How to ‘Engage’
Mitch Wagner at Information Week is one of those rare technology writers who can step back from a new topic and provide some perspective. In his recent article “Five Rules For Bringing Your Real-Life Business Into Second Life‘, he crisply articulates the secret sauce for what differentiates a useful presence in Second Life to an empty island, with an emphasis on ‘Engaging’.He gave us more credit than we are due in his article, as we are all still learning, but he did mention how we re-tooled our presence in Second Life to make it more about talking with people than talking at people. This, for us, is ‘Engaging’.When we originally entered Second Life (officially in December 2006) we were like many companies with toes in the water. We had two islands that were segregated between marketing and products on one island, and training, support, Networking Academy, our Executive Briefing Center, and the Cisco Technology Center buildings on the other.We had planned to do a gradual rollout of new content and some interaction, however the experience of participating quickly changed our direction. By April, we had redesigned our presence in SL, added four islands, and had the governance and infrastructure in place within our company to scale for the foreseeable future. The first aspect, the redesign, was in direct response to how our customers, partners. Second Life Cisco User Group and employees told us they wanted to use our ‘Virtual Campus’. We did away with buildings for the most part so avatars could get in and out easier, and adopted a user-centric model of navigation, so users could decide where they wanted to go (products, training, technology, building in the sandbox) and get quickly there. We spent most of our time thinking about how to best engage with visitors to the virtual campus, so we created many spaces for 1:1 interaction, 1:few, and many:many. This is the primary use of the campus, to have the conversations that result in shared benefit. We also added infrastructure for our own employees entering SL, with two more employee islands with a company store, orientation area, internal meeting rooms, and so forth. This gave employees a safe place to experiment without fear of looking foolish (and naked) in front of customers.The second part was the governance and infrastructure within our company. We have custom avatar creation tools for employees with our own ‘code of conduct’ agreement, an internal Wiki for employees to share learnings, internal blogs, mail lists, an avatar directory that can be linked to an employee’s corporate directory page, and so on. We also recognized that this technology is as organizationally-agnostic as our corporate website, Cisco.com, so we created a ‘stakeholders meeting’ of vested parties to participate in the governance and operations of our presence in Second Life, and to avoid the ‘tragedy of the commons’ and disorder that has plagued other large sites. Each group within Cisco, from product groups to training to human resources, meets to discuss how to best use this technology to amplify their dialog with our customers and partners. So Captain Picard’s ‘Engage’ order was actually multiple orders, as it was:- Engage with your customers and partners. Talk with them, not at them.- Engage with your employees. Teach them how this tool can be used.- Engage your company. This technology has great opportunities if you engage broadly within your organization.As I said at the beginning of this post, we are all still learning. Cisco has as much to learn as any company, despite our prior experience in IP Communications and Collaboration technologies. We look forward to learning together with you during this exciting time.