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Editorial: Social Media in the Energy Efficiency Cashbox and Toolbox

November 02, 2011
November/December 2011
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Isn't our cover cute? I hope you think so, but I also hope you realize that the mosaic tells a powerful story: electronic media, and social media in particular, are now a crucial part of the energy efficiency business. An article in this issue by Peter Troast describes the many ways in which energy efficiency businesses can profitably exploit electronic and social media to find customers, products, and news. There are thousands of articles on effective use of blogs, twitter, Facebook, and web sites but few focus on the special needs of energy efficiency professional. I urge you to read — and use — Peter's advice. I also want to call your attention to Peter's advice regarding posting information and making comments: pretend you are talking to a client. I have been impressed by the civility of the energy efficiency electronic forums. Let's keep it that way.

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The social networks are tools for business development but they also inform, educate, alert, and link people. These are assets in any organization, from community action agencies to building code inspectors to policymakers. Nobody can work in isolation anymore because efficiency problems are too complex for one person to know everything. There is something reassuring when, faced with a technical question, a simple tweet can generate a dozen thoughtful replies in a few hours. And that is what happens for experts on the Home Energy Pros site. (Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro ((sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act)) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.) Those responses may not always agree (or be correct) but they can supply a perspective not available in the installation manual. And one hopes that you will supply answers when somebody else makes a plea. (Otherwise the network collapses.)

Home Energy is no slouch in this emerging electronic world of social media. Initially we considered our web site as a kind of electronic version of the paper magazine. That was so 20th century! Now we are actively disseminating reliable information about energy efficiency — that's our mission — on three parallel and complementary streams. More than 4,000 people follow Home Energy's tweets. Contributors to Home Energy Pros don't seem to sleep. If you are a neophyte, these are good places to plug in.

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Prospective readers of a magazine often scan the Table of Contents to get a feel for what the magazine covers; titles of articles followed by blurbs is a time-honored format. We won't deviate from that tradition but we will soon supplement it with a "word cloud." This is a great way to visualize topics covered through visualizing the frequency of appearance of words. (See a word cloud example in this editorial.) In the future, you will see a word cloud in every issue. It's another way to realize that Home Energy — the magazine, the web site, the social media — contains the stuff you want.

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