By Shannon DiGregorio Abram, Relationship Manager at The Community Roundtable.
We were able to publish the State of Community Management 2014 through the generous support of our sponsors. We are lucky enough to work with a number of partners in the community space that are helping advance the business of community, including DNN. Today I’d like to share an interview with Dennis Shiao, DNN‘s Director of Content Marketing .
Dennis is a contributing author to the book 42 Rules of Product Marketing and is Editor of the DNN blog. Feel free to reach out to Dennis via email, firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter, @dshiao.
Hi Dennis, can you start us off by telling me a little about DNN. How do you fit in the overall community market space?
We’re a marketing solutions (software) company based in the Bay Area, California. Our products and technology are the foundation for 750,000+ websites worldwide. In the online community market, what makes us unique is the tight integration between our Content Management System (CMS) and our online community solution.
Evoq Content (our CMS) and Evoq Social (our online community solution) sit atop the DNN Platform. When customers run our “suite” (Evoq Content+Social), their online community doesn’t need to sit on a separate subdomain. Instead, the online community and the website are one and the same. One user experience, one login (for end users) and one integration point to your back-end systems, such as CRM and marketing automation.
As a sponsor of the State of Community Management 2014, you clearly care about community. How do your customers typically use DNN to support their community business?
Our customers typically use our online community solution to solve a problem or to meet a business need. The specific use cases are varied. To start with, we often see customer communities, support communities and product communities (e.g. a community for a product’s end users to ask questions, solve problems and recommend product enhancements). We also have customers using Evoq Social for member communications (e.g. associations) and employee communications (e.g. sales intranet or sales extranet).
That’s a lot of use cases! It sounds like you support both internal and external communities?
I view the eight competencies much like a parent sees their children: you try not to play favorites (and thankfully, I have less than eight children). But if you’re going to make me pick, I’m going to put my content marketing hat back on and select Content & Programming.
Sometimes with online communities, it becomes all too convenient to think that “user-generated content” will fuel the flames (of engagement) over the long term. Well, sometimes those flames start to die out and a little bit of kindling is needed to resuscitate it. That’s the role of content, as organized by the community manager. I wrote about this topic in a CMSWire article, “Online Communities Need a Spark? Turn to Original Content.”
We’d love to hear your take on some of the findings from the SOCM 2014 – what research surprised you the most?
The fact that internal communities have 33% more full-time community managers (on average) than external communities. I’ve always thought of internal communities as those that “managed themselves,” or were shepherded by a set of internal champions.
I’ve thought of external communities, on the other hand, as growing children who need a fair amount of supervision, direction and hand holding. Your research seems to show that the exact opposite is true: that external communities may be more effective at “self-management” (by its members), whereas the internal communities are ones that need a bit more hands-on management.
You mentioned that DNN provides a platform, a CMS and a community solution. How would you say DNN specifically supports community and social business professionals and helps them achieve their goals?
I’m responsible for content marketing at DNN, so my first answer is going to be “content.” In the past nine months, we’ve created a lot of content for community managers, in the form of blog posts, SlideShares, webinars, e-books and playbooks. Last year, we collaborated with TOPO on an Online Community Playbook, which was a popular resource for community managers.
At the same time, our products and services are well suited to community managers and business professionals. In the latest release of our online community software, we created a “Community Manager Experience,” a set of analytics dashboards that were uniquely designed for the community manager.
Last (but not least), we partner with leading organizations (like The Community Roundtable!) to collaborate around community management topics and research. We participate in online and face-to-face events as attendees, speakers and sponsors.
We talk a lot about company culture – what is something about DNN that makes it a unique place to work?
It’s the way in which disparate groups work and socialize so naturally with one another here. During my first month at DNN, we were at a social outing. I glance across the room and see our CTO and Co-Founder (Shaun Walker) casually chatting with three sales execs. At many companies, inter-group conversations don’t happen as naturally as they do here.
Also, we’re distributed geographically. Our main offices are in the Bay Area (headquarters) and in Langley, British Columbia (Engineering and Customer Success). But that doesn’t stop us from keeping everyone informed, because we use an internal community. We call our internal community “Catalyst.” My colleague Clint Patterson wrote about how it improved our internal communication.
We’d love to hear a case study about a client that uses DNN.
Microdesk, a leading information technology and software consulting provider, runs an online customer support community using Evoq Social. In the community, Microdesk customers are able to help one another. When needed, a member of Microdesk’s consulting team will jump in to help. Microdesk sees the community as not only a customer support channel, but one that builds thought leadership for its expert consulting team. It also drives higher customer retention.
Visit our website for more details from Microdesk.
If you were’t working at DNN what would you be doing?
I’d be the starting center fielder for the New York Yankees. Short of that, I’d be the Yankees beat writer for a New York newspaper.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? It doesn’t need to be community related.
I had a third grade teacher (Mrs. Brannick) who encouraged us to go the extra mile. She did this by instituting an “Extra Credit Award,” which was given out a few times a year. Participation was optional. But I just HAD to win this award! So I worked hard and made sure to always do more extra credit than anyone else. Classmates started to ask me if I’d let them win just once. That early exposure (to working hard) helps drive me to go the extra mile, even today.
That’s such a great story! I bet Mrs. Brannick would be proud of you! One last question – we joke a lot that successful community professionals are like super heros. So, what’s your super power?
I have an unheralded sense of humor. You might spend an entire week with me and never see it, but then it’ll catch you during the moment you least expect it. Please laugh when it happens.
We are also very excited to be co-hosting a webinar with Dennis and the DNN team focused on highlights from the State of Community Management 2014. Learn more:
The Community Roundtable is pleased to work with some of the best names in community and social business. Interested in working with us? We’re always looking for unique partners across the community ecosystem. Drop us a line if you’d like to explore partnership opportunities.