The Value of Community: Interview w/ Mark Browne, Principal Social Media Engagement Manager at EMC


I have to admit, I was BEYOND shocked to see my name among the list of amazing and talented people that make up the EMC Elect. I am by no stretch of the imagination a technical mastermind or product guru. I don’t have a home-lab or a technical certification. To say I am humbled to be part of this community is the understatement of the century. This community has become my 2nd family and has come to my rescue on numerous occasions (those of you that were in Barcelona understand :) ). To that end, I wanted to dig into what community is and what better way to do that than interview the one and only, Irish virtuouso, Mark Browne!


What does community mean to you?

Community is something even the most independent of us depends on. And it’s always driven by people who want to share or learn about something new and or interesting that enables them to do what they need.  In all of our interactions in life your path has crossed many communities and you may have not realized it.  This becomes all the more obvious in online communities. And what online communities mean to me is a vital channel for my online life. I rely on online communities to learn new things and solve problems. I rely on them to build a network and collaborate on problems and ideas. I rely on them to meet like-minded peers. And I trust in my online communities for authentic and honest discourse, which is free from the direct messaging of mainstream media. But interestingly community goes beyond community-based sites. Social Media is really part of the evolution of community. At the heart of Social Media is community, because it facilitates the sharing of and consumption of information people have a desire or requirement for. It may pace itself faster than traditional online communities, but fundamentally it follows the same principles of traditional online communities.
What benefit does “community” bring to the IT industry?

It brings instant networking of peers, sharing of information, collaborative opportunities.

It saves the industry untold sums of money as people help other people in online communities solve their problem. It also leads to frank, honest discourse on IT technology. And community also helps the IT Industry to build relationships with its user base and to share authentic information on the Industry.

It also helps people to collaborate and share globally leading to extremely fast innovation and invention as well as consumption of new technology. Fundamentally community facilitates people to get things done and build valuable relationships with their peers.

How did the EMC Elect come to be?

At EMC we realized we never said thank you to our community peers. At least not formally in a unified way. We also realized we that we had people in our Community who were influencers and advocates and we were not recognizing them.

So we came up with program that was designed to recognize and reward people who give to the EMC community of users through being engaged and sharing their technical expertise. We also did it as we wanted to increase investment and engagement with EMC within our global community  of customers, partners, and EMC employees alike.

We realized that influencers and advocates were helping our brand. These influencers and advocates are recognized now across the IT Industry as more influential than analysts, CEOs or CTOs.

By recognizing them we established a rapport with these Influencers and community leaders . This has helped to build a trust relationship with this group and facilitate honest and authentic conversations about our technology .
How difficult was it to get a community started and operating?

At first it was difficult for us to recognize who our influencers really were. But we began to understand that the EMC Community of influencers and advocates extends beyond the online EMC Community Network into Social Media sites, personal blogs and webcasts etc.  And as we decided the EMC Elect Program was for the community and by the community we reached out to the community membership.

We selected founders from the Community, 13 people made up of partners, customers, and EMC people. These were well known influencers and advocates. They came from our online communities and from Social Media Universe. We asked them to talk about to program and got them to solicit nominations to the community. The Founders also judged the nominees and told us who they were. We then announced the EMC Elect Community on January 15th 2013.

In our case EMC put its trust in the community, they decided who our most powerful influencers are.

What do you feel your role is as the community manager?

Primarily my role is to listen to the community and act as a Trustee of the community. That means I have to also help lead, guide and nurture the development of the community as put forward by the voices of the community membership.

What is the goal/purpose of Elect?

To thank the members for all they have done as influencers and advocates over the last calendar year.We thank them by offering them a private community they can collaborate and share information with each other securely.

We provide an exclusive experience to EMC Elect members when they attend our Tier 1 conferences. We arrange private technology briefings, priority access to LABS and technology workshops at conferences. Also, we arrange Private EMC Elect events with special guests like EMC Executives which facilitates collaborative discussions and networking opportunities. Additionally, we provide exclusive access to the EMC Elect members to Private Betas of newly developing products, as well as advanced private briefings on products scheduled to launch.
How does this compare to other IT communities? Cisco Champions, SAP Mentors, etc?

By comparison, our program has the same intentions of the others in recognizing and thanking influencers and advocates. Ours is somewhat unique in that the nominations and adjudication on nominees comes from the EMC Community membership. The judges are always selected from previous members of the program. So it is the members who adjudicate on who joins the program, not EMC. We also start over every calendar year so all members must be re-nominated and judged every year.

How do you see communities, specifically in the IT industry, evolving in the future?

As Social engagement continues its evolution community in the IT industry will continue to grow. The apps and infrastructure may change and may be faster but the fundamentals of community will be there. The fundamentals of that in the IT Industry are a community of passionate technologists and consumers who seek authentic and fast solutions, networking, collaborating and sharing information to do more and improve the industry. My own vision is that we will one day see companies and their community build a trust amongst themselves that will facilitate the community members designing a product they require and the company building that for them. This type of scenario is rapidly evolving in my humble opinion and the community of people passionate about IT will be the driving force of it.
In conclusion, a huge THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to the community for selecting me. I’m excited to see what amazing things this class achieves this year!! 


  1. Very interesting, Rachel. I agree with Mark’s insights and predictions for social media and community expansion. Such communities can provide a wealth of information and be incredibly engaging.

    Ruby, SQL, Python, R: besides EMC cloud/analytic solutions products, are there any you hope to learn via Labs and workshops? It is probably better to learn the hard skills that way. Good for you.

    Working in Hopkinton sounds great. The place could not have stronger ties to my undergrad and I love the company’s amazing/heartbreaking/interesting story. Nice interview. And, congrats!

  2. […] summary and breakdown of how things came together this year. I would also recommend reading Rachel Foster’s interview with Mark Browne who is one of the community managers for the EMC Elect […]

  3. Rob Koper · ·

    Let’s just say that Mark became a friend and he has guides us over the years to become the community that we are today!

    Mark: we’re coming your way, right after the summer holidays for that barbecue :-)

  4. Rob Koper · ·

    principle or principal?

    1. So I was taught that a principal was only for principal’s in a school because they are you “pal” and the other was used for everything else. This is my 2nd grade logic.

      1. Rob Koper · ·

        It’s the message that counts!

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