For years at various industry gatherings, there's been a call for a "virtual community" of professionals in the broad energy efficiency space. It was a big topic of discussion last month at a Building Science Corporation/Affordable Comfort expert session in Massachusetts.
Well, folks, your wish has been granted in the form of a new community site (based on the Ning platform) called Home Energy Pros. Brought to us by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Home Energy Magazine, it’s a brand new social networking site dedicated exclusively to the home performance community and those who work in it. If you’re a professional in the home performance, residential energy efficiency or green building community, go there right now and check it out.
You may be wondering--with the vibrant BPI/RESNET Group on LinkedIn, the growing Home Energy Efficiency PRO's community on Twitter, and all of us trying to manage the social media presence of our own businesses--why in the world we would need another social networking site? To be honest, I was thinking the same thing when the folks at Home Energy called me about helping out. But, in the course of the two weeks it's been live, the community is growing like crazy (more than 500 people as of this writing), the richness of engagement is outstanding and the momentum seems unstoppable. Because of a number of compelling features that distinguish it from other related social media, I'm convinced it's here to stay and I strongly recommend that everyone in the home performance business join up.
Some specific features that have the greatest value for us in the home performance industry are starting to become evident. Among them:
Any member can add a blog post, first of all, which gives the blog a diversity that’s hard to find on any individual blog; at the same time, the fact that every post is written by a professional in the home performance industry gives it a degree of uniqueness and consistency. We appreciate the blog feature because it allows for a depth of conversation beyond the pervasive Twitter-update/Facebook-status blurb; and because the unique nature of the Home Energy Pros blog (in that it's generally by/for professionals) gives it something of a casual feel -- as if conversing with your professional peers at the bar rather than in the boardroom. A few recent posts highlight this well: Insulate Your !#@!$ Attic Hatch by Jim Gunshinan, Green Jobs - Do They Have to Have a Color? by Mark Richardson, and Taking the Home Energy Scoring Tool a Step Further by Silas Inman among them.
While there’s no shortage of forums across the web, the forum on Home Energy Pros exemplify what is the site’s essential value: that it’s for pros, by pros, so you can expect reasonably advanced conversations with peers, with no need to worry about spammers or scammers. Current discussions range from the merits of the new TopTen USA energy efficiency ranking website to basement weatherization and moisture management to geeking out big time on home energy management systems. Less formal than the blog, the forum provides a platform for questions as well as answers.
The value of having a rich library of videos specific to the home performance industry, easily accessible, easily browse-able, in one place, can’t be overstated. Sure, individual users on Twitter or Facebook can post videos, but they’re easily lost and not so easily found. LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to post videos. YouTube has too many. Home Energy Pros, for our purposes, has gotten it about right. Typical shared videos at this point include the likes of Joe Biden's announcement of the Home Energy Score, and a rich selection of home performance work from the field.
Similar to LinkedIn’s groups feature (the BPI/RESNET group on LinkedIn is the go-to for HP pros there), groups on the Home Energy Pros site are useful in that they’re essentially sub-groups of the broader Home Performance category (the site itself is something of a large group to start) -- from HVAC, to marketing, to a group for training and mentors, each is specific to the home performance industry. Again, depth of conversation necessarily ensues. At this point there are 17 groups, with topics ranging from energy efficiency marketing to HVAC.
The most impressive feature of Home Energy Pros, however, may be the pace at which it's growing. Aside from being a clear testament to the current vibrancy of the home performance community (which is clearly on track to even greater vibrancy; as the Home Energy Pros site says: “This relatively small industry is about to experience rapid growth. Fasten your seat belts.”), we think that this little website is on track to be an exciting space for home performance professionals to gather, discuss, expostulate, learn, network, and maybe even have a little bit of fun. As such, it won’t surprise us if it becomes something of a social networking home-base for HP pros: a friendly neighborhood watering-hole, if you will, where everyone works amiably in the same industry and the drink of choice is IPA.
If you do decide to sign up, be sure to add me as a friend. See you over there.