 to 900 hours annually. The community efforts would be integrated into an overarching marketing strategy and not run as a standalone initiative.”

At this level, marketing executives should budget for 1,000 hours a year - over 80 hours per month. 

The second path into a community can be to hire your way into it. For example, Mark and I first started working together when the company I was working at hired him to help us better understand and engage in the SharePoint community. He was extremely well-known in the space, and hiring him allowed us to accelerate our presence and brand attention in the market. 

Hiring Mark and engaging him across all three marketing orbits (product, brand, and community) paid off. He helped us complement our product- and brand-led endeavors by building community surveys, sharing market influencer research, and developing books to better serve community members. As a result, our business was awarded Microsoft’s SharePoint Partner of the Year award three years in a row. I even had the opportunity one year to go on stage in front of 30,000 people, receive the award, and shake hands with Steve Ballmer, who was Microsoft’s CEO then.

Hiring your way into community influence requires the right approach. Influencers who have spent years in a community making connections, building trust, and delivering value, don’t want to announce one afternoon that they’ve gone to work for the “dark side” of corporate marketing, where they will now be pitching your product and company every day. When they accelerate your presence into Orbit 3 (learn more about this orbit here), you still have to play by the rules of the orbit. Your organization can recognize massive value from a better understanding of and connections within the orbit and then tie that value back into your brand- and product-led orbits.


Note to my readers: you can learn more about Orbit 1 (product-led) and Orbit 2 (brand-led) by reading my other blogs here.