Global supplier NXP Semiconductors worked with UBM's integrated marketing services unit DeusM to create Microcontroller Central, an online community that fosters peer-to-peer communication among engineers working with embedded systems. The partnership gives NXP sole sponsorship of the UBM Tech site.
Microcontroller Central, which debuted in January, houses independent editorial content, including regular posts from more than 20 bloggers, in a digital landscape sponsored by NXP. Visitors see NXP banner ads, videos and other collateral when they visit the site. However, the success of the environment hinges on community voices, said Jan Jaap Bezemer, director of marketing-microcontroller business line at NXP Semiconductors.
“Microcontroller Central visitors are interested [in keeping up] with what is happening—not through NXP or an editor, but through their peers,” he said. “People talk about all controllers. But every time these people look at [the site] they look at it in an NXP environment. That is a long-term, thought-leadership context.”
The Microcontroller Central site is not the company's first experience with an online community. In 2005, a Yahoo user forum sprang up organically, formed by customers who wanted a place to exchange information and solutions related to NXP products, Bezemer said.
“We stumbled onto it,” he said. “We realized we could learn a lot from it.”
NXP kept an eye on the forum, watching the dialogue to learn about engineers' experiences with products and occasionally adding its own voice, clearly labeled as NXP marketing, to the dialogue. The highly technical conversations generally involved only existing customers.
The Microcontroller Central community gives NXP a chance to build a dialogue with engineers who do not already have a relationship with the company, Bezemer said. “We wanted a forum focused on the orientation phase. Microcontroller Central [visitors tend to be] people we do not know. They often do not use our products.”
The company knew that it would need to seed a community with news, technical instructions and high-level engineering content, but Bezemer said NXP did not have the resources to build and maintain a dialogue. “We market to engineers,” he said. “They don't want marketing fluff; they want content.”
UBM has deep connections within the electronics vertical and leveraged both the DeusM community-in-a-box model and the editorial strength of its UBM Electronics group to build the community and develop independent content that would spur dialogue.
While NXP declined to share the number of users registered at the site, Bezemer said that he tracks the evolution of the community and that it has been a successful tool in building the company's pipeline.
As community members interact with the site, they engage in activities such as commenting on a post, registering to download a white paper or requesting a sample. The company targets three levels of interaction, including active participants who lend their voices to the site; silent visitors who consume content but do not post; and infrequent visitors interested in periodic updates regarding activity on the site.
Microcontroller Central capitalizes on the popularity of microcontrollers, which have enough of a “cool factor” to draw engineers who work with all kinds semiconductors, Bezemer said.
“The only limitation [of the community] is language,” he said. “We could scale much further if we could offer it in different languages.”