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January 10
Get Your Community On – Or Why Organizations Should Try the SharePoint Community Template

I made a suggestion to a client the other day that sent shockwaves through the project team – “Why don’t we use the Community Site Template for these course-based discussion groups?” I asked.

“Community Template? Oh, we can’t do that. We really shouldn’t do anything social on our site. This site is about education.”

“But, you’re asking users to collaborate online about the course they are taking, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And if you’re encouraging collaboration then why is community, or worse yet, social a bad word?”

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. This happens all the time. Organizations want, they need, to embrace social, but they just can’t make the leap. When I started working as a community manager more than eight years ago, many organizations we worked with really didn’t understand the strategy and planning that goes into running an effective online community. I find that’s less the case in this day of “content strategy” and “social media strategy.” Yet, organizations still seem reluctant to take their SharePoint implementations to a more social level. Why?

Early last year I wrote this for Redmond Magazine. That was six months ago and I still haven’t convinced one client to use the Community Site Template.

But they should – here are three simple reasons why:

1.       Control, control, control

What better platform than a completely authenticated site to exercise community in a controlled environment? Besides, Microsoft built in some reporting tools that give moderators extra tools to review and remove offensive, erroneous, or confidential content.

2.       Dynamic Content

One can’t be an effective content manager these days without understanding the power and necessity of creating dynamic content. Luckily, community sites do the work for you. Not only are there ongoing discussions (admittedly, low on the social media totem pole, but they have their use case), but there are also “counts” which continually update as new members join the site, and, even better, a panel that highlights the “Top Contributors.”

3.       OOTB Permissions
Or Out-of-the-Box as we say – what does that mean – it’s not custom work! It works with the other features of SharePoint … namely, and this is important, the permissions structure. Community sites, like team sites, publishing sites, document libraries, etc. are a part of the larger SharePoint permissions structure. Want to have a private community site? No problem – just like everything else in SharePoint it will be security trimmed appropriately.

Many organizations have dozens of built-in use cases for the community site template – but they still use the old team site approach. Got a conference? Set up community sites for the sessions. Teach certification courses? Set up a community site for the course participants. Got interest groups scattered around your company intranet? Consolidate them into community sites.

 - Maggie

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Maggie Swearingen has more than 8 years’ experience managing dozens of Web projects from the ground up. As an Experience Architect she is responsible for guiding clients through the critical information architecture phase of project implementation. She advises clients with regard to content strategy, overall usability and user experience. Follow Maggie on Twitter @mswearingen.

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