9/7: #Cmgrchat: Community with Google Docs and Gmail

In a special edition of #CmgrChat we had two incredible guests stop by and tell us how they do community at Google.   Teresa Wu, Community Manager for Google Docs and Sarah Price, Community Manager for Gmail, joined us for our one year anniversary of #cmgrchat to talk about how one of the biggest brands out there handles community.

Kelly Lux and I would like to thank each and every one of you that have stopped into #cmgrchat over the past year.  This community continues to get better and better and we’re looking forward to another great year ahead of us getting to know you all more.

KellyLux Happy 1st Anniversary to our great community & thank you ALL so much for your support!!


Without any further ado,  here was the chat:

Our format will be the first 3 questions for @ResaWu and @Sarahpriceless. Then a Q&A towards the end. 

Q1) Google’s community team is fairly new. How have you decided to work together on such a big brand? What are some challenges?

sarahpriceless Our first official user forums were started in 2001, and we started formalizing more in 2004-2005

sarahpriceless We’ve got lots of experience in some “traditional” community management e.g. forums

sarahpriceless Probably because we’ve been strong in forums, blogs, we were a little slower getting started with social media for our brands

resawu Our CMs coordinate closely but recognize that our user base for SketchUp is very different than our user base for Google Docs

sarahpriceless We’re lucky to be able to tap into Google’s awesome spam controls to help in our forums, comments, and so forth

resawu But still learning what community strategy should look like when we have so many distinct products w/overlapping user bases

sarahpriceless When someone wants to talk about Calendar gadget in Gmail, should they talk to @gmail or @googlecalendar? Challenges we face

resawu Major challenge is figuring out how to engage such a huge user base – users are often delighted to discover Google’s listening

resawu:  Users are often delighted to discover Google’s listening

Q2) You have Top Contributor Programs & Forums, what have ur experiences been w/ these? How do u create community on these platforms?

resawu Our product forums are a key source for user feedback and bugs

resawu Normally I respond to tweets from my personal account, but check “Google Docs” and @GoogleDocs mentions every day

resawu We create community by having a presence, seeding conversations within our forums

sarahpriceless Community is hard in a support forum because many people are there for transactional reasons and solve a problem

sarahpriceless It varies by product but the main “glue” in the Gmail forum is the power users who want to help others learn & solve problems

mhandy1 Are contributors that crowdsource solutions rewarded? would seem to make sense

resawu @mhandy1 Not for every feature/product, but they do get access to some trusted tester opportunities

sarahpriceless  For us these power users are our Top Contributors and other frequent posters

sarahpriceless We give our Top Contributors (TCs) a direct line to us, give them trusted testing opportunities when we can, forum privileges

resawu We help our power users learn more about the product, empower them as Top Contributors to share that knowledge w/the community

sarahpriceless  I love my Top Contributors, thrilled that many of them are coming here next week for our first ever

Q3) How does community at Google fit into things like support, product, marketing, etc.?

resawu Google’s CMs work in user operations dept w/education specialists, user insights analysts and product users specialists

resawu Google CMs work in user ops w/education specialists, user insights analysts+product users specialists

sarahpriceless Community isn’t siloed to one function — it touches support, marketing, many aspects of operations

sarahpriceless: Conflicts happen but remembering theres a real person on the other side goes a long way in resolving

resawu As CMs we work closely with product team to address user feedback, w/marketing on blog posts and videos

resawu I help my team’s user insights analyst compile feedback reports for our product managers and developers

sarahpriceless I do a few things right now like share their content on Google+ (videos, blog posts, Google+ posts, etc)

sarahpriceless Ultimately our role is about advocating for our users and helping our engineers understand & connect with our users

sarahpriceless And also helping users to know there are real people at Google listening to what they are saying

What questions do all of the #cmgrchat members have for@ResaWu and @SarahPriceless? Ask away!

ATT_Jam How do you get feedback from your top contributors on what works/what doesn’t work?

resawu @ATT_Jam Top Contributors pass along bugs/feedback to us from forums through private discussion categories and TC mailing lists

sarahpriceless @theTsaritsa There’s no typical day! But I always check in on my forum & TCs, SM channels, Google+

JPedde Do you use a lot of unowned properties for cmty? Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc?

resawu @JPedde most of our products have official presences on some unowned properties (e.g. Facebook/Twitter) and we listen in on others

rodicka How much are you proactive in supporting community/sharing updates as opposed to reactive (CS)?

resawu @rodicka proactive in that if we’re deprecating something or doing a major change (e.g. recent UI changes across Google products

djfanco Good to see former Google colleagues in today’s #cmgrchatWith the recent CM realignment at Google, things are moving in the right direction


Thank you to Teresa and Sarah for joining in and giving us a little insight into community building within Google.

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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.