Disclaimer: I'm part of the following vendor IT communties: Cisco Champions, EMC Elect, VMware vExperts, and PernixPros.
For the last few years I've been a part of one vendor community or another. I've seen some amazing things and met brilliant people because of these programs. I've even been involved in deciding who can become a part of the "new class." Unfortuanately there are naysayers out there that like to say we are basically parrots blasting social media with the "good news" about the vendor we might be representing that given day. This is an offensive accusation and I'm a little sick of it.
I didn't become a Cisco Champion and then start writing about Cisco. I started writing about Cisco and was then able to join the Cisco Champion program after it started. EMC doesn't tell me what to write, I'm able to write about things because I'm given access to information...just like any other blogger program. I'm never told what to write and I don't write my opinions about a product unless I've really worked with it.
I'm not saying the vendor gets nothing out of building these communities, usually made up of bloggers and other social media sorts. I'm saying that those of us who run the communities and belong to them have our own opinions and make up our own minds about what to put out there. I would encourage anyone interested to become a part of any IT communtiy (vendor, opensource, usergroup, etc.). It's done some great things for me as an individual.
For those against these types of communities...I just hope you'll keep it classy.