GridGain Systems tweets to success

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GridGain Systems provides a Java-based cloud application development platform that helps developers turn software into software as a service. The first version of the application, developed as an open source project, debuted in 2007. Since then, company CEO Nikita Ivanov has traveled around the world to promote the product. “From the get-go, we were cash-strapped,” he said. “So we've been doing cheap marketing: getting on a plane, on a train, in a car; speaking for two hours in front of the people who might use it; and then coming home again.”

Their best venues: Java user and application development conferences. “They let you get in front of the 20, 40 or 60 people who you know have come out to hear what you have to say,” said Ivanov, who estimated that he's done “dozens and dozens” of presentations in the U.S. and Europe over the past few years. Still, the pace was getting to him and his 10 other employees, so late last summer Ivanov decided that it was time to change his marketing strategy.

The company had already been focusing on Facebook; however, Ivanov said, that wasn't working out for GridGain. “Many people on the technical side realize that there's not a human being behind what you're doing on Facebook,” he said. “It's not interactive and, if someone came to our Facebook page, they would have to wade through a gazillion posts to find the technical information they were looking for,” he said.

Consequently, Ivanov began exploring Twitter. Soon he realized that all his current customers, as well as his competitors and peers, were already using the platform. Plus, Twitter had potential to be something that Facebook never did: a personal connection with customers and prospects. “Twitter really has a human touch to it because you can't automate writing 140 characters,” Ivanov said. “You've got to have a person listening to tweets, coming up with tweets to send out, choosing who to follow.”

GridGain Systems started using Twitter as a marketing tool last August, with someone at the company devoting 30 minutes per day to the platform. The staff also began blogging and tweeting weekly to expand the company's social networking presence. “All of the individual developers within the company are now tweeting,” Ivanov said. As a way of encouraging their participation, he does not restrict subject matter. “As long as it's an exchange of ideas and links, that's what we're looking for,” he said.

The new strategy is working, Ivanov said. “It's very hard to get a developer to read a long piece of material,” he said. “It's much easier to get them hooked on a tweet about a blog post or something interesting we're doing with the technology.”

The results, he said, are in the number of actual leads coming into the company. While he wouldn't disclose specific numbers, Ivanov said the increase has been “tangible.” In addition, GridGain has been able to increase the amount of Web traffic coming to the site by 20%, he said.

“Tweeting is humanizing our software,” he said. “Even for us, it's been shocking at how well this is working out.”

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