Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Web Community Vlogs in the B2B Environment

The art and science of building strong online communities continue to evolve rapidly, and one of the toughest challenges for web community managers out there is to "keep them coming back for more". Community management and power user development are both important to maintain the health of your online community. However, to jump start a new or stale community environment, an injection of useful and interesting content must be a top priority.

Faced with this challenge last year, I was tasked to re-launch an existing technical community on a new platform and take the current activity level to a new high. This was no easy task. After all, B2B products and services are just not as sexy as the next high tech consumer gadget. How do you keep an existing community base interested and lure them to bookmark your community as a destination site? Further more, how do you make it so engaging that they can't wait to share the positive experience with their colleagues? For me, the answer was in rich media and community advocate personalities.

I am fortunate enough to work with an extremely talented team here at Juniper Networks. After much consultation with my team members, the community vlog was born.

I have to admit, even those of us directly involved with the vlog program were slightly skeptical when it was first launched. Deep down inside, I firmly believed in what I was doing: My thesis in graduate school was on the convergence of video and multimedia PC presentations, and I've never looked back since then. I know webcasting works, I know rich media experiences enhance the learning process. However, I've never applied what I know to a B2B technical community setting before, and my fingers were definitely crossed when the first video was launched.

With the help of our award winning staff producer Kevin Eck and an extremely talented community advocate Tawnee Kendall, the vlog program was a hit. My talented teammates were able to make the community vlogs interesting, yet not cheesy or over the top. Community members slowly began to feel like they know "J-Net Tawnee" personally, and praises began to fly in via PM, email, Facebook and Twitter. Value added contents were presented to the community via short, engaging vlog videos. As a result, we began to see registration, page view and participation increase exponentially.

Under the guidance of our manager Paul Gilliham (a seasoned web professional with some serious site architecture and user experience expertise under his belt), we continued to tweak the program, update content and enhance our user management/ranking programs. Today, the difference between that old community we inherited two years ago and our current community is clearly a contrast between night and day.

The current community vlog on our user promo program is embedded below. For the rest of our community vlogs, check out the Juniper Media Center YouTube Channel. I hope you find these videos interesting, even if you are not in the networking equipment industry.

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