Made up of tens of thousands of users and partners, the VMware community is a huge, vibrant and hyper-active ecosystem and an incredible resource to learn from and engage with. I’d go as far to say that VMware has built a community like no other tech vendor ever has and it continues to grow and flourish every year. With such a huge resource out there any vendor that wants to excel and survive in the fiercely competitive VMware market would be foolish to ignore that vast resource available for them to engage with.
There are many different ways to tap into the VMware community as both a user and a partner, whether you are simply supporting the community or engaging with it here are just a few of them:
- Attend or sponsor VMUG events – VMUG events, both smaller local events and larger UserCon events are a great way to socialize with and get face to face with VMware users. I often think these events are under-rated, they are like mini-VMworld events right in your town and there is no better way for sponsors to directly engage with existing and potential customers. I personally like the local events as they are more intimate and more bang for your buck as a sponsor.
- Engage with the vExpert community – the 1,500+ strong vExpert army is composed of some of the most active and visible people in the VMware community made up of bloggers, VMUG leaders, evangelists, partners and customers. You can engage with it in many different ways, the most common being having exclusive product briefings/webinars. You can also offer NFR licenses to vExperts to get your products in their hands and try giveaways to attract their attention. What you get out of it as a vendor is having your product awareness amplified across a wide spectrum of channels including blogs, tweets, podcasts, videos, etc. If you want to engage with the vExpert community contact Corey Romero who runs the vExpert program.
- Sponsor blogs – there are over 400 active blogs in the VMware community which have a very large audience. Sponsoring a blog is a great way to get visibility to a big audience and stay top of mind with people reading blogs. My vLaunchPad website and annual Top vBlog voting helps identify which are the most popular blogs which can help sponsors target those with more readers so they can reach larger audiences. Some blogs will also do paid sponsor posts for things like product reviews and write-ups that can lend an expert’s viewpoint to your product and promote it. Sponsoring blogs also gives back to the hard working bloggers for everything they contribute to the community.
- Host or attend a vendor conference – you expect larger vendors like EMC, Dell and HPE to hold their own conferences but there are many smaller vendors that have started doing this as well such as Zerto, Veeam, Turbonomic and Nutanix. While mostly specific to a particular vendor (some have other vendors/partners there) it is still a great way to network and get a deep learning of a vendors products.
- Host or attend a virtual conference – there are many ways to virtually connect with the community from sponsoring events like Tech Field Day or Virtual VMUG’s and other multi-vendor events like ActualTech Media hosts. For less cost then a physical event with bigger audiences and replay-ability a virtual conference is a great way to engage the community.
- Be active in social media – be loud on social media networks on Twitter, but not too loud or you might drive some people away. Keep it interesting, educational, social and not pure marketing if you want to keep your followers and attract more. Social media is a great way to communicate and network in real time with a massive community. As a vendor be overly responsive to any communication directed your way from anyone trying to communicate with you. Nothing turns a person off more than waiting days or longer to get a response from a company.
- Have a party or social event – I see parties and social events as more of a thank you to the community rather than a sales opportunity for vendors. Vendors spend a lot of money on these, especially at large events like VMworld and get little return on their investment. None the less as a vendor this is a great way to get the community to like you more. While they may just be attending for free booze and food, this shows you appreciate your customers and gets potential customers to think more favorably of you.
- Community give-aways – from small swag to large prizes to VMworld tickets and more, give-aways are a great way to get more brand visibility, collect leads and engage with the community. At conferences like VMworld vendors are loaded with swag and prizes to give away if you give them a minute of your time and your contact info. It’s a win-win as both a sponsor and attendee, smart sponsors will get creative with their giveaways, smart attendees will pack an extra bag to bring it all home with them.
- Publish podcasts/webinars – podcasts and webinars represent a great way to engage with the community at a different level and keep the community informed on an ongoing basis. Podcasts are great for on the go listening and webinars can be aimed at both users and NDA briefings for bloggers/vExperts to help get the word out to support your product launches and updates. Just don’t make these with too much marketing and try and keep them technical, educational and enjoyable. Vendors try and bring in community members and special guests to keep it interesting and give an outside perspective.
- Hire an Evangelist – perhaps the best way to get instant street cred and better visibility in the community is hire a well known community member/vExpert/blogger to be your companies evangelist. Most of the companies here have done just that, some have even loaded up on lots of them.
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Some vendors recognize the opportunity that the VMware community represents and do a fantastic job supporting and engaging with it on many levels. Others seemingly ignore it or simply under-utilize it, here’s my list of what I see as the top 10 companies that GET the whole VMware community thing:
- Veeam – They totally get the community and were one of the first companies to actively engage it. They host an epic party at VMworld each year, have their own annual Veeam On conference, sponsor many events, have very active user forums, sponsor dozens of blogs and communicate very effectively. Veeam has been one of the strongest community supporters over the years and continue to set the bar for community engagement. [41,000 Twitter followers]
- Turbonomic – They also totally get the community and are pretty much everywhere in it, from sponsoring just about every top blog, hosting their own community, engaging vExperts, sponsoring community events and being very active on social media they also set a high standard for other companies to follow. [8,900 Twitter followers]
- Zerto – They do a fantastic job engaging the community, they host their own annual conference, throw great parties, sponsor blogs, have a great presence at VMworld, hold webinars, do give-aways, engage bloggers/vExperts and are very communicative. They are also very good at knowing how to properly engage their audience and do a great job marketing themselves. [6,700 Twitter followers]
- Nutanix – They were smart and went out and hired a whole bunch of the best and most active community members/bloggers (Michael Webster, Steve Kaplan, Derek Seaman, Magnus Andersson to name a few) to give themselves street cred and help bolster their presence in the community. They have their own annual conference, sponsor blogs/events/parties and are very active on social media. [69,000 Twitter followers]
- Cohesity – They have been very engaging with the vExpert community and with give-aways, they have a good presence at events like VMUGs and VMworld and have hired a very active, loud and well known community member (Rawlinson Rivera) to help evangelize in the community. [3,100 Twitter followers]
- Datrium – They also have been very active engaging the vExpert community and with give-aways, they do a great job marketing themselves, stay pretty active at events and with webinars, they communicate well and also recently hired another well known community member (Andre Leibovici). [1,500 Twitter followers]
- Pure Storage – They have been very aggressive with marketing and sponsoring events and have hired a lot good talent to help evangelize themselves (Vaughn Stewart, Cody Hosterman). They host their own annual conference and always look for ways to stay active and engaged with the community and have a huge following on Twitter. [73,000 Twitter followers]
- Tintri – They have sponsored blogs, been very active at events like VMUGs, great at engaging with the vExpert community, have done great give-aways and hosting online events and also have a huge following on Twitter. [62,000 Twitter followers]
- Rubrik – They have been very active at VMUGs and other events and also engaging the vExpert community. They made a smart move hiring Chris Wahl to be their evangelist which greatly boosted their community presence and engagement level. [5,500 Twitter followers]
- Tegile Systems – They have done a great job supporting and engaging the vExpert community, generous with give-aways, hosting and sponsoring events and being active in VMUGs. They also have a pretty big Twitter following. [25,000 Twitter followers]
I’ve probably missed a few and there are certainly others worthy of being mentioned, a few that come to mind are Infinio, NetApp and Nimble (now HPE). If you’re a partner and want to discover how you can better engage the VMware community look around at what the companies listed here are doing or contact a seasoned pro like John Troyer from Tech Reckoning to help you get better at it.
To all the companies I listed here a big thank you from me on all you do for the community I very much appreciate it and I’m sure that feeling is echoed among the rest of the community members.