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IDG, LinkedIn launch sponsored tech forums

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IDG Enterprise and LinkedIn have partnered to develop sponsored groups on the social media platform, designing a channel to accommodate a surge of interest in content marketing and peer-to-peer communication. The media partnership is the first of its kind for LinkedIn and comes as the company advances a content-based strategy. “One of the things that we're increasingly focused on in 2013 is going to be the opportunity to support content marketing,” LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner told investors in February. IDG Enterprise, publisher of CIO, Computerworld and InfoWorld will provide content and will moderate a series of conversations around such predetermined technology topics as virtualization and security. The company will also develop custom technology groups focused on specific client campaigns. LinkedIn will serve the content on its Groups platform and will work within its network to build an audience. Sales teams from both companies will reach out to marketers, selling six-month-to-one-year sponsorships. Sponsors will have exclusive control of the right rail of discussion forums, where they can post branding messages, white papers, video or other materials. Launch dates and the number of groups to be hosted have not been established. The LinkedIn Groups platform offers several formats, some of which already include branded and managed discussion forums. IDG will help elevate conversations in the technology vertical, said Mike Weir, global head of category development for technology at LinkedIn. “Vibrant groups require expertise,” he said. The technology audience is particularly important, he said. About 95% of IT decision-makers use LinkedIn, according to a study the company conducted with Forrester Research last year. The sponsored groups do not represent IDG's first foray onto the Groups platform. The company launched the CIO Forum on the site in 2008, building a community of more than 53,000 IT executives. That group established the groundwork for the new partnership, said Charles Lee, senior VP-strategic promotions and custom solutions at IDG. “Our primary value is the ongoing injection of content into the group,” he said. “You've got to keep the content fresh and keep the community engaged.” IDG will hire subject matter experts to manage each community and will pull in existing IDG content as well as custom content. The media company will be visible only through its moderators' LinkedIn profiles and links to its own materials, Lee said. No IDG branding will appear on the forums. The new products capitalize on predominant trends in technology marketing, Lee said. Clients are moving away from traditional product marketing messages and working to establish themselves as thought leaders. And they recognize the value of peer-to-peer connections. Revenues from social media marketing at IDG have quadrupled year over year. “[Publishers] all have social microsites,” Lee said. “The difference with LinkedIn is that we're plugging into an established network of professionals. We have a platform that is already engaging peers.”
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