December 9, 2009

Cisco: ‘Why vlogging is better than blogging’

How Cisco uses social media from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaCisco Systems, the Silicon Valley powerhouse, has become the poster child for how to use video in the enterprise. Recently I caught up with two of the key players who made it happen.

Jeanette Gibson (above), director of new media in the communications group, talks about how Cisco uses video and social media to drive innovation around how the company does both external and internal communications.

John Earnhardt (below), Cisco’s blogger-in-chief and senior manager of media relations, describes how video production has been distributed throughout the company. “Seeing someone and hearing them is much more impactful than the written word,” he says. (I appeared on a panel with John last year at the Tech Policy Summit.)

Cisco: ‘Why vlogging is better than blogging’ from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

In these two 6-minute clips, Gibson and Earnhardt lay out a powerful vision for “why vlogging [blogging with video] is better than blogging,” as Earnhardt said. Transparency, authenticity and credibility are three major components: When users see CEO John Chambers talk about what’s happening at the company, they know it’s coming straight from the top.

“Video is the killer app. It’s not just a press release or a ghost-written blog post — it’s proof that it’s me talking,” Gibson said. “It has authenticity and credibility.”

What it takes to do video in the enterprise

Both Gibson and Earnhardt start out by acknowledging that Cisco has a financial motive to drive adoption of Internet video: The more we use video, the more we rely on the wires and servers that carry it. Too, earlier this year Cisco acquired Pure Digital, maker of the now wildly popular Flip handheld camcorder. Use of video is a huge driver of “the network,” as Cisco calls it. I read one study that predicted 90 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2013.

“Our perspective is, the network is impacting our lives every day, and being able to take a video and put that on your computer or send that over a social media network or email it to someone is really powerful,” Gibson said.

“Social media is not just a fun trend, it’s something that can really help drive business value.”
— Jeanette Gibson, Cisco

The corporate communications group bought $1,000 camcorders for the PR team and other internal organizations and bought a few Flip camcorders for Gibson’s team earlier this year so they’d have a video device in their pockets for on-the-go situations. Gibson said they want to encourage “simplicity in video production,” so that the members of the public don’t feel they need to learn how to use editing programs like Apple’s iMovie or Adobe’s Final Cut or Adobe Premiere. That applies to companies as well: You don’t need to devote hours and hours to training staffers in the use of video editing software. Cisco is a PC-centric company, so staffers use Windows Movie Maker, which is simple to use.

“We don’t want to spend a lot of time editing videos that will get 500 to 10,000 views,” Earnhardt said. But cumulatively, the return on investment for using video is “a no-brainer,” he added. If you factor in the cost of the camcorders and training time, the ROI is 4 cents per video view and dropping.

“The real hurdle is just starting [the process]: getting the camera, teaching people how to get the video up on the Web,” Earnhardt said. “The real message is to just go out there and do it.”

The most effective videos are not talking-head interviews but “the demonstration of technology or the walk-through of a lab that people wouldn’t normally have access to,” he said. People also prefer hearing from the CEO or CFO rather than lower-level worker bees.

On Cisco’s internal network, CEO Chambers has a video blog, and he prefer to communicate with Cisco’s employees by video. The ongoing challenge, Earnhardt said, is to get employees on board and get executives to understand why it’s important to carve out a few minutes to communicate directly with an audience, openly and transparently.

Gibson echoed that. “We have an ongoing effort to educate employees so they can be our brand champions.”

While other major companies are just climbing on the social media bandwagon, Cisco has been a true believer for some time now. But 2009 has been the year Cisco rolled out a Facebook page and Twitter presence. “Twitter and Facebook have have been two of the leading ways we drive traffic to our videos and blogs,” Earnhardt told me.

“Social media is not just a fun trend, it’s something that can really help drive business value,” Gibson said. “Social media has absolutely shifted the way we do campaigns.”

Jeanette Gibson: How Cisco uses social media (watch, download or embed on Vimeo)
John Earnhardt: Why vlogging is better than blogging (watch, download or embed on Vimeo)

A little while after these interviews were conducted, I heard about a “reverse mentoring” program at Cisco, where young, social media-savvy staffers were training more senior Cisco managers on how to use social networking sites. Brilliant.

Key social media urls at Cisco Systems

Cisco blogs:
Cisco’s Twitter ID: (new in 2009: 19K+ followers)
Cisco’s YouTube channel:
Cisco’s Facebook page: (new in 2009: ~25K fans)
Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior on Twitter: (1.3 million followers)
Cisco in Second Life: (mostly past events)
Cisco Live! event page:

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JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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