We all agree that communities are important. But beyond that, there is often confusion. What exactly constitutes a community? And are we reaching out enough to ours, whatever that may be?
I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts on these questions, and what we’ve done so far. We’ve actually been working on this for some time now, so I’d like to fill you in on what we’ve tried, what worked and what we’ve discovered could be done better, and where we’re headed next.
And first, we have to clarify what we mean by community.
According to the dictionary, community is a group of people who share something important in common. Our community does not have geography or nationality in common, because we don’t live or work in the same physical location. But we definitely feel like a community. To start with, I think we can agree that our community has common goals and interests which we share virtually.
With that basic understanding of community, we started our first efforts at community outreach two years ago. We began putting effort into the VMware-led Communities VMTN forums. Of those, the Digital Workspace forums were the most popular. And we discovered that just by reaching out, we were building community.
We worked closely with the VMTN team to streamline the platform and relaunch Communities. From this effort, we were able to see where our customers were spending their time. And we saw an increase in community participation for VMware End-User Computing (EUC). In fact, we were eventually netting about 50K unique visitors and about 110K page views per month. We were happy to have reaped some success, but we weren’t satisfied to stop there.
We next went into unexplored territory by launching the EUC vExperts program. This program was created by Tech Marketing in 2020 and is now led by Ron Oglesby. This program highlights those individuals who are foremost in knowledge and advocacy of EUC products like Workspace ONE, Horizon, App Volumes, and Dynamic Environment Manager. These individuals support community by sharing their knowledge with their peers. They publish blogs and books, weigh in on the VMTN EUC Forums, lecture and demo at events like VMworld and VMUG. Today, we have 72 EUC vExperts. They hold a monthly forum covering topics such as updates and feature prioritization, and listen to feedback from product management.
And we didn’t stop there. We added a link to the communities page on Tech Zone, which showcases our EUC vExperts community, community content, and VMTN forums.
We also now publish a Weekly EUC digest that informs our community of top EUC news, in the form of blogs, release notes, videos, and more. This digest has been very popular with both our external communities and internal sales teams because it is a one-stop shop for all things EUC. The Digest is available on Tech Zone and amplified on VMTN and social.
What we learned
As I look back over our community outreach of the last two years, I realize how much we’ve discovered. We now know by experience some tactics that work, and others than can be done better.
- Reaching out builds community. Like I mentioned earlier, the simple act of inviting people to join the community results in the community starting to take root and grow.
- Asking the right questions. Just because you put up a webpage, doesn’t mean people will visit. Yes, we saw growth in the VMTN communities. But we wanted the community to not just take root, but to blossom. So, from “How can we reach more EUC experts?” we asked, “Where are they already congregating?” We found out where, and we went there.
- Building on what’s already there is effective. We found out that communities were congregating on public Slack channels, Reddit, Discord, and the like. Here, we discovered thriving groups of EUC experts actively sharing insights, offering feedback on products, and solving problems.
- Communities don’t move much. We learned that once communities get established somewhere, they stay there. It makes sense. Just think rewards programs: once you’re established with American Airlines or Marriot, for example, you don’t want to start over from scratch somewhere else. And from the vExperts’ perspective, this has been extremely successful. Experts establish a following on these forums, and even become moderators, a status symbol in itself.
Check out the Next Generation of Community Infrastructure, for fascinating insights into the new era of communities.
Where do we go next?
So, we made our first efforts two years ago; defining our communities, reaching out to them, celebrating their achievements, and giving them support. In the process, we’ve refined our sense of community, as well as our methods of community-building. And with this experience behind us, we’re brimming with ideas for where to go next.
At VMware, we need to court and support both our internal and external communities. We have witnessed amazing excitement and engagement from the industry experts. We need to—and plan to—pursue this further.
On the Communities front, Tech Marketing plans to engage more directly with the experts in their natural habitats. We plan to continue to provide help, and to work with our PMM peers to broadcast announcements for new solutions that help solve real problems. We plan to work with other internal expert groups to help engage directly there, as well.
On the vExpert front, we plan to improve the program even more to encourage participation. That will include special meetups at industry events, exclusive SWAG, and potentially even VMware/EUC published/hosted content or social amplification.
In addition, we’re continuing to look for new opportunities to engage with the EUC community. I’ll be sharing more about new ways to engage with our community and amplify EUC messaging as we go along. Stay tuned!