Intel Corp., Tellabs Inc., Cisco Systems and BigFix Inc. are just a few b-to-b marketers that are actively using social media as part of their media strategy.
Social media are tools and programs that allow people to share text, images, audio and video online.
Social media platforms include blogs, podcasts, message boards, video-sharing sites and a company's own Web sites.
"We are taking very, very large leaps into this area," said Thom Campbell, senior media manager at Intel. "Instead of telling people what we want to talk to them about, we are trying to engage with them."
Intel's multiple efforts
Intel has introduced several user-generated programs in recent months, including live chat in banner ads, a photo-sharing promotion and videos posted on YouTube.
The efforts are part of its "Multiply" campaign, an integrated ad campaign that debuted in September to promote Intel's Core Duo Processor, a processor that allows users to carry out demanding applications simultaneously.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, Intel had a promotion at its booth that allowed participants to "star" in a video commercial and share it online.
At the packed booth, CES attendees had a chance to show off their dance moves in front of a green screen, mimicking the "Multiply" TV commercial in which images of dancers are multiplied on the screen. Intel gave participants a memory stick with the video clip and encouraged them to post the videos on YouTube.com.
One video, called "Intel Dancing Dork," was the most-viewed video in the science and technology category of YouTube on Jan. 9.
In another user-generated promotion, Intel launched a photo-sharing sweepstakes in December, in which users could e-mail or text photos of themselves or friends to be displayed on a large electronic board in Times Square, which "multiplied" the images on the screen.
As part of the promotion, Intel created a Web site on which people could view the photos, order reprints and forward the photos to friends. For every photo entry, and for every five people that users referred to the site, participants received an entry for a sweepstakes featuring a laptop giveaway.
"We wanted to create something that was fun and also transcend the feeling people get that they are being marketed to," Campbell said.
Intel received more than 10,000 photos from more than 5,000 unique users and gave away 20 laptops. Even more significant, it received more than 14 million hits on the photo-sharing Web site.
A need for metrics
While the popularity of such efforts is growing, analysts say marketers must develop effective metrics to measure the impact of social networking campaigns.
"The jury is still out on whether or not you can measure the effects of social media," said Emily Riley, Internet advertising analyst at JupiterResearch.
"How well are you doing if your YouTube video got 200,000 views? Marketers need benchmarks that go beyond engagement metrics."
Riley said brand awareness studies are necessary to show the impact of social media campaigns.
Intel is now conducting a brand awareness study on its photo-sharing promotion. Other marketers say social media campaigns have resulted in increased sales, often at a lower cost than traditional media.
BigFix, an enterprise security software company, created a viral video campaign called "Software Truth Commission" to reach enterprise software buyers.
"With the current media climate, it is so hard to get your message across," said David Applebaum, VP-marketing at BigFix.
"For us, as a small company, it is really important to be able to cut through the clutter. We found that the best way to begin the conversation was to put something out there that would be both entertaining and permission-based, but also have some substance."
So BigFix created a viral video campaign in which actors impersonating security software salespeople testified before a fictitious Software Truth Commission about their misleading sales practices.
"We wanted to begin the conversation about software quality and vendor honesty. Vendors in this space make extraordinary claims," Applebaum said.
BigFix posted the video on sites including YouTube, AOL's Uncut-video.com and Stumbleupon.com. It also ran banner ads with the video and posted it on its own site, www.bigfix.com/softwaretruth.
So far, the campaign has had more than 100,000 viewers and has resulted in 25 deals. The cost-per-lead is only $10, Applebaum said.
Tellabs launches videos
Tellabs, which provides network systems and services for telecommunications companies, has also aggressively launched video campaigns on social media sites.
Beginning last June, Tellabs created a series of video clips as part of its "Inspire the New Life" campaign. The effort is aimed at telecommunication service providers to show how Tellabs provides solutions to meet their customers' needs. Tellabs created five video documentaries featuring "echo boomers," the children of baby boomers, and how they use technology. It posted the videos on YouTube, Google Video and its own Web site.
"We wanted to demonstrate that Tellabs really understands the next generation set of our customers' users," said Mike O'Malley, group manager of portfolio marketing at Tellabs. He said the campaign has generated good response, with more than 100,000 video downloads.
"It is certainly more cost-effective than traditional media," O'Malley said. "Since anyone can post content for free on YouTube or Google, our only expense is creating the video."
Cisco is also experimenting with posting videos on social media sites.
It has posted video clips from its "Human Network" and "TelePresence" campaigns on YouTube.
"We are contemplating the best use of viral video and looking into more of a strategy about how to leverage those types of placements," said Maria Mandel, partner-executive director of digital innovation at Ogilvy, New York, which placed the video campaigns for Cisco.